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Health and Fitness

Sharpening the Warrior Spirit

See how two people use judo to better themselves and the Navy.

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Robert Turnquest, has devoted most of his life to the pursuit of judo. He's a third degree black belt, but the amount of time he has invested in judo is evident in more than the color of his belt; you can also see it in his character.

He possesses the fitness level of an Olympic gymnast and a spit-shine professional appearance which contributes greatly to his role as an IT 'A' school instructor at the Center for Information Dominance, Cory Station, Fla.

Turnquest works hard to balance his role as an instructor with his status as a competitor on the Armed Forces Judo Team. He says that his devotion to judo has set him up for success in the Navy.

"The Armed Forces Judo Team gives me the opportunity to travel around the world for competitions and when I compete, I have to represent my country and the Navy with the utmost professionalism," said Turnquest. "That experience translates to my role as an instructor; I understand that when these Sailors go to the fleet, their performance will have a direct reflection on me."

He began competing at five-years- old and says that judo competition has played an important role in taking his fitness to such a high level.

"If you're doing something you love whether its lifting weights or judo or whatever, it's not going to be a chore," said Turnquest. "That way when it comes time for the PRT [physical readiness test] cycle, you can wake up, run your PRT and go about your day like it's no big deal."

Translated as "The Gentle Way," judo is a grappling sport which integrates a focus on morality and discipline, hence the "gentle" aspect of the art. The tenants of judo, "efficiency" and "mutual welfare" combine physical education with ethics and Japanese cultural tradition.

The history of judo in the Navy goes back to 1905 when, lore has it, Yoshitsugu Yamashita, having taught President Theodore Roosevelt in the White House, arrived at the Naval Academy to perform a demonstration. The academy was so impressed with the display that Yamashita was hired to teach judo classes to midshipmen, making it one of the oldest sports at the academy.

Continuing that tradition today, Edwin Takemori, a seventh degree black belt, trains and travels to competitions with Midshipman as a volunteer, year-round. At 76-years-of-age Takemori is as passionate as ever about the power of martial arts training in his student's lives.

"I think if they become disciplined enough in judo, they will be able to accomplish anything they want to do, in the fleet or otherwise," said Takemori.

Army Lt. Col. Hector Morales-Negron, head coach of the Armed Forces Judo Team and West Point professor currently has several Sailors competing on his roster. Sailors who make the team train independently, fulfill their military obligations first, and attend training camps and competitions as their schedule allows.

The Armed Forces Judo Team generally keeps a roster of about 30 service members. They compete to be on the team annually at the Senior National Championships, being held this year at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Va. April 13-14.

"As the head coach I maintain contact with the athletes and the Army Sports office which sponsors the Armed Forces Judo Team," said Morales-Negron. "I will also coach the team at the 2013 World Games in Kazakhstan."

This year Turnquest, Takemori and Morales-Negron will all be present at the Senior National Championships. In addition to military competitors, there will be competitors from around the country to include Kayla Harrison, U.S. Olympic Gold medalist and Satoshi Ishii, Japanese Olympic Gold Medalist.

"It's a major competition with all the best fighters in every weight class from around the United States," said Turnquest." It is the chance once a year to show everyone that the military has some serious competitors that are able to hold down full time jobs, deploy, and still be able to train and compete with the best on a national level."

Turnquest has a shot to compete against U.S. Olympian Travis Stevens, who placed fifth in the London Olympics.