Student hopes for fourth judo title

Amanda Muramoto, editor

Seven years after first putting on a judo gi, or judo uniform, senior Brittany Balanay is ready to take on her final high school challenge– to become a four-time judo state champion.

If she places first in her weight division at the state tournament on May 7, she will join the elite group of four-year-straight judo champions. So far, there are only four Hawaii judoka, or judo students, who have made first place in all of their high school years.

One of them is McKinley alumnus Lianne Tomishima, who received her fourth title in 2007. In the A-building hallway, local newspaper articles cover her and other teammates’ accomplishments. Today, judo is known as a martial art and a sport. Balanay, who is a brown belt in the Japanese marital art, practices at Shobukan Judo club and Grapplers Hawaii off-season.

When asked who introduced her to judo, she said it was her younger brother, who goes to Kalani High School. For this judoka, she believes that if you don’t practice to the best of your ability, you won’t be able to accomplish your goals. If you want to be a winner, she recommends that you have confidence in yourself and think positively.

Balanay said she likes to listen to music and “visualize myself winning.”

Balanay is taking on the role of team captain for the second time. “I try to help everyone reach their full potential (while) bonding closer and creating fun memories together,” she said. For this season, in addition to her personal goal, she wants the team to become Eastern and OIA champions.

“Judo differs from other high school sports because it’s individual, but it’s also a team sport because without a team you won’t excel and meet your goals,” she said.

For Balanay, it has made her both mentally and physically stronger.

She also said, “Judo has changed me. It made me more outgoing and confident and I wouldn’t be where I am today.”