Seattle Dojo Reopening: Phase II

We would like to invite all Junior and Senior members to join us for the next phase of our reopening on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Time has flown since we initiated the first phase of our reopening last October. The past four months have been instructive to all of us in the adult class as we continue to learn to cope with the ongoing pandemic. The protocols and safety measures that we adopted have proven effective, without being overly cumbersome. We’ve followed the guidance of the medical doctors in our ranks, and kept a close ear to the ground as our situation rapidly changes from month to month.

At the heart of the dojo is our junior class, and as much as our adult members have enjoyed being back at the dojo, we are acutely aware that we have not truly reopened while our kids are still away. The ultimate goal has always been to get the kids back on the mat once we can do so safely and responsibly, and I’m pleased to announce our decision to reopen the dojo for our junior class at 6:30 pm on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

The protocols will be the same as those that we’ve implemented for the adult class:

I. Process and procedure for attending class

A. Vaccination & mask requirements

  1. COVID-19 vaccine required for ALL (athletes, coaches, spectators/observers, etc.)  a. Must be fully vaccinated – at least 14 days after second/last shot
  2. Masks with minimum 2-layers are required for EVERYONE inside the dojo (including spectators/observers)  a. Policy will be revised as Seattle Dojo leadership guidance changes
   B. Paperwork to fill out (ALL athletes, coaches, spectators/observers, etc.):
  1. Updated/new membership forms/waivers – Make sure address and phone number are legible for contact tracing purposes (only required for members)
  2. Assumption of Risk/Waiver of Liability/Indemnification Agreement
  3. COVID-19 Vaccination Self-Attestation
   C. Show proof of current USJF or USA Judo membership     D. COVID attestation & temperature check (every practice)
II. Cleaning & ventilation protocols
   A. Mats will be cleaned before and after each session
   B. High touch surfaces will be cleaned after each session
   C. Alcohol-based hand cleaner/sanitizer (60-95% alcohol) will be available
   D. Doors and windows will be open and fans used to increase ventilation/airflow
III. Personal hygiene & new habits     A. Judogi must be washed after each workout
   B. Bring your own water bottle, as water will not be available at the dojo
   C. Wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently
   D. USJF guidance: Shower after each practice/workout

Note that we are no longer requiring members to sign up online to attend class. We are also not currently enforcing a strict cap on the number of members who may practice on a given day, as we have measures in place to accommodate the numbers that we anticipate. This may change if we find it necessary to limit capacity in the future.

Please carefully review and complete the attached documentation, and bring it with you to practice. Since the language of the waivers has changed, we are asking all members to complete a new waiver before resuming activities at the dojo.

After each session, we all pitch in to clean the practice area. Given the logistics of this cleaning operation and the transition to the adult class thereafter, the current plan is for the junior class to run from 6:30 pm to 7:50 pm, and for the adult class to run from 8:10 pm to 9:30 pm. The twenty minutes between classes will be used to clean, change clothes, and prepare to leave or begin the next session. Please come a little early on March 3 to allow time to take care of the necessary paperwork.

Finally, I’d like to mention that although the centerpiece of our renovations over the past couple of years was the new floor that we completed last fall, our work on the dojo has been ongoing. Among other updates, you will find that we have completely sanded the floors to the natural wood beneath, repaired and re-stained all of the wooden paneling in the practice area, and most significantly, we just finished repainting the entire interior of the dojo. Thank you to all of our members who have generously given your time to contribute to this extensive project, and most of all to Sensei Pepper and Sensei David for leading the way at each stage.

I can’t wait to see you all again on March 3.




Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 15 (9/19/21)

Thunderstorms were in the forecast for Sunday, but it turned out to be a perfectly pleasant morning. We’re in Gas Works Park for the next few weeks.

After spending the last several months training in the woods, this was the first urban run for the group. Starting outside the old exhauster-compressor building, we ran around the old gasification plant along the water, up and down the Great Mound, and then promptly out of the park on the westward Burke-Gilman Trail. We took the trail west along the shore of Lake Union and then northwest along the Fremont Cut of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. We then cut east on N 34th St. through the tents of the Fremont Sunday Market, not yet open for business, then north past the Fremont Rocket and east up the hill to the Fremont Troll. After a few laps up and down the stairs, we headed back down the hill under the Aurora Bridge and then back to Gas Works Park.

The old boiler house and pump house are perfect for our style of goofball judo training. The 100-year-old pumps, piping, storage tanks and compressors are sturdy enough for climbing and pull-ups, and the play area on the old smoke arrestor hood is a great place to work out under the rusty backdrop of the old gas generator and processing towers. Though the storm didn’t affect us today, the shelter of the barn will make Gasworks an attractive option for us as we get into the damp winter months.

Maki and Kozue made brownies and takoyaki-style omelets for us, which were delightful. We wrapped up the session with a brief birthday celebration for Takumi, who turned 17 yesterday.

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 14 (9/12/21)

For a first taste of autumn, our final week at the Arboretum was cold and drizzly.

There were a few paths that we hadn’t yet traveled in our previous two visits to the park, so we set out to use those as much as possible, starting with a nice uphill stretch of switchbacks through the garden for the first 1/4 mile. We passed through the Camellias and the Rhododendron Glen before arriving at the Japanese Maples grove, where we noticed that we’d lost two of our people in the woods. Some backtracking and shouting solved that problem, and we were on our way again.

We ran all the way to Foster Island again this week, but stopped short of Marsh Island. After a brief rest at the picnic area overlooking Lake Washington, we chased some ducks and headed south again. Back at the southern play area, we did our usual workout and enjoyed baumkuchen, rainbow mochi, Belgian waffles, berry strudels, fresh fruit, and butter mochi from Kozue, Leslie, Maki, Asami, and Mrs. Honda. Thank you always!

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 13 (9/4/21)

Our plan for our second week at the Arboretum was to make it all the way to the islands at the northern end of the park. This made for a lovely five-mile round-trip trek from the southern end. While we didn’t run directly north, we spent a little less time this week getting lost in the woods.

After crossing the wooden bridge over to Foster Island, we continued north along the lightly wooded trail, under the 520 bridge in a state of perpetual construction, and then west on the grated walkway through the swamp to Marsh Island. I had only ever been to the islands once before ‒ by canoe 20+ years ago ‒ and it was also the first time for several others along these charming paths on the water.

We headed back south to base on a slightly different path through the Arboretum, and finished the workout with pushups, uchikomi, and pull-ups on the judogi. As always, we were grateful for the delicious food from Maki, Leslie and Kozue.

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 12 (8/29/21)

For Week 12, we took our operation east to the Washington Park Arboretum for a welcome change of pace and scenery. Unlike our wild trail runs at Discovery and Carkeek Parks, the Arboretum trails are relatively flat and manicured, with a wide assortment of trees and plants to observe and enjoy along the way.

We started at the parking lot outside the Seattle Japanese Garden and headed up the wooded trail across the road. I’m not too familiar with the trails there, which frequently branch off into smaller paths through the groves, and I’m not entirely sure which paths we took for our run. The basic idea was to run north, to take the narrowest paths we could find, to avoid the paved paths on the eastern and western sides, and to eventually reach the northern botanical gardens before returning to the south playfield and playground. I’m pretty sure we passed through the Woodland Garden, the Japanese Maples grove, the Rhododenron Glen, and Camellias, with a brief stop in the Lookout Gazebo early in the hike. We frequently lost our bearings, though the bright morning sun made it impossible to truly lose our way. The entire loop ended up being just under 3 miles.

Following our usual 100 pushups at the Washington Park Playfield, we did several sets of uchikomi, this time in judogi tops instead of using bands. It felt good to be one small step closer to returning to actual judo practice. We wrapped up the session with some pull-ups and hanging on the judogi suspended from the play equipment.

As always, thank you to Maki, Leslie and Kozue for feeding us!

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 11 (8/22/21)

We mixed it up a bit for our third and final week at Carkeek Park. After the usual route up the hill to the North Meadow and down and around to Piper’s Creek, we decided to skip the steep hill on the South Ridge Trail, and replaced it with another steep hill on the Hillside Trail. This gave us several options to take some less-traveled paths through the underbrush to the Clay Pit Trail. It was all downhill from there to the Wetlands Trail, and after playing in the creek for a minute (not recommended; it’s kind of filthy), we crossed the bridge over the railroad tracks and had a short run on the beach at low tide.

Back at the training area, we did our usual pushups, uchikomi, and pull-ups using judogi, followed by a feast thanks to Maki, Leslie and Kozue and a surprise mini birthday celebration. Thank you, everyone!

Click Here for Week 12

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 10 (8/7/21)

We visited Carkeek Park for a second time in Week 10. This week entailed even more uphill stretches than last week, partially due to my misreading the trails and having to run all the way back up a hill we had already descended.

Around 20 of us started along the same path as last week, up the hill through the forest and along the bluff to the North Meadow. After a brief rest, we reentered the woods and jogged down the North Meadow Hillclimb to the big lean-to survival shelters in the middle of the forest. I thought one of the smaller trails would take us down to the North Traverse trail, but we ended up somewhere else entirely. Risking mutiny, I had everyone run back up the trail to the junction where it meets the Grand Fir Trail, and from there we took the North Traverse and the 12th Ave Hillclimb down to the main road.

Instead of crossing to the south side of the park like last week, we made another climb up the stairs of the Education Center Trail, and then took a small trail on the other side of the main road back down to the Pipers Creek Trail. At the next junction, we took the South Ridge up the tall hill, which was just as unpleasant as last week. The rest of the run along the ridge and the South Bluff Trail was the same as last week.

Once we got through our customary pushups and uchikomi, we took turns doing reps with Arnold’s battle ropes. Finally, we went to the jungle gym for some cool-down pull-ups, this time using the judogi suspended from the bar.

We spent the rest of the morning goofing off, bullying Sophal, and enjoying delicious homemade brunch from Maki, Leslie, Johnny, Chanae, Kozue and Mrs. Miyake. Thank you!

Click Here for Week 11

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 9 (8/1/21)

After a week off for the U.S. Open in Orlando, we resumed our weekend antics at a new location, Carkeek Park. A somewhat smaller group this week, we had one of our tougher runs through the woods.

We set off from the playground above the beach, and made the 1/2 mile climb up the North Bluff Trail to the North Meadow. The great cedar in the meadow is a fine spot for a rest. The next mile or so is a pleasant, mostly downhill jog down the North Meadow Hillclimb, the Grand Fir Trail, the North Traverse, and the 12th Avenue Hillclimb trails. After a short, flat stretch of the Pipers Creek Trail heading east, we turned south onto the South Ridge Trail, which starts with another sharp elevation gain. The trail meanders westward, over a few bridges and along the ridge, until it meets the South Bluff Trail, where it turns north and descends along the bluff back down to sea level. A quick jog along the tracks and the beach, and we were back to the starting line. Al’s machine clocks the whole jog at just under three miles, but the uphill stretches made it feel much longer.

Back at the picnic area, we found a secluded spot overlooking the Sound to do our pushups and uchikomi. Brandon, briefly back in town and in top shape from his training at the Air Force, suggested that we do sets of pull-ups on the jungle gym, which was fun for no one except Brandon.

Thanks to Maki, Leslie, and Kozue for the anko rolls, scones, jell-o, and watermelon!

Click Here for Week 10

Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training, Week 8 (7/18/21)

The plan was to get lost for our third and final week at Discovery Park. Just south of the North Parking Lot, the popular Loop Trail branches off into a network of lesser traveled paths through the forest above the valley. We ran these trails for a bit before emerging at Discovery Park Blvd, where we cut west and then north again to reenter the forest. After a bit of winding through some more minor trails, we found ourselves at the familiar crossroads of the Loop Trail and the Hidden Valley Trail.

From the northern bluff, we took the moderately steep path down the North Beach trail to the shore, relaxed on the beach for 30 seconds, and then promptly climbed back up the stairs to the top of the bluff.

We then took an unmarked trail northeast, which turned out to be impassable due to erosion. Fortunately, we were able to scramble up and down some steep rises while clinging to roots and branches, and made our way along the precarious path to our destination at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.

Following the usual dance of pushups and uchikomi, we had quite the party at 9:30 am. About 30 of us enjoyed a feast of sandwiches, pumpkin bread, taiyaki, pickled cucumbers, watermelon, and grapes from Miki, Kozue, Maki, Karen and Leslie, and a special treat of ohagi from Mae’s dad. We made good use of Sensei Karen’s volleyball net, and Chanae gave some private lessons to our up-and-coming volleyball star.

Click Here for Week 9

365 Days of Judo

Seattle Dojo Members, Friends and Family:

Please join us tomorrow (Tuesday, August 3) evening to celebrate our one-year anniversary since we started our daily online training sessions. As always, we’ll meet at 7:00 pm to do our usual squats, pushups, and uchikomi, after which we’ll reminisce a bit about the last year and recognize the many people who have given hundreds of hours to keep our community connected and thriving, whatever the circumstances.

Even if you have been unable to attend regularly, please find time to drop in tomorrow, if possible:

When we started on August 3 of last year, our intention was to provide a short, casual workout to keep our members connected, to keep ourselves moving and thinking about judo until the pandemic blew over. Unsure of how long it would be until we would be able to return to the dojo, we set out without a road map, meeting daily for 20-30 minutes, and a bit longer for formal sessions on Mondays and Thursdays.

For many of us, it soon became a part of our regular routine. In our house, we are on autopilot to set up the computer and be ready for judo after dinner every night. No one can make it to every session, and some can only pop in now and again, but I’m proud to say that our virtual doors have been open every single night for the past year. Even on holidays ‒ Thanksgiving, Christmas, whenever ‒ there are always at least a few people to log in and at least share a few laughs over some jokes with their judo brothers and sisters.

I have been deeply moved by the enthusiasm of our members to keep this effort going. Our instructors have made it a priority to show up and share their judo knowledge and experience. Special thanks to Sensei Karen for being there from the beginning, and to Sensei Pepper, Sensei Sophal, Sensei Sam, Sensei Chanae, and Paul for your tireless commitment to this project. Our students have also stepped up and showed leadership beyond their years, often taking the reins and leading the workouts themselves. I won’t be able to list everyone, but I would especially like to recognize Diego, Jayden, Natalie, Owen, Mae, Erkhes, and Grayson and Owen for their remarkable dedication and ever positive attitudes.

Our daily sessions have led to a couple of other projects that have, in turn, proved durable over the months. In January, we began our weekly Japanese for Judoka class for people looking to learn some Japanese language, along with our Japanese Science Club for native/advanced speakers. These classes are small but are still going strong, and will continue as long as there is interest.

Separately, we took on a fun side project of learning to count and to say a few words in as many languages as possible during our regular sessions. Over the course of several months, one person stepped up each week to teach us their respective language. Thanks to these efforts, our regular attendees can now count in English, Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Tagalog, Polish, Hungarian, and Mandarin!

We have also begun taking to the outdoors with our Crack-of-Dawn Judo Training program. Once per week, we get up early and go running through the woods, doing pushups and uchikomi, and generally goofing off together over some delicious snacks at the park. This program continues to gain momentum as we look forward to Session 10 this weekend.

Now, our situation is different from when we started last year. As we make significant strides against the pandemic, people are able to have more and more in-person contact with their friends, leading to a somewhat diminished need for our online sessions. This is a good thing. The project has served its purpose. We are also inching closer and closer to reopening the dojo for in-person training in some limited capacity. Therefore, starting this week, we will cut our schedule back to two days a week (7:00 pm Mondays and Thursdays) of formal online workouts. We will keep the channel open on off-days for anyone who wants to continue to work out as we have thus far. We will also continue our Japanese classes on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, and our in-person outdoor training on the weekends.

The pandemic, and our response to it, are now a part of our dojo’s long history. I am grateful to all of you who have insisted on making the most of our situation, always finding the silver lining. Whether you have showed up one day or 365 days for these activities, or even just supported us in spirit, you have played a meaningful role in keeping our dojo alive and keeping our family together.

Thank you.

See you all tomorrow,