Rusty Kanokogi

Although Rusty Kanokogi has an incredible list of accomplishments, not the least of which being the icon of Women's Judo, one of the most important parts of her legacy are the many students she taught over the years. More than anything, Rusty was a teacher and a coach. Whether in her family's dojo or after school classes all over New York City, Rusty taught her students about Judo and life.


While Rusty was, obviously, a highly skilled Judoka, her teaching goals were beyond just being a fierce competitor with great technique. As Jean explains, "What mattered is making good people and bringing out the best in her students and giving them a fighting chance against all odds." Her goal of making a person bring out their best, also included confronting fear. Then as now, children have had to deal with bullies. Rusty was not one to suffer bullies, and she had a unique way of dealing with them, "She definitely taught a lot of kids to stand up to bullies." Jean relayed one of her mother's unique tactics, "Tell the bully to come to Judo practice, we'll fix 'em."

Rusty taught simply and directly about how to get the most out of life, as Jean explains her mother's wisdom, "The greatest words that she always used with me were: why not? Hey Mom, I got a B plus in school!" to which Rusty would reply, "Well, why not an A?" Simple and powerful teachings that she applied to such great effect that Women's Judo is now an accepted norm, and many may not be aware of the struggle that brought it to the world.

Rusty Kanokogi

Toward the end of her life, Rusty could look back at many incredible achievements, and was being recognized for her life's work of championing equality in Judo. In 2008 she received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette from the Emperor of Japan. However, accolades and awards would not eliminate that first injustice she experienced at the YMCA all those years prior. In August of 2009, 50 years after she won her Judo medal, only to have it stripped from her for being a woman, she was awarded her gold medal by the YMCA. For the forces of misogyny, it was clearly an example of winning the battle but losing the war, as Jean states, "Because that medal was taken away, women's Judo is now in the Olympics."

Awards and acclaim are a great reminder of Rusty's notoriety, but there is nothing more powerful than having an eye for seeing the potential in others. Honed through years of teaching and coaching, Rusty could spot talent, and so she did.

In 2009 The Women's Sports Foundation, founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King, established the Rusty Kanokogi fund for the advancement of women in Judo. The fund provides funds to help athletes with the costs of training and travel. Rusty was involved in the selection process for the recipient the year she died. Jean shared the details of Rusty's choice for the first year's recipient, "In 2009 Rusty was still very ill, and she asked me to be on the selection committee, and I said , of course, but she said she already selected the 2009 recipient. I said, well who's that? And she said Kayla Harrison. I said Mom, who's Kayla Harrison? She said, You'll see."

Get Up and Fight Kanokogi

As the pioneer of women's competitive Judo, Rusty left a path for others to follow, one that will forever be filled with champions all over the world. I hope and expect that in time Rusty's name will be as well-known as others in women's sports and martial arts. While Americans can celebrate the two Olympic gold medals won by Kayla Harrison, it should be remembered that it was not that long ago that it was all different. It might have never been, if not for one woman asking, "Why not?"

Rusty Kanokogi died on November 21, 2009. As an honored member of the Kanokogi Samurai lineage, she rests in the family's tomb in Kumamoto Japan. On her grave she is forever declared "American Samurai."

For more information about Rusty and to order the book "Get Up and Fight," visit: https://www.rustykanokogi.com/

Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge

When The Fast and the Furious (2001) sped into the psyche's of illegal street racing enthusiasts, with a penchant for danger and the psychotic insanity of arrant automotive adventure, the brusque bearish, quasi-hero rebel, Dominic "Dom" Toretto was caustic yet salvationally portrayed with the power of a train using a Vin Diesel engine.

Keep Reading Show less

The skill of stick fighting as a handy weapon dates from the prehistory of mankind. The stick has got an advantage over the stone because it could be used both for striking and throwing. In lots of countries worlwide when dealing with martial arts there is a special place for fighters skillful in stick fighting. ( India, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, countries of Africa, Europe and Americas etc).

The short stick as a handy weapon has been used as a means of self-defence from animals and later various attackers. Regarding its length it was better than the long stick, primarily because it was easier to carry and use. The short stick as a means of self-defence was used namely in all countries of the world long time ago.

Keep Reading Show less

The Czech Republic's Lukas Krpalek put himself in the history books Friday when he became only the third judoka to ever win Olympic gold medals in two different weight categories claiming the men's +100 kg division in Tokyo. Krpalek, who won the under 100 kg class at the 2016 Rio Olympics, hit a throw with time running out in the finals against Georgia's Guram Tushishvili and went into a hold down to pin Tushishvili for the full point to earn his second Olympic championship. Meanwhile, two-time defending +100 kg champion Teddy Riner of France, considered by some the greatest judoka in history, was upset in the quarter finals and had to settle for the bronze.

On the women's side, Akira Sone helped Japan break its own record for most judo gold medals in a single Olympics when she claimed her country's ninth gold of the tournament capturing the women's +78 kg division against Cuba's Idalys Ortiz. The win came in somewhat anticlimactic fashion as no throws were landed and Ortiz lost on penalties in overtime.