Judo is both an incredible sport and a fascinating martial art.

It’s actually the base of MY martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, too. The two are intertwined, dating back to when a Japanese immigrant taught Judo to the sons of a Brazilian businessman as a thank you for getting him set up in the South American country.

The smaller of the two brothers, a man named Helio Gracie, decided to focus on a different aspect of Judo (the ground fighting aspect called newaza), after getting thrown around by his much bigger brothers and friends. He wound up creating a whole new martial art in the process.

That martial art has become the base of mixed martial arts, one of the biggest sports in the world, and is practiced all over the world.

As popular as it is there would be no UFC, no Dana White, no Conor McGregor, no televised MMA fights without Judo.

Judo, to the casual fan, may not be that impressive or all that much fun to watch, but when you know what you’re looking at, it’s poetry in motion.

Having the ability to manipulate another person’s body through skillful techniques is hard to comprehend, and watching it done to perfection is both thrilling and fascinating.

However, at the end of the day, Judo is a martial art, a fighting art steeped in the tradition of honor, as all fighting styles should be.

Honor Is What’s Most Important

Honor is what separates men from beasts, and it’s honor that connects us to our principles.

That’s why it’s been so disheartening to see so much dishonorable behavior taking place during the Tokyo Olympic Games. So far, two Middle Eastern Judo athletes have decided they would rather be sent home from the competition than compete against an Israeli opponent.

Anti-Semitism may not be running rampant throughout the games, but two different Muslim Judokas have REFUSED to match with Israelis in protest of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This decision brought shame to their countries and the spirit of the games themselves, but they stood firm in the decision.

It’s terrible, but there is a bright shining light at the end of the tunnel proving that honor can still win in the end.

Iranian defector-turned-Mongolian Judoka Saeid Mollaei just won a silver medal in his 81kg weight class, and despite losing the gold to Japan’s Takanori Nagase in an incredible match, his actions on the podium still make him a winner.

Mollaei dedicated his first-ever Olympic medal win to Israel and thanked the country for all the support they have given him. Mollaei had trained in Israel with the national judo team in the months before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and clearly, their influence meant a great deal to him.

He thanked the country—speaking Hebrew, no less—as he dedicated his first-ever Olympic medal to Israel, saying, “Thank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel.”

How awesome is that?

A Bright Shining Example Of Brotherhood

This all came began back in 2019 when Mollaei defected to Germany after disobeying a DIRECT order from Iran’s minister to withdraw from his Judo World Championships in Japan. His government wanted him to protest fighting Israel’s Sagi Muki, and Mollaei refused… a move that did the athlete himself and the sport of Judo as a whole proud.

From there, Mollaei had to obtain Mongolian citizenship to compete on the world stage, and he’s talked about the repercussions of his decisions should he ever return to his home country.

Iranian Judo Federation President Arash Miresmaeili has gone on to call Moolaei “a foolish athlete” and a “hollow champion who only thinks of his personal interests has gone to Tel Aviv and is proud of it.”

I think the entire sporting world should push back on that sentiment.

Honor is what Moolaei upheld—but that’s not the way the Iranian Judo president sees it. “This is not an honor but a stain of shame on your forehead that will stay with you forever, because you have turned your back on the ideals of the system, on your homeland, and are proud of it.”

Well, if the ideals and system of your homeland stem from dishonor, then Moolaei made the correct choice, and he’s all the better for it.

Because of this longstanding order prohibiting competition against Israelis, the International Judo Federation has banned Iran from international competition.

It’s a shame, as there are some very talented Iranian judokas that would benefit greatly from the attention winning a world championship in their sport would grant them.

Hopefully, Iran will one day see the error and dishonor of its ways and take a page out of Moolaei’s moral book.

The world would be better off if we all did.

 

“The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.