TOKYO - Edson Madeira struggled to find the right words Nothing he thought about could do justice to the emotions he was feeling.
After a while, after a little prompt, he nodded.
" Yes, that's it "he said." It's like Mecca. It's like the Mecca of judo. "
Madeira, a trainer from Mozambique, had just completed a training session on the fifth floor of the Kodokan Judo Institute. For judokas, the institute is revered as something akin to a holy place: the place where the sport began over a century ago.
Madeira smiled as he thought of the first time he had been here 11 years ago. It is a pilgrimage, he said, that any serious athlete in the sport must make. There is something in the air in this seven-story building in central Tokyo, he said, something unlike any other place judo has been practiced since it was sent to the world. world by sports founder Kano Jigoro, one of the most respected figures in Japanese sports. Image Dozens of Olympic competitors train at the Kodokan Judo Center, the spiritual home of judo. Credit ... James Hill for the Hfrance.fr
To participate in the Olympic Games of The spiritual focus of judo therefore adds another layer of excitement - as well as solemnity - for the judokas and their coaches who have gathered this month from all over the world.
Wednesday, as preparations take place continued for the start of the Olympic judo competition on Saturday, buses arrived at regular intervals to disgorging groups of competitors in front of a set of banal gates. Once they took off their shoes and took a few steps inside, it quickly becameevident that they were entering a special place.
Soon they were deployed on several floors. and softened inside spartan dojos infused with a scent emanating from the pine walls.
Working under a portrait of Jigoro, Ferdinand Karapetyan, a former European champion in the 73 kilograms (around 160 pounds) category, practiced a series of takedowns with his trainer, Hovhannes Davtyan. Each effort made a thud and shook the ground as Davtyan's back hit an elastic blue mat.
Karapetyan said he believed that the " The opportunity to prepare for Kodokan, in this country with a rich judo heritage, could inspire athletes to do better than they perhaps would have in another city, in another location. Tokyo Olympics ›
Even without spectators to cheer on their athletes, Japan is expected to dominate the medal table when the eight-day competition starts at Nippon Budokan, the venue built to host judo events when the The last games were held in Tokyo in 1964 .
“We came here to show the world that it's not just the Japanese who can fight,” Karapetyan said. Image Karapetyan, in blue, and his trainer, Hovhannes Davtyan . Credit ... James Hill for Hfrance.fr
The global cast that came together was best seen inside Kodokan 's largest dojo, a sprawling rectangle
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The whole scene - the babbling of Overlapping instructions in Arabic, Russian and Jamaican English, the
As the center has changed over the past century, with new facilities - including dormitories and a restaurant - added as interest grows, the founder's presence continues to be felt keenly. With framed portraits of Jigoro carefully placed in every room and signs describing his aphorisms or rules of conduct that every Kodokan trainee is required to follow, the past is an integral part of the present.
" Every judoka should come and train here and feel this culture, "saidMadeira, a regular visitor to Kodokan. Francis Moola, a Zambian coach, nodded vigorously. He made his first pilgrimage to the site in 1997, and said there was still no such thing.
By the time the athletes walk through the doors of the center and place their shoes on the shelves that line its entrance, he says, they know they are entering a hell of a space: "We are now in the world of judo. Image Jigoro's portrait watches over every dojo in the institute. Credit ... James Hill for Hfrance.fr