Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter JUSTIN TRUDEAU Is All That and More !


When Theodore Roo­sevelt Jr. wrote those words, the boxer/ ju­doka prob­a­bly never would have en­vi­sioned a 21st-cen­tury leader emerg­ing on the po­lit­i­cal scene who would be cut from the same cloth as him­self. Well, one has, and I’m not talk­ing about Vladimir Putin. I’m re­fer­ring to Justin Trudeau, prime min­is­ter of Canada. Trudeau is a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion mar­tial artist whose courage to throw down in com­bat sports has helped make him the cham­pion in the Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal arena.


Justin Trudeau’s fight­ing genes come from his fa­ther Pierre El­liott Trudeau, Canada’s long­est-serv­ing prime min­is­ter. Nick­named “The Gun­slinger” for his habit of ar­ro­gantly tuck­ing his thumbs into his belt while staring you down, PET was a scholar ed­u­cated at Har­vard and the Sor­bonne in Paris. He was also a tough guy who was al­ways ready for a shootout.

As prime min­is­ter, PET dis­played his tough­ness to the na­tion when Canada was threat­ened by do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism dur­ing the 1970s, sus­pend­ing civil rights and rolling out tanks in front of Par­lia­ment Hill. When asked by an annoying re­porter how far he’d go to pro­tect Cana­di­ans from ter­ror­ists, he gave him a Clint East­wood–like stare and fa­mously shot back, “Just watch me!”

The se­nior Trudeau had a life­long pas­sion for judo, which he be­gan in his mid-30s and prac­ticed for three decades. It served both as an out­let for his en­ergy and a way to reg­u­late his le­gendary cock­i­ness. As his­to­rian Paul Nurse wrote in a 2009 es­say in The Gen­tle Way, Trudeau’s cock­i­ness caught up with him one day at the Kodokan:

“On a visit to Tokyo in the early 1960s, it is said that Trudeau wanted a work­out at the Kodokan, but for what­ever rea­son — his some­times ar­ro­gant man­ner, or the way in which he asked for ran­dori — the ju­doka of the art’s ‘ Mecca’ were not ap­pre­cia­tive, pum­mel­ing him so mer­ci­lessly that he was barely able to crawl off the tatami.”

PET was even­tu­ally pro­moted to first-de­gree black belt by the Kodokan. Later, he achieved his sec­ond de­gree from Cana­dian judo leg­end Masao Taka­hashi.


PET al­ways sought out the best aca­demic schools for his kids, so it was only nat­u­ral that when Justin and his broth­ers Michel and Alexan­dre were old enough to train, they were taken to one of the best judo fa­cil­i­ties in Canada: Taka­hashi Dojo.

Be­tween the ages of 10 and 13, Justin trained un­der the watch­ful eye of Masao Taka­hashi, his two Olympian sons and his world-cham­pion daugh­ter, earn­ing an orange belt in the process. The Trudeau broth­ers com­peted in monthly tour­na­ments at the dojo. Tina Taka­hashi, Canada’s first fe­male Olympic coach and a six­thde­gree black belt, shared her mem­o­ries of train­ing them:

“I thought [PET] was very in­tel­li­gent. If a tech­nique was shown, he would pick it up very quickly and be able to do it. He was very smart to put them in judo — they were at a per­fect age that they could all prac­tice to­gether, too. Justin was the most dis­ci­plined and more se­ri­ous than the younger broth­ers. He was big­ger, so he usu­ally paired up with the big­ger boys. They all … had an ag­gres­sive na­ture to their fight­ing and were pretty tough. I know they liked fight­ing their fa­ther, too.”

One night af­ter judo class, the fa­ther de­cided to re­tire from pol­i­tics, and the fam­ily moved to Mon­treal, where a new chap­ter in Justin’s fight ed­u­ca­tion would be­gin.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stum­bles. … The credit be­longs to the man who is ac­tu­ally in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. … If he fails, at least he fails while dar­ing greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who nei­ther know vic­tory nor de­feat.”


Justin Trudeau’s skills for the street were cul­ti­vated in two un­likely

places: the base­ment of the fam­ily’s Mon­treal home and a bar in a ski re­sort in Western Canada. Re­gard­ing the base­ment, he wrote in his biog­ra­phy Com­mon Ground, pub­lished in 2014 by HarperColl­ins, that his fa­ther had cus­tom­ized one room to make it safe for Justin and his broth­ers to do mock bat­tle. Padded fur­ni­ture and mats cush­ioned falls and min­i­mized bruises while fa­cil­i­tat­ing judo moves. It wasn’t un­com­mon for the boys to en­gage in stick fight­ing, as well. The ac­tion was no holds barred with two ex­cep­tions: Face punches and biting were pro­hib­ited.

Justin con­tin­ued his com­bat ed­u­ca­tion by get­ting some re­al­world ex­pe­ri­ence in his 20s while work­ing as a door­man at the Rogue Wolf night­club in Whistler, Bri­tish Columbia. Whistler has its share of testos­terone- over­dosed and al­co­hol­fu­eled frat boys and snow­board­ing punks, most of whom would have rel­ished the chance to smash a for­mer prime min­is­ter’s son. But that never hap­pened, not even once.

As the small­est bouncer work­ing the door and de­void of bulging muscles, Trudeau learned to get re­sults without hav­ing to get phys­i­cal. He wrote in Com­mon Ground that the key to his suc­cess was us­ing his wits to de- es­ca­late. He also noted that if a fight did de­velop, it meant his skills had failed him to a cer­tain ex­tent. That and other lessons learned at Rogue Wolf were broad enough to have prac­ti­cal po­lit­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions for Trudeau later in life.


Justin Trudeau be­gan his love af­fair with box­ing while in his early 20s. Hav­ing learned how to fly un­der the radar as a bouncer, he signed up at a lo­cal gym called Club de Boxe Cham­pion us­ing an as­sumed name.

In Com­mon Ground, he wrote about how in­tim­i­dat­ing it was for a per­son of his stature to en­roll in a roug­hand-tum­ble box­ing club. If his iden­tity had been dis­cov­ered, he noted, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t have gone over too well. Turns out his in­struc­tor did find out who he was, but by then, he’d proved he was a ded­i­cated stu­dent of the sweet science and not just a thrillseek­ing celebrity.

When he be­came a fed­eral mem­ber of Par­lia­ment in 2008, Trudeau had a decade of box­ing ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt, but that did lit­tle to pre­pare him for ver­bal low blows that would come his way. His po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party, taunted him as the pretty boy with a good hair­cut who had noth­ing go­ing for him but a fam­ily name.

Af­ter three years of abuse, Trudeau had had enough. As if by a mir­a­cle, an op­por­tu­nity to shut up his crit­ics ap­peared. He learned that a lo­cal can­cer char­ity called Fight for the Cure was hold­ing a whitecol­lar box­ing fundraiser. Although he risked be­ing ridiculed even more if he got beat, he signed up.

Only one mem­ber of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party stepped up to the plate: a mus­cu­lar Na­tive Cana­dian sen­a­tor named Pa­trick Brazeau. Raised in sub­si­dized hous­ing on a re­serve out­side Ot­tawa, Brazeau was a for­mer soldier with a sec­ond-de­gree black belt in chito karate, a style brought to Canada by Mas Tsu­ruoka, the fa­ther of Cana­dian karate. Brazeau had stud­ied for seven years and fre­quently com­peted in ku­mite. For a time, he even trained un­der point-karate phe­nom Steve “Nasty” An­der­son. Con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal pun­dits likened the up­com­ing bout to one in which Godzilla was fight­ing Bambi.

Trudeau’s strat­egy lead­ing up to the match couldn’t have been bet­ter. While let­ting slip mis­in­for­ma­tion that he knew he’d lose, Trudeau started train­ing like a pos­sessed Rocky Bal­boa. He sought out an old friend from his Mon­treal days: a for­mer gang mem­ber named Ali Nestor Charles. Charles had le­git­i­mate com­bat cre­den­tials. He was a for­mer World Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion su­per­mid­dleweight ti­tle­holder who also

had a 9- 5 MMA record. He drove Trudeau re­lent­lessly for up to three hours a ses­sion four times a week in his Mon­treal gym. He en­listed peo­ple (some for­mer gang­bangers) to shout ver­bal abuse at Trudeau while he was spar­ring. He also had Trudeau put in work with some real fight­ers who lit him up.

To make sure Brazeau’s un­der­es­ti­ma­tion of him re­mained high, Trudeau psyched out his foe at the weigh-in. He showed up wear­ing large box­ing trunks that made him look pos­i­tively puny and made some in­flam­ma­tory com­ments. In­censed, Brazeau ripped off his tear­away sweat­pants and bounced onto the scales wear­ing Speedo-like trunks. His bulging-bi­ceps tribal tat­toos made Trudeau’s ink look like hip­ster art.


Dubbed the “Thrilla on the Hilla” — it was named af­ter Par­lia­ment Hill — the bout that un­folded on March 31, 2012, was a sold- out af­fair with politi­cians and am­bas­sadors rub­bing shoul­ders with hard­core fight fans. Trudeau am­bled into the ring, with his wife and mother at ring­side. He wore a robe em­bla­zoned with “The Cana­dian Kid” in an ef­fort to rub his youth­ful looks in the faces of his crit­ics.

The ac­tion be­gan with Brazeau swing­ing ham­mers just like his box­ing idol Marvin Ha­gler. He tagged Trudeau with a half-dozen over­head rights that shook him. How­ever, by the end of the round, Brazeau was gassed. Hav­ing sur­vived the on­slaught, it was time for the kid with the good hair­cut to fight back. In round two, Trudeau picked up the pace, stick­ing and mov­ing and mak­ing Brazeau miss am­a­teur­ishly. At the be­gin­ning of round three, Trudeau’s killer in­stinct came out.

Know­ing he had the fight in the bag, he smiled as he got up from his stool and beck­oned the sen­a­tor to bring it on. Half a minute later, the bout ended via TKO. Brazeau left the ring hum­bled, his nose blood­ied. Trudeau emerged un­marked.

Still a mem­ber of the se­nate, Brazeau has mem­o­ries of the fight that re­flect the pas­sions Cana­di­ans have for a good scrap. “I thought I was go­ing to win hands down, but I un­der­es­ti­mated him,” he said. “I quickly found out box­ing wasn’t like com­pet­i­tive karate … but I wanted to knock him out. That didn’t hap­pen, and like most box­ing greats who have lost, I still be­lieve I de­serve a re­match, but he de­clined right af­ter our bout. I’m now left with the shame of hav­ing lost to Justin Trudeau, but I’m one for­tu­nate Cana­dian to at least be able to say that I legally punched a sit­ting prime min­is­ter for at least two min­utes and loved it!”

Trudeau walked away from the ring, drink­ing a bot­tle of Cana­dian beer. When re­porters asked him if it was his last one, per­haps chan­nel­ing his dad’s le­gendary machismo, he looked them squarely in the eyes and re­sponded, “I’m just get­ting started!”


To suc­ceed, a fighter must have supreme con­fi­dence in him­self. Be­fore the bout, Trudeau looked into the face of his ner­vous wife and calmed her fears by telling her, “I was put on this planet to do this. I fight and I win. That’s what I’m good at.” ( The quote comes from the doc­u­men­tary God Save Justin Trudeau.)

Good at win­ning, in­deed. Trudeau’s per­sona as a win­ner be­gan to take on mythic pro­por­tions af­ter the fi­nal bell sounded. In short or­der, he won the lead­er­ship of his Lib­eral Party. A few years later, rem­i­nis­cent of his fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal vic­tory in 1968, he was elected

prime min­is­ter of Canada in a land­slide vic­tory.

Justin Trudeau was now a ma­jor player on the world stage. And the mes­sage was sent forth that there was a new bu­doka in Canada’s cap­i­tal. As the head of state for the Great White North, Trudeau re­mains true to his pas­sion for the fight­ing arts. What did he do on his first trip to New York City as prime min­is­ter? He laced up his gloves with some kids at Glea­son’s, the le­gendary box­ing gym in the Big Ap­ple, for the Give a Kid a Dream pro­gram.

As for the fu­ture, one has to won­der whether Trudeau will di­rect his own kids into judo or box­ing — or per­haps MMA. No one’s quite sure, but I would bet on box­ing. Af­ter all, he picked May­weather over McGregor all the way.

ABOUT THE AU­THOR: The 2017 World Po­lice and Fire Games cham­pion in karate, Perry Wil­liam Kelly has a fifth-de­gree black belt in jiu-jitsu and is an in­struc­tor in four other arts. He’s the for­mer na­tional co­or­di­na­tor for use of force for the Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of Canada.

Justin Trudeau was now a ma­jor player on the world stage. And the mes­sage was sent forth that there was a new bu­doka in Canada’s cap­i­tal.

Judo pioneer Masao Taka­hashi, for­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Pierre El­liott Trudeau and a young Justin Trudeau at Taka­hashi Dojo.

(Left) Pierre El­liott Trudeau, for­mer prime min­is­ter of Canada, be­ing thrown by Masao Taka­hashi on Canada Day in 1984. (Right) Judo mas­ter Masao Taka­hashi be­ing thrown by Pierre El­liott Trudeau on the same day.

Fu­ture Olympic coach and world- cham­pion ju­doka Tina Taka­hashi (at age 7) with Pierre El­liott Trudeau at a Mon­treal judo tour­na­ment in which her fa­ther was com­pet­ing.

Fern Cler­oux bow­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Pierre El­liott Trudeau at the 1974 Que­bec Karate Tour­na­ment, where Trudeau and his wife were spec­ta­tors.

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