Excerpt from The A to Z Olympics

The following excerpt is from the opening of Chapter Nine.

I is for Ippon

There is a country that is more passionate about judo than Japan, even though judo was crafted by a Japanese educator, Kano Jigoro. Jigoro, designing the martial art back in the 1880s, called it “the gentle way” and thought of it as a philosophy of life rather than a mode of sport. As a method of self-defense, it was more about control than combat, defeating an opponent by knocking him off balance rather than beating him senseless.

Yet the martial art has become successful as both a philosophy and an athletic endeavor. Gentle in theory, judo even has its own dramatic moment. In judo, the ippon is the match-ending throw or pin, like a pin in wrestling, though in judo the move occurs because the judoka orchestrates a series of techniques instead of exerting dominance through force. The ippon is about finding advantage in imbalance, and it is strategic as much as physical:

In this sport, you search for the ippon (winning throw) and I like this because it’s difficult, it’s not an easy sport.

–Teddy Riner, interviewed by CNN

Six-foot, eight-inch Teddy Riner, three-time Olympic medalist and ten-time world judo champion, is in the running to become the Greatest Of All Time, as we Americans would call him. Riner recently lost his first match in ten years in February 2020, after which he posted to his thousands of Twitter followers:

Merci à tous
On ne lâche pas et on se remet au boulot

Teddy Riner thanks his fans on his Facebook page

Yep, that’s right. Teddy Riner is from that judo-crazy country, France.

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