Vladimir Putin Called Out as Judo Fraud

This could be the single greatest call-out of bullshido in modern history.

Many people who follow both Martial Arts and international politics are familiar with two bits of Vladimir Putin trivia:

  1. He holds a black belt in Judo.
  2. He has a disturbing man-crush on Steven Seagal.
Takes one to know one?

Both of which are things that Putin and his followers point to in an effort to promote the Russian dictator’s image of being a tough guy. Both of which are of dubious usefulness in that regard, to anyone who actually knows about Martial Arts. Although, we will give the Judo black belt a bit more credit, since earning it in most cases requires full-contact sparring (“randori”) and competition.

That last bit is the crux of the argument. According to Benjamin Wittes, editor of the national security blog “Lawfare” and Taekwondo black belt, there’s no real evidence of Putin demonstrating any actual prowess in the style. In 2015, Wittes published a post that was essentially a “come at me, bro” to the Russian leader, which he recently re-tweeted in an effort to renew the challenge:

He goes on to state in the 2015 article:

I don’t pretend to have seen all of Putin’s martial arts videos, but I’ve watched a bunch of them, and they seem to follow a similar pattern: they involve some shots of Putin and others doing warm-ups, and then they involve a sequence of short clips, in each of which Putin throws someone who is prepared to take the throw; then there are warm handshakes and photo ops. At least in the videos I have seen, there are no committed attacks on Putin, and I see no evidence that his opponents are ever trying to get the better of him. The videos are demonstrations in which he shows off his masculine prowess with them taking what the Japanese call ukemi (defensive falls) for him.

And then, he took his call-out to Facebook:


Wittes’ challenge has remained open for two years and counting, and he states unequivocally that “it is not a joke”. Obviously there’s little incentive for Putin to respond, given his position and the potential risk to the tough guy image he, and essentially the entire Russian media have created for him, should he lose. But with the insanity in politics we’ve seen this past year, who knows, maybe there’s a chance.

And maybe Wittes will catch an accidentally lethal dose of Polonium.

“Putin needs either to fight this reasonably well-trained but not especially expert middle-aged desk worker in a situation in which I’m actually allowed to win without fear of reprisal, or he should face condemnation worldwide as a wuss and a phony,” he wrote. “A truly strong leader doesn’t need to stage displays using lackeys subject to his power.

-Benjamin Wittes”

This. This is the guy calling out Vladimir Putin. To fight. With Taekwondo. Okay then.

Either way Ben, you’ve got balls of steel. Too bad steel is susceptible to radioactivity.

Is Vladimir Putin’s Judo black belt bullshit? Discuss on our Forums!


Via the Washington Post.

I don't write articles for people who read Vox or the New Yorker, I write articles for people who read microwave pizza instructions more than once but are significantly more dangerous as a group. Head Knuckle at Bullshido
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  1. Sorry guys, but yes Putin is a real Judy black belt. He’s also a black belt in Kyokushinkai Karate. Except for randomized, judo’s free sparring, judo practice looks just like they show it in his videos. And let’s forget he’s a busy world leader and former career KGB agent, the guy’s gotta be in his 60’s by now. Some attention-seeking nut isn’t gonna be of any interest to him.

  2. His KK black belt is entirely ceremonial. I doubt he’s anywhere near an actual shodan level in any major Oyama style.

  3. Someone I work with brought up “Have you ever seen him escape a choke or struggle to make a throw, or even reverse one? He’s a phony and it’s all propaganda.”

    It lead me to digging. He once sparred a women’s judo champion from his country and there was video of it. She took him down immediately, immediately took his back, and then got off of him nervously laughing as he nervously laughed. He has no competition record.

    Clearly he knows some Judo… but with his position of power and no one willing to test him for real, he will never know how good his Judo is under pressure. I’m inclined to agree that he is a phony.