Mother of Judo In USA / Rusty Kanokogi
Judo the Gentle Way 3: Tribute to “Mother of Judo”
There is another woman in Women’s Judo I would like to honor.
Rusty Kanokogi resided on the East Coast in New York. Rusty promoted Judo as a sport. She was a pioneer and was passionately dedicated to women’s Judo.
Rusty Kanokogi was the first American woman to receive 7th degree Black belt. People called her “Mother of Judo” because of her promotion of the sport to Olympic status. She lobbied, wrote letters, raised money, filed discrimination suits, and organized international competitions. Kanokogi is widely credited with helping bring Women’s Judo into Olympic games for the first time in 1988 – the same year she was the Head Woman’s Judo Coach of the U.S. Olympic Team. Also, Rusty was instrumental in creation of the first Women’s World Judo Championships that were held in 1980 in New York City. I was proud and very excited to attend this event in Madison Square Garden. That was my first trip to New York and I watched several of my friends from Kodokan women’s Judo participated in this championship. You know, I was intimidated by Rusty’s presence when I met her for the first time. Not because she was impressively built, but also because she was one of the most handful women in Judo tournaments, A referee, for National level and dressed just like a man, in a jacket and tie. Little did I know, I would become a tournament referee several years later myself. This was something I never expected. I am ever grateful to Rusty for trail blazing this road and for my chance to become a referee, even though I was the lowest ranking, D, referee forever. It was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have ever had.
Mrs. Rusty Kanokogi passed away on Nov. 21, 2009 at 74
They say martial artist never dies, just fades away….
Thank you Rena Rusty Kanokogi!