GLENVILLE – A Schenectady woman recently received a prestigious promotion in judo by the sport’s national governing body.
Teri Takemori, 59, was awarded the seventh-degree black belt by the United States Judo Federation in June.
“Seventh degree is a big deal. It’s uncommon,” said Jason Morris, Takemori’s husband and co-founder of Jason Morris Judo Center in Glenville.
Because of her continued dedication and involvement in the sport, Takemori said the promotion didn’t come as too much of a surprise. “They approved my promotion without a problem.”
The local promotion committee for the US Judo Federation selects one person each year to submit to the national governing body for a promotion, Takemori said. “She is as active as you can be in our sport, and that’s how she earned the current rank,” said Morris, who is an eighth-degree black belt and former U.S. Olympian.
Takemori began training and competing at the young age of 9. Her father, James Takemori, was a well-known figure in the judo community. “My family was very involved in Judo,” Takemori said.
She quickly rose through the sport’s ranks, earning her first black belt at the age of 16, and winning a gold medal at the 1985 Pacific Rim Championships at the age of 25. When she stopped competing in 1996, Takemori had collected eight medals at US Senior National Championships and five podium finishes at the US Open Championships.
“She [is] the best in the business in every aspect,” Morris added. “She was a phenomenal player.”
Years of training and competing at a high level takes a serious toll on one’s body, Takemori said. “I competed for a long time,” she said. “My body took a beating.”
After her years as an athlete came to an end, Takemori took on the role of referee and coach in the sport. She served as a referee at the 2003 Judo World Championships, and an alternate referee at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
She and Morris founded the Jason Morris Judo Center together in 2000.
Takemori runs the financial side of the Jason Morris Judo Center, and teaches weekly classes to kids aged 13 and under. “She’s strong, she’s professional, and she’s the backbone of this club,” said Morris. “Without her, there [would be] a smoldering crater of nothing.”
Takemori said she works with upward of 100 kids ages 5 to 13 on skills such as coordination, core strength, agility, and body awareness. She said judo is a unique sport because it prepares kids for success in other athletic areas, and teaches them valuable self-defense.
“It’s not kicking and punching, or trying to hurt people. We do it as a sport and we make it safe,” Takemori said. “We try to give something different to local kids.”
“[Takemori’s] knowledge is extensive. Her ability to work with kids and help them grasp the techniques is nothing short of amazing,” said Dan Masucci of Glenville, whose son has been training under Takemori since 2014.
Given the extensive national and international experience that both Takemori and Morris have in the sport, a number of elite level athletes have moved to Scotia to train at their center.
Having produced 41 world team members, 7 Olympians, and 140 national medals, Morris said anybody who comes to their club motivated to train will easily be able to make it onto the national or international stage. At the same time, though, Takemori emphasized that their program is appropriate for anyone interested in the sport of judo, and not just elite level athletes. “It’s not just about the highest level,” she said. “We’re trying to provide something for our community.”
Masucci agreed that the elite quality of Takemori and Morris’ program is what has kept his son returning to the center year after year for judo training. “There [are] so many options out there, and everyone has to find what they’re interested in most,” he said. “This is the absolute most premiere training [program] for judo in the United States.”
Though it may lack the participation numbers of many other sports in the U.S., Takemori and Morris said they believe that the importance of the skills taught by judo rival those of any other sport. “Judo is like swimming,” Morris said. “Every kid should take at least two to three years of both because [they are] life skill[s]. [Judo] sticks with you for your whole life.”
According to Takemori, judo’s universal lessons are what have kept her involved in the sport for the past 50 years, and allowed her to reach the milestone of a seventh degree black belt.