Without Rusty, There Is No Rowdy

The way 2015 has gone it would be hard to imagine the fight sports landscape without Ronda Rousey.

Yet, if it wasn’t for the late Rena Kanokogi, Rousey may have never had the opportunity to fight her way into America’s hearts.

Kanokogi, who passed away in 2009 at age 74, was born in Brooklyn by the name Rena Glickman, and led a gang of females called The Apaches in South Brooklyn. Eventually Rena met a man who introduced her to Judo and soon she dropped the gang lifestyle for one committed to Judo.

In 1959 Rena traveled to Utica, New York to compete in the YMCA Championship. She had to dress herself as a man to compete. She won her bout but was found out by an official and stripped of her medal.

Rena then moved to Tokyo in 1962 to continue her studies. Upon her return she was considered one of the best judoka in the world. The problem was, there was no competitions to test her skills. Rena sought to change that.

Rena financed her own women’s judo world championships at Madison Square Garden in 1980 by mortgaging her home. Thanks to Rena’s hard work, judo was made an Olympic medal sport in 1988.

In 2008, Rusty received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government, one of the highest honors a foreigner can receive. In 2009, she received a gold medal from the Y.M.C.A., the same medal that was taken from her in 1959.

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