Known as the “Father of Judo” in British Columbia and Canada, Shigetaka (Steve) Sasaki embodied the essence and spirit of his sport. For 78 years, the late Mr. Sasaki studied, taught, developed, and promoted the art of judo.

Judo was founded in Japan in 1882 by Professor Jigoro Kano and from him, Sasaki learned the sport as a young boy. In 1924, two years after immigrating to Vancouver, Sasaki established the Vancouver Judo Club on Powell Street. Named the Kindokwan Dojo, or training place, this was the first official Canadian judo club. Many of his students went on to become world-class athletes and coaches.

In the 1930s, Sasaki became the first official judo instuctor for the RCMP. In 1936, Professor Kano visited Sasaki and requested that he accompany him on a European tour to promote the idea and concept of judo in an effort to foster peace and understanding between nations.

The onset of the Second World War changed the lives of countless people, including the Sasakis. The internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII forced Sasaki and his wife, Sumiye, to relocate to an internment camp where he continued to organise judo classes. After the war, the Sasakis settled in Ashcroft, where they opened a business and established a dojo.

In the early 1950s, Sasaki set out to form a national judo organization. By 1955, he had established the Canadian Kodokan Black Belt Association, an alliance of Western Provinces which later becomes Judo Canada. In 1958, he travelled to Japan and arranged for Canada to join the International Judo Federation.

Sasaki retired in 1968, yet continued his quiet dedication to judo for many years after. He founded and taught at judo clubs all over Vancouver. He achieved an eighth level black belt in 1986, the same year he was inducted into the Canadian Amateur Sports Hall of Fame and received Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun.

Sasaki died in 1993, but is remembered fondly by all those involved in Canadian judo. Judo BC honours his memory with the Steve Sasaki Award. First persented in 1994, the award is given to a male and a female judoka, each of whom has achieved in competition and demonstated the spirit and essence of the sport.