Noah Leibowitz, a 12 year-year-old Jewish boy who lives in Japan, won the All Japan Wrestling Championship (60 KG, Age 12) on Sunday. The championship brought together 1,400 champion wrestlers from across Japan after they won their regional tournaments.
Noah waited a long time for his matches, as he was a returning champion. When his turn finally arrived, he dominated the arena and didn’t lose any points. He won the first match in 50 seconds, the second in 30, and the final match was won in a brief 13 seconds.
Noah comes from a family of athletes – his brother Levi (17) is currently practicing Judo, as is his sister Mia-Dina (15). They both reside in Israel today, as part of the Na’ale program for Jewish teenagers making Aliyah ahead of their parents. They also both hope to represent Israel in Judo competitions around the world and are attempting to make the national team.
Aside from the athletic aspect, Noah’s family has a fascinating story spanning three continents. His father, David, was born in New York, and his mother, Mayumi Chana, is Japanese-born. They have lived in Japan for most of the last 25 years, and have been back and forth between the US and Japan. In recent years they have frequently visited Israel as well, including a trip to Efrat, where Mayumi Chana converted to Judaism under Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s auspices.
Japan is a wrestling powerhouse and is among the leading countries in the sport. David, Noah’s father, told TPS that the Japanese style of wrestling is very technical, and focuses mostly on the nuances of delicate movement. This often works to the advantage of the smaller wrestlers. Regarding Noah, his son, David said: “Thank God, Noah is very gifted. He is naturally strong in many respects – physically, emotionally and mentally. His natural strength, combined with the Japanese technical training, created an opportunity for some excellent wrestling.”
Noah has been training for the past eight years and has intensified his training routine in the past three years. He has been regularly training with kids who are older than him, strengthening him and building his confidence.
In a conversation with TPS, Noah spoke about the championship and how it felt to participate: “It was my second tournament, so I wasn’t so stressed the second time around. I had a lot of confidence because I practice with wrestlers who are between one to six years older. I had a lot of pride and confidence going in. I learned how to counter much larger opponents, and that helped a lot.”
Noah believes his experience with older wrestlers will help him later on, as he attempts to win the championship for middle school and high school students.
The Leibowitz family is an example of the strengthening ties between Israel and Japan. They feel that they are part of both cultures and are happy to bridge the gap. “We are very grateful to the Japanese people for all they have done for us and to support Noah. We are thankful for the chance to live in such a lovely country as Japan. The people here are lovely and we have never encountered any anti-Semitism. We are thrilled to be part of the growing bonds between these two ancient nations” said Leibowitz.