Judo: Two former Japanese Olympic medallists provided a four-day training to  Bhutanese judokas at the Pelkhil dojo in Thimphu last week.

The two silver medallists of the 2012 London Olympics, Mika Sugimoto and Hiroaki Hiraoka are in the country at the invitation of the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) and the Bhutan Judo Association (BJA).

Mika Sugimoto, 32, is a popular figure in Japan for her contributions to the sport. She was also a part of a demonstration exhibited during the Royal visit of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen in 2011 to Japan.

After training with the Bhutanese judokas, Mika said that the senior team has good basic techniques and it was now time they learned some advanced techniques.

“During the four-day training we taught them some particular techniques depending on the individual’s potential and abilities,” she said. “It would be nice to come back some day and see what they have learned from the training.”

Hiroaki Hiraoka who had already trained some of the Bhutanese judokas earlier in March this year said that Bhutanese athletes are very serious and share a great passion for the sport.

“We wanted to teach this group techniques that they can carry in the future and help groom upcoming athletes,” he said. “They need to learn the importance of judo and not only practise it as a sport.”

The 31-year-old Olympic medallist said that judo instils the philosophy of mutual benefit to those who practise it and those who come across these practitioners. “Judo not only helps athletes physically but also helps them to develop civic sense and respect for others.”

Judo, which means “gentle way”, is a form of martial arts where individuals try to immobilise their opponents either by throwing, taking or pinning them down without hurting them.

This, Hiroaki Hiraoka said is a unique trait of judo where caring for others or opponents is equally important as caring for oneself. “For a country that considers happiness greater than wealth, judo can be an important tool for the youth,” he said, adding that judo helps you know yourself and in the process nurtures strength both physically and mentally without compromising the opponent’s well being.

He said that the sport also teaches basic life skills and practical tools like  falling techniques that could come in handy during times of accidents.

“Physically, Bhutanese are built for judo and the high altitude is an added advantage for them to have stronger stamina than (other) athletes,” said Hiroaki. “With proper support from the agencies concerned and the government, some of the athletes could also make it to the 2020 Olympics, however, they need more training and international exposure.”

BJA started as a club in Pelkhil School in 2010. With the increasing popularity of the sport, the association was officially affiliated with the BOC in 2015.

Currently there are about 200 registered members of which 70 are regular members with the association.

Younten Tshedup