by Tom Ross
may head of one of the world's elite superpowers, but to his fellow judo
club members Russian President Vladimir Putin is best known for his wicked
sweeping leg throw (Haraigoshi).
Although it is little known in the west, Putin is an avid student of
judo -- the Japanese art in which students compete to throw their opponents
or defeat them on the ground with grappling techniques, such as immobilizations,
chokes and submission arm locks.
began studying judo at age 14 and has been studying ever since. During
his competitive career, among his many victories Putin placed third place
in the Russian Junior Nationals and was Leningrad Seniors Champion. He
is now President of the same club where he began, St. Petersburg's Yawara
Several years ago, following an official state visit to Tokyo, Japan,
Putin was a guest at the famous Kodokan headquarters of judo. In attendance
were many officials including Japanese Prime Minister Mori. Yukimitsu
Kano, the grandson of Kodokan Judo's founder Jigoro Kano said, "President
Putin started Judo when he was very young, and has continued practice
until now. He had a wish to visit the Kodokan institute. We are very happy
to have him and welcome him as a judo member."
demonstrations of the art, Putin showed his own skills of throwing and
grappling. Assisted by a Kodokan instructor, Mukai, Putin demonstrated
a variety of leg sweeps, shoulder, and backward sacrificing throws plus
two techniques favored by smaller men facing larger opponents -- an inner
leg throw that dumps the opponent backward and the basic hip throw that
introduces most students to the art. He also performed dround immobilization
techniques. Afterwards Putin's assistant, Mukai said, said that President
Putin's technique was very good.
was then presented with flowers by a young lady. And to the delight of
the audience Putin permitted her to throw him. He was officially awarded
a coveted sixth degree black belt.
Not since US President Teddy Roosevelt has a world leader been associated
with judo or other martial arts. Roosevelt had been involved in both boxing
and wrestling. After witnessing a demonstration of judo by Yoshiaka Yamashita
against a wrestler at the White House, Roosevelt began studying the art
under this teacher, eventually becoming the first American to achieve
the rank of brown belt. While Roosevelt may be the first modern day head
of state to actively practice in the martial arts, Putin is certainly
the first to achieve an advanced rank in martial arts.
Photos courtesy President Vladimir Putin website and
reproduced with permission: www.vladimirputin.4u.ru
About the Author:
Tom Ross is a retired NYC Correction Officer who specialized in the Handling
of Security Risk group prisoners. A Yudansha in Shorinjiryu Kenzenkai
Karatedo (an Offshoot of the Shorinjiryu Kenkokan founded by Masayoshi
Hisataka), he also spent six years studying Jujutsu (classical, modern
and Brazilian). Possessing an avid interest in the history of martial
arts and traditions he currently serves as the Research Coordinator for
FightingArts.com as well as moderating its Martial Arts Talk forum. He
additionally serves as the moderator of the Sabaki List (which is dedicated
to various martial artists and full contact stylists) and is a member
of the International Hoplology Society.