USA Judo, the national governing body for the sport of judo in the United States, inducted nine new members into the USA Judo Hall of Fame during the annual Night of Champions Award and Recognition Dinner on Saturday, June 1 in Las Vegas. The new group of worthy judokas reach back decades, showcasing the rich history of judo in the United States. In total, seven athletes and two contributors were honored, who include:
- Jim Colgan - Lifetime of Service
- Howard Fish - Athletic Achievement
- Gene LeBell - Athletic Achievement
- Paul Maruyama - Athletic Achievement
- Hayward Nishioka - Athletic Achievement
- Tosh Seino - Athletic Achievement
- Hal Sharp - Lifetime of Service
- Kazuo Shinohara - Athletic Achievement
- Rene Zeelenberg - Athletic Achievement
The USA Judo Hall of Fame was created in 2008 to recognize those who have achieved outstanding accomplishments within and outside the U.S. judo community. The categories for inductees include: Athlete, Coach, Distinguished Americans, and Lifetime of Service. Selections for the USA Judo Hall of Fame are made by an internal USA Judo committee and are based on an individual’s achievements and outstanding contributions to the sport.
About the 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees:
Jim Colgan - Lifetime of Service
Jim Colgan has been involved in judo in the United States as far back as most living judoka can remember. First, as a competitor and medalist as a heavyweight and member of the great Johnny Osako’s Dojo in Chicago. After retiring from competition, he served as a leader in the Chicago Yudanshikai, and travelled to the AAU Judo meetings to serve on various committees and leadership positions. In 1974, he was the USA Judo Pan American Games Team Manager, and in 1976 was the Team Manager for the United States Olympic Judo Team. Jim’s longtime involvement and familiarity with all phases of Judo culminated as Chairperson of the Promotion Committee for USA Judo.
Howard Fish - Athletic Achievement
Howard Fish began his judo career at the YMCA at the age of 15 in Wisconsin and went on to become a competitive athlete on the storied San Jose State University Judo Team. On the national stage, he won gold in the 1965 National Collegiate Championships, bronze in the 1966 U.S. National Championships, and gold in the 1967 U.S. National Championships. He also appeared on the 1968 cover of Black Belt Magazine. In 1968, Fish received a four-month scholarship from Black Belt Magazine in order to train at the Kodokan. He represented San Jose State as the only U.S. competitor in the 1968 World University Games, where he won two bronze medals.
Gene LeBell - Athletic Achievement
Gene LeBell started Judo at age 10, after first studying wrestling under world champion, Lou Thesz. At 21, Gene stunned the judo world by pinning the great Johnny Osako for Ippon and proceeded to beat everyone else to win his first National Judo Grand Championship. He repeated this feat again the very next year, and then went back into wrestling, this time as a professional. In the “Brundage Era of Athletics” at a time, when pure amateurism was enforced, Gene could not compete in amateur judo again. However, his fame both as a wrestler and judoka spread far and wide across the country. Gene is a man of many talents and has had a storied career doing just about everything a person could do in the martial arts. He has written books such as “The Godfather of Grappling” and worked or appeared in more than 1,000 movies including “Rush Hour” and the original “Superman” television series. When Olympic and world medalist Ronda Rousey decided to go into mixed martial arts, she turned to Gene for help. He not only helped her with her training, he called his old friend wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper to meet Ronda, giving her permission to use his “Rowdy” nickname.
Paul Maruyama - Athletic Achievement
Paul Maruyama’s fighting career spanned two decades. He was a four-time National Collegiate Champion in his weight class and a four-time National Collegiate Grand Champion. This means that at 156 pounds for four years in a row, Paul beat the best collegiate judoka in the heavy weight and open divisions to win the Grand Championship. It just goes to show that a smaller but more skilled judoka can beat much bigger opponents. As a college student, Paul was part of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Judo Team that competed in the first Olympic Games in which Judo was included. While in college, Paul was in ROTC and upon graduation in 1966 was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force where he served faithfully for many years, including serving at the Air Force Academy as coach of their martial arts program and judo team. Paul competed in the Judo Nationals for many years, winning gold in 1966, 1970 and 1975. In 1979, Paul was coach of the U.S. World Team and was appointed head coach of the 1980 Olympic Team, which was boycotted by the United States Government. Finally, in 1984 Paul was again appointed coach of the very successful Olympic Judo Team which featured two USA Judo Hall of Fame members, bronze medalist Eddie Liddie and the United States’ first silver medalist Bobby Berland. Paul was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by the Emperor of Japan. This is awarded to those who have made significant cultural and positive contributions to the US-Japan relationship.
Hayward Nishioka - Athletic Achievement
Hayward Nishioka is a true renaissance man in the sport of judo. A Grand Champion, a division National Champion, author, Class “A” Referee, President of California Judo, National Delegate to the Judo Board of Directors, college instructor, and Class “A” Coach. Yet, under all these achievements is a truly humble man who has honored others, but has never sought honors for himself. During the 1960’s, Hayward was United States Division Judo Champion three times, in 1965, 1966 and 1970. In 1965 he retired as the National AAU Grand Champion. A member of four United States international teams, he won a gold medal in the Pan-American Games in 1967. Nishioka was also the British-Colombian Champion in 1966 and placed 5th in the World Judo Championships in 1965 and 1967. The 7th degree judo black belt has authored several books on the art including, “Foot Throws” and “The Judo Textbook”. Master Hayward Nishioka has also more than 38 instructional tapes on the sport.
Tosh Seino - Athletic Achievement
Tosh Seino started his judo career in 1957 at the age of 18 years old. In 1959, he competed for the first time in AAU National Judo Championships and won a bronze medal in the 70kg weight class. From there, he became a four-time U.S. National Champion, two-time Air Force Grand Champion, a Pan American Champion and took fourth place in the 1965 and 1967 World Championships. Seino is currently teaching judo twice a week at the Gardena Judo Dojo as a technical advisor and holds rank of 7th degree black belt.
Hal Sharp - Lifetime of Service
Hal Sharp has been involved in judo for over 70 years and coach of Gardena Judo Club for more than 30 years. With Hal it is difficult to say if judo has influenced him or if he has influenced judo more. He is the first person to put out a real book on judo that an American could read and learn from. One of Sharp’s most significant contribution has been his books, including The Sport of Judo, published in 1956 and Techniques of Judo, published in 1957 and STILL in print.
Kazuo Shinohara - Athletic Achievement
Kazuo Shinohara was born in Soul, Korea 1938. He started judo at age 17 after getting his father's approval. Within Shinohara's first year of judo, he obtained the rank of Shodan. He attended Meiji University where became captain of his university judo team. In 1959, Shinohara won the first overall South American Judo Championship title. After graduation from college, Shinohara moved to Los Angeles where he became a roving instructor for the Judo Black Belt Federation. While acting as a roving instructor, he won the overall title of National A.A.U Judo Championship in Chicago. He also won four U.S. Senior National Titles in 1962 and 1963. Hayward Nishioka crowned him “king of the Lightweights”. When asked if he ever got nervous about his opponents, he replied, “I am a little nervous, but not as much as I would if I hadn’t trained as hard as I did”. He has stayed involved in the Los Angeles area and served as Director of the Pacific Rim Championships in 2001.
Rene Zeelenberg - Athletic Achievement
Rene Zeelenberg started Judo in Holland at the age of 5. At 14, now in the United States, he began to study under Gene LeBell. Rene joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in California. At that point, he started training with Judo Hall of Fame member Ben Nighthorse Campbell and became one of Ben’s most productive students. Rene has been one of the toughest fighters, as anyone who ever stepped on the mat with him will attest. So tough in fact, that Rene was named one of the 5 Titans of his division. At the 1972 Olympic Trials, Rene had to beat the people ahead of him twice to advance. Ahead of him were three of the other four Titans, Paul Maruyama, Tom Masterson and Pat Burris. Rene beat Tom twice, then Paul twice, but after those exhausting four matches he had to beat 1972 and 1976 Olympian, Patrick Burris, and that proved to be a bridge too far. In the 1973 nationals in Atlanta, Rene got even with a win over Pat. His spinning Uchi -mata was a thing of beauty and pity the Judoka who put his hand out to stop Rene from finishing that throw. Outside of Judo, Rene served this country faithfully and after 30 years retired as a Chief Master Sargent. He has run the Alamo Judo Club in San Antonio, Texas for many years, teaching adults mostly. He is still a tireless worker and coach to his students passing on the many things he learned in those many fights on the mat.