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Rena Glickman featured by Sports Illustrated

November 24, 2008

“The father of men's judo was a small, quiet, disciplined athlete who lived in Japan a century ago. No big surprise there. The mother of women's judo? She's a large, loud, Jewish great-grandma who lives in Brooklyn, and she's a big surprise every day.”

Thus Sports Illustrated’s Gary Smith began his article about Rena Glickman, AKA Rusty Kanokogi, who was recognized as the mother of women's judo and would receive the Emperor’s Order of the Rising Sun later that week. 

Titled “Chicken Soup for the Martial Artist”, Smith’s article recounted the unlikely, inspiring, and often bizarre lengths Glickman went to so she could excel in her sport – flattening her breasts with Ace bandages, wrestling under a male alias, winning the 1959 New York State YMCA championship only to surrender her title when it was learned she was a woman.

Smith’s original feature article on Glickman appeared in SI under the title “Rumbling with Rusty” in 1986.

She tussled, she threw, and she won, over and over.  And she often had to twist a few arms outside the ring.  As Smith wrote, “She had to collect 25,000 signatures and threaten legal action for sex discrimination against the International Olympic Committee and its TV partner, ABC, to get women's judo into the Games in '88.”

The 2012 Olympics in London saw two firsts for women: the first female Saudi Arabian competitor in the Olympics and the first American of either sex to win a gold medal in judo, Kayla Harrison, 22, of Massachusetts, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager and took up judo as part of her rehabilitation.

As Rusty would say, “Injustice drives me nuts.”

Sources: “Rusty Kanokogi, Mother of Women’s Judo, 1935 – 2012”, Wendy Lewellen, We Remember; “Grappling All the Way to the Olympics”, Gabrielle Orcha, Jewesses With Attitude; “Rumbling with Rusty” and “Chicken Soup for the Martial Artist”, Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated; “Kayla Harrison Wins Judo Gold Medal At 78-KG, Defeating Gemma Gibbons”, Tim Reynolds, Huffington Post; “Olympics 2012: Two women make history at judo, America's Harrison and Saudi's Shaherkani”, Bob Taylor, Washington Times Communities.

Rusty Kanokogi
Full image
Rusty Kanokogi.
Photo courtesy Jean Kanokogi.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rena Glickman featured by Sports Illustrated." (Viewed on July 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/nov/24/2008/rusty-kanokogi>.

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