Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS -

Al­though she’s been well-known in the judo world for years, Kayla Har­ri­son rose to fame in the greater mar­tial arts com­mu­nity when she struck gold at the 2012

ondon ames and thus be­came the �irst Amer­i­can ju­doka — fe­male or male — to stand atop an Olympic podium. She rev­eled in the glory of the mo­ment, then got right back to work in the dojo to pre­pare for the 2016 Games. And guess what? She grabbed an­other gold in Rio!

“I knew it was go­ing to be a tough road, but I also knew I had pre­pared as best I could,” Har­ri­son said. “I went to tour­na­ments and train­ing camps all over the world look­ing for the right prepa­ra­tion. I trained as if I wasn’t an Olympic cham­pion, and that is why I won.”

As much as the dou­ble gold speaks vol­umes about Har­ri­son’s skill, ath­leti­cism and work ethic, she’s quick to credit her coaches, Black Belt Hall of Famers Jimmy Pe­dro Jr. and his fa­ther James Pe­dro Sr. “They are the best coaches in the world,” Har­ri­son said. “I can hon­estly say I wouldn’t be where I am — both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally — if it weren’t for them.”

Not long ago, Har­ri­son joined forces with Fuji Sports to launch a prod­uct line called Fear­less. It in­cludes judo uni­forms, com­pres­sion tights and tops, sports bras and head­bands, all aimed

at em­pow­er­ing fe­male ath­letes. “My spon­sor ap­proached me to help de­sign a line of women’s cloth­ing,” she said. “I tested all the prod­ucts my­self, had �irst­hand in­put on de­sign, weight, ma­te­ri­als used, etc. I re­ally wanted to cre­ate a line made by a fe­male mar­tial artist for fe­male mar­tial artists.”

An even more pos­i­tive side ef­fect of Har­ri­son’s Olympic suc­cess lives un­der a sim­i­lar ti­tle. “The Fear­less Foun­da­tion was cre­ated to help sur­vivors of child sex­ual abuse,” she said. For those who don’t know, when Har­ri­son was 13, she was abused by a judo in­struc­tor. What bet­ter way to bounce back from such a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence than to help oth­ers cope with the aftermath of sim­i­lar crimes.

“Right now, I am in the mid­dle of writ­ing a book that will come out next spring with the goal of ed­u­cat­ing our so­ci­ety on child sex­ual abuse and all the signs and symp­toms,” she said. “It will in­spire and em­power sur­vivors to not only live and sur­vive but to thrive!”

“Kayla is a liv­ing ex­am­ple of Jig­oro Kano’s prin­ci­ples,” said Gary Goltz, for­mer pres­i­dent of the U.S. Judo As­so­ci­a­tion. “She’s a pos­i­tive role model for all ju­doka, as well as the em­bod­i­ment of the Zen proverb ‘Fall down seven times and get up eight.’”

Af­ter Har­ri­son’s sec­ond Olympic vic­tory, Goltz spear­headed an ef­fort to get her a bat­su­gun, or jump pro­mo­tion. “I �ig­ured that if she were Ja­panese, judo au­thor­i­ties would make her a go­dan (�ifth de­gree) for win­ning one gold medal, but she had won two,” he said. “I sug­gested to the board that we do some­thing un­prece­dented and give her a roku­dan (sixth de­gree). The board ȏof the JAȐ voted in fa­vor of my idea.”

Har­ri­son is about to em­bark on the next phase of her ca­reer: the tran­si­tion to mixed mar­tial arts. Her plans call for her to do commentary for World Se­ries of Fight­ing events un­til the end of 2017, af­ter which she will make her de­but in the cage. In the mean­time, she’s been bol­ster­ing her skill set with Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, no- gi grap­pling, box­ing, and strength and con­di­tion­ing.

“I feel as if I have done ev­ery­thing I want to do in judo, but I don’t feel as if my time as an ath­lete is over,” Har­ri­son said. “MMA is a great op­por­tu­nity and out­let for that ath­leti­cism. It’s a whole new chal­lenge, and ev­ery day I get to show up and be a white belt all over again.”

Kayla ar­ri­son’s �irst in­duc­tion into the Black Belt Hall of Fame was in 2012 when she re­ceived a Spe­cial Achieve­ment Award. With this in­duc­tion as our 2017 Woman of the Year, she joins the elite club of two-time judo win­ners, which was pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by just �ive peo­pleǣ Jimmy edro Jr., ay­ward ish­ioka, at Bur­ris, Allen Coage and Mike Swain.


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