katahajime_180x210Training in the martial arts can be brutal. Olympian Syd Hoare felt this keenly when he moved from his home country of England to Japan to study judo with the very best. Wrenched knees, broken noses, dislocated shoulders, ripped-off toe nails – doesn’t matter. Stay calm, and carry on.

One of the more notorious training routines of judo (back in the day) was to purposely strangle someone to unconsciousness. This was partly done to teach the judoka how to revive the unconscious. It was also done to educate (to not get oneself in a position to be strangled, I suppose).

Hoare-Syd-A-slow-boat-to-Yokohama-a-Judo-odyssey1Hoare, who represented Great Britain at the 1964 Summer Games, wrote in his wonderful book, “A Slow Boat to Yokohama”, how his training in England included the “kata-hajime” strangle technique. Here is a somewhat chilling description.

“Then it was my turn to strangle my partner out but he was one of the fighters. Even as I was putting my hands in place for the kata-hajime strangle, he tensed his neck, preventing me from taking the full position. So, I softly started again, and then locked it on hard and quickly. Immediately he grabbed my hands and tried to tear them away from his throat, but the strangle was on securely. He began to flail around gagging and choking. At one point he arched violently

 From
Joe Frazier, recovering from surgery to his thumb at a hospital in Philadelphia after returning from Tokyo. From “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad – Vol 16.

What a great picture of Joe Frazier, the butcher from Philadelphia, and gold-medal heavyweight from the Tokyo Summer Games. For years, Frazier was the verbal punching bag of Muhammad Ali, tolerating all sorts of insult regarding his looks. But here, Frazier is looking handsome and cool in his PJs.

You can see the left hand in a cast. At the Tokyo Summer Olympics, he apparently broke his Joe Frazier in Tokyo USA shirtthumb in the semi-final match with Vadim Yemelyanov, the Soviet boxer he knocked out in the second round. He knew something was wrong with his hand as he had trouble gripping with it. But the hand felt better after soaking in cold water, and so he didn’t bother getting x-rays. Frazier went on to gain a 3-2 decision over Hans Huber of Germany to win gold. While he clearly favored his right, he did occasionally throw a left hook. In the locker room, he must have been feeling supremely

Kon Ichikawa
From “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964”

Kon Ichikawa’s film, “Tokyo Olympiad“, is considered a classic documentary. Perhaps since Leni Riefenstahl’s famous film on the Berlin Olympics, it has become de rigeur to make a film about the Games so that audiences can re-live the excitement.

Planning for this film began in 1960, when the Japan Olympic Organizing Committee sent famed Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa to scout the Summer Games in Rome, and observe how the film on the Summer Games in Italy were produced. When Kurosawa and his team provided a budget estimate of about $1.5 million dollars, and also informed the committee that the receipts from distributing the Rome Olympic film was only half a million dollars, they realized they had to scale back.

hundred years of filmHaving said that the committee eventually selected Kon Ichikawa to be the director. And while the film is visually beautiful, Japan film historian, Donald Richie, writes in his book, “A Hundred Years of Japanese Film“, that so much, as they say, was left on the editing floor.

“Aesthetically, the picture is superb – a masterpiece of visual design,” writes Richie about this documentary by the renown Ichikawa. “One remembers the incisive use of slow motion during the track and field events; the beautiful repeated shots in the pole-vaulting competition; the fast zooms in the shot-put event, and the long, brilliant climax of the marathon – the work of the director and a staff of nearly six hundred people, including sixteen cameramen.”

“None of this, however,

TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 17:  (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Henry Carr (2nd L) of United States crosses the finishing line to win the gold medal in the Men's 200m at the National Stadium during the Tokyo Olympic on October 17, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN – OCTOBER 17: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Henry Carr (2nd L) of United States crosses the finishing line to win the gold medal in the Men’s 200m at the National Stadium during the Tokyo Olympic on October 17, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

In Rome, the US men’s team did not take its customary gold in any of the 100 or 200-meter races. Along with Bob Hayes, Henry Carr returned sprint supremacy to the United States in Tokyo in 1964. Carr won gold in the 200-meter race as well as in the 4X400 relay competition.

Carr passed away on May 29, 2015.

In Tokyo, his running mate on that world-record setting 4X400 team, Ollan Cassell, told me nobody was going to take gold from Carr in the 200. “Mike Larrabee and I were practicing our 200 meter sprints, and Henry wanted to join. I told him that the times were really fast. He was not really dressed for a serious sprint as he was wearing his sweats and fat running shoes with no spikes. The coach even told Henry that he could hurt himself running without spikes. Henry then proceeded to finish ahead of both me and Mike. An Italian 200 meter runner was watching. He realized he would be running for second.”

Carr would go on to

 From the film,

From the film, “Walk, Don’t Run”, filmed on location during the Tokyo Olympics

Today, the taxi driver in Tokyo, and Japan for that matter, is polite, knowledgeable, chatty and silent as you wish, and above all else, safe. As visitors realize their first time in Tokyo, you pay for this.

But in 1964, apparently, taxi drivers had a public relations issue. Sports Illustrated described taxis in Japan in their October 19, 1964 issue as “those four-wheeled hearses operated by frustrated Kamikaze pilots”.

Remember, the Tokyo Summer Games were held only 23 years after Pearl Harbor, so I wonder how much emotional baggage was packed inside that moniker. This is typical of the patronizing tone of the American journalist at the time. “(Taxi drivers) do not speak much English, and very little Japanese for that matter. All of them were hired 30 minutes ago and have no idea how to find the Imperial Palace. But they can all find the Olympic Village. In fact, they take every pale-faced passenger there, whether he wants to go or not.” (October 2, 1964).

“Everyone who goes to Tokyo must, sooner or later, find himself in a battle of nerves with the famous Tokyo cab drivers. (Bill) Lied had his experience and he isn’t likely to forget it. ‘The Japanese taxi ride isn’t to be forgotten,’ he said. ‘The Tokyo residents call the taxi drivers the Kamikaze Squad (on the wings of God) – and so they are’,” as the Wagner College Wrestling Coach explained to The Star-Ledger (November 6, 1964).

Not all was bad. Taxis were cheap, some 30 or 40 yen per trip, so at 360 yen to the dollar, that’s 8 to 11 cents a ride. And there were, of course, conscientious taxi drivers. As is cited in the book, “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad”, some taxi drivers tried to reverse the bad PR with PR of their own, placing signs in their vehicles in English that read, “I Am Not a Kamikaze Driver.”

As for me,

BBC
BBC

They appear to waddle more than walk. But that’s how you attain speeds of 8 km per hour without ever having a foot leave the ground at any time.

Ken Matthews, the electrician from Erdington, England, tasted bitter disappointment in Rome, failing to complete the 20km walk at the Rome Olympics. Determined to compete in Tokyo, he clocked out at 5pm from the local power plant, and pounded the roads in training. As he said in this FT.com article, he gave himself “a thrashing”, building up his stamina and

16th December 1964:  Britain's Ken Matthews is supported by his wife Sheila after winning the 20 kilometre walk at the Tokyo Olympic Games in a record time of 1 hour 29 minutes 34 seconds.  (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
16th December 1964: Britain’s Ken Matthews is supported by his wife Sheila after winning the 20 kilometre walk at the Tokyo Olympic Games in a record time of 1 hour 29 minutes 34 seconds. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

power in his legs.

And there he was, all alone as he entered the National Stadium on October 15, setting an Olympic record in the 20-kilometer walk.

And there she was, all of a sudden, on the track and embracing her husband, the Olympic champion.

As the Japan Times wrote

The Amazing Jim ThorpeIn a time of social media hyperbole, where lists tell us who or what is number 1, it may be hard to compare any athlete with James Francis “Jim” Thorpe, or as he was known by his Native American friends, Wa-Tho-Huk.

Jim Thorpe won gold in both the decathlon and the pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, which means he could run, jump and throw better than almost anyone else in the world.

And that’s not all.

He played baseball for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and the Boston Braves. He played basketball for the “World Famous Indians”, a travelling basketball team. And he played football for the Canton Bulldogs, which won championships in the American Professional Football Association, a precursor to the NFL.

Thorpe suffered from alcoholism, struggled in poverty after the Great Depression, and passed away broke in California. And that’s when his life really got interesting.

Thorpe was brought back to his birth place in Shawnee, Oklahoma, lying in state. Somehow, Thorpe’s third wife, Patricia, stole the body and shipped it to Pennsylvania. Neither Thorpe or his wife had any connection to Pennsylvania. But the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk smelled a business opportunity. They bought