In 1937, a dictatorship-style government came to power in Brazil, gaining power and implementing rules that filtered into general culture and sport. Vargas has been in power since 1930 but shortly before the Second World War made a fragile alliance with Germany and this extended into Brazil’s own political situation.
The fragility of international relations became apparent and during the war Brazil fell on the side of the allies. At home, however, the scene is set and we can focus on one Brazilian law, in particular, that played an important role in the history of judo.
We don’t want to bring politics to the fore of our thinking; we are, however, committed to advancing this world through sport, in a way that transcends political or geographical barriers. However, this bite at the political apple was necessary, as the link between sport and politics brought forward a Shia in Brazil who would forever change the face of the world of judo.
Women in Brazil are prohibited from participating in any sport that is considered ‘activity outside of femininity’. Obviously this woman was excluded from most sports at the time. Imagine living in a place and time where sports are banned for some demographic. In our much freer world today, we may not be able to easily understand what it really means or how it affects culture and lifestyle.
In the 1960s, with new political leaders, the laws of the 1940s were supposed to be out of date, but in 1964 they were passed, because so many women ignored them. Judo, like most other sports, is only a male pastime, with few women pushing for practice and study, even underground.
“I actually started when it was forbidden. I have a friend who wants to start training because he likes the appearance of his teacher. I started with him but after a while he stopped attending and I continued. ”
Cristiana Pallavicino, an Italian who grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, witnessed and lived through these various guises of law and society. “Most people think I’m Brazilian, but I’m Italian and that’s where I live again now.”
Not all South America is in the same position as Brazil and judo is becoming more accessible. “A few years before the 1980 judo revolution, there were several championships all over South America. Women from Brazil will travel under male names; I remember one of them in Montevideo in 1979.
Some of us practice even with the law against us. When the Montevideo event was held, the law was still in effect but the government really helped organize the women. They know the 1980 world championships are coming. The military presence has loosened up and it appears the Brazilian government knows they are falling behind their neighbors. They sent 7 women to NYC, but with very strict qualifications.
Just weeks before NYC became champion of the state and championships of São Paulo, it was necessary to reach the national level and then to the world in New York. It’s all related; very strange situation. No other country has this strange defect or anomaly. The girls didn’t even have friendly matches before the start of the qualifying system. So, in the world there are no medals for Brazil. They are not ready. How can they be? “
Cristiana’s Italian roots give him a different view of freedom and opportunity than those propagated in Brazil’s political climate.
“I live in the state of São Paulo. I wasn’t really involved at that time. In the 1980s I started for real and now compete in the world of veterans. I was a physical education teacher and then I moved to an airline and at that point returned to judo. There are other women who practice and that are more open and friendly. It was a period of great change.
I spoke a lot recently with the women from that first team. Most of them felt they had a good relationship with their academy, even at first, when it was not allowed. Soraia has a different experience, and is separate from that of men. She was totally unacceptable, but she was stubborn, like me. My first Sensei wanted to throw me off the tatami, but once I realized this, I was determined to stay. I really like judo. I also like my freedom to choose.
The sports mentality has changed so much from then until now. I think what Rusty did was the first big step for everything happening now. “
The consequences of feeling pressured by the Brazilian government to follow their contemporaries prompted them to accept the Rusty Kanokogi event, even though, initially, preparing to participate was against their own laws. Without that world championship, we would not have known where Brazil is now, in terms of women and sport. Judo pushes boundaries again and not only highlights injustice, it forces change.
“You have to be 100 percent sure what you are doing … that something we are doing will change the world in very small and brief ways.”
~ Lynsey Addario (American photographer)
Cristiana continued, “I don’t think I would have competed in the veterans arena now, were it not for Rusty’s persistence in the face of great opposition. He allowed all of us who have enjoyed judo since then to have a life in judo. We owe him more than the admission offered for just running big competition. “
“Life imitates art.”
~ Oscar Wilde
The first team of Brazilian women, with all their experiences, redeemed by perseverance and a heart filled with equality, saw the world open to them, with a way of life that was forbidden.
“Change will not come if we wait for someone else or another time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek. ”
~ Barack Obama
Cristiana is excited about the future of the first Brazilian women’s team created for themselves, “They are allowed to remain as teachers and competitors. More women came. More and more in the mid 80’s. There was a big bang after that world champion.
Equality in Brazil is growing rapidly. Judo was considered very masculine before that time. The law had just changed and publicity was coming. After competing, in those days, I would wear make-up and rings etc. It gave the impression that it wasn’t just for men. We’re feminine and we do judo. Judo is an educational sport and that is exactly what Jigoro Kano wants. That’s what keeps people exercising for life. Now in our veterans here because of the lifestyle. Mostly they attend because they enjoy judo and it is a big part of their life.
I am currently the European veteran champion. I wouldn’t, without Rusty and New York. Eventually this equality will prevail, but Rusty puts the impetus and energy into the process. He’s the catalyst that gives us the strength to move on. I am undoubtedly the recipient and I am grateful for that. “
As a witness to the progress of this era, Cristiana insisted that the Brazilian team from 1980 should be recognized. They fight and fight against their community and the unacceptable laws that frame their society. Cristiana is right. It is neither ordinary nor easy.
“Success is not a coincidence. It is hard work, perseverance, study, study, sacrifice and most importantly, love for what you do or learn. ”
With almost surreal backgrounds behind them, we record the sporting highlights of the lives of these women and thank them for their service to equality, equality, sport and their country.
Brazilian Women’s Team 1980
-48kg Gislaine A. Lamano
-52kg Iara Mari Martins da Cunha.
-56kg Solange Pessoa (Vincki)
-61kg Heliana R. Carmo
-66kg Angela Maria da Cruz
-72kg Helena Cristina Guimarães
+ 72kg Soraia André (Cesar)
Iara graduated from university and qualified as a physical education teacher, starting judo in 1975. She was petite and most people were surprised that she dared to practice judo. Many ostracized him because of it and he immediately stopped telling people about it. In 1980 She was 18 years old and following the publicity around the show, she began to explore more of her own freedom. Lara has spent her entire life since judo and sports in general.
Solange continued his competitive career after New York and became the Pan-American champion in 1986, in Puerto Rico. She competed in the next world championships and won a medal at the World University Championships. At the time the NYC event was unthinkable, but Solange spent some time later as Brazilian women’s coach.
Heliana took judo in 1975 and turned 20 in 1980. She graduated from university in Social Work a year after the championships and quit training due to work. Since retiring, he has returned to judo, with a strong connection to judo values, working with disadvantaged children, to help them improve their lives.
Soraia started Judo in 1976, at the age of 12, with much opposition, not immediately into the very traditional Japanese-style judo club. He was 16 years old in 1980 and competing at + 72kg meant facing ‘monsters’. With such a sharp learning curve, he took his chances and in 1987 became the Pan-American champion, in Indianapolis. She was a member of the Brazilian team for 12 years and took part in 2 Olympics, placing 5th in Seoul in 1988, when women took part for the first time.
Soraia is a life full of firsts, from the first Women’s World Championship to the first inclusive Olympics and she has taken the time to document them in her book ‘Japonegra.’ Soraia has become a physical education teacher and psychologist and is now proud of her cultural and historical values.
She has no photos or medals in her house, after giving all the memorabilia to her city museum, how important it is to record the lives of these women and their important place in women’s judo history.
Forty years have passed, but thanks to the contribution of Brazilian woman Rusty Kanokogi, a team from 27 countries, then president of the IJF and many whose names have not been rewritten, the place for women in sport is accelerating in ways that no one can imagine.
“It is far better to be brave in mighty things, to win glorious victories, despite failures … than to join the poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, for they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat . . ”
~ Theodore Roosevelt