Profile for Andy Holt

Andy started his Judo career around 1960 and earned his black belt in 1966. Andy retired after 30 years of Judo in 1990 due to medical reasons. His current rank is Rokyudan. Some of his early Senseis/Instructors were Tom Mayerchak, Jimmy Takemori, Joel Hicks and Jack Lynch.

In 1968, the nationally circulated ‘Judo Illustrated’ magazine featured a cover story about Andy. (To read the story, click on the link provided herein.)

Andy started his own Judo Club in Durham, NC. Because of his blindness, Andy naturally favored mat work, where he excelled, particularly with chokes and arm bars. Having said that, many opponents during shiai competition fell victim to his ippon seoi nage or harai goshi, not to mention his ‘flying kansetsu waza’. It was said that Andy didn’t know he was blind!

Andy and his wife Alice have settled in Hillsboro, NC.


Following is the cover story interview of Andy Holt, Hillsborough, North Carolina, in the JUDO ILLUSTRATED magazine dated April, 1968. The following questions and answers were part of the interview with the staff of Judo Illustrated, Jimmy Takemori, Tom Mayerchak, Jack Lynch and Andy Holt. (Our questions and comments are in Italics.) (Note: This magazine article has been edited to remove references to photographs and other redundant comments.)

Judoka Andy Holt - A man of exceptional talent with an "impossible" handicap, which everyone but he seems to realize. This is our cover story from those who know and work with Andy Holt.

How has Judo helped you personally?

I think it has helped me, as well as others, cope with our modern society. It teaches one relaxation. When I go to the dojo at night, I know that during those two or three hours, I can wipe everything else out of my mind. I’m able to ‘think’ Judo. I don't care what the worries of the day are. Judo provides the chance to rejuvenate one's mental capacity. You go to the dojo bone tired, but you have a different type of fatigue when you leave and it makes you feel good. I still have my share in the middle here, but Judo has helped me keep that down a bit.

What do you mean by middle?

My middle section here and that's always hard to keep down. I think we are all getting too soft, fat and lazy. Judo is a form of exercise that lets you exercise every muscle in your body, and it teaches you to exercise will power and relaxation. It is a whole way of life as far as I am concerned.

Would you like to say anything for the handicapped or regarding them?

I just wish that more and more people with any type of handicap, blindness or otherwise, would, if at all possible, get into Judo or some similar sport. The hardest thing to overcome is the thinking of the general public. So, I would like to see more and more people, especially handicapped people, get into Judo because I think it would help them, and everyone in general would be happy.

Would you say that you are the only yudansha in the United States that is blind?

That's what Jimmy Takemori has told me.

It must be a great honor.

It is a good feeling, but also a lonesome one. I would like to have company.

Would you like to say something to the public?

Well, as I said, I would like to see more people in Judo, and another thing that I didn't bring out, I would not give anything in the world for all the people I have met and the associations I have made through Judo. Some of the finest persons in the whole world I have met through Judo in the last six years. Persons like Jimmy Takemori, Tom Mayerchak, Jack Lynch; all of these have mean a lot to me. That’s another thing, a person who goes into Judo and has the guts to stick with it, I think will make worthwhile friends for life.

Do you feel a sense of achievement with what you have been able to do with your students?

I sure do. People talk about getting nervous before a contest. Well, I never knew what it was to be nervous until I put some of my kids into a contest. It doesn't bother me at all thinking about going out there myself, but I worry terribly when somebody tells me what's happening on the mat.

Mr. Lynch: is there anything further you would like to say about Andy?

I would like to mention that he has done a great job with his club. He has not only thought about himself, but he has worked hard with his club. He must feel some sense of achievement, to work that hard and develop his club in Durham, and I think that Andy has been quite unselfish with his Judo in trying to help others.

As you get older, what are your future plans in Judo?

It will be more teaching and less competition. I'll provide a body for people to work with for a long time, and that's one thing about Judo - it's always nice to win but you enjoy playing whether you win or lose. But just to get out there and play is still a thrill and most worthwhile. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I plan to be around for quite a while.

How many nights (a week) do you practice?


What other activities do you have?

I do enjoy other sports such as water-skiing, swimming, and fishing. Some of my evenings are taken up with my job as a stock broker. In spectator sports, I still prefer football and basketball, and I go back to (the University of North) Carolina for some of my wrestling matches, as a spectator, of course. So, when you work out three nights a week and a couple of weekends like that a month, it takes quite a bit of your time.

What are your favorite Judo techniques?

I thoroughly enjoy mat work, usually osaekomi or shimewaza, kansetsu waza (armbars). I have a kansetsu that I use from a standing position that has been very good to me in contest. I have some success with harai goshi, ouchi gari and osoto gari. Those are the three main ones I work with.

Do you find it difficult to apply a tachiwaza?

Not really, It’s no harder for me than it is for anyone else. I have to get in there and work just as anyone else does. I have never felt any different on the mat because once I have made contact and I have my grip, I am in as good a position as anyone else.

(The following questions and answers are from those other than Judo Illustrated with or about Andy Holt. They reflect the feelings and reactions of those who have been in contact with, and who have worked with Andy Holt. Judo Illustrated believes it is a fitting endorsement of a figure of stature in the world of Judo.)

Following are questions directed to Tom Mayerchak, shodan, of Winston-Salem in North Carolina.

Would you care to elaborate on Andy Holt?

I could talk about him for hours. He's competed in just about every shiai and he and I are constantly competing. Your questions bring up the fact that he tends to be too stiff in his playing. In his lower ranks, this was okay because most Judo beginners are stiff. But now, when he gets into Black Belt competition, he loses (some matches by) the fact that most of (his opponents) play loose and are able to capitalize on his stiffer movements, which seem to "set him up." You would never know he is blind, but when the pressure is on in the shiai, he stiffens up. If he could overcome this, it would help not only himself, but it would help other blind players in the world. It would make the difference between a good Judoka and a lesser one.

Did you work with him and train him?

Let's say he is not my student. But he came here at a time when this area was completely undeveloped. He picked up his interest in Judo and we were happy to help him. We developed a system for the katas so that it could work without any telltale signs of his blindness. It was really a challenge, but we came up with a good kata. It may not have been a fast-moving kata like you would like to see, yet when he performed the kata with an audience, most of them did not realize he was blind.

Personality-wise, would you say that Andy was easy to work with?

Yes! Anything you want to do, he is always open for suggestions. We had several clinics, and Sensei Nishimori, 6 dan, from the West Coast who was stationed in Ft. Bragg at the time, worked with him. Sensei Nishimori was highly pleased with his capabilities as an uke as well as tori.

Following are Andy's answers to questions posed by Jimmy Takemori, Vice President of Shufu Yudanshakai and president of the Washington Judo Club.

In view of the fact that we understand you (Jimmy Takemori) and Sensei Kenzo promoted Andy Holt, can you give a brief history of his promotions?

As he went up in rank, through recommendations, I would recommend him to the Board of Examiners and they, in turn, would promote him.

Can you tell how he started in Judo, under your teaching?

Andy attended one of our promotional tournaments, at which I was present, along with Sensei Kenzo. It was a challenge for both Sensei Kenzo and myself because of his blindness, and yet, we tried not to treat him as a blind person. He had excelled in everything, partly because he had been a wrestler during his school years and his coordination was very good.

What about his tournament record during the time he has been competing?

As a competitor, the officials allowed both he and his opponent to take a grip, and as the command "hajime" (which means to begin) was given, they went at it and he did an excellent job. He was especially strong on the mat, but he also did very well with his throwing techniques, considering his handicap.

When you talk of throwing technique, what have you seen of his waza?

Harai goshi is his favorite technique and he does it very well. He also does ippon seoi nage, and I think he does it as well as any competitor of his rank.

We hear some persons say that during shiai he stiffens up, but in randori he works loose. Do you think this is true?

Yes, but I think this is because of the noise factor. With a crowd yelling, this tends to make him tighten up a little.

What about his tournament record?

As a competitor, I would say that he has won about 70 per cent of his contests.

When you say 70 per cent, do you mean by chokes, mat work or standing technique?

I would say about 65 per cent of his contests were won in mat work, including chokes and armbars. The other percentage would be in tachiwaza. I would like to add that In the examination for his shodan rank, he had to demonstrate Nage No Kata. This he did with a little help from the officials who put him into position to start. He did an excellent demonstration with the kata.

Nage No Kata is a form of throwing techniques?

Yes. Throwing techniques are required in Shufu Yudanshakai as well as the United States Judo Federation for promotion to shodan. There are 15 throws which are required. He had to do this for his promotion to shodan.

We did not give him any breaks, for he had to demonstrate all of the shime wazas (choking techniques), osaekomi wazas (holding techniques), kansetsu wazas (joint locking), and he had to demonstrate the throws in Go Kyo No Waza, which consists of 40 throws.

Before he grabs, how does he sense these things?

He has a sense of feel, and as long as he gets close enough, his other hand goes right into position.

Any other comments, Jimmy?

I think Judo has really helped him because he has a wonderful personality. I think more handicapped persons should get into sports such as Judo. I feel Andy has progressed to the point where I don't even consider him as a blind person when I work with him.

Is it difficult to teach Andy?

No, not at all. He grasps everything fast. He is as good at grasping everything as is the average person.

The following comments were made in answer to questions from Jack Lynch.

Andy, how old are you?

Soon to be thirty six, an old man in sports!

How long have you been in Judo?

A little over six years.

When did you accomplish shodan?

June 25, 1966.

How about your academic schooling?

I went through the first four grades in Mount Holly public school. Then I had an accident and lost my sight. I finished my grammar school and high school years at a school for the blind in Raleigh. From there I went to the University of North Carolina and finished with my B.S. degree in business administration.

Considering your handicap, what made you take up Judo?

My dad was a coach for 18 years and I have always loved sports. After I got out of college, where I had wrestled both in high school as well as in college, there was just no one around who wanted to wrestle. I was merely going to the Y to work out a bit with weights. One night there was a lot of noise going on and people were making a lot of racket. I asked what was happening, and they told me it was a Judo class. Upon further investigation, I was told that I couldn't do it because I couldn't learn how to fall. That made me mad. I decided I would try it ¬and I did!

How did you overcome your handicap?

Well, You don't really look when you play Judo, do you?

To a certain extent, one does. You couldn't do it "blindly." You have to rely on your senses.

I have always had to rely on that. You learn to rely on what you have and so it really has never seemed to be too much of a problem for me. I think it's more of a problem for other people than it is for me.

Can I ask how you make contact with your opponent?

In competition, most referees want us to secure a partial grip first, then they call hajime.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

The biggest highlight in my career was when Jimmy Takemori handed me my Black Belt. And in view of the fact that he and I have been yelling at each other for the past several years, it meant about as much to him as it did to me. That moment meant an awful lot to me.

Who started you in Judo, and who was your instructor?

Dr. Dick Liguori, presently a psychiatrist at Duke University, started me in Judo. He taught me all I knew at first. Later, Tom Mayerchak, Jack Lynch and Joel Hicks helped me the most.

What are your future plans?

I would like very much, regardless of why I went into Judo, to prove to my class the benefits of Judo. I think it can help them in the future. The whole spirit of Judo is an excellent way of life for anyone.

Note: Some heart problems forced me to stop practicing Judo in 1990, after about 30 years. I still miss it. I give thanks to Judo for I have as many true friends from Judo as in any part of my life.