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The Mother of Women's Judo


In 1959, Rena “Rusty” Kanokogi won a judo competition in New York. Her award was taken away. That’s because she was a woman. She had pretended to be a man to compete. Kanokogi set a goal to help women in judo.

Kanokogi uses a judo move to take down an opponent.


Kanokogi’s Fight

In 1962, Kanokogi moved to Japan to study judo. There, she was invited to train and spar spar NICK DAVID—GETTY IMAGES to practice fighting (verb) The boxer sparred to get ready for the match. with men. Later that year, Kanokogi returned to the United States. She persuaded persuade FSTOP123—GETTY IMAGES to make someone do or believe something by giving them good reason (verb) He tried to persuade the teacher to give them more recess. judo associations to hold women’s events. She even helped pay for the first women’s judo world championship. That was in 1980. It was held in New York City. The event helped take women’s judo to the Olympics in 1988. Kanokogi coached the Olympic team. Male judo had been an Olympic sport for more than 20 years. There are now seven women’s judo events in the Olympics. That’s thanks to Kanokogi’s perseverance perseverance HALFPOINT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES the quality that keeps a person working at something, even when it's hard (noun) He showed perseverance by finishing the race after falling. .

Rusty Kanokogi helped make women’s judo an Olympic sport. She coached the 1988 team.

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Rusty met her husband while training in Japan. Here they are with their two children wearing gis for judo. A gi is a uniform for martial arts.


Telling Her Story

In August 2009, Rusty Kanokogi received a medal. It was the medal that was taken from her 50 years before. She died later that year. But her story lives on. Her daughter, Jean Kanokogi, published a book. She shares her mom’s story with others. “Rusty’s story is really that of an ordinary person who did extraordinary things,” she told TIME for Kids. She wants the story to motivate others. She hopes to “help people realize they can do anything they want.” 

This medal is from the first women’s judo world championship. It was held in 1980.


Rusty's Way


Kanokogi grew up in Brooklyn, New York. That’s where she joined a judo class. Now there’s a street named after her. One of Kanokogi’s judo students made it happen. The street name shows that Kanokogi was “bigger than life,” according to her daughter. But it also shows the deep respect her students had for her.