History of Sakamoto Judo Dojo Institute
Sensei Sakamoto was born in Sydney, British Columbia. Spent first formal years in Internment camps on the west coast. Spoke only Japanese
(Japanese was the language spoken in the camps). The family (mother, father, 2 brothers and 2 sisters) moved/ evacuated to Fort William (East
End “Coal Docks”) by CPR railway in the 1940’s. Parents learned English (although mother who was born in Canada, had already received her
high school diploma in Vancouver, B.C. before the outbreak of war). Sakamoto Sensei’s father was born in Japan and trained horses as a young
man. In B.C. he climbed and topped Douglas fir trees on the West coast. In Fort William he worked for the CPR shovelling coal into the steam
engines that were moving across the country. He was the descendent of Ryoma Sakamoto, the notable samurai and talented swordsman, who
was responsible for the fall of the Tokugawa bakufu (1867) in feudal Japan.
In 1964 in Fort William, Ontario Sakamoto Sensei began teaching judo at Wayside United Church (Recently Girls and Boys Club) East End
located at end of the subway joining Simpson Streets to the East End. The Church was empty. Seven judoka worked out on old army mattresses
covered by a tarp one of the judoka acquired from the Great Lakes Paper Mill. It was very cold in winter with no heat, and there were many
skinned knees and feet on the rough and uneven surface. Our body heat warmed up the empty gymnasium. Hayashi Sensei, who did judo in
Vancouver, BC as a young man, would come some times and show us tai sabaki (body movement) and tell us judo stories at the Adanac Hotel
over a draft or two, and Polish sausage.
Also, beginning of Judo Club in Nipigon, Ontario where Sakamoto Sensei was teaching elementary school at Nipigon Public School. Students
gathered twice a week from Nipigon and Red Rock. Sakamoto Sensei was an Orange Belt, and received judo training from Tanino Sensei, 5th
Dan at Tanino Judo Club on Church Street in Toronto. At the time, Sakamoto was taking Dept. of Education teaching courses in physical
education. Tanino Senesi’s comment was, “You may grade to orange belt; just call me if you need some belts.”
1969- University of Alberta, where Sakamoto did judo, gymnastics and competed for the University of Alberta Golden Bears in wrestling while
meeting the requirements for the Bachelor of Physical Education Degree.
1973- Taught at Renfrew Collegiate and Vocational Institute. Coached wrestling, gymnastics and ran a recreational judo club.
1976- Taught at Hammarskjold High School, Thunder Bay, and coached wrestling, gymnastics and taught judo. Took judo lessons from Doherty
Sensei at the Budokan Judo Club, Thunder Bay (Confederation College, then later Gore Street location). Doherty Sensei recommended and
prepared Sakamoto for Shodan grading in 1983.
1979- To Graduate School, University of Toronto for MA, and later, PhD. Competed on U of Toronto Judo Team for Goki Uemeura Sensei, 7th
Dan. Uemeura Sensei graded Sakamoto Sensei to Ikkyu (Brown Belt) at his Dojo at Settlement House, Toronto. Sakamoto Sensei
1983- Return to teaching at Churchill Collegiate where Sakamoto Sensei coached wrestling, gymnastics and taught judo in physical education
classes. Taught courses in Sociology, Kinesiology and Education at Lakehead University to defray competition travel costs, and to assist in raising
three young children. “Getting graded up was never in my consciousness. It was all a good challenge, good learning, and fun.”
1995- Purchased mats from teacher retirement income and formally established Sakamoto Judo Dojo on May Street, Thunder Bay. Past
Churchill wrestlers Steve Bour, Bob Main, Jason Currie and Hammarskjold wrestlers Allan Faykes and Rob Sakamoto were instrumental in
building the dojo. Currie Sensei, Faykes Sensei, Smiegielski Sensei and Lafroy Sensei were the judo nucleus in the early development of
2007- Moved to S. Neebing Community Centre facility due to physical restructuring of the gymnasium at Dennis Cromarty First Nation High
School. John Kakegamic, a teacher, became a judo student with Sakamoto Dojo; he is presently the Principal of the school and an Ikkyu (Brown
2011- 2012- Lafroy Sensei (Sakamoto Dojo) is presently involved in Judo Canada’s Eclipse Program; he is teaching judo at Dennis Franklin
Cromarty First Nation High School.
To date, Sakamoto Dojo has 11 students who have achieved their Black Belts: Jason Currie, Allan Faykes, Andy Smiegielski, David
McCallum, Daniel Blais, Craig Goldberg, John Lafroy, Steven Manduca, Sheamus Elvish, Dr. Bill Harris and Francis Hane.
Smiegielski Sensei and LaFroy Sensei have been co- Head Junior Coaches for the past few years; McCallum Sensei and Sakamoto Sensei have
been co- Head Senior Coaches over the past few years.
Sakamoto Dojo began with Sakamoto Sensei teaching all classes (both junior and senior); now the black belts are continuing the tradition.
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