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TAKESHI ITANI

Kyoto University
Judo Team Coach & Physical Trainer

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Takeshi Itani

Personal Trainer, Kosen Judo Coach
Born in Osaka in 1987, graduated from Kobe University
Itani Athletic, Founded in 2017

I started judo in junior high school. I had been small since elementary school, and entered junior high school weighing 37 kilograms (~82 pounds). Under the influence of my father, I became deeply interested in the mixed martial arts group called PRIDE — Brazilian fighter Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was my favorite — and the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
I grew up in a rough neighborhood, which triggered my interest in judo --- I wanted to build muscle and be strong like Nogueira and Arnold.

At the same time, my father worked in a local factory making things with his hands. Because I had been helping him from a young age, I took an interest in craftsmanship myself.

  • 2001 Osaka Region, Best 8, 55 KG Class

I moved on to a technical high school in Osaka that was renowned for its Judo program—it sent competitors to national competitions—and studied the fundamentals of both judo and craftsmanship.

  • 2004 Inter-High School Championships of
    Osaka Prefecture,
    Preliminary Tournament, 2nd place

After finishing high school, I transferred to a technical college with one of the most competitive judo programs in the country. It was located alongside the natural beauty of the world-famous Kumano Trail, and there I continued to learn judo and machine design.

  • 2005 All Japan Technical College
    Tournament,
    Team Competition: Champion
  • 2005 Mie Prefectural Tournament,
    Student Class,
    Open Weight Division: Champion

I wanted to go to a school with a strong judo program for university, but I sustained a serious injury to my right knee in a competition. After three months in the hospital, a doctor told me that my judo career was over. Hearing that, I decided to give up judo for a time and pursue my interest in craftsmanship. I entered an engineering program at a national university. (Because I had been planning on entering university as a judo competitor, I had neglected my studies. Two weeks before the exam, in desperation I sought the assistance of a variety of teachers. This taught me the value of study.)

After being accepted to university, I was gripped by a desire to return to judo. In the natural beauty of Kumano, I read everything I could about training and nutrition. I developed my own training program, and ultimately returned to competition. I haven’t forgotten the wonder I felt at being able to compete again, and from that time I began to feel strongly about merging my experience in training, judo, and craftsmanship in my future work.

  • 2007 All Japan Student Judo Competition,
    Best 16,
    73 KG Class
  • 2007 Kinki Regional Tournament for National
    Universities,
    Team Competition:
    Champion; Individual Competition:
    Champion
  • 2007 Kyu -Sanshoudai* Judo Tournament:
    Champion

* “Kyu -Sanshoudai” refers to a tournament between Kobe University, Osaka Municipal University, and Hitotsubashi University.

After graduating from university, I first entered an automobile company as an automotive engineer. However, I left the job after a few months. I wanted to become the best mixed martial artist in the world, and went to Brazil, alone, to train in Barbosa Jiu jitsu and Shorinji Kempo in the Liberdade school. Upon returning to Japan, I continued to purse a future as a mixed martial artist. Unfortunately, I suffered a broken neck as a result of a mistake committed by a training partner. At that point, I had no choice but to abandon my dream of becoming a professional fighter. (According to doctors, I avoided potentially fatal nerve damage by no more than a hair’s breadth. Usually, a fracture of that type would lead to lower body paralysis or death. The bone in my neck remains broken.)

After that, I was unemployed for a year as I let my neck heal. Once it recovered, I began my career as a personal trainer, working with a member of the Japanese women’s national judo team and professional rugby players.

  • I also studied under Fumitoshi Takanishi, the strength training coach for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (a baseball team in the Japan League).
  • 2012 I was also hired as a special assistant at Kyoto University, and to this day train competitors there in Kosen judo. Four years into my appointment, my team won a long-desired Shichitei-sen, a competition between seven schools with traditionally strong judo programs.
  • I also regularly give training sessions in both judo and weight training at Nada Junior and Senior High Schools. (Nada is the school where Jigoro Kano, the founder of Koudokan judo, was once the club director. Jigoro Kano is also credited with introducing serious weight training techniques throughout Japan.)

I am not just a trainer, however. In the course of my daily training, I’ve thought a lot about the type of training goods I would like to use. Based on that experience, I’ve crafted designs and manufactured a variety of products under the name Itani Athletic. In the near future, I am also planning to create a physical space that combines everything I’ve learned as a trainer and judo competitor. It will be a training space featuring Itani Athletic goods where people can meet, train, make valuable friendships, and even share food.

Kosen Judo

“Kosen Judo” is the name for a type of judo competition that is very different from the type of judo normally practiced around the world. The grappling techniques developed in Kosen Judo have had a major impact not only on conventional judo, but also on Brazilian Jujitsu and mixed martial arts in general.
Kosen Judo was born in 1898 (the 31st year of the Meiji era), and boasts an over 100-year history, eventually giving rise to today’s Shichitei-Judo.