By Patrick Keelaghan
From Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, April 1945 to January 1946, 7-8. Copyright © the Budokwai 2000, www.budokwai.org. Reprinted by permission of Richard Bowen.
In August  when I had my week's vacation I and another lad went up to the [Manzanar] Relocation Center (pardon me, Centre), some 250 miles from here [Los Angeles], where the Japanese or Nisei are interned (they are the American-born, loyal element), and there we stayed the week in the nearby town [either Independence or Lone Pine], driving out every day for about an hour's judo with the internees. [EN1] However, on the second day we decided to go fishing during the afternoon when there was no judo, and nothing would satisfy us but we would do some sunbathing. I think we were out for about two or three hours, and since the camp is near the desert you can imagine how hot it was. Naturally, I got sunburned, and had to give up the judo. When my blisters had somewhat subsided, I tried a go at the judo and nearly got my back torn off, so I had to give up altogether. On the Sunday we were to go home a group of the club members drove up and they held a Shiai, to grade us all, and of course I didn't want to miss that. I had myself all tied up in bandages like a mummy, and when the time came who did I get to murder me but the fellow I met the last time I was there in contest, and he had thrown me, so you can imagine how happy I was!!! Anyway, it wasn't as bad as I thought, because after a little bit of rough housing I got him with the Inner Thigh throw, unintentionally I must add, for I tried for Haraigoshi and he side-stepped into it. Then they gave me another toughie and he got me in a hold-down, just when I had forgotten about the sunburn and was getting really warmed up. However, they gave me a first Kyu to keep me quiet, and when I looked at my shoulders, which had lost all the skin, I was going to ask them for more, but I am well pleased with what I got. So I am since August  a Brown Belt, and strut around now fit to kill. [EN2]
In one of the Dojo scenes they wanted some judo men to fill up the background, doing breakfalls and Randori, as you get in the real thing, so they have a lot of Koreans and Phillipinos who know a little judo, but [technical advisor Jack] Sergel spoke to the casting director and what do you know, 'Patrick' himself is asked to come along and give a hand. So over I went to the studios, they darken my hair (temporarily), put a whole lot of goo on my face, fiddle around with my eyebrows, and before long what do you know, you have another Japanese, with the one incongruity, out of the midst of the yellow skin and black hair there looms the biggest pair of bright blue eyes you ever saw in the whole of Ireland. A Japanese with blue eyes, it will make medical history. The part we had was the background to the scene, where [star James] Cagney comes from a neighbouring studio to give a demonstration of some throws with another Japanese and he does the Seoenagi [sic] three times. Then we rise and do Randori. Whether they cut it out or not I don't know. All I might add is that for my three hours' fooling around the studio on a Saturday afternoon when I should have been doing nothing anyway, I received the sum of $35, and that was not to be sneezed at!
As for the other members in the scene, the big [Los Angeles] Police [Department] fellow [Jack Sergel] is not there -- he's our teacher and is a third Dan. The Japanese fellow that Cagney throws is really a Japanese [American] and is now in the [US] Army; he is a third Kyu, but very strong and has only been at it for a short time. The other blue-eyed fellow in our scene, who heads our row with a Black Belt, is Cagney's double in the film; he is the first Dan I spoke of [in a previous letter] and is very good. The fellow between him and myself (when we were seated) had on a Black Belt, but he is only a third Kyu and is from some other Dojo; I don't think he is so good. Then there was myself. On my right were a number of Koreans [EN3] and the others are young lads and not very good, but they seem to be able to do the forward rolls very well. In the rolling part of the scene you may see an older man seated on the edge of the mat - he is supposed to be a third Dan and got graded in the Philippines, but he never was at our place, so I do not know; anyway he is too old to work at it by now and he could not do the rolls, so he sat on the corner and watched. The senior instructor who introduces the exhibitionists is not a judo man nor is he a Japanese. He had to learn the words from Sergel, but he is a character actor and is around the picture all the way through. So now, when you see the picture you will know what the people are like and you will see how much trouble we have to throw our teacher, who weighs around 220 lb. or so.
EN1. Manzanar's judo dojo was constructed in the firebreak between Blocks 10 and 16. There was also a raised wooden platform for kendo built in the firebreak between Blocks 10 and 11. For maps and physical descriptions of the camp and its structures, see Jeffery F. Burton, Mary M. Farrell, Florence B. Lord, and Richard W. Lord, Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites (Tucson, AZ: Western Archeological and Conservation Center, National Park Service, 1999 [2000 update with corrections]), 160-201. For online photos, try http://www.book.uci.edu/BornFree/bornfree.html and http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/wcf/wcf0013.html.
EN2. To see online photos of judo at Heart Mountain, Jerome, and Rohwer Relocation Centers, visit the National Archives site http://www.nara.gov/nara/nail.html. The keyword for the search is "judo".
EN3. One of these Korean Americans was Philip Ahn,
an actor whose subsequent roles included the Shaolin master in Kung
Fu who says to Grasshopper, "When you can snatch the pebble from my
hand, it will be time for you to go." For details of Ahn's life and career,
see "A Conversation with Susan Cuddy," Occasional Papers, a publication
of the Korean American Historical Society, 4 (1998-99), 1-62 and http://www.philipahn.com.