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#22 Goodbye Shotaro

Posted on 2016/04/18

I am sorry to announce that CARPE DIEM Instructor Shotaro Suzuki passed away due to a stroke on April 1.

It seems that he collapsed while at a restaurant on March 23. We were contacted by Shotaro’s wife and were hoping for a recovery but unfortunately he didn’t regain consciousness before passing.

Shotaro and I first met each other when we were about 26 years old. At that time both Shotaro and I were both Blue Belts and we were both feather weights. I can clearly remember my first competition with Shotaro. When we were about to fight and were squaring off Shotaro would say, “Come on then!” and crook his finger and provoking me to start. It was the first time I had seen anything like that and I thought to myself “What the heck?!” That was the first time that I met Shotaro.

After that Shotaro started working in the writing industry. It was Shotaro who was responsible for founding the famous series of Jiu-jitsu books by Mook Books, which come with a DVD, called “BJJ Spirits”. I was also interviewed several times then. Shotaro always had a smile on his face when he was interviewing. I always got the impression that he was really into BJJ.

Shotaro told me he’d like to start training with us at around the same time as I started CARPE DIEM. This was at great pains to him and so he joined us as an instructor without a fixed schedule.

There aren’t that many guys that were able to take his classes since he was instructing only at Mita and mostly in the morning classes. But he would sometimes come to Aoyama to train and so there are probably a lot of guys who have rolled with him there.

Shotaro had a really strong pass guard. He even gave me quite a hard time. I was always being done over by Shotaro. When he’d finally pass my guard he would give a good “Yah!” That would really piss me off! Even the last time I sparred with him he passed my guard. I guess he quit while he was ahead.

I wanted to give Shotaro his black belt. We have several old brown belts at the dojo but the timing for giving a black belt is not easy. I set everyone some target or goal that they gave to achieve before I give them a black belt. I don’t think it is a good idea to just turn around and say,”Well it is about time.” Having a brown belt shows that you have put in the training. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Jiu-jitsu is a big part of your life. When this is the case, the critical point in a Jiu-jitsu practitioner’s life of getting a black belt is not something to compromise on. I want to be proud to have wrapped that black belt around your waist without any fear of doubt. I told Shotaro that he needed to win 3 competitions as a brown belt, no batter the size, and he could be a black belt. When I saw him he told me he was going to enter a competition.

One day before training Shotaro said to me quite unexpectedly with a smile on his face, “Ishikawa-sensei, I hope that one day you will think that you are glad to have had me come to this dojo.” All I could say was, “what’s this, so suddenly…” With a wry smile on my face. It was a heck of a thing. He looked disappointed maybe because he was so busy at work and did not have enough time to practice enough but I do think that he engaged in Jiu-jitsu seriously.

There was only one time where I had to speak to Shotaro about something seriously. I remember that he was quite ashamed about it. Now that I think about it though I wonder if I needed to speak to him about it so seriously. I am sorry about that Shotaro. But now that you are gone it is too late to apologize. I have learned now and I will try to be more tolerant to others in the future.

Shotaro was a really photogenic guy. As a subject he was able to draw the camera. All of these are the photos taken on film. I think that the the ones that I am in were taken by Rintaro with my camera.

When Shotaro was sparring with me he was always serious about it. It was always starting from standing. While I was stretching he was already getting ready for me. This picture makes me cry.

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Suddenly he would pull out some kind of dangerous technique like “Udekaeshi”. :-) Then when it went to the mat he would always pull his ridiculously strong half guard.

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I think that at his heaviest he was about 100kgs. But then when he dieted he dropped down to under 80kgs I think. When I told guys that we were in the same weight class they are always surprised.

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Up until recently Shotaro was sparring as normal, even now I cannot believe that he is gone. There is nothing you can do to prevent a stroke before it happens. And when you go it is all over. When I think of his family I feel bad.

Self-employed people like me do not have the opportunity to get health checks. At the beginning of this year was the first time I went to get one. Overall everything was fine but of course there were things I need to be careful of. Recently I recommend to everyone I talk to, to get health checks, give up smoking and not to drink to excess. I am probably being a pain, these things often aren’t related to having a stroke but I say it anyway. I wanted to spar more with Shotaro.

Goodbye Shotaro. Thank you for all of the great memories. From now I will take care of myself and continue to build a legendary dojo which will be passed down. It will be a dojo that Shotaro will be proud to be an instructor of.

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