Rusty Kanokogi: The Mother of Women’s Judo

Rusty Kanokogi: The Mother of Women’s Judo


Good afternoon and welcome to the Elizabeth
A. Sackler for Feminist Art. I am Elizabeth A. Sackler and I am happy to host today’s
lecture with Rusty Kanokogi. And to let you know a little bit about the center we opened
in 2007 in March. So we’re coming up on our second anniversary. In addition to being a
exhibition space for art and the beautiful dinner party by Judy Chicago, we are also
an education facility and this space enables us to fulfill a mission that I’m very keen
about. Which is raising awareness of feminism cultural contributions and educating new generations
about feminist art and about the history of feminist thought. Since we have opened we
have had more than half a dozen critically acclaimed exhibitions in the center galleries.
And we have hosted scores of panel discussions and lectures and thousands of people have
been in attendance. The world as I guess we all know works in mysterious ways. And when
racecar driver Danny Kirkpatrick became the first woman to win an Indy car race in Japan
in 2008, she made sports headlines in the New York Times and it caught my eye. And I
took note. I took note because I was a girl jock in the 1960’s. And there was no WNBA.
It wasn’t even a twinkle in anybody’s eye. In fact there was no college basketball which
was terrible when I went off to college. And there was no women’s tennis that was considered
comparable or as important as men’s tennis. It was before the Billy Jean King vs. Bobby
Riggs match which probably all of us watched with great gusto. And so I began to think
about how wonderful it would be to have a month here of women in sports. We now have
significant women doing significant things in all of the sports areas. That’s not going
to be happening this month, but I hope it will happen in a future month one weekend
after the next after the next. So today is particularly important to me and this is where
the world is mysterious. I was at the Center for Philanthropy in Cheney, my friend Kathy
McCarthy is the head director there. And it was there that the panel discussion that had
nothing to do with sports that I met Melena Hering who is the executive director of the
Women’s Sports Foundation. So, I went up to her and said Oh, I’ve been reading about Denica
and I have this great idea and this is what I’d like to do with the center. And so in
addition to her telling me a lot about, my learning a lot about the importance of the
work that the Women’s Sports Foundation is doing. She also invited me to Women’s Sports
Foundation annual benefit, which if you haven’t been you must go. I fills the entirety of
the Waldorf Astoria ballroom. And it was such a high. It was such an incredible high and
of course last year there was enormous excitement because all of the women athletes who had
just come from Beijing were there and it was just thrilling. I think, however, that the
most auspicious part of that evening for me was being seated next to Rena Rusty Kanokogi.
In addition to having the pleasure of watching and hearing some young women athletes and
some older women athletes coming up to Rusty one after the other to say hello, to say thank
you, and all other expressions of awe and appreciation, I had the pleasure of her company,
and we were pretty good dinner mates that night, was really wonderful. We hit it off.
I think it’s easy to hit it off with you, Rusty, because you’re a gem. You’re just an
incredible gem in this world. By the end of the evening it felt as if we had known one
another for a really, really long time. I asked her before we left that evening if she
would come and speak at the center and she said she would and here we are today. We send
out from the foundation, from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, email blasts when I
have invited somebody to come and we don’t usually get any particular responses. Well,
not this time, Rusty. It was amazing how many people’s lives have been touched by you that
I know and I didn’t know that. Here are some of the responses that came back: Barbara Dopkin
wrote, I regret being unable to attend one of your programs, I love Rusty, I even own
a black belt she signed. I’m glad to hear that she will be at the museum, sending her
and you my very best. From Judy Chicago’s biographer, Gale Levin , she wrote, I have
a class at 10:30 that morning which will be a studio visit so I hope I’ll be able to go
but I doubt it. I did interview Rusty, Lee Crazner’s niece and she is terrific. All the
best, Gale. From a former BMA board member and collector Sue Stoffle, she wrote, She
was my Judo teacher at White, from 1969 to 1975. You can tell her I am one of her greatest
fans, she left a lasting impression on a young female adolescent growing up in the hell hole
which was New York at the time. Just three that came back. Early in my career, writes
Rusty, I defied the rules of gender by competing with men. It was tolerated until I began to
win. When banned in the competition, she says, I vowed this would never happen to a female
again. Thank you for that. Her bio is as long and wonderful and as important in the sport’s
arenas as Gloria Steinhems. Rusty went on to become international and national coach
and international referee and an advocate and promoter of the sport. In 1988 Olympics,
in Seoul, Korea, she was the USA Women’s Judo coach and it was the first inclusion of Women’s
Judo in the Olympics ever. Three women judo athletes competed and resulting in one silver
medal and one bronze medal. 1976 to ’79 international coach and 1974 to ’96 national coach. When
she was coaching the USA was number one at the world when she was the solo coach of those
teams. She was the NBC judo commentator in 2004 for the Olympics in Athens, Greece and
media panelist for the judo federation in Cairo, Egypt in 2005. Rusty apparently, and
I have no reason to believe this isn’t so, has taught more than 100,000 people at every
level. Colleges include Pratt, John Jay School of Criminal Justice, Brooklyn College. The
High schools are private and public for kids at risk, elementary school and she continues
to be an advocate for all athletes in judo and Title IX, which of course we know is gender
equity in education. Rusty is our hero and our pioneer. She organized the first Women’s
World Championship held in Madison Square Garden in 1980. She campaigned and litigated
for Women’s Judo inclusion in the Olympic games in every level of competition including
Olympic sport festivals and the US Olympics Committee Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Her awards include a Presidential Award for the Women’s Sports Foundation. She’s been
inducted into the Sport Foundation International Hall of Fame. She has a medal from the International
Judo Federation for World Pioneer Women’s Judo 2003 inducted into the New York Public
School Athletic League Hall of Fame in 2003 also with a Lifetime Achievement Award from
the New York Athletic Club and I’m running out of breath. It’s marvelous. Recent awards
include Lifetime Achievement from the New York Athletic Club organizers. The New York
Open Judo championships and Rusty received from the emperor and the country of Japan
an Honor of the Rising Sun Award last November 2008, which was sort of how we hit off, I
received an invitation. And it was one the most moving, and I’m sure your family is here
to attest to it. The most moving and most important events that have taken place. I
know how thrilled you were and it was really a pleasure to be part of that and I thank
you. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, yeah. Marty named November 24 the Rena Rusty
Kanokogi Celebration day. In Brooklyn, and so we now have our Rusty day in Brooklyn.
There also is an endowment with her name at the International Sports Foundation to assist
in the development of Women’s Judo, that would begin in 2008. Obviously, she has been featured
in Sports Illustrated, and I sort of wrote down, not in the swimsuit edition and then
I thought I don’t want to be, you know, risqu? She has been of course on cable and national
news and she has lists of newspaper and magazine articles. And just to close this wonderful
circle of our universe, being here at the Brooklyn Museum at the Elizabeth A. Sackler
Center for Feminist Art, Rusty is Lee Krasner’s niece and she was involved with the KrasnerPollock
Foundation. She says she a watchdog, keeping sure that the grants that go out are in equal
measure, gender wise. She was in the documentary on Jackson Paula in 2005 and I think the only
thing we’re missing is the documentary about you, Rusty. Rena Rusty Kanokogi, please help
me welcome her and it is wonderful… After all that, Elizabeth, I’m tired. I’ve done
that much? Well, thank you all for being here today to help celebrate Women’s History Month
and I’d like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Sackler and Rebecca, for all the great help and allowing
me to share my story with you. I see many of my friends and family in the audience.
Thank you for being here. And with the schedule and all the things that we’re preoccupied
with, maybe this is the best way to get together. The story is going to be a little different,
probably than you expected. Because I’m going to tell the truth. Firstly, the name is incredible.
I started out in the Daily Mirror many, many years ago. I was referred to as a female launching
pad. I graduated to the Queen of Judo, and now I’m the Mother of Judo. I’ve been called
a lot of mothers over the past 50 years. Escalating what I believe is justice and equality in
my sport. The presentation will have PowerPoint, different photos. Then I can elaborate and
work around those and give you little bit of the background of what gave me the incentive
and how I was raised and my experiences to give me, a simple word in Japanese, I hope
you’ll understand it, chutzpah To really push and not be able to take no as an answer. We’re
going to start off the PowerPoint with a childhood… Well, that’s a little older. Now, The photo
in the stroller, that stroller is probably in a Smithsonian Institute. I must have been
all of two years old, but the attitude is there. There’s no doubt about who I was and
how I was going to face the world. The photo with my mother, as you can see, even though
it was time of the Depression I was eating well. What I don’t know but I guess with all
the potatoes and bread they made sure that I wasn’t starving. And we were sitting on
a porch in Coney Island. Actually that address, we lived at Six Kista Court, which no longer
exists. It’s right off West Eighth Street. But it’s about one block away from the beach
and right about two minutes away from all the rides. Before we go to, actually the photo’s
up, but I just wanted to talk a little about Coney Island and the childhood. And some of
you will go down memory lane with me. Basically as a kid what was available to me was the
usual. You go to school and you try to follow the rules. But Coney Island was a unique experience
because just in the building we were in, the small two family house, it was for transients.
People would come to work Coney Island, you were acquainted with the people in the different
shows. Whether it be the sword swallower or Milo the Mule Faced Boy, the mermaid. There
were different characters that you got to know, you weren’t afraid of. You got to spend
time with them. They seemed ordinary to you and yet people were paying money to see them.
I was getting an education from school but I was also getting an education from the street.
My family was, at the time and for a long time, they weren’t…my mother and father
weren’t compatible. But at that time there was no such thing as divorce. They stayed
together and I was a messenger in the kitchen. And the messenger was you tell him and then
you tell her. And this is in the same room. So I was sort of like a constant pingpong
game. So sort of a toughness was growing that I had to deal with this type of relationship.
And the negative physical part was I think when once and a while there was some violence.
Except it worked in my favor. When a ketchup bottle was thrown and I didn’t duck. It wasn’t
at me but I didn’t duck and I got clobbered with it. And all of a sudden it had mom and
dad speaking to each other to find out if I was dead or how. I said that’s good. And
then the ketchup dripping of my head. So it was that kind of relationship. But it was
building something in me I guess. A resentment and unrest. Obviously a dysfunctional family
and how to deal with that. At one point it was a matter of I thought this was a normal
life. And the only life that I could know of was going to the movies and seeing some
of the characters. And the characters, you said wait a minute. There’s another life.
People are dancing and happy and getting along and not fighting and not throwing ketchup
bottles at each other and I said wait. I’m in the wrong life over here. Other than that,
my friends, they had problems too. Either the father had a gambling problem or a problem
with alcohol. But in those days it was always something negative going on and it was tough
for kids to know how to deal with it. Coney Island background was really handy for me
because at one point during World War II they had what was called Mardi Gras. And that was
usually in September and that would be sort of the end of the Coney Island season and
it would also have many military people there. Soldiers, sailors, everybody having a good
time. A lot of girls looking for boyfriends and boyfriends looking for girlfriends and
movie stars and so forth. And that’s when I made my most money because I enjoyed working.
That was the only way I could get some money. And my job, my mother came up with the idea
of selling confetti. Recently I explained to a friend of mine from Japan what confetti
was because why would people want to throw paper at each other. It’s a part of the celebration.
And as an eight year old I remember having a cardboard box. Several people worked for
my mother and my father at the time. They spoke because now they’re in business together.
And cardboard box with a string through either side and hang it on the neck and fill up the
bags with confetti. And my mother, great entrepreneur, pushed the bottom of the bag up so she could
put less confetti in and nobody would be wiser. And she could make more money. Well certainly
I was only the messenger here. And as the eight year old, I already knew that I had
to be different. I was the only girl doing this. She had boys working for her. And there
were other people on the street with the confetti business. And I knew I had to be different.
And I had to make these sales because the more I would sell I would be able to earn
and keep of my commission. Well at the time they came out with homogenized milk. And I
said, OK. I’m going to turn this into a good business. So I was barking at the time, Get
your homogenized confetti here, homogenized confetti. And people were buying it. They
didn’t have a clue what it was. But it was homogenized and that was the latest thing.
So that was my homogenized confetti. I also knew that people that were in a bar drinking
would be a little looser with their change and I could sell them. And being a girl with
two pigtails, freckles, a little chunky, going around I was already appreciated by the public.
Because oh look at that little girl. Well with that I went into the bar at Feltman’s,
which was a long, long bar. And who do I happen upon? And I went right over to him. And with
my confetti box and try to sell him my homogenized confetti. Well he pulled out a dollar and
he gave it to me. And he didn’t even ask for the confetti. It was Lon Cheney. And he was
with this big buxom blonde and it was just like a movie. And I had my dollar and I knew
I didn’t have to turn that into my mother. But here I was, at eight years old, already
working the street. I knew the homogenized, getting the gimmicks, the different people
that worked in Coney Island. I was monitoring them, seeing how they did things. Half of
it was a scam, half of it was hard work. But for the most part it was survival. And that
education started pushing me in the direction tolerance for people that maybe had, that
was Milo the Mule Faced Boy. Who incidentally I was thrilled to death. I thought it was
a movie star because after I got to know him, every time they put him in front of the show
to entice the people to come in, he would look at me and sing. And I was just a child,
he would just sing Let Me Call You Sweetheart, And to me it was like He selected me, this
is fantastic. And the poor man, actually he was retarded and had buckteeth so they turned
him into Milo the mule Faced Boy. But that was Coney Island. You took what you could,
you exaggerated it, you convinced people this was somebody to deal with and see. So that
was part of the education. The rides, my mother worked in Luna Park. Actually we were there
during the first great fire and I remember the Dragons Gorge. That’s where the fire started.
And that was right across, not from the street, but the alleyway where the concession she
worked in was. She worked for a man by the name of Mr. Jaffey. He was a nice man and
I remember from probably May through September my daily meal was hot dog, root beer and French
fries. And didn’t get better than that. That was the way it was. Plus with my mother’s
connections to all the rides, I was Rosie’s daughter, I could go on any ride I wanted.
And the kids in the neighborhood all wanted to be my friend because if they tagged along
I could get them on the ride. And this is eight, nine, 10 years old. The day of the
fire I remember being in Steeplechase Pool. And once I realized it was a fire I went into
a panic because I knew, they said it was at Dragon’s Gorge, this ride. I said Oh my god,
my mother is right next door. My mother… and I ran, no shoes, my little bathing suit
on from the pool which was approximately a block and a half away but within the park,
to try to reach my mother, to save my mother. To find her. And as I was en route one burly
cop grabbed me and said No no, you can’t go there. It’s dangerous. So I was in a panic
and ran around in circles crying and didn’t know what to do. I finally ran home which
was about three blocks away. And when I got there, by the door there was a parrot and
several cartons of cigarettes. I said my mother must be OK. How did this get here? Well it
seemed the fire was going on and the bar next door, my mother rescued the parrot. And she
also rescued several cartons of cigarettes for her. So I knew everything was OK but she
actually went to find me. So there was always something going on. And I wouldn’t call it
so much wheeling and dealing but there was opportunity and you took advantage of it without
too much breaking the law. Maybe a little improprieties there but nothing too serious
because after all, she was just rescuing the cigarettes. She wouldn’t know what to do with
them. She wouldn’t know what to do with them later. So actually the Coney Island part of
my life was an education, a lot of negative but a lot of positive. As I was growing up,
before sports, I really looked up to my brother. The household was like this: I slept with
my mother in one bedroom and my father and brother were in the living room and they each
had their own bed. And then there was the kitchen, then there was the hallway and the
bathroom that we shared with the landlord and the landlady. And that’s a whole other
story. That has to be in the book. And then of course we had a dog. The dog would be my
best friend and the dog would be my way of always playing doctor and the dog would be
my patient. The poor thing was taped up more than anything. What I did to poor Tootsie.
I remember getting a nickel and I wanted to buy Tootsie a gift so I went to the five and
ten and I did by Tootsie a gift. And everybody looked at us and laughed and couldn’t figure
it out. Well the only thing I could afford was this thing in a little carton. And of
course five cents, and it looked lovely, and I tied it around Tootsie’s neck and paraded
her all over the place with it. And unbeknownst to me it was a sanitary napkin. To me it was
a decoration. I didn’t know. Another time with poor Tootsie. What I did was my mother
had one lipstick in her whole life. And I found it and I decided Tootsie needed lips.
So there goes the lipstick. Tootsie was my best friend for a long, long time. It was
hard to have too many friends because as I grew up the Jewish girls in the neighborhood,
I started becoming a bad kid so their mothers would not let them play with me after awhile.
They said, No, no, you have to study, let her go her way. I took the Christian girls,
and later on we formed a gang because it was time to make sure we could register our turf.
We knew the boys had a gang, and we knew that it was time for the girls to have a gang and
be able to take care of themselves, and if necessary, put their energy in the direction
if they wanted to fight, to arrange a fight. That’s basically what you did, it was an arrangement.
An afterschool arrangement, or, you would find there was only one other girl gang. We
were the Apaches, and there was another gang called the Scarlets, and that was an AfricanAmerican
gang. We were the sixChristian, oneJew gang. [audience laughter] . Worked out well. The
fight was, OK, we’re going to meet in the schoolyard, and have our fight. We had our
uniforms. So clever. You didn’t wear your official jacket, which was a beautiful satin,
chartreuse, and black jacket. When you’re going to war, you wore your uniform. What
was your uniform? A navy type of sweater that had some kind of a boil in it. I think, if
anyone was either in the Service or shops at [inaudible 00:30:21] , it’s very strong.
You can’t pull it off because girls, when they fight, one of the first things they do
is rip off the shirt, because then you’re in your underwear and / or barechested, and
then you can’t fight because you would be covering up. The other thing is that the hair
was tied back either in a ponytail or braids. You took Vaseline on your face, on your arms,
so when they went to scratch you, it would come off. So, a lot of things you either invent
or figure out and do, and that was very effective. The pants were bellbottoms at the time. I
remember going to schoolyard at PS 100. We had this fight schedule organized, and I couldn’t
find my gang, so I said, They’re probably over there. I gave them the credit for being
there. Well, I show up and the Scarlets are there, and nobody else except for a couple
of boyfriends of the Scarlets, older fellows. And I go, Uh oh, I have a problem here. I
noticed they had umbrellas. It wasn’t raining, but there were a couple of people with umbrellas.
I said, That’s going to be a weapon. Now, I had a weapon; however, I didn’t have it
on that day. When my brother was in the Marines, he gave me a gift of a bayonet. With two garters,
I used to have it attached to my leg, and I never had to use it, but just the fact that
I had it and people knew I had it was, Don’t go near her, be careful, she has that bayonet.
Probably a bayonet on one leg and a tommy gun on the other leg, but it was enough to
intimidate, and I found out that innuendo and intimidation when you need it sometimes
work. To cut through to the fight while I was there, the umbrellas came out, there was
someone being whacked with umbrellas and people swinging wildly and I’m trying and I’m swinging
wildly. This was the first time I wanted to hear the police siren. I said, Where are they,
and fortunately this woman saw what was going on and she called the cops. I was happy when
I heard that, heee, I said that, Oh thank God. Because it was six school boyfriends
and one of the boyfriends made sure his jacket opened, so I could see his zip come. I was
damned if I did, I was damned if I didn’t at that point. Everybody scattered and of
course they woo on the streets, when they said, What’s going on? Because everybody’s
scattered, but I was still standing there. What’s going on, Nothing, nothing. What do
you mean nothing, there’s everybody’s running in all direction. What’s the problem? I thought
we were scratching so far. Anyway, later on that day, I went stepbystep and tell him again,
Where are you all chipping now? Stepbystep, I tell him that, stepby step. I had to beat
them up a little bit. To teach them, they shouldn’t do that. Then after that they behaved.
It wasn’t like the times of nowadays. The point of that story was organization and counting
on people and responsibility. Had something more serious happened to me, it was my responsibility.
I walked into it with my eyes open. That was my sport. There was anything for girls to
formally do. We had our street things, the boys always picked me first. I was strong.
My brother was my role model, he lifted weights. He would look in the mirror and say, How do
I look, and of course I have to say, Great, otherwise he hit me. Had no choice. I was
following his example. He was an athlete to a certain degree. Sports were available to
him in school. He was eight years my senior, nothing available to me. I remember wearing
these wompers in school in seventh grade, eight grade and what they had…the wompers
were so affordable, incredible, I didn’t know why we put it on. We didn’t need to really
change our clothes for the amount of work the girls were doing. Because they didn’t
really want to do anything. Then I remember when we did play volleyball and I spanked
the ball, everybody closed their eyes, hid their head and that was it. I was all alone.
When we played with the boys, Battle Ball or Dodge Ball, that was great because we could
run up to the line, we could take the ball and we could smash the person. They expected
everybody to run back but, I would stand by the line and Give me your best shot and they
would and I would just catch it, pull it into me. There I was right next to them and I get
it back. Some of you sure experienced that too. I start getting daring in sports. I like
being strong, it had nothing to do with being fit. There was no such thing at the time.
It was just strong, I was getting more aggressive. I was getting more hostile because o f the
family life, chip on the shoulder. Watching the movie and saying, Hey there’s another
life. That’s not my life. Something’s wrong here. My role models from the radio. Who’d
I like? Joe Louis, the boxer strong guy. Movies? Who’d I really like? Dillinger, Ma Barker,
Babyface Nelson. Then, when I found out Lepke was some big gangster from Coney Island. I
said, Wow, Jews can be tough! Gangsters! Now, I was getting all these role models. I was
definitely going in the wrong direction, but there wasn’t a right direction. There wasn’t
sports. The role models, basically, the women that I knew, were my mother, some of her friends,
the mother’s of my friends from my gang. These women were victims because their husbands
also had problems, so there was nobody to look up to. Once in a while on the news, you’d
see Eleanor Roosevelt, but you could not relate. I mean how could I possibly relate to Eleanor
Roosevelt? Babe Didrikson, she was almost like a ghost because she was special, she
was the only one and who could live up to that? It had nothing to do with being an athlete.
It was you’re in a bind. You don’t know what direction to go. You’re reaching out. You’re
striking out. You know you have something burning in you, but you really can’t identify
it. You don’t expect anything for nothing. Work was great for me. I’ve worked since I
was eight years old on the books, when I was 16. I was able to earn my keep because there
wasn’t any private or personal income for me to do anything. When I wanted something,
I worked for it. I worked at jobs that you couldn’t believe selling ice water. The buses
came in from Philadelphia. People were drinking gin all the way from Philadelphia. They got
off the bus. They were thirsty. Nobody would give them a glass of water because of their
race, so I had a business anywhere between three cents and five cents a glass of water.
It was the same glass. I had a big keg of ice, and people bought my water. I earned
ten dollars on Saturday and ten dollars on Sunday. I could go shopping. I could go downtown
Brooklyn to Martin’s and shop till I dropped. The funny thing is once I got into the business,
then other people came into the business. Now, we’re going to have a turf war, but it
went further than that because I let everybody know that the stand next to me or a little
bit down that they washed their grandmother’s bloomers in that water. I thought, Now, we’re
going to start with the manipulation. Then, somehow, a praying mantis landed on my big
chunk of ice. People came over and said, What’s that? I said, Where my family comes from in
Russia, this is the best sign. This is the best good luck you can possibly have. Actually,
this is my grandfather reincarnated. It worked! I was selling more water than I could handle.
This is all before 1516 years old. I was on the way. The sports part was still street
sports nothing in school. I tried to get it. The sport was street fighting. I was able
to convince the science teacher, who after school did a program and also taught boxing,
I convinced him to teach me how to hit the heavy bag and got into a little bit of boxing.
Instead of throwing my punches wildly, I could really throw a pretty good punch and hit the
heavy bag. I loved hitting the heavy bag because it was an outlet! I had this churning, burning.
When I went rollerskating, instead of just rollerskating to the music, I turned it into
roller derby, trying to knock everybody in the skating rink over. It could never be anything
normal. It had to be physical. It had to be aggressive. It had to be attack. It had to
be win! No direction to go. Finally, I met a man, who actually had this white round thing
tied up with a yellow belt. I asked him, I said,What’s that? It was just a very unusual
looking thing. He said, That’s my judo gi. I said, What the heck is that? Because the
only things I knew about the Japanese were from World War II, from the news, the movies,
even the visible impression was that everybody looked like Tojo or Hirohito at the time.
It was a strange country some place. We were at war with them and we had a big war. We
won the war. It was a terrible war on both sides, but I really didn’t know too much about
Japan or for that matter, I didn’t know too much about anything outside of Coney Island
and Brooklyn. Well, he told me it was his judo gi. I said, Well, what do you do with
it? He says, Well, we throw people. I said, Well, that’s great! I said, I usually punch
people, but I’ve never thrown anybody. How do you to that? And without the gi, he put
that down, he put his arm around my waist and picked me up on his hip and held me there
like I was a piece of paper. I had to outweigh him by at least 40 pounds. And he put me down,
and I said, How’d you do that?! It was magic. It was unbelievable how little effort on his
part. Well, I think he did it again. He actually did it twice. I said, I want to learn that.
How do I learn it? He said, Well, you can’t because I work out at a YMCA in Brooklyn and
it’s no girls, no women. I said, I have to learn that. Well, that was it. The seed was
planted. It was something I wanted. It was something I had to go after. At the time,
I was at a Presser Park YMCA, which had a woman’s night on Wednesdays. They had a combination
of trampoline and rings and medicine ball and basketball and different exercises. The
Physical Education Director there, after my participation realized that I was strong,
I was aggressive. I could do a lot of these skills very quickly. He asked me to assist
him. I said, Sure because this way I didn’t have to pay. It was something I could do.
After I was there a while, I mentioned that the Brooklyn Central YMCA had a Judo program
that I wanted to get into that Judo program. He called over there and they said, No women
allowed in the whole building. He explained to the Director there, Mr. Curran, well she’s
different. She’s unusual, she’s strong. She’s blah, blah, blah. They said, No, it doesn’t
matter. No woman period. Finally Mitchell, Lauren Mitchell came up with the idea, he
said, How about, let’s make this a YMCA project. Here’s the deal, if we can get you into…if
I can convince Rennie Curran to let you into Brooklyn Central YMCA to learn Judo, in order
for you to come back and teach whatever you learn at the at the Presser Park YMCA in the
following week, maybe we can do a deal. It worked and they let me in. At the time, you
had to earn your Judo uniform. My friend was a yellow belt, so he already had earned his
uniform. We, the beginner had to wear an army fatigue, a cut down, the sleeves cut, just
like the Judo uniform. Same thing with the trousers, the metal buttons cut off and a
clothes line rope around your waist two times. That was the uniform. That was fine if they
said, come and get the job. That would have been OK with me too as long as I can get in
there. I show up the first night and of course there is no place to change, so I didn’t even
have the uniform at the time. I actually just had regular clothes on. It was 40 men and
some of them were advanced and there were only handful of beginners and myself. You
can imagine the air in that room, in that dojo on that mat, the looks. Fortunately,
I was tall, pretty well built, strong looking. I didn’t sachet in like I was a flower. I
didn’t walk on like I was going to take all these men on single handedly either. With
an attitude, just went in nicely and calmly and that was the beginning. On the mat, I
didn’t know where to stand, I didn’t know how to bow. I didn’t know any of that stuff.
I kind of hung out at the end and followed the leader. That’s the way it worked. Those
sessions, those class were once a week and then going back teaching that following week,
I had three women. That was the beginning of the actual teaching career. I was teaching
as I was learning which is a pretty good way to do something too. I knew I had to work
harder than anybody in the class because when we’re doing pushups, corner of the eye watching
me. When I was falling, corner of the eye watching. I got the respect of majority of
men in the class. Basically, they were a handful that just didn’t want me there. They probably
didn’t know why. They just, this is our territory and get out, but never said it to me. Had
they, I would have probably gone. Went back to Corny Island Street fighting and Get them
in, That was the beginning. That same YMCA had a team. Out of 40 students, there were
usually a handful, maybe six, seven people that were the official team. They would compete
locally and regionally to see who would be going up to the State Championship Finals.
The State Championship Finals, because YMCA judo is a big deal at that time, not because
there were really too many clubs. What happened was, I trained this hard, worked this hard.
They had their team full. Brooklyn Central YMCA made it into the Finals. They were going
to compete, in [inaudible 00:47:59] or New York at the State Championship. I wasn’t going
to be part of the team. I wasn’t part of the former competitions. But, I was going up and
to root for the team, be a part of it that way. A couple of days before the actual competition,
at training, one of the team members got hurt. Captain asked me, Would you like to complete.
I was thrilled, I never in a million years thought, I could be invited on to this team.
Because I looked at this team, I believed I was a green belt at the time and these were
black belts and brown belts. Just rank wise, I was in awe of everyone. Plus technically,
some of them were really good and couple of them, even though they were brown belts, they
were basically, I would say I was equal at least. The Captain didn’t tell Make sure your
hair are short, my hair were short. Make sure your shoulders were big, they were big. At
the time, men could wear a tshirt under their uniform because, especially if they hairy
chest, when you were gripping, they would get their hair pulled. Nobody thought a second
thought about having a tshirt underneath which naturally, I would have to do. When, up to
[inaudible 00:49:26] , the idea of ace bandage around my chest was my idea. Not that I was
so, well in doubt at the time, but I figured healthy pectoral muscles were at least well,
I could get away with, rather than sticking out boobs. It wasn’t too difficult. Got the
ace bandage and tshirt, I was really raring and ready to go. Finals, they line us up two
teams. Everybody’s eye balling each other. No one’s talking about me, whether female,
male irrelevant. The other team, I don’t think had a clue. My team was not talking about
anything. Incidentally at that point, our teacher had passed away, so the Captain was
in charge. Going to our competition, I was told by the Captain, to put the draw. Don’t
think of competing, just pull a draw. In team competitions that’s important because the
strategy, you have this ace who’s going to win and that one is borderline. But a draw
is very important. OK, I will do the best I can. Although, a draw means that you will
have to fight defensively. Nowadays, you get big penalties for that, but those days you
can do that and get away with it. Our team won say, one match, got a half point in the
second match, lost the third and so on. So, we were winning anyway, whether I won my match
or not. My draw would have certainly helped immensely. If I lost, it may have been a problem.
When my time came, a fellow came up, I went up to the boundary line. We bowed in and everything
that the Captain told me and what I thought my plan was going to be went out the window.
Soon as we bowed and touched, I throw. I couldn’t wait. I went for…I went 100 percent. Why
I did that? Because I was so scared. I was afraid, I didn’t want to lose. The other way
not to lose is to win. That’s what I did and I surprised myself, I surprised my team. I
surprised my opponent. Then I followed the throw not just standing, I followed it down
to the mat and just missed. Then I got, up and went this is something I do day on a daily
routine. This was normal for me. We bowed out and I can imagine my face was pretty red
and went back. Everybody gave me an Atta girl without saying it. Then, I think there was
one more match and we won. They gave us the win, the referee, the central referee gave
us the win. Then we lined up and we got our medals. Each one of us got a gold medal. The
other team got the silver medal. Then the team trophy, the Tournament Director, which
was the YMCA Director, gave the team trophy to the Captain. We were supposed to have a
big celebration dinner and we were all happy and carrying on. Next thing I know is, someone
comes over to me and said, Mr. some so and so wants to see you in his office. I just
had a feeling and I said, O o. I didn’t have the trophy, but I did have a medal on my neck.
I went into the office and it was the Tournament Director. He said, look, no hello, nothing,
he said, Are you a girl? and I looked at him and said, Yes, I’m a girl. He said, Well,
you are going to have to give back your medal. Otherwise we’re going to take the team trophy
away. I just stood there. I had no feeling whatsoever. It was…I felt cold. I took the
medal off and I put it in his hand. I walked back into the dojo area. My teammates can
see there was no medal and they, Hey, what happened Rust. I said, So, I said, Ah no big
deal, he said, He knows, I’m a girl. He said, What? No one said you can’t be a girl. I was
being punished for being a female actually, that was punishment. There was nothing in
the rules, nothing spelled out and they, the team you could tell. One part of me felt really
depressed because my team spirit, even though they were the champions, the State champions,
their spirit went down. Now, I start cracking jokes and making fun out of it. To try to
cheer them up, but in my mind from the cold feeling to joking around, I had two feelings.
One, I was really pissed off. Two, I said, This can never happen to another female again.
I put that in the back burner. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t have a plan,
but I just knew. It was a horrible feeling and women should never have to experience
this, ever. I continued to training. I don’t know what I was training for. Training, training,
training for the love of Judo, I liked what Judo did for me. I liked the extended family,
I liked the selfdiscipline. It was taking you away from the negativities. I was turning
the bad into good. I was hoping other people by teaching women. Their husbands and boyfriends
came up and said, Hey, we like this. We want to do it, too. So, I’m teaching them. Then
I had children’s classes. I was teaching from the time I was almost a beginner. That helped
me with my technique and learning. Here I was doing this training without a purpose,
without a goal because I didn’t realize I was on a mission. After YMCA, then I was able
to get into private club and this is one of the teams I was on. My Sensei is right on
the middle, Mr. [inaudible 00:56:13] . You could tell, I’m the one with the red circle.
You could see, it wasn’t too hard to blame them for being a male. Because of the height,
because of the weight training, you get a little thin in the face and I fit right in.
This was a tough team. We had interclub competition and I believe you could see the team trophy.
We did pretty good. The next photo, another team. Again, still being the only female,
but none of these guys ever took it easy on me which I am grateful for. Because if they
did, they would be on the bottom, not me. The respect was not necessarily how they treated
you, it was how they played you. It wasn’t a tickle. It was always a tough [inaudible
00:57:22] which is free play, and or fight. At that time beside the YMCA Championship,
the most competitions were interclub. I was a viable member, my team at that time whatever
club I was in. Now, this is in Japan, 1962. I’m in the back. You could see the heavyduty
people. These are all legends of Judo, especially on the first team. The first line on the benches.
These are the top senseis in Japan, I was fortunate enough to be invited to practice
in the main dojo. When I first went to Japan in 1962, I became a problem because they didn’t
know what to do with me. First, normally, they put me in the woman’s dojo and that was
fun and I learned a lot of skills but I was killing the poor girls. They were not used
to somebody playing through them the way I was playing. I was playing regular Judo which,
maybe at the time, I was called exceptional. It was men’s Judo. You’re not doing women
Judo, you’re doing men Judo. Well what’s the difference, I trained this hard and this is
the way I came up. This is the way I train people, the way I came up. They invited me
into this main dojo which was affectionately called the meat house. It probably has mats,
maybe I don’t know, hundreds and hundreds of tatames, and actually, that’s where I met
my husband. At Korakan in 1962 and just like the old adage, years ago, the Japanese man
walked in front and the women walked behind. Well, that never happened to us or with us.
We always walked side by side and I’m very happy to let you know that this November,
we’ve been walking side by side for 45 years. Actually, when we first met at Korakan, we
were just friends and he had been scouted by several countries to go and teach. He was
on the Japanese Olympic coaching staff at that time, in the early 60’s. To them, what
I used to do for beer, was arm wrestle and I would win because I’m left handed and all
the Japanese were right handed so I would take the business managers and knock them
down one, two, three. I had my little gimmicks going on, you always know how to get a beer
in another country. It was amazing because I stayed for the summer training and he, my
husband, went back to his town which is in southern Japan, Kushu and stayed with his
family and his father had his television on and he says, look, look, there’s this woman
at Korakan. Look at her. He says, Oh, I know her she’s my friend, I see her all time, I
don’t have to look at her. The father looks and says, she’s a big, strong, girl. Looks
like she could probably have good babies. I didn’t realize my father in law was a yenta
at the time. It did work out and yes, I did have big babies and some of these babies are
still big. Judo actually, as…it gave me and still gives me my purpose. It gave me
direction, it gave me my family, it gave me my life. How could I not ever want to stop
doing things for Judo, people in Judo, people around Judo? Because I had recruited and had
more people and I don’t even know how I got them involved helping Judo. Anywhere, from
the Governor of New York to the former [inaudible 01:01:54] President, people, they didn’t even
realize, they didn’t even know what Judo was. I convinced them because of my passion, not
on my Corny Island. It was because of the passion and what I believed in and what I
wanted for other people. That was always a big help for the campaign and the crusade.
There’s people in the room that, they don’t know how but, I said I had a team coming from
Germany. I didn’t say how many and I had…this is nice Jewish family again. I had this German,
really German, really big short team coming and I said, Can you house some of them, Sure.
I think I put about 20 of them in that Judge Rubin’s house. There are thousands of boxes
of cereals. She don’t know why she did it, still doesn’t know why she did it. People
don’t know why they did things to help me and the cause but they did. It’s amazing and
it all worked out well. In fact, the [inaudible 01:03:10] competition in Coney Island in Athens
put two girls in it. One from Germany, one from the US and I coached them. At the time,
they beat the men and they won first and second place. One was a little, skinny, 123 pounder
and the other won was a little bigger. They won the competition. You never know, you got
more publicity for Judo that day from a competition because Alice Rubin was good enough to put
this team up. They figured how would evolve, it was fantastic. Japan, that experience was,
even thought I knew Judo before I went to Japan, that’s when I started to really learn
Judo. I loved the principles. I loved the fact that these were strong people, polite
people, humble people, that you didn’t have to run around with a band up on your shin
to be tough. You didn’t have to run around the street socking people to get respect.
You had to first respect yourself. That’s what you got from Judo. You cannot train so
hard, you cannot feel animosity to your opponent. I remember bowing in and we would go in this
sorry, in this kneeling position and I would say this was the courtesy. We were bowing
and you say, Please help me. Of course, you get up and they threw you all over the place
and beat you up. Then you would finish and say, Thank you very much. How low can you
get? After a while, I remember saying, , please help me and I say, God, please help me. Because
it got to the point where you cannot, your body became numb at one point. The experience,
I got thrown by the best and occasionally I would catch them and no one said, she’s
a girl, they knew I was, I wasn’t in disguise anymore but the respect was there. And the
respect was there because of the way I was training and my attitude, my attitude was
100 percent giving and no holding back and no trying to get them, trying to prove anything.
It was, I’m a sponge, teach me, show me, give me and I, in return, will take it back to
the United States and pass it on, which I did. Now, Rusty, the geisha. The family that
I stayed within Japan, actually was the Kobayashi family, Dr. Kobayashi, they gave me this ukata,
looks like what people would call a kimono but it’s a summer kimono called a ukaka, for
my birthday. That was my birthday. They gave me a geita, these shoes, and I never wore
high heels in my life and these were sort of stilts with two wooden things that you
stand on and if you don’t have balance on these things you’re done. Well, anyway, even
though the house is, the fact that these geitas were never used in the street and they wanted
to take a photo of me, this was great. I had the geita on and the ukata, the kimono, and
stood near the screen doors and Dr. Kobayashi was preparing his camera to take a photo and
he signaled me to go back a little bit and I did. I lost my balance and I went through
the screen door, legs wide open, geitas flying any place and I think they got that photo
of my birthday. I took the geitas and I think I took them home and they’re probably still
in the closet but it was a very nice gesture and nothing ever went normal with me but it
was a wonderful experience. This was the first US Women’s team. We got to this point, 1974,
I had to actually had to fight with the amateur athletic union, they would not let us have
national competition. I formed a competition in New York, we had a club that allowed us,
the daily news put us in the cause section, we had several pages, I threatened the AAU,
not with lawsuit at the time, but I threatened to have my own national championship. They
go, wait a minute, this is getting out of control, they’re losing the control, they
have control of Men’s judo but not Women’s judo, why are women in Judo? You don’t belong
in Judo and we were like, what do you mean we don’t belong in Judo? It was good battle
with the Amateur Athletic Union, finally after intimidation, threats and the usual bag of
tricks, they allowed us into the national championships in 1974, in conjunction with
the Men’s National Championships. It worked out pretty well, out of New York, several
members of the team were from our and they won first place. The women, they did a couple
firsts and a couple thirds actually. And I said, OK, it’s time to move on. Now we have
national championships, but I heard about the British Open. Let’s go to international.
They go, What do you mean? You can’t go to international. Where are you going to get
the money, and who is going to go? I said, Well, how about the team that won first place?
Well it took about a year and a half. I raised money to get the team to Great Britain, sold
these bizarre looking badges with women’s hair flowing doing Judo that one of my student’s
fathers designed. They were so ugly, but everybody, it was Hi Rusty give me a dollar and I gave
them a pin. Some people said, I have 10 of these. I said, Well you need 11, because this
is the way it is. But we raised the money, and agreed as long as they didn’t have to
give us money or do anything, they’d give us sanction and travel permits, and we could
take the top team and the first place winners. We did, including the coach which I was elected
as, and the manager, and we went to the British Open which was the highest caliber of international
competition until the first Women’s World Judo championship. And at the British Open,
our first participation in 1976, proudly I can announce that out of eight divisions I
believe, we took seven gold. So, the US was right in that ball game. There were only 12
countries participating at that time, mostly European. The Canadians were there, and South
Africa, the first time. You could see the uniform… I believe I convinced Bruce Jenner’s
company at the time to give me those warm up suits, so I was like the begging coach.
We got the warm up suits, and even though we didn’t have the support of the AAU, the
money, we had to put the patch on. We came home with our medals, and that was enough
incentive for me. Not only did I think our team was doing great but I looked at the other
11 teams and said, Hey, they’re good. Women’s Judo is not just for the United States, let’s
do something. Let’s do more. By 1977 we had what was called the PanAmerican championships.
That was a prerequisite towards the future for the worlds, and we had that in St. Louis
after the national championships. So the women that competed just competed in one competition,
and the same day competed in the second. And we did very well there. Also in 1977, because
I knew now I was on a mission to get women’s judo in the Olympics, I didn’t even realize
they had to have a world championship. I was on the mission and I said, We need more international
experience, and I heard about the Maccabiah Games in Israel. And I said, Hey, that should
be good. I organized, got three women, they said, No, no. We’re not going to have women
in the Maccabiah Games. I said, You have to have them in, and I studied their rules and
laws, because I became an advocate of studying constitutions and bylaws of the International
Olympic Committee and the United Stated Olympic committee, the national governing body or
the AAU at the time. Even though I wasn’t a great student, all of a sudden I’m on this
law thing because you have to know two things. You have to know the rules of engagement,
but you also have to be able to have the guts to fight on the other side. The Maccabiah
Games, I found out, you only had to have three countries participate in order to qualify.
There were three. There were Israel, the Netherlands, and the United States. We took three women
over there, won two gold and one Bronze. In grip fighting, I got a black eye. Aside from
that, it was great. Left them, they wanted to go to a kibbutz and I came home with of
all people, Arnold Schwarzenegger. We met and we had a mutual friend and he asked me,
How did you get that eye? I told him, Your upper body is good, but your legs are too
skinny. So we became friends. We had crumpets and tea at Heathrow Airport. As my husband
picked me up at Kennedy Airport, he asked, Where were you? What are you doing with him?
You never know where sports takes you. That was our first official team. Actually, just
going over the races. The woman in the middle, Sandy Cornelius, who’s since deceased, was
a fullblooded American Indian. Our team consisted of four African American women and four Caucasian
and an American Indian, and Rusty. This was at the Maccabiah Games. This was our uniform
because actually how I convinced them… Someone told me I could do it. I wasn’t sure if it
was true. They said that I could put an injunction on the plane, so we couldn’t leave. Whatever!
It sounded good and I threatened with that and I think they believed me because they
were discriminating. It worked. They said, Go! We’re not giving you a dime, but go! Well,
we went, won medals, had a chance to meet Golda Meir, out of the corner of my eye, and
Moshe Dayan. At the opening ceremonies, I think a dove fell on my head as we were going
on. But it was great, a great experience and another international record for women’s judo.
The wedding that was at the American Buddhist Academy. The man who married us, Reverend
Seki, all I remember, he was standing with his beautiful formal kimono on. Of course,
we were dressed modern style. I didn’t know one word he said at the time. Whatever incense
was in there, I was going, Wow! I don’t know. I don’t remember if I said, I do or I don’t,
but we were married. It was quite exciting. We had our reception at the Nippon Club, which
was a Japan society club at the time. Sushi was kind of rare in New York, so as the platters
were being carried, the judo community vultures were just grabbing them and we never even
got a piece of sushi at our own wedding. That was it. We made the move. In those days, in
1964, there was still quite a bit of discrimination on interracial marriages. We did occasionally
have to verbally, not defend ourselves, but tell people off. I remember when the kids
were younger, at one point, we had the two of them. We were in the corner bank and one
woman was saying, How nice, you adopted these Vietnamese children. And I looked. That was
one thing. I think the most amazing point, was as my husband is a good guy and says,
Hello to everybody and is a gentleman. In our onefamily house, he would look out the
window upstairs at one of the neighbors, and then, he’d wave. One of the neighbors said
to me, Oh, that man that lives in your house. She couldn’t imagine he was my husband. She
said, That man who lives in your house. He’s very nice, such a gentleman. I said, Yes,
he’s very nice. I go to bed with him once in a while. Her mouth opened like that. Times
have changed, thank goodness! You’d be surprised. I don’t know, in Japan, when we went back
in 1968, we did get some strange looks. Fortunately, my brother, my mom at the time, my family,
of course, embraced my husband. His family was just fantastic. My fatherinlaw was just
thrilled, when we were there. He took me to all the judo schools. He wanted to show me
off. Look, my daughterinlaw can kick your butt. We ran around and he had his chance
to meet his granddaughter. It was just great. There was always a good relationship between
the families. This is our dojo on Flatbush Avenue. Some of you in the room may even be
in the photo. You may not recognize yourself, but we had this club for about 25 years or
so Flatbush Avenue, Glenwood Road. We had all the community kids in there. They grew
up with us and turned out. Some of them have their own clubs now and doing well. They have
regular jobs as schoolteachers or attorneys. They all turned out at least the majority
pretty good. There’s a great photo of Jean, who’s in the audience. You see the apple doesn’t
fall too far from the tree. I taught her early on what to do with men. I have a little video
that was at the Kyushu Club and some of the athletes are being interviewed. Maybe we can
show that video. This was some of the athletes that actually were discriminated against because
of their lack of participation in the Olympics at that time. Thank you. Every single stage
of competition for the women had to be either litigated for, including getting them into
the sports festival, including getting them into the Olympic training center. The prerequisites
were very important for the World Championship. After the British Open, after the Maccabiah
Games and other competitions, I was never satisfied. I wanted the World Championships.
And when I actually wanted the Olympics and was told that the World Championships was
a definite prerequisite. Well, I said OK, it has to be done. No country in the world
wanted to hold the World Championships. They were afraid of the financial loss, afraid
of lack of participation. There were all kinds of threats if the women competed in it that
were scare tactics. How they would get hurt, whereas women already had been competing internationally
now for maybe five years at the British Open and other countries were having competitions.
Well, in February of 1980 the International Judo Federation finally awarded the United
States the first Woman’s Judo World Championships. I had to sign the papers with the United States
Judo that they would not be responsible for any part of it. They would accept the award
of receiving it but they would not host it, pay for it or be involved. Well, I signed
the papers. Signed the papers for that, signed the papers for my house being the deposit.
Let my husband know that a little later. So I figured that wasn’t a key point at the time.
Thanks to my friends, thanks to my dojo, my family. We pulled it together because I didn’t
realize in February when we opened the first bank account that it was $116. That’s what
we had. And the cost of the first Women’s Worlds would be $180,000. And well, the monies
would come from different sources and I tell you, thank goodness for Coney Island and the
wheeling and dealing and hoodspa because whatever I had to pull, I pulled. I got a deposit for
the International Judo Federation. I was selling television rights on behalf of the International
Judo Federation. They were selling television rights. I sold too many television rights.
CBS kicked ESPN out of the room because they said you can’t do both. That helped. I got
sponsorship from selling the journal. Convinced everybody. In fact, as I don’t know if any
of you women or men, for that matter in the room get crank calls from crazy people who
ask you what you’re wearing in the middle of the night or breathing deeply. There are
some folks that are actually like, you’re a strong woman. Can you hurt me? Oh you bet
I can. Until you realize that something’s wrong with them. This is the way they want
you to speak. Well, when I was getting those calls I was actually selling them tickets
to the world. I said wait a minute. You like strong women? You can get tickets for… So
wherever I could hustle, I was hustling. My most important ally, Doctor Shigio Matsumoui
of Japan, who was the president of the International Judo Federation. He became my number one ally
in the
whole world and a dear friend who I love and miss. Because he was so important and the
president of the university, and he initially invented the underwater cable so he was a
pretty wealthy guy, all the companies wanted to know him. And the politicians wanted to
take care of him. Well, every time someone called me and see if I can arrange a luncheon
date for when he came into town I said well, I’ll do my best but in the meantime I know
he would be very happy if you bought 50 tickets for Madison Square. So I was hustling whoever
I could hustle. I think I even asked Doctor Matsumoui to buy a page in the program. Whatever
I could do because I had to get this money raised. We had tshirts. I had to give the
referees stipend every day. I was having people run around the hotel and outside the hotel
selling tshirts. I remember being inside Tiffany’s because the Japanese ambassador at the time
that was in New York said we wanted to make a presentation at the first Women’s World
Judo Championships. And they said select something and bill us. Well, I got the idea sterling
silver apple for the best technician of the day. I don’t know, whoever that was going
to be. And I was kind of raggedy and running around like crazy. Had myself and my Indian
companion Sandy, who I introduced you to before, and another woman by the name of GG, a nice
lady from Jersey. GG was like Laverne and Shirley. Laverne. And here we are in Tiffany’s
and I have on shorts. Sandy’s standing there like the wooden Indian and GG is going Man,
look at all this great stuff here. And in the meantime I find the apple and I pick it
out. The salesman who huffed and puffed, I said OK I need that. This is what I need engraved.
He said how will you be paying? I said no, bill it to the Japanese ambassador. He had
one finger ready to go on the button for the great robbery. And I finally convinced him
to make the call and he did and that worked out fine. And the athlete that won that was
48kilo woman from Great Britain. Her name is Jane Bridge. Still has her apple on her
mantle. That was just one little thing. Even the warm up suits, every phase of that. Well,
got the World Championships done. One of the heart attacks of the whole overall picture
was the prerequisite that the International Olympic Committee set. You have to have 25
countries minimum. Heart attack. Every day, the mail, the mail. I need another country.
I need participation. Well, it turned out we got 27 countries. Actually, Bangladesh
registered but they never showed up. And we think maybe they just took a bath some place
and disappeared. We couldn’t figure that one out. But we actually had 27 countries participate
so we hit the prerequisite. It took awhile and we got everything done and it was a historic
event with great support. It was the beginning. And after that, OK we did the Worlds. Now
we want the Olympics. Well, there’s still questions. Well, what’s the questions? How
did it effect the women’s health and their bodies? Specifically, IOC’s question. They
were very concerned that it would hurt the women’s reproductive organs. I said, well
I’ve been in judo 30 years and I have kids. They may have been dysfunctional but they
were born. What about the breasts? Well, what about them? They’re not a problem. With the
reproductive organs, remember women we’re inside. Men is…what you have to be concerned
about. Not the women. You’ve got to be concerned about them men. They’ve got a little problem
here. Well, also, we’re very concerned once women are doing that work and they’re lying
on each other, it may encourage lesbianism. Oh, especially if they’re choking or ripping
your arm out of your socket. Certainly you’re going to fall in love with somebody. So whatever
they were coming up with the stupidest things that we could really blow them out of the
water. Really didn’t know what to do. So again, it was not a given. It had to be a campaign.
It had to be litigation. It had to be, once we were told in 1984 when we were expected
to get the nod of approval, that we could not be in. I pulled in the American Civil
Liberties Union in California. We had a massive press conference. Pulled in whoever I could.
Went further than that, ACLU was representing us. We’re going to go to Lucerne, Switzerland,
the International Women’s Law Headquarters. Because there in Lucerne they could sue the
IOC for discrimination. I had already proved it in New York. Governor Cuomo and the Division
of Human Rights helped me prove that. So I was getting this education as I was going
step by step. I had a lot of people helping, giving me direction and correct direction.
Got politicians on my side. People were coming in financially to help me pay for the phones
and different things I was using. And finally, of course there’s so many stories in between.
And finally Doctor Matsumoui, he came in the legitimate way for the International Judo
Federation, with the International Olympic Committee. I came in with everything from
putting in the junction on the 1988 Olympic money in Seoul because corporate headquarters
were here in New York, NBC at the time. And we already proved that a corporation could
not go into a contract with any company that has already been found guilty of discrimination.
So I had a lot going on. None of it hit the court. Everybody conceded before it hit the
court because it was like I was getting on everybody’s nerves. The president of the International
Olympic Committee, Sam Maranch, I gave his mailman a hernia with the mail he had to trudge
back and forth. IOC couldn’t make their points anymore. They even said No, no. Women’s judo,
it’s a new event. I said, No. It’s the same old judo. It’s from 1964 that’s been in for
men and we’re just another gender going into judo. So whatever obstacle they could throw
in the way they did. Fortunately, finally they conceded. We went in for the first time
in 1988. It was an awesome event. It was history. The world of judo, now the participation has
doubled because the amount of women. Japan, most of the medals they win now in international
competition is by the women. Although their men are still superb, the women are coming
home with the gold. The United States, our recent medals have been again, from the women.
From the last Olympics we took a bronze. In the Junior Worlds we took a gold. So by not
having women participate you’re doing a couple things. You’re undermining women. You’re undermining
their credibility. You’re undermining them as athletes and as human beings. And it may
be judo but basically it’s the social lives throughout the world. And there isn’t a country
in the world, even the Muslim countries now. Even in Iran. Women are wearing sort of a
legitimate type of head covering and they’re competing. And this is just the beginning.
For me, sports opens up the world because I remember, before formerly East Germany,
DDR was inappropriate to be friends with them. I was friends with them. The Soviet Union,
I was friends with them. Not the government. I don’t hold the athletes responsible for
their government. Just like they don’t hold us. So the communications through sports is
incredible. Whether the communications through maybe your jobs is important but through sports,
when you sweat together. When you bleed sometimes together. When truth comes out, whether it
be on the mat or on the playing field, there’s a release that happens and a mutual respect.
But to me, I’ve had a fantastic life. It’s been hard, not just on myself but my family
because how many times it was like, don’t bother me. McDonald’s is three blocks away.
I’m busy on the phone. I’m setting up. So I had the support of the family. Sometimes
whether they wanted to support me or not. I appreciate that. You pay a price but you
don’t think of it. You never think about a reward. If you’re looking for thanks, forget
about it. You may get thanked 30 years later. And then it’s like this is amazing. You’re
amazed. The recent award that I received from Japan was absolutely amazing. The people that
received it was former Vice President Mondale who did a lot of Japanese relationships and
then Tommy LaSorta who did a lot of the baseball stuff with Japan and why we have so many great
Japanese ball players and myself. So I was in pretty good company and that was probably
the highest honor. To me it’s the Academy Award. Before Dr. Sackler mentioned the Lee
Crazner as my aunt, I know a little bit about art, Lee was one of my role models in the
sense that I didn’t like that she was hit over the head but I like the way that they
couldn’t keep her down and no matter what, she had of course Pollock, that’s enough to
knock somebody for the loop. First time I met Pollock, in fact I met him at my grandmother’s
house in Huntington, Long Island, a farmhouse. I remember, I like Lee’s boyfriend Eegore,
a heck of a lot better. He was a good looking guy and very personable and I was a little
kid and he was always nice to me, then all of a sudden I don’t see Eegore but who do
I see, this Pollock guy. I took one look at him and he said, Hi, Reenie, and I said, Ah,
don’t like him. He didn’t call me by my right name and I was almost about to say something
and my mother gave me a little pinch and I shut my mouth and that was, obviously, they
hit it off. There history is very well known and several years ago, I was asked to coach
Marsha Gay Harden, who played Lee Crazner in the Pollock film, and I did which came
to our home and laid down in Lee’s bed and I filled her in and we kind of covered the
Brooklyn accent a bit, which I don’t have any more. I told Marsha that she was going
to win the Academy Award and she said oh, in a million years she didn’t think about
it. Actually, I think Ed Harrison should’ve won. Ed had asked me what I thought of her
initially, I thought she was a good match. Lee had a very hard time as a painter because
one, Lee would tell it the way it is. She would not pencil words, when it came to the
critics, she didn’t snooze them, she told them the way it was and they didn’t like it.
Critics loved to be stroked. They loved to be handled and she didn’t do it, she was honest,
forthright, her work was very strong. Her teacher, Hanz Haufman, we’ll get on to that
in a few minutes on the power point, told her she was great, that she painted like a
man. At the time, she took it as a compliment, I thought I was complimented that I was told
Rusty, you’re Judo, you’re good, you fight like a man. We never, at that time, saw anything
negative of that. That was the best compliment you could be or receive rather. Be compared
to a man and be equal, holy mackerel, it doesn’t get better than that. Of course now, later
in the years, you realize even though the intention was not to hurt you but the intention
was good, but why can’t you paint like a good woman or fight like a good woman? See, so
times have changed and with Lee, go on? I have something on Lee, can we get to that?
OK, this was the trials for the first Woman’s World Judo Championships, it was at the Penta
Hotel, which was the Plaza, which was the Stassler, that now, I think had the beg bugs.
That was the last I heard. This was at the first world championship, Dr. Maximi had Paul
Gegz who owns Sassoon, at the time, he got him involved, he don’t know how or why, but
got him very involved, and he was a big sponsor and I was convincing Mario Cuomo to help us,
first verbally and then physically, and some of the articles in the newspaper, the press,
I was the darling of the press, everybody wanted the story of what was going on with
women judo and this discrimination bit and they really really helped. The power of the press is magnificent. A few articles,
the IOC was discriminating against us and what we would
do about it. And this is at the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles, 1984, the
huge press conference I referred to a little while ago. And this was our inclusion in the
Olympics, 1988, that’s my team along with Margie Castro, Lynn [inaudible 00:46:13] , myself,
and the other photo is of our warm up suits and the only thing I can compare, although
I was grateful to receive it we looked like Quakers marching in. Some articles, I think
appealing to the public to see a woman taking a man’s arm off, it was always a dynamic photo,
besides the throw, this was a arm bar. This was the centerfold of Sports Illustrated and
this was our club that, this is, in fact, not trick photography. That is one of my students
that has gone on to become, now his students are making the Olympic team, and he’s doing
a roll out, right over my head, I think he had to do it about 80 times, and he had a
cold that night, and the point of the whole thing is I didn’t blink. This was a centerfold
in Esquire Magazine. Anything for the press, six women who can wipe you out and they had
everything from a woman with a whip to a motorcycle driver and myself. We utilize any type of
magazine that they ask us to do something we did it, and we got attention for whatever
we were promoting. And this is up on the Hill. This is Billie Jean and one of our friends
would go up on the hill every February to get Congress and Senate not only to continue
this support kind of line but also to enforce it, because even though it has been very helpful
and many women have benefited, we also have to keep reminding them because it’s not always
a given. This is a article that I thought should’ve been included here because being
lonely as an outsider, like Judo, what’s Judo? Even my mother didn’t know because somebody
said what does your daughter do? Well, my mother does Judy. Well, what the heck is that?
You know. She couldn’t get the term right. Finally, I landed in the big league with pro
football, basketball, and the like and calling myself and a couple other women in the photo,
sports legends. That really put Judo up on a pedestal which I thought was about time.
Not necessarily for me, but for the sport itself. This is at the Women’s Sports Foundation,
this is when I was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame and the Women’s Sports
Foundation is the main international women’s entity that helps athletes. Not only elite
athletes but athletes, girls, to teach them how to stay fit and healthy, to grow properly,
to participate in sports, to be helpful, advocacy, if you ever have a chance go to their web
page, Woman’s Sports Foundation, they have a lot of good stuff going on. This picture
is kind of rare, that’s Lee Crazner, painted by Hahnz Haufman. At the time, I think, she
was his friend. Girlfriend. Hahnz Haufman could’ve been my uncle too, you never know.
Then, there’s an article that really bugged me and Barbara Streisand was going to do a
film with Robert De Niro about Lee and Pollock, somebody mentioned story and there was a man
out, a critic out, in East Hampton whose probably still annoyed with Lee and turned around and
said, Well, Streisand is going to have to get funnier looking or worse looking to play
Lee. I got in touch with Sidney Adams and blew my top. I said, what’s wrong with Robert
De Niro, Lee is godmother, how can you let this guy get away with that. Anyway, it was
a little article, but it’s a shame because nobody ever said Pollock’s looks, Pollock’s
you know, he’s this, he’s that, it was Lee, why? Because she’s a woman. Same thing, the
struggle in the sports world is the struggle in the art world is the struggle in the business
world. Of course, we’re rising up, there’s still a way to go. I’m sure, nobody in this
room is trying to repress anyone, let alone women. We’re still in the ballgame where we’ve
got to prove ourselves and be the best that we can do. Rather you’re in law enforcement
or whether you’re in the legal system or whatever you’re doing, you have to always be better.
I hope when my granddaughter and maybe her granddaughter, that will all be done. And
that is Marsha Gay Hardner, my husband and I, in front of I think the name of the painting
is Celebration, that might be over at the Whitney. It’s one of Lee’s works and that’s
when Ed Harrison and I met at the house at East Hampton, which is the museum, Paula Krasdon
house. We were talking about the film he was coming up with. I have friend, Ernestine…
Is she still in the room? No, she had to leave. Oh, OK. We were in the Rose Garden at the
White House. I have that photo, hanging up, with former President Clinton. Everybody said,
What are you telling him? Well, that’s the question. What am I telling him? If anybody
can come up with the answer, there’s a fivedollar bill in it for you. Think your best thought
and your worst thought, because I’m not going to reveal it until somebody hits upon it.
The last photos, I believe, are at the reception at the ambassador’s residence when I was presented
the Emperor’s Award. And then a dinner that the Black Belt Association of Hudson that
I and Shakai actually held for another award that I received, my distinguished partner
over there. I think this might be the end of the films, yeah, the pictures. We may have
a little time for questions. We don’t have any time for questions! OK. Thank you very
much. I made good on my promise that this was going to be a very great presentation.
I thank you, thank you, thank you, Rusty. My pleasure. Not only for a great presentation,
but for paving the way for recognizing the challenges and difficulties we still face.
But having made such enormous, enormous strides for women in sports. I also want to let you
know that the stars have come into another alignment. It was my former husband that produced
Pollack. Really! How about that! March 21st is our second anniversary. We’re going to
celebrate with a speakout in the auditorium, Women’s Visions for the Nation: What’s It
Going to Take? I think we’ve had little bit of a preview today. March 21st between 2:00
and 4:00. At 4:00, up here in the galleries, we’re going to have a reception and an opportunity
to speak with all of the wonderful people who are participating in that panel, including
Laura Flanders, who is going to be our moderator for that day. Thank you all for coming. Rusty,
thank you so very much. My pleasure. Thank you, Elizabeth. There are programs in the
back of the room about our programming here, and you can go online to the Elizabeth A.
Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and see all the things that we’re doing. Thank you.

Author:

4 thoughts on “Rusty Kanokogi: The Mother of Women’s Judo”

  • I'm betting that you ask lots of guys to blow you… I'm betting that your anger towards women has something to do with all those repressed feelings you never sorted out after that first time you allowed yourself to truly be free with another man behind a Denny's… Now you wonder why strong women seem repulsive to you, and you take to Youtube to berate "feminists", cause they represent something you fear. Women who'd probably never blow you… at least not as well as you've learned to blow.

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