One Judo Coach Keeps Inspiring Athletes At 101

Yosh Uchida continues to transform the sport

Yosh Uchida
Judo: San Jose St. coach Yosh Uchida in action during practice.
John M. Burgess//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Every sport has its legendary coaches — people known for the steps they’ve taken to transform their chosen discipline and for the length of time they’ve committed to guiding athletes towards excellence. But even among long-tenured coaches, Yosh Uchida stands out. He coached the US judo team in the 1964 Olympics and has coached the sport at San Jose State University since 1946. He continues to coach today at the age of 101 — and, were it not for the Tokyo Olympics barring spectators, he’d be there watching the games now.

Writing at the Los Angeles Times, Jorge Castillo provided a fantastic overview of Uchida’s impact on the sport. Among other things, no less than 17 athletes who he worked with in San Jose have gone on to compete at the Olympics. Their number includes Colton Brown, who competed in the 2016 Olympics and is representing the United States again in Tokyo this year, as well as Marti Malloy, who won a bronze medal in judo in the 2012 Olympics.

The Los Angeles Times article also chronicles how Uchida helped the sport develop both domestically and internationally, including implementing weight classes in competitions. And he’s continuing to work on helping the sport evolve, including helping strengthen international ties between San Jose State and their counterparts in Japan.

What seems most impressive about Uchida’s approach, though, isn’t just the successes his program has had. Castillo describes Uchida’s conversations with Brown being about life more than sport — or, as Castillo phrases it, “on preparing Brown for the day when judo would be in the rearview mirror.” It’s a reminder that athletic success and mental health are not mutually exclusive — and it helps explain why Uchida is held in high renown by so many.

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