Judo: "Gentle Way".
Judo is many things to different people. It is a fun sport, an art, a discipline, a recreational or social activity, a fitness program, a means of self-defense or combat, and a way of life. It is all of these and more.
Kodokan Judo comes to us from the fighting system of feudal Japan. Founded in 1882 by Dr. KANO Jigoro (more about Dr. KANO and Judo further down), Judo is a refinement of the ancient martial art of Jujutsu. Dr. KANO, President of the University of Education, Tokyo, studied these ancient forms and integrated what he considered to be the best of their techniques into what is now the modern sport of Judo.
As in all sports, Judo has a strict set of rules (Kano Jiu-Jitsu Contest Rules) that governs competition and ensures safety. For those who want to test their skills, Judo offers the opportunity for competition at all skill levels, from club to national tournaments, to the Olympic Games. There are separate weight divisions for men and women, and boys and girls.
Judo is best known for it's spectacular throwing techniques (Nage waza) but also involves considerable grappling on the ground utilizing specialized pins (Osaewaza), control holds, arm locks (Kansetsuwaza), and Judo choking techniques (Shimewaza). Judo emphasizes safety, and full physical activity for top conditioning. Judo is learned on special mats for comfort and safety.
Judo is unique in that all age groups, both sexes, and most disabled persons can participate together in learning and practicing the sport. Judo is an inexpensive, year-round activity, that appeals to people from all walks of life. Many people over sixty years of age enjoy the sport, as well as very young boys and girls.
Judo develops self-discipline and respect for oneself and others. Judo provides the means for learning self-confidence, concentration, and leadership skills, as well as physical coordination, power, and flexibility. As a sport that has evolved from a fighting art, it develops complete body control, fine balance, and fast reflexive action. Above all, it develops a sharp reacting mind well-coordinated with the same kind of body. Judo training gives a person an effective self-defense system if the need arises.Photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Left: Mardikian Sensei, nidan (Black Belt 2nd degree) and IKEDA Sensei, Kodokan shichidan (Black Belt 7th degree). Dire Dawa, Ethiopia 1963.
I wish to thank Ms. Hayward, Sarah J., Special Assistant, Embassy of Japan, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ms. OGATA Kumi, International Department, Kodokan Judo Institute, Tokyo, Japan, Mr. Mardikian, Mardik (Mardikian Sensei's son and Judoka), Toronto, Canada and Mr. Weiss, Riccardo, Judoka, Venice, Italy.
Thank you is also in order to the late Mardikian, Armen Sensei, for allowing me to use his images, documents and input. Without the help of the above mentioned individuals, the history of Judo in Ethiopia would not have been complete or even possible.
Arguably Mardikian Sensei is the single most important person to establish Judo in Ethiopia, he even took two years off from his livelihood (Jeweler) and promoted the sport. His motto was come one, come all, everyone was welcome; NO CHARGE.
An article in the June 3rd 1963 issue of "Judo" magazine (pages 40 & 41), published by the Kodokan (archived at the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan), IKEDA Sensei speaks of Mr. Mardikian, recognizing his contributions and acknowledges him.
Over the years, Mr. IKEDA and Mr. Mardikian became good friends and visited one another in their respective countries.
Mardikian Sensei's intention was to establish Judo schools throughout Ethiopia. Unfortunately that was not to be realized. In 1974, Ethiopia's new Socialist Government outlawed Judo and all Martial Arts in that country.Photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Front row by table is H.E. the late Japan Ambassador to Ethiopia TOKUNAGA Taro, his spouse and embassy staff. Mr. Mardikian is standing in the middle of picture with his students.Ararat Judo Club, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1957.
During the period 1957 and 1974, The Embassy of Japan in Ethiopia, including two of its former and late Ambassadors, H.E. TOKUNAGA and H.E. NEGISHI and their staff, often participated in Judo activities and sponsored Judo in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. Their Excellencies attended demonstrations, handed out prizes, Kodokan Judo Institute promotions and welcomed Judo exhibitions at the Embassy of Japan in Addis Ababa. Prizes and gifts handed out to contestants after competition were sometimes donated by the embassy.
H.E. the late Ambassador TOKUNAGA Taro was posted in Addis Ababa from December 12th 1957 to July 6th 1961. Japan's representation in Ethioipia was a Legation until March 31st 1958 when an embassy was established. Ambassador Tokunaga passed away on November 9th 1993, eighteen years ago (as of July 2011). H.E. Ambassador NEGISHI Kuniyoshi also was posted in Addis Ababa, from August 22nd 1961 to March 7th 1964, he passed away on October 8th 1964 (not long after his posting in Ethiopia). The current Japan Ambassador to Ethiopia is H.E. KISHINO Hiro (July 2011).
Photos: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Above photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian Sensei receiving his Kodokan shodan diploma from H.E. the late Japanese Ambassador to Ethiopia TOKUNAGA Taro. Bottom photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian Sensei with H.E. the late Japanese Ambassador to Ethiopia TOKUNAGA and his spouse attending a Judo exhibitions at the embassy. Ambassador TOKUNAGA was posted in Addis Ababa from Dec./12/1957 to Jul./06/1961; he passed away November 9th 1993. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1957 and 1958. Document: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian's Dire Dawa Judo Club membership and promotion card with Fédération française de judo (FFJDA). 1951-1957.
In 1951, Mr. Mardikian registered with Fédération Française de Judo et Disciplines Associées (French Federation of Judo and Related Disciplines (FFJDA)). Everyone in Djibouti and Ethiopia then registered with FFJDA. When FFJDA joined the International Judo Federation (IJF), they automatically were members of that organization. After 1957, Judokas from Ethiopia were also being registered with the Kodokan Judo Institute.
Kodokan literally, ko means "to lecture" or "to spread information," do means "the way," and kan is "a public building or hall," together translating roughly as "a place for the study or promotion of the way." It was established by KANO Jigoro, the founder of judo in 1882, and is now located in an eight-story building, in Tokyo, Japan.
The Kodokan Judo Institute. Tokyo, Japan.
September, 11 1957 Mr. Mardikian registered with the Kodokan Judo Institute and spent three months in Japan, on October 25th 1958 he earned his Kodokan rank of shodan (Black Belt 1st degree). He earned his nidan in 1963 after spending four months there the second time. His last visit to the Kodokan was in 1972.
Mr. Mardikian started Judo in Dire Dawa under a Mr. Carel in 1951; the dojo had been around for about a year prior to him joining. Comforters and blankets were used in place of tatamis (Judo mats). In 1952 the dojo was moved to the Chemin de Fer Club and became Chemin De Fer Djibouti-Ethiopien (S.C.F.E.) Judo dojo of Dire Dawa. This move took place because a Dr. Julia, a local surgeon donated the funds and arranged for a room at the club to be used as a dojo.
In 1955 Mr. Mardikian moved from Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa to expand the sport of Judo in Ethiopia. After his departure for Addis Ababa, the dojo in Dire-Dawa was left under the supervision of Mr. Diboneau. While in Addis, Mr. Mardikian worked for SEFERIAN & CO. (ETHIOPIA) LTD. S.C, among other things, they were the sole importers and distributers of VW for Ethiopia. He did that while getting the dojo at the Ararat Club (the Armenian Club) started and going. Mr. Diboneau continued to supervise the Dire Dawa dojo in Mr. Mardikian's absence.
1956, Mr. Mardikian earned the rank of Ikkyu (1st grade Brown Belt). In 1957, he purchased the Dire Dawa Dojo.
In 1955, while at the Ararat Club, one of Mr. Mardikian’s first students was a Mr. Gino Pecol. In 1958, Mr. Pecol, moved the dojo from Ararat Club to Juventus Club (The Italian Club) where he started teaching Judo as a Yonkyu (Blue Belt). In 1960, Mr. Pecol earned the rank of sankkyu (Brown Belt).
In 1957 while at the Kodokan Mr. Mardikian purchased fifty tatamis (mats) and had them shipped to Ethiopia. He had paid for the Tatamis and built the club up prior to Gino running it.Mr. Mardikian kept eighteen for his dojo in Dire Dawa and shipped thirty two to Addis Ababa, to his second dojo at the Ararat Club (Armenian Club); the birth place of Judo in Addis Ababa. According to Kodokan records, there were seventy Judo students of many nationalities registered in the Addis dojo.
It is important to note, Mr. Pecol moved the dojo (club) to Juventus without the prior approval, knowledge or consent of Mr. Mardikian, he took all of the students as well. Mr. Pecol never compensated Mr. Mardikian for the mats. The club remained there until the Derg overthrew the late Emperor Haile Sellassie in 1974 and outlawed Martial Arts in Ethiopia.
The gentleman that Mr. Mardikian is, he never made an issue of or confronted Mr. Pecol for betraying him and his trust. His focus and priority was to spread Judo to as many areas of Ethiopia as possible.Documents: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian's Sensei Kodokan registered ranks.
By 1963, there were three Kodokan registered shodans in Ethiopia, by 1965, there were five. The last three Judokas promoted to Kodokan shodans in Ethiopia were Mr. Arshavir "Arsho" Aznavourian, Mr. Arakel Derentz and Mr. Herant Nalbandian. The promotions were conducted by Mardikian Sensei in the presence of IKEDA Miki Sensei, from the Kodokan. Their Kodokan registration information is as follows.
You might have noticed, some of the names mentioned are of Armenian origin that is because there was a community of about 1,500 Armenians in Ethiopia.
After the 1915 Great Armenian Genocide, numerous Armenian orphans took refuge in Armenian monasteries and charitable institutions. Hundreds of orphans who had survived the Genocide found shelter in "Araratian" orphanage founded in Saint Hakobian monastery of Jerusalem under the patronage of Patriarch Yeghishe Durian. The Araratian brass band formed from forty orphans was moved to Ethiopia by the crown prince of Ethiopia Ras Tafari (later he became emperor Haile Sellassie) who visited Jerusalem in 1924, by the mutual consent of the Armenian Patriarch. Soon the bank became the gem of the Ethiopian kingdom, while the head of the band G Nalbandian received the rank of centurion.
The number of Armenians increased in various cities of Ethiopia, and they faithfuCancellly served for the benefit of the centuries-old Armenian-Ethiopian traditions. In the words of one Armenian, a Mr. Nalbadian "We are Ethiopian, there is no doubt about it. Of course, we have kept our traditions and language as well” regarding how he feels internally. “From my mother’s side, my roots [here] go back to 1905. My mother was born here while my father had come from Syria. She came to Ethiopia in connection with the Arba Lijoch.” More about the Armenians in Ethiopia below.
After being in Judo over 27 years, Mr. Mardikian retired from the sport only a nidan. He never felt the need to impress anyone with anything let alone rank. Rank or the color of one’s belt was not important to him. Kodokan Judo, good Judo was.
Mr. Mardikian earned his 2nd dan after the Kodokan Judo Institute offered it to him. Mr. IKEDA made the recommendation that he be promoted to nidan. Mr. Mardikian was a humble and centered person.
Fifty four plus years after I first started studying Judo in Ethiopia, I am still in Judo, practicing six to eight hours a week (I am still trying to get it right). I am also of the same school of thought and proud to say I am not a Kohaku grade (high dan) only a 5th dan (5th degree Black belt). Interestingly, I am the only person who started Judo in Ethiopia in the late fifties still practicing today.
Promotions and belt colors don't make good Judokas, champions or even good instructors. I recently had a so called 7th dan head instructor who was really bad. He couldn't teach certain throws or techniques correctly and didn't know the basics. Those high dan Judokas have big egos with bigger needs to impress and feel important. Legends in their own minds.
Having soared with eagles, I find it difficult to fly with turkeys nowadays.
I am not impressed with today’s generation of high dans and shudder at the thought of Judokas in their mid-forties and early fifties who are rokudan and shichidan. Most of those high dans have not achieved much, if anything in Judo. They don't have an impressive record competing, publishing or contributing to Judo, except to show up and sit at the sidelines marking time.
Mr. Carel was a Brown Belt when he ran the dojo in Dire Dawa. All promotions from the Dire Dawa Dojo were conducted in Djibouti by Mr. P. Tavernier, a Black Belt himself registered with FFJDA. Mr. Tavernier was the customs director for Djibouti and a member of FFJDA. In 1957, Mr. Carel left Dire Dawa, Ethiopia leaving a void in Judo which Mr. Mardikian filled.Photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian. Monsieur P. Tavernier, shodan. Directeur des douanes pour Djibouti (Customs Director for Djibouti) & Ippon Seoi Nage (One Arm Shoulder Throw).Djibouti, Djibouti 1950.
Although there are some similarities between morote-seoi-nage and ippon-seoi-nage, there are many aspects which are unique to each. This can be seen by the way that most of those who become specialists in one form of seoi-nage seldom use the other
Seoi-nage is the single most popular throw in judo. Though primarily the technique, par excellence, for the smaller person, it is also used with considerable success by heavyweights. Part of its popularity lies in its efficiency-the principle of carrying a weight on the back is universal. But its success as a fighting technique is also due to its remarkable versatility.
In 1946 was the establishment of the French Federation of Judo and jiu-jitsu (FFJJJ). On April 20th 1939, the first Black Belt was awarded to a Frenchman, a Maurice Cottereau by Professor Kawaishi. In 1966 George Pfeifer was elected president of the FFJDA (1966-1972). The current president is Mr. Jean-Luc Rouge. FFJDA is also a member of The European Judo Union (EJU). Since FFJDA is one of the European and International organizations which make up The International Judo Federation (IJF), Mr. Mardikian and others were automatically registered member with IJF.
My late brother Samir and I started Judo in Addis Ababa in the late 1950s. I left Ethiopia in November, 1964 and continue to practice Judo around the world today. I often think of Armen with affection, gratitude and of course respect. I miss him very much.
As part of the globalization of Judo, in 1936 (and earlier), several high ranking Judokas from the Kodokan fanned out throughout the world to promote Judo. One of those ambassadors visited seven countries in Africa among them Ethiopia. He gave Judo instruction and demonstrations.
Judo was first practiced in Ethiopia on a regular basis by Italian troops during Italy's brief occupation between 1936 and 1941. Judo was already established in Italy. The Japanese ambassador to Italy, SUGIMURA Youtarou, a Judoka himself was instrumental in establishing the Italian Judo Federation in 1924.
In Djibouti, it was introduced by French troops stationed on the Horn of Africa. France took possession of Djibouti (called French Somalia) in 1884. As the Territory of the Afars and the Issas, it remained part of the French republic until 1977, when it gained independence despite conflicting Ethiopian and Somali claims.
The 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade (French: 13e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère, 13e DBLE) also had a Judo club in Djibouti. The 13th is a mechanized infantrydemi-brigade in the French Foreign Legion. It is the only permanent demi-brigade in the French Army, and is a unit of particular notoriety and reputation within the Legion. And is also the highest paid of all the Foreign Legion regiment. The city of Djibouti, the capital and only urban center, is also the terminus of the Djibouti-Ethiopian Railroad (completed in 1917 but now is badly in need of repair).
Photos: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian. Top left photo: Mardikian Sensei (Tori); top right photo: Mr. Mardikian standing in the middle. Above picture: Mr. Mardikian is second from the left.The First Judo Club, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. C. 1950/'51 & 1958/'59.
Photos: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Above photograph is of H.E. the late Japan Ambassador to Ethiopia NEGISHI Kuniyoshi. H.E. was Japan’s ambassador to Ethiopia from August 22nd 1961 to March 7th 1964. Ambassador NEGISHI passed away on October 8th 1964, not too long after his posting in Addis Ababa.H.E. the Ambassador presented Pecol with his Kodokan shodan and Mardikian's Sensei nidan diplomas during this ceremony held at the Juventus Cluib in Addis Ababa. H. E. the Ambassador was a Kodokan godan (Black Belt 5th degree) Judoka.Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 1963.
A black belt is not something you "Get", it's something you EARN.
Armen's Kodokan shodan diploma was hand signed by KANO Risei. KANO Risei (November 1900 - January 1986) was one of KANO'S, the creator of Judo three sons. He was the second president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), from 1952 to 1965 and managed the Kodokan from 1946 until 1980.
Between the times Mr. Mardikian began studying Judo, joining FFJDA in 1951 and obtaining his shodan, over seven years had lapsed. He was diligent and sparing no expense. While at the Kodokan, he studied under Judo legends. He did it right.
Black Belts were earned and not handed out like candy as they are today. It is possible today, to "get" the rank of shodan in two years; with much less effort, dedication, attendance or competition. It depends on who you know, what federation you belong to and if you can afford it.
MIFUNE Kyuzo (1883-1965).
One of several icons Mr. Mardikian studied under was MIFUNE Sensei. According to the Kodokan Museum and Library, Mr. MIFUNE instructed and attended classes at Kodokan until just before he was hospitalized in December, 1964. He had perfect attendance in the Mid-Summer Training in 1964 (one year before his death). He attended the Tokyo Olympic Games as a member of the Judo committee in the same year.
Mr. Mardikian is one of the fortunate Judokas to have been able to spend several months at the Kodokan studying under some late great Judan legends (Black Belt 10th degree) including; MIFUNE Kyuzo (4-1883-1-1965), Judan TAMIO Kurihara (1896-1979), Judan KAIRHIRO Samura (1880-1964), judan SUMIYUKI Kotani (1903-1991), KOTARO Okano (1885-1967), MATSUTARO Shoriki (1885-1969) and others. All were former students of the founder of Judo, Professor KANO Jigoro (1860-1938).
There is a waiting period of several months after testing at the Kodokan before one is notified of their promotions results. The promotions committee notifies the local Japanese embassy in the country in which you reside and if you passed, the local Japanese ambassador there awards the rank. It is a long proccess.
Long waiting periods are not uncommon with the Kodokan. Documenting rank with them is not cheap either. It took over eight months to register my shodan rank with them at a cost to me of US$ 375.00. My Kodokan diploma is signed by Mr. KANO Yukimitsu. I don't recommend it.Photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Photo: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian.Above two photographs: H.E. the late TOKUNAGA Taro, Japan's ambassador to Ethiopia 1957 - 1961 and embassy staff. This Judo demonstration took place at the Ararat Club in Addis Ababa. The demonstration was put on by Mardikian Sensei and his students.Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1958.
Armen returned to Dire Dawa to run the main dojo there until he left Ethiopia. During the years he spent in Dire Dawa, he would come to Addis on a regular basis to conduct seminars and promotions.
The early promotions in Ethiopia were registered with the Fédération Française de Judo et Disciplines Associées (FFJDA) and the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo, Japan.
Recently, some organizations and individuals have deviated from the traditional rank system and belt colors established by the founder of Judo, Prof. KANO Jigoro back in 1882 and the Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan or IJF. Not unique however. The Soviet Union at some point did away with belts and rank according to the Kodokan altogether. Brazil and others did as well for a while and established their own rank system. In the United States a new belt color was introduced. A red and black belt for 4th through 6th dan; that did not catch on however, but some still wear it.
Someone in Germany introduced yet a new Rank altogether, a "Black Belt without the dan". Ethiopian Judo Instructors wear it. I am still trying to understand what that means and what purpose it serves? What does that make the new "Black Belt" under this system? Those Black Belts without the dan teaching still lack the experience and time in the sport to be good instructors or they would be legitimate shodans otherwise. Why bother change something that has been around and working for over a hundred and twenty years? Just what we need, more bad instructors.
It seems, the quality of Judo has gotten poor with a high 80% dropout rate; the highest of any sport. Despite that, it is still one of the most popular activities on earth. Over eight million people in Japan practice it regularly. Judo is known and practiced in all five continents, with about fifty million people who train in it.
In July, 1948, the European Judo Federation was founded in London. In July 1951 the name changed from "European Judo Federation" to the "International Judo Federation" (IJF). In December 1952, "Zenjuren" was recognized by IJF. It is made up of five continental bodies: AJU African Judo Union; PJC Panamerican Judo Confederation; JUA Judo Union of Asia; EJU European Judo Union and OJU Oceanian Judo Union. IJF’s current president is Mr. Marius L. Vizer.
It is very likely the Kodokan Judo Institute and Zenjuren will not recognize the new color belts or ranks; but one never knows. I am happy and still loyal to traditional Kodokan Judo. On the flip side, IJF might accept it? I know the person introducing this idea of a new belt has already met with Mr. Vizer about the subject.
The International Judo Federation (as of 2010) consisted of 199 member countries (Africa-49, Americas-41, Asia-39, Australia & Oceania-20, and Europe-50) and the sport is still growing in popularity. Its presidents over the years were Aldo Tordi, Italy 1951-1952, KANO Risei, Japan 1952-1965, Charles Palmer, Great Britain 1965-1979, MATSUMAE Shigeyoshi, Japan 1979-1987, Sarkis Kaloghian, Argentina 1987-1989, Laurie Hargrave, New Zealand 1989-1991, Louis Baguena Salvador, Spain 1991-1995, Yong Sung Park, Korea 1995-2007 and Marius L. Vizer, Austria 2008-til Present.
The foundation of an International Judo Organization was proposed by KANO in the nineteen thirties. They were dark times in Japan then, however, as militarism was on the rise. KANO was attempting to get the Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 1940. His untimely death in 1938 derailed his efforts to organize Judo internationally, and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 put a halt to any Japanese activity with any international organizations. It was not finalized until July, 1951, when the Congress of the European Union established IJF.
The first world Judo championship was held in May 1956 in Tokyo, with 31 participants from 21 countries. The first World Judo Champion was NATSUI Shokichi. Thereafter the championship was held once every two, three or four years. The International Judo Federation now holds World Championships every two years.
Judo was admitted in the Olympic Games as an official sport for the Summer Games at the 57th IJF session held in August 1960 in Rome. The first Judo matches in the history of the Olympic Games were held at the 18th Tokyo Olympiad in 1964. As far back as 1932, judo was seen for the first time in the Olympics during the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. KANO Jigoro and about 200 Judo students gave a demonstration. In 1964 Judo lost the image of being "Japanese only" after Anton Geesink won the first Olympic gold medal in the open division by defeating KAMINAGA Akio of Japan.
In the entire history of Judo, there have only been 15 (fifteen) Judan holders (Black Belt 10th degree). Until January 2006, there was no living Judans. The Kodokan in 2006 promoted three, DAIGO Toshiro, ABE Ichiro and OSAWA Yoshimi. There has never been any promotion above 10th dan/degree. The International Judo Federation (IJF) promoted Anton Geesink (NED) and Charles Palmer (UK) to 10th dan in 1997. Some countries have also made promotions to 10th dan, Henri Courtine of France in 2007 and Jaap Nauwelaerts de Agé of Holland in 2008.
Others say there are six legitimate Judo 10th dans worldwide. The Europeans; Henri Courtine of France, George Kerr of Great Britian and Jaap Nauwelaerts de Agé of Holland who have all been awarded 10th dan by their respective National Governing Body (NGB). Those promotions are not recognized by the Kodokan but this might not be so important anymore.
However, many consider the only ‘true’ 10th dans to be those issued by the Kodokan; ABE Ichiro,87- 10th dan, OSAWA Yoshimi,83- 10th dan and DAIGO Toshiro,84- 10th dan. The Kodokan Institute for almost a century was the Mecca of the judo world.
Judan (Black Belt 10th Degree) ABE Ichiro Sensei is the international chairperson of the All Nippon Judo Federation. He is head of the Promotions Panel at the Kodokan and also head of the International Division.
Randori & Kodokan Judo Institute, Tokyo, Japan.Photo: The Kodokan Judo Institute Archives. Tokyo, Japan.
"Victories that come cheap are cheap. Those only are worth having which come as the result of hard fighting". Henry Ward Beecher.
It is becoming more and more apparent Kodokan rank is no longer an accepted rank by IJF (pay back time). The Kodokan will issue a rank based on one's IJF or USJF documents and the other way around. The Kodokan is no longer the player it once was in the world judo stage. They are simply a dojo now. A very well-known one, with a great a history and tradition, but it is just another dojo just the same, issuing dojo papers. Kodokan rank recognition only matters to "old timers like me" because we worked so hard in Judo for our rank. I would not register another or anymore of my ranks with the Kodokan, as I said, it is not worth it.
Judo is now controlled by IJF and there is no other way to say it. It is the governing body of Judo around the world.
In the last year, Japan has decided to fall in line with international standards in its country’s traditional sport of Judo. The All Japan Judo Federation said it will adopt standards used by the International Judo Federation at domestic tournaments starting in May 2010 rather than apply Japanese traditional ‘‘Kodokan’’ rules, which had been used at meets such as the national championships.
Kodokan rules were in effect at the national championships that took place at Nippon Budokan on April 29 of 2010, but IJF rules will be used at the May tournament this year, 2011. The IJF adopted a disqualification rule for judoka who directly grips an opponent’s legs with one or two hands. Accordingly, the Japan Judo Federation had also considered changing Kodokan rules but decided to switch to international standards to avoid any confusion. Japan needed to, for their Judokas to be able to participate globally and bring titles back to Japan.
Prof. KANO'S wishes are finally being realized?
We are starting to understand IJF is changing and has changed Judo, it is a fact of life.
The Kodokan is no longer the player it used to be. The Kodokan is dead, long live the Kodokan.
Mr. Mardikian, the prize fighter.
Mr. Mardikian was a prize fighter as well. He began his boxing career in 1939 with his boxing coach Marcello Malatesta. In 1940 he was also getting personal training from Mr. Domenico Bernasconi who represented Italy as a bantamweight at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Mr. Bernasconi's record as a fighter was: won 42 (KO 23) + lost 21 (KO 0) + drawn 5 = 69 rounds boxed 579 KO% 33.33. Again, Mr. Mardikian does things right.
Below is an excerpt (translation) from the newspaper “IL GAZZETTINO”, Dated Wednesday, September 17th 1941 (Page 4). The name of the article is “Boxing”: In it, they mentioned Mr. Mardikian knocking out Calderari.
“…….And finally the public had the most awaited K.O. Thanks to the overwhelming Mardikian who found Calderari's reflexes weak. Mardikian is not a promise but an affirmation. Calderari was a serious threat for him, and it showed in the first 3 rounds. In the fourth round Mardikian's hammering punches put Calderari short of breath and Mardikian knocked him out.
We spoke about the unpleasant surprise of Verino. Overall this was a reunion that if it didn't please the most demanding and the most critical, it satisfied the public. It could have expected more from the athletes whose training is limited to few hours after work.
Waiting for fresh names on the fight card from Asmara, this promises to foresee an exciting reunion.
Some other elements are also in Addis Abeba, who is waiting aside for a tainted commission to invite them. These elements can wait because the organizers have the will but don't have time to roll out the red carpet. While waiting they have to make up stories”.Mardikian Vs. Calderari fight, September 1941. Mr. Mardikian won with a K.O.
Photos: Haroutiun “Armen” Mardikian. A young Armen was a successful prize fighter as well. C. 1941.Above autographed photo to Mr. Mardikian is Mr. Domenico Bernasconi (November 16, 1902 – February 2, 1978). He is the four time European champion and "the world champion for ten minutes". He was also Mr. Mardikian's trainer.
"Before and after practicing Judo or engaging in a match, opponents bow to each other. Bowing is an expression of gratitude and respect. In effect, you are thanking your opponent for giving you the opportunity to improve your technique". KANO Jigoro
Judo continued until the coup d'état of 1974. Individuals or clubs could no longer learn, practice, participate or start a Judo school or other Martial Arts clubs in Ethiopia.
The first thing the Derg did after taking control of the government was to nationalize all of Ethiopia's rail, sea, air, private businesses, land, houses, corporations as well. In March 1975, they announced that all royal titles were revoked and that the proposed constitutional monarchy was to be abandoned. After Haile Sellassie was deposed, Judo was over in Ethiopia. Most all of the foreigners residing in Ethiopia began to leave the country after the new socialist government took over. Many expats either lost their livelihood, or feared for their safety.
In early 1968, Mr. Mardikian was already seeing the handwriting on the wall. He pulled-up roots, packed his family and left Ethiopia for Djibouti for good.
While in Djibouti, he opened a dojo there; Chemin De Fer Djibouti-Ethiopien Judo dojo Djibouti (S.C.F.E.D). He ran it until he retired from Judo and moved to Canada in 1977.
Ethiopia Today has several Judo, Karate, Aikido, Ju Jitsu and other Martial Arts clubs and a Karate Federation.The highest ranked Karate person in Ethiopia today and the most involved is Mr. Solomon Kebede Negash. He has been teaching Karate for 36+ years, a pioneer and legend in his own right. Please visit him on facebook.
EJJA, in their web site still makes misleading claims and noises regarding documentation from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Sport Commission.
1. EJJA is registered with the Addis Ababa sport commission and The Ministry of justice only.
2. They are not recognized, licensed, sanctioned, or registered by/with Ethiopia’s sport commission and have no authority representing Ethiopia in anything. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Federal Sports Commission, Ministry of Commerce is the highest Sports Authority in Ethiopia and have the final say.
There is a difference in seals between/on the letters I posted in my web page and what EJJA shows on their web site. The one on the letter in my web page is from the highest authority. The letters are issued by different government offices.
EJJA's documents do not originate from the Ethiopian Federal Sport Commission, the highest body to approve legal status of any sport federation representing Ethiopia in any international contest. EJJA is just a club like any other club.
The letter I added was published July 18th 2012 by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia's Sports Commission. It is being sent to the International Judo Federation (IJF), Africa Judo Union (AJU) and other Federations/Organizations informing them "Ethiopian Judo & Ju-Jitsu Association (EJJA)" is an illegal Association/Organization not registered or recognized by Ethiopia's Sports Commission, Ethiopian Judo participants or instructors. EJJA's appoint themselves, suggest and make statements they are the official Judo Association for Ethiopia, not the case.
They make other false claims: Being the first Judo organization in the history of Ethiopia ever to hold a Judo promotion in that country. They further claim very little is known about the history of Judo in that country. In the "Judo" page, I include photographs, documents, names and dates proving they are wrong. Judo was introduced to Ethiopia by Italian troops as early as 1936 and was practiced on a regular basis as early as 1950. I played Judo there from 1957 thru 1964. I returned to Ethiopia on extended stays through 1974 and practiced Judo there.
I am proud to be associated with any legitimate Martial Arts Federations &/or Associations in Ethiopia. I support them. I am in good standing with Ethiopia's Sports Commission, Mr. Solomon Kebede Negash, president of the Ethiopian Japan Karate Association, Mr. Azajie Ayele, Mr. Seifu Mekonnen, Mr. Shakir Shifa and Mr. Yohannes Nida and all of Ethiopia's legitimate instructors.
Currently, Ethiopia does not have a recognized or established Judo Association/Federation registered with the Ethiopian Sports Commission, IJF, AJU or other International Federations/Organizations. I have been invited to Ethiopia to help with the Judo program and hope to contribute and be a part of a new Judo Federation there. It certainly would be my honor. We will make it happen.
A letter to IJF and other organizations around the world, stating EJJA is not a legitimate organization. July 18th 2012
Ethiopia participated for the first time ever in the IJF Judo World competition which took place in Paris, France in August 2011. Ethiopia’s MEKONNEN, Seifu finished 247th of 289 participants in the Men's 66 Kg. division (IJF Judo world Championship). Mr. MEKONNEN scored a total of 4 points. I am proud of him for attending.
First place (66Kg. weight division) went to MORISHITA, Junpei who scroed 1,284 points.
Konjit Guleche of Ethiopia finished 164th of 187 participants in the women's 57 Kg. division. She too had a total of 4 points.
First place in the women 57 Kg. division went to MATSUMOTO, Kaori of Japan with 2,050 points.
Today, it is an uphill battle for anyone wanting to start a Judo or other Martial Arts school in Ethiopia. They must file applications with the Addis Ababa sport commission as well as other government agencies to obtain a license. It is a difficult, tedious and slow process with long waiting periods; yes folks; permits are required from the government before anyone can practice Judo or other Martial Arts in Ethiopia.
Karate was not yet introduced in Ethiopia. The first time I heard of Karate was from a couple of friends, US Marines who were in Ethiopia to guard the American embassy in Addis. They were trained in Karate and practiced at the US embassy in Addis Ababa.
Except for one Ethiopian, Lemma "Shatto" Gebregiorgis who briefly played Judo with us, there were no Ethiopian participants during my time. It was a question of economics for them. Ethiopia is in the top-ten poorest countries of the world, the average per capita income each year is just over USD$115.00 and falling. This infamous title is not getting any better because the population today is growing at a faster rate than the economy. It was worse economically then.
There was the cost for Judogis, hygiene, monthly club dues, transportation costs which most could not afford. Lemma was the adopted son of Ted Shatto, an American and the first licensed professional hunter in Ethiopia. Ted also contributed to establishing game laws in Ethiopia.
Prof. KANO Jigoro; October 28th 1860 - May 4th 1938.The founder of Judo (in June 1882); the Kodokan Judo Institute, Tokyo, Japan.
"The most important principle of throwing as practiced was to disturb the center of gravity of the opponent, and then pull or push in a way that the opponent cannot stand, exerting skill rather than strength, so that he might lose his equilibrium and fall heavily to the ground. A series of rules was taught respecting the different motions of feet, legs, arms, hands, the thigh and back, in order to accomplish this object. Choking up the throat was done by the hands, forearms, or by twisting the collar of the opponent's coat round the throat. For holding down and pushing, any part of the body was used. For twisting and bending, the parts employed were generally the arms, hands and fingers, and sometimes the legs." Kano Jigoro
Dr. KANO Jigoro founder of Judo.
"Dr. KANO Jigoro is the founder of Judo. He was a perfectionist, a disciplinarian and a traditionalist. But, at the same time an innovator, an internationalist and a man of great generosity. More important, he was a famous educator and the father of modern sports in Japan. But above all, Jigoro Kano was the founder of Judo.
Jigoro Kano was born to a family that operated a small sake brewery hence they were in a good financial status. Never physically strong, he suffered from various illnesses as a child and was constantly bullied. He tried to learn jujutsu to get even, but was opposed by his parents who feared he could be seriously injured. His parents instead had him study rigorously and in 1877, Kano enrolled in Imperial University. Away from his parents, he finally started learning jujutsu. He studied two different jujutsu styles each focusing on different aspects of fighting techniques.
Jujitsu was flourishing during Jigoro's boyhood. It is fair to say mid-19th century was the golden age of jujutsu. So it was with rather anxious expectation that Jigoro looked forward to moving to Tokyo, where most of the jujutsu activity was going on. When he was 17, his father ordered him to go to the capital on board one of the sake-carrying steel ships, but he insisted on traveling by land. His father relented -- and a good thing, too, because the vessel he was to sail broke up in stormy seas en route to Tokyo and sank.
The University Years:
Jigoro Kano started his training in jujutsu at the age of 17 under the supervision of his first instructor, Ryuji Katagiri. Katagiri felt he was too young for serious training. As a result, Katagiri gave him only a few formal exercises for study. The determined young man was not about to be put off so easily, however, and finally wound up at the dojo of Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master in the Tenjin-Shinyo School of Jujutsu who had been recommended by Dr. Yagi. Fukuda stressed technique over formal exercises, or kata. His method was to give an explanation of the exercises, but to concentrate on free-style fighting in practice sessions. Jigoro Kano's emphasis on "randori" in Judo undoubtedly found its beginnings here under the influence of Fukuda. It would be mainly from Fukuda and later from sensei Iikubo that he would develop the idea of teaching "randori" first and as the students achieve strength introduce the kata. In 1882, Kano founded Kodokan Judo. His system of martial arts (judo) all but replaced its parent art of jujutsu in Japan. Kano also successfully introduced judo into the Japanese school system. Also a member of the International Olympic Committee for Japan, Kano believed in the Games as a way to bring countries together. When World War II was imminent, he lobbied for having the 1940 Olympic Games organized in Japan. This finally happened in 1964, after his death, when the Games were held in Tokyo. For this occasion, Judo became an Olympic discipline, which raised a controversy in the Judo world. Indeed, Kano had always been opposed to organized competition in Judo, for he believed it would taint the non-opposition spirit of his art. Kano died of pneumonia in 1938, aboard the SS Hikawa Maru after attending an IOC conference, promoting Judo as an Olympic sport. There are, however, allegations that he actually died of food poisoning. Supporters of this hypothesis claim that, since Japan was engaging in World War II, the government had plans to turn the Kodokan into a military academy. Critics argue that this is impossible, however, since Japan did not enter the war until three years later in 1941, whereas the hypothesis claims that Japan was involved in the war at the time of his death. Kano was outspoken in his opposition to the militarization of the Kodokan and he stated that there was no place for militarism in the Kodokan. It is alleged that after his death, a few weeks later, the Kodokan indeed became a military academy. The myth also falls down here as the Kodokan was not made into a military academy until after the end of the war.
Judo History & Philosophy:
The early history of Judo and that of its founder, Japanese polymath and educator Kano Jigoro (surname first in Japanese) (1860-1938), are inseparable. Kano was born into a well-to-do Japanese family. His grandfather was a self-made man, a sake brewer from Shiga prefecture in central Japan; however, Kano's father was not the eldest son and did not inherit the business, but instead became a Shinto priest and government official, with enough influence for his son to enter the second incoming class of Tokyo Imperial University.
Kano was a small, frail boy, who, even in his twenties, did not weigh more than a hundred pounds, and was often picked on by bullies. He first started pursuing jujutsu, at that time a flourishing art, at the age of 17, but met with little success---in part due to difficulties finding a teacher who would take him on as a serious student. When he went off to the University to study literature at the age of 18, he continued his martial efforts, eventually gaining a referral to Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master of the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu and ancestor of noted Japanese/American judoka Keiko Fukuda, who is one of Kano's oldest surviving students. Fukuda is said to have emphasized technique over formal exercise, sowing the seeds of Kano's emphasis of randori, or free practice, in Judo.
Little more than a year after KANO joined Fukuda's school, Fukuda took ill and died. Kano then became a student in another Tenjin Shinyo school, that of Masatomo Iso, who put more emphasis on formal kata than did Fukuda. Through dedication, KANO quickly earned the title "shihan", or master, and became assistant instructor to Iso at the age of 21. Iso, too, took ill, and Kano, feeling that he still had much to learn, took up another style, becoming a student of Tsunetoshi Iikubo of Kito Ryu. Like Fukuda, Iikubo placed much emphasis on free practice; on the other hand, Kito Ryu emphasized throwing techniques to a much greater degree than Tenjin Shinyo Ryu.
By this time, Kano was devising new techniques, such as the kata Guruma ( or 'shoulder wheel', known as a fireman's carry to Western wrestlers who use(d) a slightly different form of this technique) and uki goshi (floating hip toss). His thoughts were already on doing more than expanding the canons of Kito and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu; full of new ideas, in part as a result of his education, Kano had in mind a major reformation of jujutsu, with techniques based on sound scientific principles, and with focus on development of the body, mind, and character of young men in addition to development of martial prowess. At the age of 22, just about to finish his degree at the University, Kano took 9 students from Iikubo's school to study jujutsu under him at the Eishoji Temple. Although two years would pass before it would be called by that name, and Kano had not yet been accorded the title of "master" in the Kito ryu -- Iikubo would come to the temple to help teach three days a week, this was the founding of the Kodokan or "place for learning the way."
The word Judo is composed of two kanji: "ju", which means gentleness, and "do", way or road (the same character as the Chinese "tao"). Thus Judo literally means "the gentle way", or "the way of giving way", and may also be defined as "the way of suppleness", "the way of flexibility, or "the way of adaptability". To English speakers, Judo and Jujutsu would mean "the easy way", as in the easiest way to accomplish something. Judo takes from jujutsu ("gentle art") the principle of using one's opponent's strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances. For example, if the attacker was to push against his opponent he would find his opponent stepping to the side and allowing (usually with the aid of a foot to trip him up) his momentum to throw him forwards (the inverse being true for pulling). Kano saw jujutsu as a disconnected bag of tricks, and sought to unify it according to some principle; he found it in the notion of "maximum efficiency". Jujutsu techniques which relied solely on superior strength were discarded or adapted in favor of those which involved redirecting the opponent's force, off balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage".
"It's about heart above all." Saito Hitoshi; Shichidan (Black Belt 7th Degree).
Nabil B. Faragallah; b 22 May 1945:
The Faragallah Brothers - Black Belt Magazine (above), Oct 1966 issue: Vol. 4, No. 10, 64 pages. ISSN 0277-3066 Published by Active Interest Media, Inc.
“Black Belt Magazine” Site.
Photo: Nabil B. FaragallahI am about to step on the mat with Gus and a few select students at my private Dojo in my home.Nabil B. Faragallah - Houston, Texas 2011.
Together with my late brother Samir, we started Judo at il Circolo Juventus di Addis Abeba in Ethiopia in the mid-fifties. Fifty-four years later, I am still going strong, practicing, teaching and learning. My first instructor was an Italian expat who was born in Ethiopia, Gino Pecol, one in the same as above.
On and off, I played Judo in Ethiopia from the mid fifties through 1964. Eventually I surrendered my Ethiopian residency visa and left Ethiopia for good. I twice attended the Kodokan to study Judo, before Pecol and since Mardikian Sensei. I too studied under legends and former Kano students, including MIFUNE Kyuzo and others.
I say on and off because before and during those years, I attended private schools in Egypt, Sudan and Norway. I continued to study, compete and teach Judo while living in Hawai'i, Alaska, Italy and southern California, the ‘Mecca’ of Judo in the United States. In 1994, I returned to Norway, became a resident again and among other things started a college there. In 1980 I embarked on my single-handed circum-navigation by sea, I practiced Judo during that time anywhere in the world Judowas offered; I did that for five years.
"Violence is the last resort of the incompetent". Lorne Bozinoff
Me at a local dojo in Houston, 2011. Judo Competition, "Uchi Mata" (Inner thigh throw).
My late brother Samir and those I mention above are part of what one might call pioneers of Judo in Ethiopia. We were the first established Judo club and generation ever in that country. Judo, promotions and tournaments were being held in Ethiopia (as well as parts of Africa), as early as the late 1940s (perhaps even earlier). All of those promotions were registered with several federations, including FFJDA, IJF and the Kodokan. I make mention of Judo in Ethiopia in my first interview with "Black Belt Magazine" in the October 1966 issue (above).
With all my acknowledged accomplishments, my contribution and almost 54 years in Judo, I am not a high dan as many are today.
We were taught to very high standards, goals and expectations for ourselves; being a high dan was not one of them. Personally, I achieved all my goals and more. I am very thankful and just ‘thankful’, that I am still able to play Judo.
I am recognized and a member in good standing with several different Judo Federations/Organizations/Yudanshakai including the Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan. I am a life member with the United States Judo Federation (USJF) and Nanka Judo Yudanshakai, Southern California Judo Black Belt Association (Nanka), the oldest and most respected Judo Yudanshakai in America.
Loyalty always pays off. All my promotions were through NANKA. I have been a member with them since 1964. Gus and I are now life members (#26 & #25), in the company of distinguished members Hayward Nishioka, WADA Isao, NOZAKI Sumikichi, SHIOSAKI Ed, YOKOYAMA Aki and twenty other Judo greats.
After being disappointed with dojos locally, I am considering starting my own in the Houston area. In the meantime I have a small "dojo" in my home where I train with Gus and a select few Judokas (Judoists, those who perform or workout in Judo) six plus hours a week. In the meantime, I am evaluating and considering the huge commitment and sacrifices I would have to make in my personal life to responsibly run a dojo full time (I have in the past).
I would always have to be there on the mat, with my students. Not just occasionally for picture taking ceremonies after promotions. I don't intend ever to be on the mat in my socks, shorts and tank-top, use bad language or shout instructions from the sidelines as I saw being done by high ranking Bozos. I will be in my Judogi (the traditional uniform used for Judo practice and competition).
I will be sanctioned by both NANKA and USJF. In fact, March 1st 2011, Mr. YOKOYAMA Aki, Jr. promotions president of Nanka, designated me the official Nanka representative for the Houston, Texas area, the first time in Texas. I have the privilege and authorization to promote in accordance with USJF's Guidelines for all Black Belt/dan promotions set forth in the handbook section VI. Promotions in Texas will be approved by me before they are registered with NANKA and USJF in the United States.
Members of my dojo will be free to belong to any federation of their choosing, I will not force anyone to join anything they don't want to join. Members of other federations will be welcome at my dojo but must abide by USJF rules and go through a Yudanshakai or NANKA if they want to be promoted.
Promotions are recognized by USA Judo, IJF, the Kodokan and all other organizations.
Thank you NANKA, especially Mr. YOKOYAMA.
I will follow proper protocol with Nanka before any rank is recognized and registered with NANKAand USJF. This would also enable those individuals, if they so choose, to be pre-screened and pre-approved by the USA Kodokan Committee for recommendation to be recognized and registered with the Kodokan in Japan. Historically, being recognized by the Kodokan, the Mecca of Judo was the ultimate compliment in Judo and not so easy to ascertain.
"If you think you are good enough, you have just started your decline".
USJF requires dojos that are registered with them to belong to a Judo Yudanshakai (Judo clubs or dojos typically belong to a Yudanshakai Organization of Black Belts that are more or less divided geographically throughout the country). The role of the Yudanshakai is to provide the USJF with a local presence and to provide the local clubs and members with representation to the USJF on a national level.
Students don't have to belong to Nanka but I prefer that they do. To be registered with USJF; they must belong to a Judo Yudanshakai. I guess the thinking is to have an over seer pre-screen promotions making sure they are being done properly and candidates are qualified to advance to the next level. Several federations don't require a Yudanshakai (Judo Black Belt Association).
"Technical knowledge is not enough. One must transcend techniques so that the art becomes an artless art, growing out of the unconscious". Suzuki Daisetsu.
I teach strictly Kodokan Judo. My emphasis is on technique and practice which is key to everything. Nothing will become second nature if you don't practice over and over again the same thing. I am very big on Uchi Komi, done correctly of course. Uchi komi is a must in Judo training. It is practicing a throw, where you take your opponent to the point just before he/she is thrown. Followed by Nage Komi or the execution of the full throw. Tai Sabaki, foot work, to put and turn the body; Kuzushi, off balance. Topped off with Seiryoku Zenyo, best use of energy and finally competition. I work out with my members so they may benefit from my experience?
Those in my dojo that want to advance to the different levels of Brown Belt and beyond must earn it (there are three ranks in Brown), they will have to referee, perform Katas and compete on a local and national levels. We will not promote amongst ourselves, handing out promotions or dans. Nor will I promote unqualified family members or friends to produce more bad Judokas and giving Judo more black eyes. My generation did not hand out Belts or dans, we earned them. Back then, when you said you were a Brown Belt, it meant something, you were respected; "you have arrived". It was a very big deal to be a Brown Belt then; the Black Belt was the Holy Grail. Black Belts fighting a first grade Brown Belt back then had better be on their toes or else risk being beaten.
At one point, Judo had become a big part of my life. I spent many, many years studying and training hard with some of the world's best. I trained six hours a day, six days a week for 16 years and made the rounds to the toughest and best dojos in Southern California, the Mecca of Judo in the United States back then. Among them was Gardena Dojo. Anybody who was anybody in Judo was from Southern California; we were the guys to beat. I competed on a regular basis, almost weekly and became noticed and known to Nanka officials, referees and judges as early as the early 60s which benefited me to this day and helped reinstate me after all the years of being out of the system. Back then, everyone knew everyone. We often competed against each other, knew which dojo everyone belonged to and who their instructors were. We all knew each other's ranks and ability, registering our ranks was not that important.
My brother Samir and I were the first to introduce Judo in the high schools in the United States (Southern California), 1963 - 1970. We appear together in the 1966 issue of Black Belt Magazine.
Photo: Black Belt Magazine.Me on the left with beard, my late brother Samir on the right explaining to the principal and the athletic director, Mr. Tony Perna. Mt. Carmel High School. Los Angeles, California 1965.
Samir Sensei is still active as well though he diversified his Martial Arts. He holds high dans in Tang Soo Do (Karate), Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai. He retired from competition undefeated (Southern California champion). He competed in the US Nationals and other tournaments as well as going to the Pan Am Games with his best friend the late Igor "The Russian Bear" Zatsepin who finished fourth at the 1976 Pan Am Games He was a member of the USA team.
Samir is pretty good at what he does, no matter what he does. He was better than I was at Judo though we were pretty even when we first started. His secret weapons were timing, precision and speed. When he threw you; you never saw it coming. So fast in fact, you didn’t have time to throw your arm out for the break fall and would land on it.
If I were to go up against him today, I would have to bring the equalizer. You heard the saying “God created man and Colonel Colt made them equal” this certainly is a case here. I call Samir Sir.
Above right: Igor Zatsepin (left) with my late brother Samir B. Faragallah (right) at the Hollywood YMCA dojo, California, September 1966. Samir is an undefeated champion and holds rank in Judo, rokudan (6th degree), Karate (Tang Soo Do), godan (5th degree) and Muay Thai/Mixed Martial Arts.
Photo: Samir B. Faragallah.My late brother Samir Faragallah (left) and Igor "The Russian Bear" Zatsepin socially.
Samir introduced me to Gene Lebell's "Lebell power school" in Hollywood, the Welcome Mat. Gene never charged for attending sessions there. He donated all his time to Judo and to anyone interested in the sport.
The late Igor Zatsepin was a rough dude and a regular at my dojos. Igor's team co-captain, Dave Pagenkolf, a shodan and a wrestler were members of the expired outcast judo association. He was not your technique kind of a guy. He won with arm bars mostly and there were too many unfortunate occurrences with his opponents arm bars. If Igor didn't break your arm, dislocate your shoulder, he choked you out, that is how he won tournaments. I am sorry to say I worked out with Igor at the Hollywood YMCA and at a couple of other dojos. There came a time, I refused to work out with him anymore, I didn't like his style and I knew he was out to hurt me. He was not well liked by Nanka either. I hang out with him socially because he was my brother's best friend.
Left: ISAO Wada, Hachidan (Black Belt, 8th degree (1934-2008)), "Mr. Gardena Judo Club".Right: KUNIYUKI Kenneth, kudan, (Black Belt 9th dan (1910 - 2002). KUNIJUKI, Judo Shihan was instrumental in creating the United States Judo Federation (formerly Judo Black Belt Federation of the USA) and was its inaugural president. He also was founding member of NANKA Judo Yudanshakai.
SUKIMOTO Roy, WADA Isao, YAMASHTA, OTA Bob (Hollywood YMCA), OKADA Shag, 1976 Instructor of the year who also signed my card while with NANKA back in 1972. I was a regular at the Gardena Judo Club under Sensei NOZAKI Sumikichi and others. NOZAKI Sensei is 87 years old and only recently (2010) was promoted to kudan (Black Belt 9th degree; he is one of only 107 registered 9th degree with USJF in the United States and the Kodokan).
I knew Chuck Norris when he was just the undefeated champion of the world.
I shared dojos with Chuck Norris and Kenneth Osborne. Above is a copy of my first check to Chuck in August 1967 when I shared his dojo on Artesia Blvd. in Torrance, California. I received free Tang Soo Do Karate lessons from him while I was there.
I used to fly Chuck in my personal airplane from Torrance to Las Vegas (that's when he signed the program). He is a great guy who always treated me very well.
Chuck Norris is first one on the right; Kenneth Osborne is third from the right standing, both in suit and tie. 1964
Back in the sixties, Ken, a 5th degree Black Belt in Korean Karate, was the number two man in Chuck Norris's karate organization, Tang Soo Do. I don't think he and Chuck parted on the best of terms. Mr. Osborne became 'hooked' and followed Mr. Ohshima since attending a 1966 Shotokan Karate of America (SKA) special training by the legend instructor. Here is a link to a Sept. 1966 issue of Black Belt Magazine where Ken took third and Chuck first in the same tournament.
The school I shared with Ken was on Pacific Coast Hwy. "Southern California Karate Association". Initially, he applied for and got a permit to operate his school on 222 Torrance Blvd. in Redondo Beach, California. That building didn't comply with building codes. He is a great guy who always was good to me. Ken is 69 years old today and is considered to be one of the most respected teachers ever.
Samir and I toured with the United States Air Force giving demonstrations.
"The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life".
Senseis my late brother Samir and I trained under:
Sensei WADA Isao, "Mr. left side Uchi Mata", Gardena Dojo (www.gardenajudo.com/wada.htm). Rokudan (Black Belt 6th degree at the time).
The great KUNIYUKI Kenneth.
NOZAKI Sensei, appeared in the very first issue of "Black Belt Magazine" in 1961 together with Shichidan (Black belt 7th degree back then) TAGIMA Sensei. NOZAKI was five-time US lightweight judo champion.
SUKIMOTO Roy (AAU/US/CA champion several times); down town Dojo. He had a "Killer" Tai O Toshi" (inside thigh throw).
Steve Walters, also had a "killer" Tai O Toshi, El Monte Dojo. Al Thomas was Sensei there.
Dr. James Wooley (the second American ever to win a medal in World or Olympic competition); San Diego and LA dojos. His specialty was Seionagi and an EXCELLENT mat man.
Hachidan (Black Belt 8th degree today) NISHIOKA Hayward Sensei. We all know who he is. I knew him when he was the head instructor at Los Angeles City College on Vermont & Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles where Samir and I frequented.
The late Godan (Black Belt 5th degree back then) OTA Bob Sensei, Hollywood YMCA Dojo (http://hollywoodjudo.com). He was our sensei for many years. There were others as well, OKADA Sensei was another.
Godan (Black Belt 5th degree) YOKOYAMA Aki Sensei started judo at Pasadena dojo under then Godan (Black Belt 5th degree) GOTO Sensei from the Kodokan. YOKOYAMA Sensei became head instructor at West Covina Judo Dojo in 1990. He stepped down as head instructor in 2007 and is now the adviser to that Dojo. Gus and I belong to West Covina Judo Dojo. Mr. YOKOYAMA is the Jr. (Black Belt 1st through 3rd Degree) president for promotions with NANKA and I am proud to say he is my dear friend.
Hachidan (Black Belt 8th degree) HAGHIO Sensei, downtown Los Angeles Dojo.
The late Igor Zatsepin.
Rokudan (Black Belt 6th degree) "Big Boy" YAMASHTA Jim Sensei, Sawtell Dojo, established in 1930.
Judo creator KANO Jigoro visited Sawtell Dojo in 1933. YAMASHTA worked out there but not as much as the Hollywood YMCA and Gardena Dojos. His older brother, a Shichidan (Black Belt 7th degree) at the time was a real tough judoka as well.
Gene Lebell kudan (Black Belt 9th degree), his Dojo in Hollywood.
Dojos the late Samir and I frequented:Gardena Dojo: http://www.gardenajudo.com/history.htm /http://www.gardenajudo.com/index.html Club Address: 1964 West 162nd Street, Gardena CA 90247 Practice: Mon / Thur Yonen (6:30-7:45 pm) Shonen / Seinen (7:45- 9:15 pm)
Well Come Mat: http://welcomematjudo.com/about_us?noCache=226:1276130408, with the "big boys" and I mean the BIG BOYS at that time. They also visited the Hollywood Y regularly.Los Angeles City College (LACC), Hayward Nishioka Sensei Club Address: 855 N Vermont Ave, Los Angles CA 90731 323-953-4000 Practice: Mon-Thur 12:30-3:30 pm, Sat 9am - 5pm
El Monte, Al Thomas SenseiSawtelle Judo Dojo, Jim Yamashta Sensei and his brotherClub Address: 2110 Corinth Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90025 Club Phone 310-478-2411
Oxnard Naval Base.
Goleta and UCSB Dojos, Shag Okada Sensei
The main Dojos my brother and I worked out at the most were The Hollywood YMCA and Gardena Dojo.
It seemed everyone at Valley College had a Black Belt, Sandan (Black Belt 3rd degree), or Yodan (4th degree). We used to beat everyone there and finally were asked not to return. They were higher ranks than both of us were at the time and the instructor there was worried about losing his students.
When I was reinstated years after I dropped out of sight and my records were all lost, legends from the "legitimate" Judo world came to my aid and were instrumental in reinstating me. Something I appreciate very much.
Rank and belt colors are not important, Judo is.West Covina Judo Dojo in southern California Club Address: 1203 W Puente Ave., West Covina, CA 91790 PH: 626 337-9123 Practice: Tu & Fri 7 - 9 pm. Still one of the best Judo dojos in America. On any given night one can find 20-25 Black Belts on the mat at that dojo, "real Black Belts". Several are champions who come from a long line of Judo champions.
Photo: West Covina Judo Dojo.Black Belts at the West Covina Judo Dojo, California. 2011.
"Do not criticize any other martial arts or speak ill of others, as it will surely come back to you. The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move". Koichi Tohei, Judan (Black Belt 10th degree Aikidoka).
My reinstatement with Nanka Judo Yudanshakai and United States Judo Federation:
Never once checking or looking back; over the years, my rank, registrations and all my records with every Judo organization, federation, AAU and clubs worldwide got lost (that was before the computer age). No one had any record of me ever having been registered as anything with anybody, anywhere; it was like I never existed. I had a challenge ahead of me but eventually I was reinstated; with Nanka first then USJF.
I returned to Judo (Judo is by definition a sport rather than a martial art) only to be very disappointed in what I saw. I took up Judo at age twelve, studied, taught and competed all over the world. During this time, I have seen some bad instructors, bad Judo and dojos (schools or practice halls where judo, or other martial arts are taught) but what I witnessed in Houston is appalling, supposedly by a very high ranking 7th dan. I understand Judo and people changed over the years but what I witnessed was pathetic. That's what you get when you don't have a Judo Yudanshakai over seeing promotions.
"There is no boundary in the way of flexibility, and the heart shall see no enemy." Mifune, Kyuzo; Judan (Black Belt 10th degree).
Though still active in Judo (after 54 years), my last promotion, Godan (5th degree Black Belt) was in the late 1980s. I was not too interested in pursuing anymore promotions.However, since my first promotion was in Ethiopia in1957, I hoped my last would also be in Ethiopia. The German, a Mr. Daxbacher, in charge of Ethiopian Judo/Ju Jitsu Association (EJJA) promotions, declined to promote me in 2011 (54 years later). His reason was vague but I did not pursue it.Mr. Daxbacher is in his mid forties and already a Rokudan (6th degree Black Belt).
Some of my expired/old membership cards.
Getting reinstated was not easy however; at first, after months of going back and forth with many emails and phone calls to USJF; nothing doing, they stuck to their guns and would not budge on anything. I was denied membership with my old JBBF (Judo Black Belt Federation of the USA) rank and I couldn't get it back. Somebody with JBBF or USJF at some point made a clerical error and assigned my number and rank to my late brother Samir years earlier. I could never convince them of that or the fact the number he has actually belonged to me. JBBF was the predecessor to USJF.
"If there is effort, there is always accomplishment." Kano Jigoro
Most of my correspondence and telephone conversations during that time were with the office manager at USJF, a Ms. Terri Waibel. She was doing her job and being thorough. I couldn't convince her of anything and eventually called her stubborn. That was water off a duck's back as far as she was concerned; it didn't faze her in the least and never backed down. She never said it but I think she wished I would take a long walk on a short pier. Well, at the end of it all, I had that woman right where she wanted me. She had the last word, she was done with me and I was out.
Ms. Waibel finally had enough of me and my persistence. She refunded Gus’s and my membership fees and told me to go elsewhere, USJF didn't want to have anything more to do with me anymore. It is a private organization and as such, they can do whatever they wish and they wished I fall off the edge of the earth.
I wasn't trying to be difficult, I knew I was right. Unfortunately I couldn't convince anyone at USJF.
As luck would have it and unbeknown-est to me, at some point during this long debate, Ms. Waibel had forwarded my old JBBF card to Nanka's Jrs. promotions president, Mr. Aki Yokoyama. I assume she was curious and wanted to know if he recognized or knew anything about my old card or even if it was authentic or legitimate. She must have had a hint of doubt in the back of her mind about me possibly being right to forward it to him. No one at USJF was familiar with my cards since they were issued back in the '60s, before USJF came to exist. My card was older than some of the administrators or officers handling my application there. The card was issued long before even Mr. Yokoyama was Jr. promotions president with Nanka, he had only been president for sixteen years when he got my card.
I am thankful to her for sending the card to him, had she not done so, I would have never been reinstated. I had given up by now. After she refunded my money, I thought I was done. Set, match, game over for me and accepted my fate at that point. I also got the feeling Ms. Waibel, though never admitting it doubted the Black Belt Magazine issues I told her (and showed her) I appeared in, suggesting perhaps those too were not authentic.
Today, I am one of Ms. Waibel's biggest admirers. I like and respect her very much and if you ever read this Ms. Waibel; you are a good man sister. Someday I will head out to Oregon just to meet and hopefully have lunch with her.
After receiving my JBBF card from Ms. Waibel, Mr. Yokoyama took it upon himself almost immediately and started looking into the matter even though he didn't know me (such dedication and professionalism). He did a thorough investigation and found people that had the same card as my JBBF card; Hal Sharp, Nozaki Sensei and Hayward Nishioka among others. A few even knew and remembered me from back in the sixties and seventies. Other former Pan Am champs, Olympians, Grand National champions, etc also came to my rescue. Based on that research and thanks to Mr. Yokoyama's efforts, time and diligence, Nanka's board eventually voted unanimously to reinstate me and my rank. THANK YOU Nanka Judo Yudansha-Kai Federation, especially Mr. Aki Yokoyama and USJF.
"Virtue before Vice...Values before Vanity...Principles before Personalities". Patrick McCarthy.
It is now water under the bridge. An argument is two different points of views about the exact same thing, we just could not agree at first. USJF and I now are on the best of terms and I am a life member with them. Gus and I are life members with Nanka as well. I must say, everyone has certainly been very good and fair to me something for which I am very grateful. I will always be loyal to both these organizations.
"Remember, nothing hurts worse than pain, yet "Ouch" is not a term used in Judo". Neil Ohlenkamp; Rokudan (Black Belt 6th degree).
I fought several world champions and Judo giants and legends including Hayward Nishioka, the late Isao Inokuma, the late Anton Geesink and the late Masahiko Kimura (1917-1993). Kimura obtained 7th dan at age 29. He is undoubtedly the greatest and most humble Judo Legend of all time.
Above photo: Hayward Nishioka; he is hachidan (Black Belt 8th Degree), United States Division judo Champion (1965, 1966 and 1970). In 1965 he retired as the National AAU Grand Champion. A member of four United States international teams, he won a gold medal in the Pan-American Games in 1967. Nishioka Sensei was also the British-Colombian Champion in 1966, and placed 5th in the World Judo Championships in 1965 & 1967.
My hero, world Judo champion, University Professor, author and businessman INOKUMA Isao, February 4, 1938 – September 28, 2001.
Excerpt from his book: Fighting Spirit, by INOKUMA Isao.
One of my Judo highlights was fighting Isao Inokuma. Born in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1938, he started judo at the age of 14. In 1959, aged 21, he won the All Japan Judo Championship at his first attempt and won it again in 1963. A graduate of the prestigious Tokyo University of Education (Tsukuba University) he was 5'7"/173 cm. tall, and his fighting weight was between 81-86 kilograms. Despite his somewhat small physique, his aggressive style and superb Tai-Otoshi and Ippon-Seoi-Nage techniques in particular helped him win the heavyweight category gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and the open category gold medal at the 1965 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Yomiuri newspaper dated September 30, 2001 reported Isao Inokuma had committed suicide in Tokyo on September 28. He was 63.
"Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself".
Anton Geesink (1934-2010) three-time World Judo Champion (1961, 1964 and 1965), Olympic Gold Medalist (1964) . He also won 21 European championships. Right photo: with his 3 year old son in 1961.
Top left and bottom images: Fighting Akio Kaminaga and winning the world title with a Katame (pin).
In 1965, Inokuma entered the Open weight class of the World Judo Championships intending to face Dutch judo champion Anton Geesink, but Geesink had entered in the +80 kg division that year, and the two never faced off against one another. Both Geesink and Inokuma won gold medals in the competition, and Inokuma announced his retirement shortly afterwards, citing lack of motivation.
He later became a professor at Tokai University; from 1993 until his death he was president of Tokai Construction Co. Ltd. He leaves a wife and children.
Judo is like climbing, if life were the mountain. We must first be strong enough to climb it. The bigger the mountain, the more help we may need from others. We must map our path out and follow it through. The higher up the mountain we go, the more we can see that there are other roads or ways to reach the top. The higher we go, the more we can appreciate the struggle and accomplishments of others". Hayward Nishioka, Hachidan (Black Belt 8th degree).
Hayward is a former president now member of Nanka's board who voted in favor of reinstating me and my rank. Hayward was available to me and helped me in 1966 when I introduced Judo in the high school system in California, the first ever to do so in the United States. I mention him in the 1966 Black Belt Magazine issue I appear in ("Media", "Links" or top of this page), together with Olympian Paul Murayama and his brother. Hayward was also a friend; we used to drink Saki together at his home after workouts and tournaments.
"The true value of any art form -- whether it be music, painting, flower arrangement, sculpture, or Judo -- is that it has the goal of discovering and developing the true potential within the artist". Watanabe.
I am not impressed with what color belt or dan anyone is anymore. I am interested in how good one is, what they accomplished, contributed to the sport and what they will be remembered for. No one will remember you because you wore a Red & White, Black, Brown, purple or Red Belt. People will remember you for the legacy you leave behind, good or bad. I am happy to say, I was remembered by many 35 years after I dissappeared from the radar.
Gene Lebell Sensei, kudan (Black Belt 9th degree) 1954 & 55 National Judo Championship.
In later years, I worked out some with Mike Swain who competed in three consecutive summer Olympic Games and others who also mentored me. I always finished in the top 6 whenever I competed. I won AAU and California titles as well as being ranked in Africa. I appeared in Black Belt Magazine several times as well.
"Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength". Henry Ward Beecher.
Riccardo "Rick" Weiss.
Riccardo is another Italian expat Judoka; born in Asmara, Eritrea. He moved to Addis Ababa with his family in 1957. He now calls Venice, Italy home (the lucky dog). Jesus would have been at home in Venice, he could have walked everywhere.
Rick, in 1960, started studying Judo at the Juventus Club in Addis under Pecol Sensei (my Judo generation). I was a member of the Juventus Judo Club the same time he was. He is seven years my junior and was in the junior division class.
By the time he left Judo and Ethiopia in 1973, thirteen years after he started Judo, Riccardo had only achieved the rank of Ikkyu (Brown Belt 1st grade. There are six students’ ranks called kyu/grades before the Black Belt, or expert; ranks then are called dan/degree). Imagine that, thirteen years and only a Brown Belt, wow you say. At that rate, people in Judo today would have already dropped out by the second year if not sooner. But that’s how it was back then and to some extent still is in some parts of the world. Mardikian Sensei had been in Judo nine years before being awarded his shodan.
Thirteen years in today's world of Judo (not my world of Judo), knowing the right people, belonging to the right organization and being able to afford it, it would not be too difficult to get a 4th or 5th dan (Black Belt degree). Today, I see forty-seven and fifty year olds who are 6th & 7th dan; no thank you. Compare those high dan holders today and their accomplishments to say 67 year old Hayward Nishioka Sensei and his accomplishments; published, in a couple of Halls of Fame, number of years he spent in the sport, just to mention a few things; he is only an 8th dan. You can begin to understand why I feel the way I do about high dans today and why I am not one.
Knowing what I know about Pecol Sensei’s instruction and the students that come from his dojo, today’s yodans (Black Belt 4th degree) wouldn’t hold a candle next to Rick's ikkyu. Fighting a guy like Rick, those folks better be on their toes or they will wind up on their backs before they can say crepuscule, dominus bobiscum, pass the biscuits and gravy please. They wouldn't know what hit them. Having studied under Pecol Sensei, I know what Rick is capable of, I would certainly worry going up against him. Also consider this, we trained at 7,726ft./2355m plus MSL (Mean Sea Level), Addis Ababa’s elevation.
Gustav Johansen Faragallah, my son & Judo:
Gus decided to pursue Judo and follow in my footsteps as some former champions of my generation's children and grand children have, I decided to join him. Gus is good at what he does also; I know he too has the potential of becoming a champion. I will teach and train him Judo.
By the time Gus makes it to the US Nationals, World Championships, Olympic Games or the Pan Am Games, he will understand and know IJF rules. In the meantime Kodokan Judo in its purest form is what he is going to learn. It worked for me and hundreds of world class champions before and since me for fifty four years.
I want Gus to be good at what he does. He must compete on a regular basis and advance accordingly. He is still a white belt after two years of Judo. I would rather he be a very good White Belt than a bad Black Belt as most are nowadays, rank is relative. I am interested in him becoming a champion, not a Black Belt. If it is a question of bragging rights, I can "give" Gus a Black Belt, but that's not what it is about. He does not need to impress anyone with what dan he is or what color belt he wears. He will impress me when he becomes a grand champion. He has no problem wearing a white belt until he can beat Brown Belts seven out of ten times consistently which is not hard to do these days. After winning a bunch of tournaments and beating a bunch of Black Belts and putting in his time, then he can wear his Black Belt. That is what I did; I used to beat my instructor, on average, eight out of ten times consistently, before advancing to the next belt, Yellow.Gus and I by a poster designed and signed by Hayward Nishioka. June 2011.
Gus June 2011 - Te Guruma (Hand Wheel). Gus is a lefty and does not execute right throws too often giving him a big advantage. Houston 2010.
Ethiopia & Martial Arts:
Africa is a land of great diversity and it too has its own variation of Martial Arts, long before they became popular in the west. Please see Surma videos ("Videos").
Donga, stick fighting. The Surma people, southwest Ethiopia.
For example, Dula Meketa is a form of fighting similar to Kendo but fought with sticks. It is practiced to this day amongst the Oromo People of Southern Ethiopia. They practice that for recreation but mostly to show off their manhood and skills to win over potential spouses.
The Surma in southwestern Ethiopia practice Donga (stick fighting; men and women) for similar reasons.
There are other forms of African "Martial Arts", their own brand if you will that existed for many years. Tegel wrestling from Ethiopia, Dambe from Nigeria, similar to Thai Boxing and Muay Tai, Gwindulumutu from the Congo and Musangwa from South Africa just to name a few.
I have had a long history with Ethiopia going back to 1954. While my late dad was the presiding judge there, under the late Emperor Haile Sellassie, I spent my early years growing up in Addis Ababa.
A comely Ethiopian woman. Another of its beautiful people.
Photo: Nabil B. Faragallah
The late & last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Sellassie 1st (23/7-1892 - 27/8-1975) seen here with the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia (my dad is by the curtain wearing glasses). I took this picture during the grand opening of the Sudanese club in Addis Ababa. The emperor is looking right at me smiling; I was just a kid then C. 1961.
Photos: Nabil B. FaragallahThe late Empress Menen and the late Emperor Haile Sellassie of Ethiopia.
Photo: Nabil B. FaragallahThe late Empress Menen of Ethiopia (15/3-1889 - 15/2-1962) with the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Sellassie and their entourage. C. 1960.
Photo: Nabil B. FaragallahMy late dad (middle), Presiding Judge B. Faragallah, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.The shield behind him reads: "Imperial State of Ethiopia led by the king of kings" (in amharic "Bekedamawi Ethiopia Niguse Negest Mengist").Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1952-1967.
Ethiopia’s climate is that of eternal spring with "thirteen months of sunshine". Its cuisine is like nowhere else, its Geography, Fauna and Flora make it a microcosm of Africa, indeed the world, unparalleled anywhere. It is the land of discovery, the cradle of mankind (Lucy's legacy) and the oldest Christian country in the world. With culture and beauty, it is also the source of the Blue Nile.
Lucy Dinknesh, National Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
St. George church, designed in memory of Noah's Ark. The rock-hewn churches at Lalibela, Ethiopia.Timkat, Epiphany celebration. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Tis Isat ("Smoke of Fire") plunges more than 6,560 ft./2,000 meters in its 497 mile/800-kilometre course from Ethiopia to the Sudanese plains. The Blue Nile is what embodies the drama and mystery of the great river of history, beginning its journey with a thundering cascade over the exceptional Blue Nile Falls (above), 19 miles/30 kilometers downstream from the point where it leaves Lake Tana (Baher Dar), Ethiopia.Blue Nile Falls at Baher Dar, Lake Tana. Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the highest country in Africa, The Roof Of Africa. The only African nation not to be colonized and the only African country to defeat a European power in battle (the Battle of Adwa, September 1895 - February 1896.) It also has the only language indigenous to Africa, Amarunya (Amharic).The site where the Battle of Adwa took place, Tigray, Ethiopia.
Above photos: Michael Wayne Shatto/Ted C. Shatto Safaris - Ethiopia. 1960s
Nuer Chief: The Nuer are a Nilo-Saharan - Western Nilotic group originally from Sudan, also called Gajaak, gajiok, and Lou. Nuer language has a Latin-based alphabet. There are also several dialects of Nuer, although all have one written standard. Gambela Region in Western Ethiopia c.1962.
Anywaa (Anuak) lady. They are a Nilotic people who live in the lowlands of the Gambela Region (formerly an awrav'a, district, of Illubabor Province) originally from Sudan. Anywaa belongs to the Lwo (Luo) group of the Western Nilotic languages. Western, Ethiopia C.1961.
Armenians in Ethiopia:
There was a small community of Armenians in Ethiopia, primarily in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The Armenian presence in Ethiopia is historic. On a religious basis, the Ethiopian Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church are both members of the Oriental Orthodox communion of churches alongside Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox and Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (India) churches. The Armenian inhabitants in Ethiopia are Armenian Apostolics (Orthodox Armenians) belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox) has its own church, Sourp Kevork (St. George) Armenian Apostolic Church in Adis Ababa. The first-ever pastor of the Armenian community was Rev. Hovhannes Guevherian.
Besides the obvious religious affiliation, there is also the story of the Arba Lijoch children coming to Ethiopia after the Armenian Genocide. "Arba Lijoch" was a group of 40 Armenian orphans who had escaped from the atrocities in Turkey, and were afterwards adopted by Haile Sellassie I of Ethiopia, then Crown Prince Ras Tafari. He had met them while visiting the Armenian monastery in Jerusalem. They impressed him so much that he obtained permission from the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem to adopt and bring them to Ethiopia, where he then arranged for them to receive musical instruction.
The Arba Lijoch arrived in Addis Ababa in 1924, and along with their bandleader Kevork Nalbandian became the first official orchestra of the nation. Nalbandian also composed the music for Marsh Teferi (words by Yoftehé Negusé), which was the Imperial National Anthem from 1930 to 1974.
Armenians have a much older presence in Ethiopia. Indeed one of the first recorded diplomatic missions to Europe from Ethiopia was led by "Matthew the Armenian" who traveled to Portugal and Rome at the request of the Dowager Empress Eleni of Ethiopia to appeal for aid against Islamic incursions into Ethiopia in the 16th Century.
The story of the Arba Lijoch is only one drop of water though, when it comes to the vast seascape that is the history of Armenia and Ethiopia; it is a relationship that spans centuries if not millennia. The beginnings can be traced back to the ancient Christian civilizations of the world, with frequent contact between the two kingdoms of Armenia and Axum around the 4th century A.D.
Since then, there has been plenty of historical contact between the two nations, the distance between them bridged by a series of explorers, merchants, and clergymen. In the 16th century, Armenian diplomats such as Matteos the Armenian were entrusted during the time of Empress Eleni and King Gelawdewos to establish ties with the Portuguese in order for Ethiopia to thwart the advancing Muslim Empire.
“Armenians were coming way back before 1915 to Ethiopia and they were not a community of exiles; they worked and served Ethiopia without religious or political pressure on the country. You know, they are of the same church, Eastern Christian Orthodox, and came under the invitation of Menelik. They introduced many skills like those of blacksmiths and also minted the first Ethiopian coins, so there has been a big contribution.”
In 1632, Ethiopia began an isolationist phase in their history due to their poor relations with the outside world. All outsiders were banished from the kingdom “for ever”, yet Armenian tradesmen, merchants and clergyman were the only ones allowed to travel freely in the country, becoming the only link between the Ethiopia and the rest of the world. European travelers were forced to dress in Armenian costume to enter Ethiopia.
1902 witnessed the signing of many diplomatic relations, according to Mr. Nalbandian. A decree proclaimed that all foreigners must return and stay at their respective embassies, except for, once again, the Armenian community, who were considered as Ethiopians. They still held much influence in Ethiopia. Yet that slowly decreased with the Italian occupation of the 1930’s.
The contemporary community of Armenians in Ethiopia is dwindling, many having left since the 1960’s for numerous reasons. “There was an exodus of Armenians in the 1960’s. Until then Armenians had always been considered Ethiopians but there were changes all of a sudden in naturalization laws and new laws for work permits that made it very tough to stay. In 1965 it changed but the exodus already began,” Mr. Nalbandian revealed.
“There has never been over 1,500 Armenians here. Now, there are only around 100,” he explained. “You know, Armenians never had their own nation. Everything we had was in Ethiopia. So when the Derg regime nationalized the extra houses, all the Armenians had to leave. The biggest blow was the nationalization of the houses because wherever Armenians go they have a house for living and some security for their old age.”
There are still signs all over Addis Ababa, and also in other cities like Dire Dawa, of the legacy Armenians have left in Ethiopia. On Adwa Avenue, past the Ras Mekonnen Bridge, the Seba and Arba Derejjas (the seventy and forty steps), the Armenian Apostolic Holy Orthodox Church stands in contrast to the surrounding landscape. Amid a small but lush garden the church stands out as architecturally unique and historically significant, a monument to a rich and exceptional palimpsest of chance and history.