president of U.S. Judo Inc., still says, "I'd rather not discuss her."
Maureen Braziel, America's top woman judo player of the '70s, and Ingrid
Berghmans, the world's best today, say their sport would still be in the broom
closet if not for Kanokogi.
fact that she shook the boat means she'll be excluded from running the thing
she created," says ACLU lawyer Susan McGreivy, who has battled alongside
Kanokogi against the IOC. "They'll bring in the Aunt Nellies now, Rusty's
generated so much hostility."
Would they treat
her differently if she behaved like a woman? Once, before entering a meeting,
Kanokogi decided to try. She wriggled into a dress, caked on the mascara, rouge
and lipstick, glued on the false eyelashes and crop-dusted herself with
perfume. "I tonned it up," she says. "I went up to this official I
was trying to charm—I even walked weak. 'Oh, what a lovely tie you have,' I
said in my softest voice. I tried to bat my eyes and look innocent; I looked
like I had an affliction. It was working, he was softening up, but I had to run
to the bathroom and laugh. I felt like a jerk.
"Why the hell
should we have to act? Do they have to act? The same ones who will watch women
mud-wrestle and shout, 'Hey, look at those big balloons,' are the ones who say
no to women's judo. Why? Because the women in it are real athletes, not just
show. They can take care of themselves. Some men are intimidated by that. They
think, What's the sense of being a man if we can't protect a woman?"
But every now and
then the strain of being the warrior became almost too much to bear. Kanokogi
would go to the bedroom and close the door, to touch and gaze at the frilly $60
taffeta blouse she had bought, or the cute little key chain and makeup compact
on her dresser. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Muppet figures covered her
shelves and pillows and bulletin board. Sometimes she and her husband would go
to a movie, and suddenly, if an animal was in pain or a good guy was suffering
injustice, she would begin to cry and let him console her. "Shhhhh!"
someone would hiss, and she would quickly regain her senses and tell them where
to shove it.
afford lapses like that. Women's judo still wasn't in the Olympics.
Kanokogi is in a
rush. Can't they see that? Five minutes late for her evening class when a car
stops in front of her for no apparent reason. "If you're gonna die behind
the wheel, at least put your blinker on and let us know!" she roars. A
little boy darts across the road in front of her to get to an ice-cream truck.
"That's it!" she bellows. "Die for ice cream!"
She storms into
class, her Mickey Mouse T shirt beneath her gi (judo uniform), one moment
screaming, one moment cracking a joke, one moment gyrating her great body to
the Michael Jackson song pounding out of the stereo as the students stretch.
When she goes to a disco, taking visiting judo players out on the town, she
carries a towel to mop her sweat and often stays until dawn.
are flying over shoulders, slamming the mat, shaking the flimsy panel walls.
Grunts and screams of exertion are coming from the Cambodians, Koreans,
Russians, Japanese, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Senegalese, Panamanians, Italians,
Americans, Jews, Christians and Muslims who make up her class at the Kanokogis'
dojo in Brooklyn. "Don't forget the homosexual and the lesbian," says
Rusty. The doorway to the class is jammed with crowds of little black boys off
the street going, "Wooooooooeee! Sheeeeyet!"
time I met Rusty, she choked my neck with her legs," says Parnell LeGros,
who has studied with her for 12 years and is now a third-degree black belt.
"I thought she was a god. I'm still scared of her. But also, she becomes
like a mother to you, helps you with all your personal problems. She bothers a
lot of people, but she is what's happening today in judo."