Notable People in Judo HIstory

Top Twenty Five Judoka's

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The list below are some of the most famous names.  In order to include notable names within both the BJC and British Judo, it has been necessary to restrict the number of Japanese shown.  The list is not 'recognised' and is purely those who have made an impression upon the author.

Final Grade
Jigoro Kano
Ungraded but said to have been made 12th Dan after his death
The founder of Judo.  He was a remarkably determined man who did not let anything get in his way.  Always 'firm but fair' with a balanced outlook on life, he refused to give the Nazi salute when all those around him were, during the 1936 Olympics.  Instead he held on to his hat.  A fuller background can be found on Wikipedia and Judo Info.
Kyuzo Mifune
10th Dan (Kodakan)
Considered to be the 'God of Judo'.  Mifune was very small and light but incredibly agile.  He was hardly ever thrown but was able to throw opponents of any size with ease.  Although only standing 5' 4" and weighing 50Kg, he accepted a challenge from a 6' 110Kg Sumo wrestler whom he beat.  A fuller background can be found on Wikipedia and here.  You can also see some remarkable film footage of Mifune here.
Yoshiaki Yamashita
10th Dan (Kodakan)
A contemporary of Kano, Yamashita was the first person to be awarded a 10th Dan albeit posthumously.  He is most famous for having taught Judo to President Theodore Roosevelt who used to order whoever was available to train with him in the White House.  Yamashita was something of a philosopher also with quotes like "The technique and mind are just like the front and back of one's hand, meaning that they are very closely related".  A full article on him is on Wikipedia and an essay on his time in Washington is here.  Advice on Judo by Yamashita has to be worth a read and a video of Yamashita and Kano demonstrating Ju no Kata.
Yukio Tani
4th Dan (Kodakan)
Tani was a proponent of Ju Jitsu.  He travelled to England in 1900 and toured the music halls taking on all-comers on the sole condition that they wear a Ju Jitsugi.  A small and light man he would have seemed easy pickings to the average Englishman, but he beat them all only losing once to a Japanese.  After this he became chief instructor at the Budokwai and upon Jigoro Kano's visit to England in 1920 resulted in Tani switching to Judo whereupon he was graded to 2nd Dan by Kano.  More can be found on Wikipedia and here.
Kenshiro Abbe
8th Dan (Kodakan)
The founder of the British Judo Council (BJC).  Abbe Sensei was one of only three people to ever beat Kimura.  Upon arriving in the UK Abbe challenged 30 leading Sensei's to a 'line up' (where he would fight one after another without break).  He beat all of them in very short order.  Unbeaten throughout his life Abbe was also an expert in Aikido, Karate, Kendo and a number of more esoteric arts.  There is a story that one day he was approached by three thugs who demanded his money.  He threw his wallet on the ground and said "I am prepared to die for that wallet.  What about you?".  The muggers backed off.  You can find out more on Wikipedia and here.  There is some video footage of Abbe Sensei here.
Matasuto Otani
8th Dan
Came to England and after teaching Judo under Tani left to start his own organisation - M.O.S.J. (Matsutaro Otani Society of Judo).  This was merged into the BJC in the 1960's.  The author met Otani Sensei the year before he died when he was already 80.  The author was 16 at the time and was thrown all over the mat by Otani.  A 'tribute' can be found here.
Masahaiko Kimura
7th Dan (Kodakan)
Kimura was a bit of nutcase.  In his prime he would do 1,000 press-ups in a single set every day.  He would train for up to 9 hours.  His favorite throw was O Soto Gari which he would practice against a tree.  After winning the All Japan Championship 3 times in a row, he refused to return the trophy and travelled the America's engaging in professional wrestling and prize fighting.  He famously beat Helio Gracie in Brazil.  There is a saying "none before Kimura, none after Kimura".  A fuller history can be found on Wikipedia and Judo Info.  There is also an interesting essay here.
Yasuhiro Yamashita
8th Dan (Kodakan)
Unbeaten in 203 fights in competition, his reputation is matched by his size.  Now retired from competitive Judo, he remains committed to promoting and developing Judo for future generations.  A retrospective is available here.  Also his Wikipedia entry and an article by Neil Ohlenkamp here.
Keith Remfry
8th Dan (BJA)
British Heavyweight Olympic Silver medal winner in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.  Unjustly, there is very little available on him the Wikipedia entry is only slightly larger than this entry!
David Starbrook
9th Dan (BJA)
British Bronze (1976) and Silver (1972) Olympian, David Starbrook was noted for the exceptionally vigourous training regime that he put himself through.  Limited information on Wikipedia and an Autobiography.
Brian Jacks
8th Dan (BJA)
Great Britains first international success taking the Bronze at the World Championship in 1967 and the Bronze in the 1972 Olympics.  Achieved great fame through appearing in the BBC series Superstars where he consistently bested other famous athletes, something that he attributed towards the 'all round' training that Judo provides.  Small article on Wikipedia and another here plus Wikipedia entry about a computer game that he is associated with.
Angelo Parisi
6th Dan
Is a very interesting case.  Born in Italy, he represented Great Britain at the 1972 Munich Olympics where he gained a Bronze.  However, he then represented France at the 1980 Moscow Olympics where he gained a Gold in the heavyweight category and a Silver in the Open.  In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics he gained another Silver.  There is very little about him online, he has a short article in Wikipedia and a paragraph here.  There are some videos here.
Neil Adams
8th Dan (BJA)
The most successful British Male Judoka.  Winning Silver medals in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics he has also won Gold in the 1981 World Championship and Silver at the 1983 World Championships.  Graded to 8th Dan at the age of 49 and currently head coach of the Welsh Judo Association.  Further information is available on Wikipedia, the BBC and here.  There are also no shortage of videos online.
Karen Inman (né Briggs)
7th Dan (BJA)
The most famous British female Judoka, won the World Championships in 1982 and again in 1984, 1986 and 1989.  Unfortunately failed to make the Olympics due to a broken leg.  It is surprising that she does not have an article on Wikipedia or in any other Judo website, but there is no shortage of references to her under both her surnames.  She married Peter Inman, a successful Judoka in his own right and son of Roy Inman, who for many years trained the British Womens Judo team.  She now runs her own club in Hull
Ian Rose
5th Dan (BJA)
Our local Judo hero, British World Champion (1995) and Paralympics Silver (Athens 2004) and Bronze (Atlanta 1996), Ian has enjoyed notable success in Judo.  At Bejing he unfortunatly missed out on the medals as a result of sustaining an injury in the first round, however he intends to be back for London 2012.  More information here and his own website.  There is also a short video here.
Anton Gessink
10th Dan (IJF)
This 6' 6" 145Kg giant upset the world of Judo by being the first non-Japanese to win the World Championship (1961) and Gold in the Olympics (1964).  Directly as a result of his triumph, weight categories were introduced.  Eventually embraced by Japan because of his adoption of 'Kodakan Judo' style he was awarded the 'Order of the Sacred Treasure' in recognition of his commitment to Judo.  He unfortunatly passed away in August 2010.  More information can be found on Wikipedia and a video here.
Robin Otani Sensei
Non-specified Dan grade but hold Red & White belt (implies 6th Dan or higher) awarded by A. Hosaka
President of the British Judo Council (BJC).  Third son (of four) of Matasuto Otani.
Akinori Hosaka
8th Dan (Kodakan)
Obtaining his 3rd Dan from the Kodakan at the age of 20, he entered the All Japan Championship in 1960 losing in the final to the previous years champion on a minor point after more than 30 minutes of non-stop contest.  Taught Judo to the Police before travelling to the UK in 1962 on a 3 year contract but never went back.  He lived in Manchester, ran the Sale Judo Club and was the BJC Principal Technical Adviser responsible for the training of all BJC  instructors.  You can read his biography and an interview of him.  He unfortunatly passed away in April 2010 leaving a legacy of a new BJC syllabus and coaching qualification process, the FPJ1-3.
G. R. Mealing
7th Dan (BJC)
The elder statesman of the BJC, he is present (or omnipresent) at almost every national or area activity.  Mealing first discovered Judo shortly after WW2 whilst in the Merchant Navy during a visit to Argentina.  He became a pupil of Yammanoto Sensei who to this day trains the Argentinean national squad.  Mealing, not wanting to miss out on practice whilst at sea started his own Judo Club on the ship which probably explains why he has such an excellent sense of balance.
Roy Brewster
1933- still going strong
4th Dan (BJC)
The chief Sensei of the Chalfont and Evreham Judokwai.  With almost 50 years dedicated to Judo and a Dan grade in Ju Jitsu also, Roy is very experienced and committed to his teaching.  More information can be found here.
Neil Ohlenkamp
6th Dan (USJA)
Is the author of a number of authorative titles including 'Judo Unleashed' and 'Black Belt Judo Skills & Techniques'.  Is the webmaster of the the most comprehensive Judo site on the web.  His personal profile is here.  Many of the links on this website refer back to his.
Toshihiko Koga
7th Dan (Kodokan)
Olympic Champion (1992 Barcelona) and three times World Champion (1989, 1991 & 1995).  Koga is noted for preferring a traditional Judo style.  A sign of his reputation is that in many of the videos available it is clear that the opponent is being very defensive and in many cases is penalised for this.  For further information see Wikipedia as Koga's own website is in Japanese only.  There is a good 'tribute' video here.
Ryoko Tani (né Tamura)
Unable to locate
Less than 1.5m tall and competing at 48Kg she is called the 'pocket dynamo'.  Certainly seeing her in action supports this adjective as she moves incredibly fast.  She is the most successful Judoka of the modern sport having won six World Championships, Olympic Gold and Olympic Silver twice.  She is a cult hero in Japan and holds a job with Toyota who (obviously) allow her plenty of time off to train.  Read more on Wikipedia, here and here.  There are video clips of her here and a good 'compilation' video here.
Kosei Inoue
5th Dan (Kodokan)
Olympic Champion (2000 Sydney), six times All Japan Champion (2000 - 2004 & 2008) and three times World Champion (1991, 2001 & 2003).  Inoue is the inspiration for Judoka's of this decade.  Although highly versatile he prefers Uchi Mata and Ouchi Gari.  For further information see his Wikipedia entry.  You can watch him in action here.  Inoue moved to Edinburgh with his wife in early 2009.
Robert Van de Walle
7th Dan
With a glittering career on the mat, Van de Walle took the Gold in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the Bronze in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.  This is all the more remarkable in that he was 34 years old.  His World Championship record is two Silver's (1979 & 1981) and five Bronze (1981, 1983, 1985 & 1989).  He also became the European Champion in 1980, 1985 and 1986.  You can read an article on him in Wikipedia and a review of his book on Judo Pickups here.  Some videos of him in action are available here.