Coach’s use of choke out on a teenager is illegal

Tetsuya Shibui

Freelance writer


In February 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the defense in the action filed by S (18) of Fukuoka for damages caused by coach’s use of Shime-otoshi (choke out). The decision by the Fukuoka District Court that the instructor’s use of Shime-otoshi was excessive and unlawful has been confirmed. Six months after the final judgement was given, S and his father Masao (48) accepted our interview.


S started judo when he joined a local judo club as a 1st grade junior high school student. In 2014, when he was in the 2nd grade, coach A of the judo club strangled S by applying Kata-hajime (single wing choke) during randori practice. S became unconscious for a brief period.


Coaches did not confirm the facts; it was said, “You’re a good actor”

According to the action file, coach A asked S before practice started, “You choked an elementary school student, didn’t you?” S denied. After randori started A, who usually does not practice with S became his opponent. When S passed out for 5 seconds, coach A said “This is Shime-waza (choking).” After S recovered consciousness, A used Shime-waza again. S tapped but A kept choking him, saying, “It’s not over, you tap too early.” S was unconscious for 3 or 4 seconds.


S’s whole body was numb. He had a headache, had difficulty breathing and was unable to talk or open the bottle of water. Coach A, who saw him resting, said “Who allowed you to rest?” Coach H, A’s wife, shouted “You’re just acting. It was nothing. I’ll tell your school about your performance.” She ordered S to do laps in the dojo, but S walked slowly. H asked him, “Shall we call an ambulance?” S answered yes but it was ignored.


The coaches had denied most of S’s allegations. Coach A claimed he choked S out only once and not intentionally. He added it was during practice, therefore not illegal. Coach H stated she had no obligation to stop an action that was legal. She said S lied about having symptoms and there were no after-effects.


Human relations in the dojo; was he a target of bullying?


Female elementary school students told the coaches they had been choked by S. Of the 20 children in the dojo, only three were junior high school students and the rest were elementary school students. S was a beginner, therefore he was a nice target of bullying by the girls.


Masao (father): The dojo members were mostly elementary school students. The children, especially female members had judo skills. Since S was a male junior high school student and a beginner, he was pushed around excessively during randori, ignored or treated as a germ by the girls. Occasionally S refused to go to the dojo.


At the time of the incident S’s judo had improved.

S: I tried to resist awful bullying with judo skills. I began to enjoy judo.


Memory was vague, vision was hazy and I felt scared

When female elementary school students told a coach that they had been choked by S, the coach neither confirmed the truth nor did he listen to the denial by S. He stated, however, that he attempted to make S understand the potential danger of choking by making him experience it.


Interviewer: Do you remember when you lost consciousness?

S: I have been choked by a coach before but this was the first time I passed out. My memory was not clear, but I remember it was very hard for me. I cried right after it happened. I was scared, didn’t know what was happening. My vision was blurred and I didn’t feel safe, so I moved to the side of the hall.

Interviewer: What did you feel then?

S: No one came to help me. Many questions came to my mind like why did the coach choke me out. I was frightened and thought what had happened didn’t make sense.


Masao noticed his son who came home from judo looked strange, so he asked what had happened. S explained with tears. As Masao heard his son’s story, he thought they may need to take this case to court. He assumed the judo club will call, but they did not communicate with him.

Masao took S to the Municipal Emergency Medical Center, where S was seen by a neuroscientist at around 3 A.M. The diagnosis was vasovagal syncope and anterior neck abrasion. At 4 P.M. they visited another neuroscientist. The doctor focused on S’s U-shaped hand, indicating that he had excessive stress most likely based on a frightening experience.


In discussion meetings the coach justified his action; a lawsuit was filed

In a discussion meeting Masao asked Coach A why he had used Shime-waza on his son. A said S had used Shime-waza on elementary school students. S, however, denied it. No instructor has witnessed S’s use of Shime-waza. Without proof of what actually happened the coach choked out S to let him know the risk of Shime-waza. The coach asserted his instruction was right.


Masao: Most members are small children in this dojo, and more than one girl told the coaches they had been choked. If a junior high school student had actually strangled them, at least one instructor must have seen it.


In the end a lawsuit was filed by S and his father. The Fukuoka District Court proposed a settlement, but S refused it stating that money was not the issue. The District Court admitted that coach A used Kata-hajime (single-wing choke) twice on S without confirming if the girls were really choked by S.


The District Court stated that A may have either verbally warned S of the risk of choking or strengthened supervision; therefore, A’s action was excessive and illegal. The defense appealed. The Fukuoka High Court again proposed a settlement, which S refused, resulting in dismissal of the appeal. The defense then filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, but it was not accepted. The first instance judgement was confirmed.


S won the case, but he stopped going to judo classes.

Desire to change judo community


Masao commented, “It was good that the court admitted the coach choked S on purpose. Nothing to be surprised in a civil lawsuit.” However, coach H’s remarks, including “you’re acting” were not defined as unlawful.


How have S’s views changed?

S: Obviously not all coaches are bad, but judo must change, because sports should not harm players’ health. This issue must be widely communicated. My father says he’ll pursue this matter.


Original Japanese News


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