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Meet Aiko Sato: 2011 World Champion (57 kg)

SJSU Judo has been lucky over the years to have some truly incredible judoka step on the mat at the Spartan dojo. For the past months, we have enjoyed having Aiko Sato, the 2011 World Champion in the women’s 57 kg division, in our gym. Hear about her experience so far in San Jose, California.

1. Why did you come to San Jose, and what was your first impression?

When I was a judo player, I went to many countries (maybe 20-30) for judo competition and judo camp. But, I couldn’t speak English! I wanted to make friends in the world, but I couldn’t. That sucked! So, I wanted to study English, and communicate with other people.

I was debating whether I should go to U.S. or England for study abroad. Then I came to U.S for sightseeing for two weeks. When I went to England, weather was not so good with rain and clouds and cold…but, U.S was different!  It was good weather! Actually, another American friend invited me to another state, but there was so much snow in the winter. My hometown has LOTS of snow already so I wanted to go to good weather. Also, my Japanese judo company’s boss was a coach in SJSU before, and he introduced me to San Jose. The biggest reason I came to SJSU is that Marti is in San Jose. We were rivals until I retired as a judo player. I thought that I wanted to be friends with her, and help her judo career.

So I chose San Jose. When I arrived here, everything was big size! People, roads, houses, and food!! Everyone was friendly, and everyday was good weather! …except my first few days in December, my room’s heater was broken…it was soooooo cold!!!!

2. Where did you start judo, and how did it feel to become a champion? 

I was 9 years old. My father and my elementary school teacher advised me to do judo. My parents never tried judo. I didn’t want to do judo, but I couldn’t say anything because my father was strict when I was a child. My home dojo is called “Nayoro Piyasiri dojo.”

When I became to a World Champion, I was sooo happy. Because, I got an injury and a surgery, but I was able to come back on the mat of the World Championships. It felt so fun to fight and I was happy while I was fighting!

I couldn’t choose one favorite moment from my entire judo life! I learned many things through my judo life, which was about 20 years. I thought that Judo is a gentle way. I think thatI was able to grow as a human being. My judo life gave me everything, and it was special experience!

3. What is training with Marti like!?

When I fought her at competition in 2011, I was surprised by her strong power! My whole body and muscles were sore after fighting. It was killing me! But, she is very kind. She talked to me very kindly even when we were rivals. I’m very happy to be her training partner and to help her. She is teaching me English everyday. Her English explanation is easy and clear to understand, sometimes better than teachers in school!!!

4. When you return to Japan, what will you do? 

Next March I return, but I want to stay longer time….. I’ll become a women’s judo coach in my company. I’d like to return the favor to them for training me.

5. What’s your favorite part about being in the U.S. and where have you visited?

I went to Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Tampa, Miami, and Seattle. This week, I go to Peru and Brazil to watch Marti fight! Everyone is kind and friendly and there’s good weather! Freedom and huge country! And BIG ice cream! So it’s paradise country for me!

Here are some pictures from my experience so far:

This is my medal from World Championship!

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These are pictures from my first visit to U.S. in 2012. I visited San Jose and Grand Canyon! I love the food!

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This was my first time in San Francisco…

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Here I am with my International Class. We study English together, and I visited my English teacher’s house!

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I taught in some clinics. The first one is at SJSU and second one is in France…

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I went to Boston to help Marti train…

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and this is me with SJSU Team after Collegiate Championships!

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