Dr. Eichi Koiwai Passes Away in Philadelphia(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - USA Judo lost one of the great contributors to the sport on Monday when Dr. Eichi Koiwai (Rydal, Pa.) passed away at his home with his three sons by his side.
Dr. Koiwai, a former forensic pathologist, lost his battle with cancer on Monday morning after turning 89 just two days prior.
"My first recollection of Dr. Koiwai and his wife Phyllis was at the 1969 Junior Nationals in San Francisco and, to me as a junior judo athlete, he was one of the most vivid faces of American judo in my young life," said USA Judo President Lance Nading (Denver, Colo.) "I had the good fortune of serving with him on the USA Judo Executive Committee from 1996 to 2000 and his selfless commitment and passion for the sport of American judo has only been equaled by very few in the judo community."
A former director of the USA Judo Standards and Certification Committee and President of the U.S. Judo Federation, Dr. Koiwai also brought his medical expertise to the judo community as the Chairman of the USA Judo Medical Subcommittee and a member of the International Judo Federation Medical Committee.
Ultimately rising to the rank of eighth-degree black belt, Dr. Koiwai received his first-degree black belt at the age of 16 when he continued his study of judo while in an internment camp with his family in Idaho during World War II.
Dr. Koiwai continued to give back to the sport as an IJF A-Level referee who ascended the ranks and served as a referee at the 1976 Olympic Games. He also received many honors during his lifetime, including being named Man of the Year by Black Belt Magazine in 1970; earning the John Osako Award for referees who have made outstanding contributions to the sport in 1987; and being honored with the Silver Award by the IJF.
"Dr. Koiwai's commitment to internationalizing judo in the 1960s was instrumental in broadening competition opportunities for athletes from all countries and he is one of a key few who can be credited with the introduction of judo to the Olympic Games for the first time in 1964," Nading said. "He touched so many during his life and the impact he had on American judo will continue to benefit us for years to come in ways we have yet to even realize."
Among Dr. Koiwai's closest friends and colleagues was former USA Judo President and American judo pioneer Yosh Uchida (San Jose, Calif.) who said of Dr. Koiwai: "He was a real pioneer in the development of USA Judo; not only was he a competitor, but also a great administrator. This is a great loss to the judo community and I will miss the friendship we had over the past fifty years."
Dr. Koiwai was a former associate professor of pathology at the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia who is survived by three sons and a daughter.
"Doc, as we all called him, will be missed by his local judo community as he did so much for us in our area," said Lou Moyerman (Philadelphia, Pa.), Head Coach of Liberty Bell Judo Club. "He was a mentor, father, coach and teacher to all us in the Philadelphia area."