By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“It was really cool.”
This was the reason 11-year-old Tegan Yuasa started practicing judo. He knew that his grandfather practiced judo, and had watched videos on YouTube of the martial art/sport that involves a variety of throws and taking an opponent to the ground. At the time, the then 7-year-old from Mercer Island was fascinated with judo and wanted to check it out.
Since Tegan was going to try it, his father, Mark, asked Tegan’s older brother Taylan whether he wanted to try it as well. Taylan, who was 12 at the time, agreed to come along. The two boys have been “glued to it” ever since, said their father. Now in their fourth year practicing the sport, both have done well in local and national competitions and are nationally ranked — Taylan is 15th in the nation in the hardest youth division, according to USA Judo, while Tegan is ranked 3rd in the nation in his weight division. Both boys belong to the Budokan Judo Club in Seattle.
This past summer, Taylan and Tegan traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the 2013 Junior U.S. Open of Judo tournament, where over 650 competitors from more than 20 countries competed. Taylan, a junior at Mercer Island High School, placed second in the Juvenile below 50 kilogram division and third place in the IJF Junior below 55 kilogram division. Tegan, a 5th grader at West Mercer Middle School, took first place in the Intermediate 2 Division ages 10-11 28 kilogram weight class and third place in the Gold Score Tournament below 34 kilograms.
“As individuals, each brother has their special gift,” stated Budokan Judo owner Calvin Terada, “[w]hether it’s Tegan’s ability to quickly learn new techniques and adapt to each opponent or Taylan’s sheer drive and tenacity to give 110 percent during each and every match.” Terada added, “Both brothers have the dedication and commitment to the sport that makes them each champions at their level.”
Despite the amount of throws to the ground and choke holds included in Judo, Terada explains that the martial art is safe for young children. “Judo is a world sport that was developed originally as an athletic program in Japan and so it is a very safe sport for boys and girls of all ages,” he said, adding that Judo “upholds the values of developing individual discipline, showing respect, and working together as a family or community.”
The eldest Yuasa brother, Taylan, loves the sport of Judo “because it’s so dynamic, such as the throws and the chokes.” He sees himself continuing to compete and hopes to have a chance at participating in the Olympics. “2020,” Taylan stated without hesitation, when the Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan.
In addition, Taylan has begun wrestling. “It’s hard during wrestling season,” he said of the juggling of judo, wrestling and school. Taylan has been a starter on Mercer Island’s high school varsity team since he was a freshman. In his first year, Taylan took third place at the King County 3A finals. As a 10th grader, he went undefeated in his weight division and made it all the way to the State Mat Classic tournament.
Recently, Taylan went to San Jose State University to train with its judo club. San Jose State has one of the most revered programs in the nation, thanks to Yoshihiro Uchida, who helped make judo an Olympic event and has coached at San Jose State for 66 years. In addition to training with the club, Taylan visited the campus to consider it as a prospective college choice. It is one of his top choices, along with the University of Washington.
Tegan, the younger of the two brothers, is as decorated a judo practitioner as his older brother. “You make new friends and they become a part of your judo family,” he said. Like his brother, Tegan started wrestling in middle school despite being in the 5th grade, and said likes both Judo and wrestling equally.
At 11 years old, Tegan notes that doing both sports takes a toll. “[I]t’s hard to sleep after both [wrestling and judo] practices.” Still, his dedication and passion for both sports shines through when talking about each.
The addition of wrestling has helped the boys’ overall skills. “One has seemed to help the other,” Mark has observed.
Next up for the two is a judo tournament at Highline Community College on Nov. 2, after which each will start their wrestling seasons. Despite their busy and demanding schedules, their parents ensure that school still comes first. As the brothers have attained a national ranking in judo, it’s feasible to envision both brothers participating in the Olympics one day. (end)
For more information on the Budokan Judo where the Yuasa boys train, visit ww.budokanjudoseattle.com.
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.