While some sports fans might not immediately recognize the name Rena Glickman (1935-2009), this might help -- her full name is Rena “Rusty” Glickman Kanokogi, and she can be described as the mother of women's judo and a sports pioneer who has inspired many girls and women around the world.
This significant picture book biography tells the story of Rusty, a Jewish-American, from her early childhood in New York, including how she earned her nickname “Rusty.” From a young age, she wanted to be like her brother, Charly, so she lifted weights and did push-ups just like him. In the 1950s, people chastised her for being “unladylike,” and she found herself getting into fights with other girls, so she “was always trying to improve her self-defense skills.”
Luckily for her and many young women of that era, the YMCA provided an outlet for physical activity, and she learned they offered judo classes. However, to her dismay, she learned that only men were allowed in the judo class. This is where persistence comes into play as she talked her way into the class, and when it came time to enter her first competition in 1959, she had to disguise herself as a man in order to compete. (Can you think of any other female athletes who had to do something similar in order to participate in a sport? I immediately thought about Kathrine Switzer who signed up to run the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer in 1967 since women were not allowed to participate and since she didn't use her first name the officials did not know she was a woman.)
There are many “firsts” associated with Rusty Kanokogi — the first girl to participate in her YMCAs judo program — first woman to train at the world-famous Kodokan in Japan — first woman to become a seventh-degree black belt in judo — and the first coach for the U.S. Olympic Women’s Judo Team in 1988.
The Queen of Judo tells the story of a remarkable woman who found her passion for sports as a young girl and it has a resonating message: believe in your abilities and never give up on your dreams. A bonus is the Author’s Note which includes more information and photographs of Rusty Kanokogi.
For more information about Rena “Rusty” Glickman Kanokogi