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Point of View: Mocker of the Sport

Thu, 03/10/2022 - 12:04

You would think that Vladimir Putin would have chosen a sport other than judo, “the gentle way.” 

It was the widespread bullying in his high school — so horrifyingly evident now in Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine — that prompted judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano, to seek out a jujutsu instructor, and then to develop his own method of unarmed combat that enabled weaker opponents to defeat stronger ones, the idea being that softness could control hardness. Kano said, when it was proposed, in 1932, that judo become an Olympic sport, “I regard it as a principle of life . . . a means for personal cultural attainment. . . . All things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the Benefit of Humanity.”

According to the Wikipedia account I’ve been citing, Kano thought of judo as “a route to self-improvement and the betterment of society in general.” Striking, it should be added, is prohibited in competitions.

I learned after writing the above that judo’s international governing body had suspended Putin as its honorary president and ambassador on Feb. 27, though there are those who argue that the organization should ban him outright, for by his bloody war crimes he has made a mockery of the tenets of his sport.

While it seems likely that Ukraine will ultimately, given the preponderance of Putin’s military strength, fall, the world’s united condemnation of his actions and its efforts to combat them on such a broad front may, in the end, trip up the dictator. One can only hope. A retired general, Doug Lute, said on the PBS news show last night that smaller countries had prevailed over more powerful ones in the past. Were that outcome to come to pass, it would be supremely ironic in Putin’s case. 

Meanwhile, we can take heart in knowing that the sympathies of so many throughout the planet are wholeheartedly with the besieged Ukrainians. The moral outrage is palpable. It’s the first time I can remember feeling so allied with everyone else.


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