Left Menu
Development News Edition

Judo helps Japan get to grips with China's expansion in Pacific

Reuters | Tokyo | Updated: 08-08-2019 06:02 IST | Created: 08-08-2019 06:00 IST
Judo helps Japan get to grips with China's expansion in Pacific
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In a large church hall near the Samoan Parliament, 175-kg (386-lb) judo practitioner Derek Sua is being thrown to the mat by his Japanese coach, a black-belt who is just a third his size. Sua welcomes the training, usually difficult for athletes in Pacific Ocean islands to secure, but now offered free by Japan's development assistance agency, to help him qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"It's not easy, because here in the Pacific for us, especially Pacific Islanders, we have limited competition," Sua said. "Because we need to find funding to travel overseas and compete," Sua added that he would train in Japan in August with several other Samoans, following an invitation he described as fostering goodwill between the two nations.

But the offer is also part of a wider diplomatic effort in the Pacific by the United States and its allies, including Japan, to counter the growing influence of China, which has ramped up its sports programs in the region. Sometimes called "soft" or "cultural" diplomacy, such programs can extend beyond sports to language exchanges and the arts, with the aim of advancing foreign policy goals.

Although tiny, the Pacific islands control vast swaths of resource-rich ocean and strategic infrastructures, such as airstrips and ports, provoking interest from China and a counter-response from the United States. Last week, Samoan sports minister Loau Keneti Sio said China had extended an invitation to train a "large contingent" of young athletes in sports, from athletics to badminton and volleyball, later this year.

China had already hosted Samoan athletes ahead of the Olympic-styled Pacific Games, held in Samoa in July, while training chefs and performers for the opening and closing ceremonies, he added. China has soft power initiatives elsewhere in the Pacific, which include exposing regional table tennis players to the country's world-class coaches and training regimes.

The judo diplomacy complements similar initiatives from regional allies Australia and New Zealand, which actively use rugby union and league to forge strong ties with Pacific islands, where the football codes are dominant. Originating in Japan, judo makes use of grip fighting and throws that have proved to be effective techniques for mixed martial art competitions.

On the mats in Samoa, Sua's coach, Kohei Kamibayashi, said judo was a sport whose most powerful practitioners did not always win the battle. The Japanese coach said his star Samoan pupil, who competed at the last Olympics in Brazil, must prepare to face bigger opponents in his 100-kg (221-lb) -plus category, where there are no weight limits.

Kamibayashi said he was helping Sua perfect his use of a technique called "seoi-nage", effective for throwing bigger opponents. While Samoans were naturally built for a sport like a judo, it was a very demanding martial art that was still struggling to win converts on the island, Sua added.

"It can be another dominant sport here in Samoa if a lot of people get interested," he said.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

South Africa's COVID-19 response: Surprising outcomes or just poor data management?

South Africa has been committed to improving its health information system and shows that a robust digital has considerable scope to improve healthcare for the entire population. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that significant ga...

Post-COVID-19 Nigeria needs a robust Health Management Information System to handle high disease burden

Nigeria is among a few countries that conceptualised a health management information system HMIS in the early 90s but implementation has been a challenge till date. Besides COVID-19, the country has a huge burden of communicable and non-com...

Morocco COVID-19 response: A fragile health system and the deteriorating situation

Learning from its European neighbors, Morocco imposed drastic measures from the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak to try to contain its spread. The strategy worked for a few months but the cases have surged after mid-June. In this sit...

COVID-19: Argentina’s health system inefficiencies exaggerate flaws of health information system

You can recover from a drop in the GDP, but you cant recover from death, was the straightforward mindset of Argentinas President Alberto Fernndez and defined the countrys response to COVID-19. The South American nation imposed a strict...

Videos

Latest News

Disney to lay off about 28,000 parks unit employees due to coronavirus hit

Walt Disney Co said on Tuesday it will lay off roughly 28,000 employees, mostly at its U.S. theme parks, where attendance has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in California where Disneyland remains closed. About two-thir...

North Korea tells U.N. that now it has 'effective war deterrent' it will focus on economy

North Korea has a reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence and will now focus on developing its economy, North Koreas U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said on Tuesday, though he acknowledged that international sanctions were a hindranc...

POLL-Republicans stay loyal to Trump despite concerns about his taxes

A sizable minority of Republicans say U.S. President Donald Trump has not paid his fair share of taxes and worry that his family business has influenced his decisions in office, yet most are still voting to give him a second term, according...

The UN is ‘right platform’ to address global challenges – Tanzanian Ambassador

This Years General Debate hinges on multilateralism, which matches very well with our major pre-occupation to ensure that no one is left behind, UN Ambassador Kennedy Gastorn said on behalf of Tanzanian President John Pombe Joseph Maguful...

Give Feedback