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(Movie Review) Mrs Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 26th February 2014

Last weekend at UFC 170, the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo, Ronda Rousey, successfully defended her UFC bantamweight championship for the third time. Rousey is a polarizing figure; but her greatest detractor would respect her ability: simply put, she’s a piece of martial arts history. Her star is rising elsewhere too, with movies and television roles on the way.

Another (and very different) female pioneer of the judo world was the subject of a recent film, released in December on DVD. It’s a rare, and often beautiful, look at judo history. It would be represent something of a departure for MMA fans, but I think it’s worth a look for them.

Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful chronicles the life of Keiko Fukuda, the first woman to receive a 10th degree black belt in judo (from the US Judo Federation, in 2012), and the final surviving student of judo founder Jigoro Kano.

Keiko Fukuda was followed by the filmmakers for several years, as she approached her 100th birthday. The film gracefully explores Fukuda’s unique story: her early life in Japan, to her pioneering days an instructor in the US, and her first trip to her native Japan in 23 years, as a special guest of the Kodokan.

One might guess Fukuda to be born into “The Gentle Way,” as the name judo is often translated. Her grandfather Honnosuke Fukuda was a jujutsu instructor for the samurai of the Tokugawa shogunate, and later in life, his students included Jigoro Kano himself. As the film progresses, we learn how Keiko Fukuda originally was brought to judo by her family in hopes of finding her a husband. Instead, Fukuda find herself “married” to the art she loved – and devoted to it to the end.

After learning her trade under Kano himself, Fukuda rose to teach classes at the Kodokan during WW2. Competition was unavailable to Fukuda, but she performs kata — a judo tradition often overlooked today — in an exhibition at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Later, Fukuda relocates to San Francisco, where, among others, she trained the Bay Area’s first female police officers.

Several members of judo royalty, including world and Olympic champion Toshihigo Koga and Kaori Yamaguchi, make appearances in Mrs Judo to express their admiration for Fukuda. They also offer perspective on issues of gender in the art.

In some ways, Fukuda’s beloved judo seems so far ahead of its time, as we see men and women training virtually identically at the beginning of the 20th Century. In other ways, as when we find her unable to rise in ranking to match her male counterparts (courtesy of the Kodokan’s old refusal to allow women past 5th degree black belt) it seems to drag behind the times.

The tone of the film is more education than entertainment. Its soft tone, following an elderly woman as she sets about the last days of her life, is long on history and short on action: more at home on PBS than Spike-TV, and in fact I understand the film’s creator in fact offers a discount to schools. But it’s lyrical style is compelling from start to finish — graceful like one of Fukuda’s own kata — and Mrs Judo sails through its one hour running time.

Of course, it’s best to focus on what Mrs Judo is, not what it isn’t; and it’s best to keep focus on Fukuda herself.

Approaching 98 years of age, Fukuda was still on the mats despite triple bypass surgery. This remarkable figure of history instructs her assembled students towards the end of the film:

“Through training you become a good person. If your judo is only about mastering techniques – when your life is finished, that would be a shame. It’s more important to be a good human being. Don’t forget, that is good judo.”

Bonus material includes more discussion from the film’s cast, as well as brief footage of Fukuda’s memorial last year. She died at the age of 99 in San Francisco.

Mrs Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful is available at the Mrs Judo movie website. A tip of the hat to Tom Callos for alerting me about the film’s release on his Facebook page.

Posted in Movies, Reviews, Tommy Hackett, judo | No Comments »

UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz II Predictions

Posted by Jacob Lawton on 6th August 2011

Pictured: The poster for tonight’s Light Heavyweight showdown.

Tito Ortiz is, indeed, back. Going into his fight with Ryan Bader last month everyone expected the Huntington Beach Bad Boy to be resoundingly beaten and cut from the UFC, but Mr. Ortiz had other ideas. After his stunning upset of Bader, Tito was called in on short notice to face Rashad Evans in what was, before Phil Davis withdrew, a #1 contender fight, with the winner getting the victor of Jones/Rampage. But with Tito’s imposition on the main event, does it somewhat decrease the legitimacy of Evans’ contendership? And, if Tito were to win, should he get a shot at dethroning Jon Jones? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Jacob Lawton, Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Tommy Hackett, Total MMA, UFC | No Comments »

Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson Predictions

Posted by Jacob Lawton on 30th July 2011

Pictured: The poster for tonight’s event.

As Ajit promised here, here’s some more of the Total-MMA staff with their picks ahead of tonight’s fights in Hoffman Estate, IL, which goes out live on Showtime. And it’s a strong show too - lead off by a clash of PRIDE legends; as former Heavyweight champ and the man frequently mentioned as the MMA GOAT, Fedor Emelianenko, tries to get back to winning ways against the only man to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time in a major MMA promotion, Dan Henderson. But the fun doesn’t stop there folks, as a pair of Welterweight title eliminators featuring wild sluggers Paul Daley and Scott Smith pitted against hot prospects Tyron Woodley and Tarec Saffiedine round out the undercard — which also sees top Middleweights Robbie Lawler and Tim Kennedy clash. And to top it all off we have a women’s Welterweight (135lbs) title fight between Golden Glory’s Marloes Coenen and the lovely Miesha Tate. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Dan Henderson, Fedor Emelianenko, Jacob Lawton, Strikeforce, Tommy Hackett | 1 Comment »

More Japan Relief Efforts From MMA

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 3rd April 2011

Since publishing the Helping Japan article last week, several more efforts from the MMA and BJJ communities have been brought to my attention. Some great works are being done - and maybe we have some new ways you can help too.

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Posted in Japan Relief, Tommy Hackett | No Comments »

Review: Mastering Grappling with Javier “Showtime” Vazquez Volume 1: Takedowns & Counters

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 26th March 2011

Mastering Grappling Volume 1

Pictured: The DVD cover to Javier “Showtime” Vazquez’s “Mastering Grappling” instructional, volume one.

Are you a jiu-jitsu player interested in some different approaches to your no-gi game? Maybe you want to get some help getting your wrestling fundamentals down, or figuring out ways to apply those skills to your jiu-jitsu? If so, and actually – and maybe if you’re someone else — Javier “Showtime” Vazquez has a product in Mastering Grappling catered to you.

A bit about Javier, for the uninformed: he’s among the top lightweights in MMA, but more important to this set, he is a well respected Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Rodrigo Medeiros who also wrestled for years — so this product represents a look at how he fuses the two disciplines.

Me? Well, I don’t have either discipline down. I’ve never wrestled and I’m a novice in jiu-jitsu. I also did a judo class in college, and spent my evenings in and out of a boxing gym for a few years. But essentially, I’m still gravitating to the fundamentals of grappling, and spend most of the time in the kimono — just a little no-gi here and there. I’ve used a bit of instructional material from BJJ guys like Cesar Gracie, Stephan Kesting, and Saulo Ribeiro to help iron out the basics.

I came to own this set when nice fellow from the Atama BJJ Forum kindly offered a copy in exchange for a review. A more experienced grappler by the name of Hunter has also has an extensive review of a Vasquez instructional on that forum, if you think you’ll find that more relevant to you. But I think it’s also useful to see how clear and useful Javier’s instruction can be to a relative newcomer as well. So here’s my take:

It’s damned good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Javier Vazquez, Reviews, Tommy Hackett | No Comments »

Helping Japan

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 19th March 2011

Pray For Japan design from Purebred

Pictured: A T-Shirt from Purebred to raise funds for victims of the Tohoku earthquake.

If you love the martial arts — and if you’re reading this, chances are you do — it’s impossible to not love Japan. My visits to Japan include many memories I will always cherish, not just attending several MMA shows but getting some insight into the beautiful culture which is so integral to the foundations of the sport we love.

It’s just as obvious that following the recent earthquake, Japan needs your love right now, along with your sense of charity. With risks incoming from radiation from the damaged nuclear facilities and more than 10,000 persons still missing, it may be impossible at this point to give an accurate account of the damage sustained; in addition to the confirmed dead — approaching 9,000 as of this writing.

So it’s fitting that as in the case of last year’s (continuing) crisis in Haiti, several figures in the MMA and jiu-jitsu world are making their presence felt in disaster relief. Here are some ways you can help, or maybe this will inspire you to do what you can to help. This post will continue to be updated in the coming weeks.

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Posted in Japan Relief, MMA, Tommy Hackett | 1 Comment »

ZUFFA Purchases Strikeforce. I rant.

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 12th March 2011

It’s a struggle to make it through this video. But unfortunately, it’s not an early April Fool’s joke. Strikeforce is now owned by ZUFFA, which will — essentially, let’s cut the crap — inevitably lead to the end of Strikeforce. Dave Walsh at does a nice job of explaining why, if that’s the kind of analysis you want right now. If you want a more emotional reaction, read on…

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Posted in Strikeforce, Tommy Hackett, UFC | 3 Comments »

Total-MMA Fight of the Week: Toby Imada vs. Ferrid Kheder

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 11th March 2011

Pictured: Toby Imada lowers the boom on Dave Gardner in their 2007 bout. Imada fights former Olympic judoka Ferrid Kheder at Bellator 36 this weekend.

Last week’s choice for Total-MMA’s fight of the week, Dan Henderson vs. Rafeal “Feijao” Cavalcante, was an easy choice. Two seasoned veterans who have proven themselves on top of the MMA world — one for more than a decade — were squaring off in the main event of another big Strikeforce show. The fight didn’t disappoint, although if you recall our prediction, it didn’t surprise either.

This week’s fight of the week stands in stark contrast. First, it’s an undercard bout, a quarterfinal in Bellator’s lightweight torunament on Saturday in Louisiana at Bellator 36. But more importantly, it’s a fight where we aren’t sure what to expect; and that’s what makes this match so special — and worthy of this week’s spotlight.

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Posted in Fight of the Week, Tommy Hackett, Total MMA | No Comments »

Total-MMA Fight of the Week: Rafeal “Feijao” Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson

Posted by Tommy Hackett on 5th March 2011

Pictured: Rafeal “Feijao” Cavalcante and Dan Henderson at the Strikeforce weigh-ins yesterday.

It’s Showtime! No, not the “It’s Showtime” kickboxing promotion in Europe — go to our good friends at for great coverage of their continued success. Nope, it’s time for some title bouts for Strikeforce as Dan Henderson (who nearly stands alone as MMA’s elder statesman these days) challenges for the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title against upstart champion, Rafeal “Feijao” Cavalcante, and Liz Carmouche replaces an injured Miesha Tate to challenge Marloes Coenen for the Women’s Welterweight title. Tate’s absence hurts this show but the main event still stands tall as this week’s most relevant to the world’s MMA rankings picture. No question to me what to profile as this week’s “Fight of the Week”.

But, the questions about the fight itself are many.

Can Cavalcante continue to improve? How many times will he find a way to victory before we believe he belongs with a major MMA title? What does Henderson, now approaching his 41st birthday, have left? How many times have we written that until we accept he’s ageless?

I’ll do my best to answer…

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Posted in Dan Henderson, Rafeal Cavalcante, Tommy Hackett, Total MMA | No Comments »

Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva Predictions

Posted by Total-MMA Staff on 12th February 2011

Fedor & Silva

Pictured: Fedor Emelialanenko and Antonio Silva square off at the Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva weigh ins yesterday.

Tonight, the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey plays host to the Strikeforce World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament and three esteemed members of Total-MMA Daily’s new staff are here to offer our breakdown. This tournament will feature some of the greatest collection of heavyweight talent since the heyday of PRIDE, so don’t miss it. It features the added bonus of being able to catch the fights live on Showtime TV, instead of a scratchy audio broadcast by Japan-based Americans over the internet. (Where are you now, PRIDEcast? I used to love those guys!)

Offering predictions tonight are Total-MMA’s resident Strikeforce columnist Ajit Punj (AP); our man with the Breakdown who’s gutsy enough to pick a 5-1 underdog, Jose Fernandez (JF); and our restless intellectual George Do (GD). Unfortunately we’re out our resident Briton Jacob. Get well soon mate. As always our legal team reminds you that predictions are for entertainment purposes only so any gambling losses you suffer are your own bloody fault, as our resident Briton might say…

On with the show:

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Posted in Ajit Punj, George Do, Jose Fernandez, Strikeforce, Tommy Hackett, Total MMA | 2 Comments »