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понедельник, 22 июня 2009 г.

Russian Judo Comeback

Russia has always had strong judo traditions. Ever since Vasiliy Oshepkov, the grandfather of Russia Judo came over from Japan in 1914 having studied the art at the famous Kodokan school, the sport has been growing and entrenching in the ex-Soviet Union countries including Russia.

(Vasiliy Oshepkov pictured below)

Oshepkov was only the fourth foreigner and the first Russian to attain the degree of "Shodan" in Kodokan Judo at the time. Formidable in his physique, Oshepkov was nickname the "Russian bear" by the Japanese for his strong build. Mr. Oshepkov is said to have weighed approximately 220lb (100kg) at the time.

Oshepkov was also one of the founders of the Russian sport and self-defence system called Sambo which replaced judo during the 1930s when Judo became highly politicized by the Soviet government. Sadly, Vasiliy Oshepkov himself was accused of espionage and executed in 1937.

The students that Vasiliy taught together with other practitioners across USSR continued to practice the art however and by 1964, very soon after Judo became an Olympic sport, the Soviet Union took four bronze medals at the Tokyo Games.

This success was to continue until the fall of the Sovit Union with many famous Judokas taking medals in every tournament including the Olympic games but since then success has very much eluded Russia. Despite Russian judo players being ranked among the top in their weight classes, Russia could not gain a single medal in the Beijing Olympic games.

Today, a lot is being done to revive the Judo traditions. A new coach, Ezio Gamba has been hired to take the Judo world by storm, the man who took Olympic Gold back in Moscow in 1980 from Neil Adams in the final.

There are high hopes for 2012 London Games, support from the country's great Judo fan Vladimir Putin and I think after five golds at the recent European Championships, Russia will one day impress the world in this sport as it has done in wrestling in the past.

Russia is a country with great potential in both Judo and Sambo and the popularity of both sports is increasing with the emergence of mixed martial arts. Fedor Emelianenko is one man that has made an enormous contribution in this area and now many are choosing combat sambo as a result.

Judo in particular grew due to the character of Kano himself and his work to make Judo a mainstream sport. In this task he succeeded thanks to his ability to lobby for the sport in high echelons of the government and I think Judo has a chance to make a comeback in Russia as the same is happening in Russia.

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