Toyokazu Nomura / 野村 豊和 Toyokazu Nomura / 野村 豊和
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Toyokazu Nomura


The Master of the Seoi-Nage,
Toyokazu Nomura

Nomura-Sensei is the almost superhuman talent who won the gold medal using a technique called the seoi nage at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Then there’s Tadahiro Nomura, Nomura-Sensei’s nephew, a three-time Olympic champion.

From my perspective, Nomura Sensei is a true judo legend, and I was first able to speak with him when he came to my alma mater, Kobe University, to teach the seoi nage. Nomura Sensei is a very friendly person, and he explained the seoi nage in very simple terms. Hearing him talk, it was as if the scales fell from my eyes. I had the deep sense that I wished I had learned that technique when I was still a student. He taught me deep lessons about the meaning of martial arts.

Since that time, he has come to Kyoto University and Nada High School (where I coach) to give workshops on the seoi nage, and has invited me to his home to eat with his family. I’m lucky to have been able to spend time with him in public and in private. When I went on a training trip to Europe in 2017, with Nomura-Sensei’s introduction I was able to meet Patrick Vial, a very influential figure in French judo, and was also able to spend precious time exchanging ideas with the French national team.

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to hear Nomura Sensei’s incredible stories about his journey from humble judo beginnings to the Olympics, and was so impressed that I wanted others to be able to hear them as well. In fact, I asked him to write them down.

Takeshi Itani

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To those who love judo

Toyokazu Nomura


  • Born on July 14th, 1949 in Nara Prefecture
  • Munich Olympic Judo gold medalist / Founder of the Nomura Dojo

My father, a farmer, loved judo, and in 1959 he founded the Houtokukan Dojo in the countryside of Nara. I was ten when my father’s dojo opened, and so I took up the sport. I was a terribly weak child, but thanks to judo my illnesses went away, and I became fit and healthy. There was no judo club at my junior high school until I was in my third year. Then, I was finally able to take part in competitions. Up until then, I had been unable to do anything but practice. During the exam period for entrance into Tenri High School, I stayed in the dorms of the judo club at Tenri University.

There I came under the tutelage of Tenri University’s Mr. Yamazaki, and at that time he taught me a technique I had never seen before: the seoi nage. I was unsure of whether or not I should use it, but after ultimately moving into the dorms at Tenri High School, I began to practice it.

At the time I was just under 5’ 4” (162 cm), 139 lbs (63 kgs). Thinking that it would be difficult to compete with that body, I knew that I would need to develop my own style of seoi nage, and so spent evenings after team practice doing my own individual training. However, it didn’t go as I hoped. All of my opponents were, of course, incredibly strong. I injured my right elbow on a throw, and so was unable to continue practicing. It was a total failure. If my right arm wouldn’t work, I thought to use my left instead, and started practicing. I went to a bike store and asked for the plastic tube from punctured tires, and used it for Judo training day in and day out, until the tubes snapped.

Aiming at a passable seoi nage, I continued my serious practice and nightly 999 pulls on the tube. Practicing every day, I noticed small changes. I wrote down what I noticed in a notebook, and searched for tips on how to do the technique a little better. In my third year, I made it to the inter-high tournament, and all of a sudden had won the national tournament.

I then entered Tenri University. My competitors were now college students. It went well at first, but then I fell into a slump.

When I was a second year student. I thought back on all of the judo I had done up until then. I wanted to do more than just throw myself into each match. I wanted to be able to read my opponents movements and intentions. After working on that, I placed 2nd in the world championships in Mexico, won the All-Asia Tournament as a third year student, and placed second in the world championships in Germany as a fourth year student. After that, I entered a stable called the Hakuho-do in Tokyo. I wanted to enter the Olympics that year in the 63 kg division, but for some reason ended up in the 70 kg category.

The other competitors in the 70 kg division were Mr. Minatoya and Mr. Tsuda. They were incredibly strong, and during practice threw me around like a piece of garbage. I had just come to Tokyo from the countryside, all I could think was that I needed to do something.

The prelims were in June. Every day I tried to figure out if my opponents had a weak point, if there was anything I could possibly do to win. I settled on something. It was a bet that I figured had only a 1 in a 100 chance of working out, but I saw no other choice.

“This is all I had.”

The prelims were in Kyushu. My opponent in the first round was Mr. Tsuda, in the championship, Mr. Minatoya.

My only chance worked out. I won.

In the Olympics themselves, in my 12th year since starting judo, I was able to perform—on the highest stage—exactly as I had hoped. The fact that I was able to move—little by little—in a good direction was thanks to all of the people who gave me such good advice.

Struggle, until the day it becomes fun.