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    Charles Palmer piece from the old forum

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    Tsurumaki

    Posts : 14
    Join date : 2013-01-21
    Location : Tsurumaki, Tokyo

    Charles Palmer piece from the old forum

    Post by Tsurumaki on Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:24 pm

    I've been meaning to update this but haven't got around to it yet...
    I'll try to do it in the next two or three months.


    Part 1.

    The speedometer edged up to 95 mph as we tore down the autobahn on our way out of Germany. I was in the passenger seat of Charlie Palmer's XK 140 Jaguar. As usual, Charlie was smoking a large cigar. At one point he removed it and said, mimicking a Welsh accent, "Bowen, do you want your effing face smashed in, boyo?" It was 1962, and we were returning from the European Judo Championships in Essen.

    I had flown there with the other members of the British team. Whenever possible, Charlie went by car. He loved driving and he loved fast cars. He was looking for a passenger to keep him company (and awake) on the drive back to England, and I was happy to volunteer. I rushed to get my passport from the team manager, John Capes, and off we went.

    Charles Stuart William Palmer (he seldom used William) was born on the 15th of April 1930, in Ealing, London. At the age of 14, he started Judo at Ealing Judo Club (he is said to have told the club he was 16). In 1944 there were very, very few children doing Judo. Even 11 years later, when I started, I was the only kid at my club, and the junior grade system was still years away.

    The EJC was one of the leading Judo clubs of the day, with a history going back to the 1920s. Googling the name took me to a club with the same name, but clicking on the History tab revealed it was founded in 2003, and there was nothing about the original club of that name. Geoff Gleeson, the future National Coach, also came from the EJC, as well as some other relatively well-known names. In 1932, a German team had contests with Oxford, Ealing, Birmingham and the Budokwai, and defeated all except Ealing. So the EJC seems to have had a teacher who knew his stuff, but I do not know who it was.

    In September 1947, Charlie, then a brown belt (first kyu), joined the Budokwai. I think the cost of membership at the time was two guineas (certainly that was the charge for a beginner's course), big bucks at the time. The guinea was often the preferred unit for fees and up-market prices, sounding more elegant than pound and being worth five percent more to boot.

    The Charles Palmer of those days had just about reached his adult height of five feet eight inches (and a half, according to Charlie), but he was still relatively thin.

    At the Budokwai, the famed Yukio Tani was no longer the instructor. Judo was now taught by the founder, Gunji Koizumi, and by Trevor Leggett, a Kodokan fifth dan and one of the most accomplished, respected and influential Judo teachers of his time. In 1948 Charlie got his first dan at the age of 18.

    Beneath the floor of the basement dojo, there was a well about 10 feet across and 20 feet deep, beautifully made with glazed engineering bricks. According to my brother, Richard Bowen, in the late 1940s Palmer's Judo set off a near disaster. After Charlie threw his opponent with osoto-gari, there was the sound of creaking and cracking from the floor, and both men started to sink! Over the years, the damp from the well had rotted the joists and floorboards. Fortunately, the tatami was covered with a wall to wall canvas, which kept them from falling into the well.

    The young Palmer was also musical. Neighbours back on the Cuckoo Estate in Hanwell, Ealing, remember him practicing on the drums. And in fact, when in 1948 the Budokwai held a dance at the Chelsea Town Hall to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the program stated that 'dancing was to Charles Palmer's Band'.

    Charlie had a distinctive voice, a kind of low, booming, growling monotone, which he evidently cultivated. I say that since I know someone who went to school with Charlie who told me that he "... knew Charlie when he spoke normally".

    In 1951, Charlie obtained his second dan and went off to train at the Kodokan in Tokyo as a Kenshusei (special student). He was one of the first of a steady stream of Leggett's students to go to Japan to further his Judo. In Tokyo he worked as a security guard at the British Embassy. He also indulged his love of speed by racing cars. In 1953 he was awarded his third dan, and in 1955 his fourth dan.

    During his Kenshusei days he suffered an injury at the Kodokan that kept him off the mat for many months. During randori, the man he was practicing with deliberately kneed Charlie hard in the groin then turned and threw him with uchi-mata. Charlie said he felt the impact crush a testicle but jumped up, grabbed the man and did a hopping osoto-gari, taking the man off the mat area and throwing him against a pillar, knocking him out. As the fellow slid down to the floor, Osawa patted Charlie and said, "Good spirit!" Then Charlie collapsed into a foetal position. In the following months, he said he couldn't cough, fart, sneeze, snuffle, sh*t, pee ... he rattled off the whole list of what he couldn't do in his usual practiced machine-gun style. He had to shuffle rather than walk, with his hand up near his nose to protect against dust that might make him sneeze. Strangely enough, the only activity that didn't cause him agony was screwing. At some point, someone recommended a new doctor said to be good with this kind of problem. Charlie said that as soon as he shuffled in, before he'd said a word about what ailed him, the doctor said the Japanese equivalent of "You've caught a nasty one in the goolies, haven’t you?"

    Once, when Charlie was the instructor in charge at the Budokwai, I saw someone who'd caught one in the groin just stand there, crouching over. Charlie strutted up behind him and swept his legs away, knocking him onto his bottom, and then vigorously bumped him up and down a few times. The fellow looked like he might have been happier with the original pain.

    In the Mifune video, The Essence of Judo, Palmer is one of the foreigners (the Frenchman Maurice Gruel was another). The Japanese commentary singles Charlie out as the strongest foreigner at the Kodokan. Everyone was behaving themselves for the filming. A forum member who trained in Paris many years ago with Gruel told me that Gruel told him that Charlie was a bit upset that he didn't do better against Mifune. The fact is, such videos are demonstrations and have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    From the video, you can see some of The Faces of Charles Palmer, running the gamut from baleful to menacing. Another thing that is also clear is that Charlie is no longer thin. In England he weighed 11 stone (154 pounds). But in Japan he put on over forty pounds. He did this by stuffing himself and drinking thirteen bottles of milk at a sitting (they were small bottles); he had to stagger away from the meal table.

    In 1955 he returned to the U.K. and was an immediate selection for the British team. He was a member of the strong British teams that won the European Championship three years in a row, starting 1957. Palmer was captain the latter two years, taking over from Geoff Gleeson. Each of these three years, the runner-up was the Dutch team. Holland had been the champions in 1953, and were again champions in 1960. Anton Geesink was on all those Dutch teams. Another strong Dutchman, Theo van Ierland, was on all except the 1953 team, and plays a very peripheral part in this story.

    Percy Sekine managed some of the teams in those days, and recalls that Charlie was the go-to guy in the case of a team draw, when each team would select one man for a tie-breaker. Percy said Charlie nearly always came through, and mimicked Charlie doing a mighty seoi-nage.

    He had a good uchi-mata. At the Budokwai one day, he collared me, saying "Let's see how you compare to your brother". He was maybe 15 stone at the time, but he was very light on his feet and had a very fluid entry into uchi-mata.

    In 1961, he was elected chairman of the British Judo Association, a position he held for 24 years, winning election every four years. In 1965, at the International Judo Federation Congress held in Rio de Janeiro, he succeeded Risei Kano to become the third president of the IJF, a position he held for 14 years. Upon stepping down from the IJF presidency in 1979, he became honorary president of the IJF.

    In 1973 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), becoming an Ordinary Officer of the Civil Division of the order. I chased down the entry in the Supplement to The London Gazette of Friday, 29th December 1972. There it is: "Charles Stuart Palmer, Chairman, British Judo Association", sandwiched between "Ronald William Francis Pagan, Official Receiver in Bankruptcy, Liverpool, Department of Trade and Industry" and "Mrs. Constance Marie Patterson, National Woman Officer, Transport and General Workers' Union".

    In 1985, he was elected for a four-year term as chairman of the British Olympic Association. In the 1990s his health started to fail. In 1996, the BJA awarded him the grade of tenth dan (around the same time my old captain, George Kerr, got his ninth dan). I'll come back to the matter of his tenth dan later.

    I personally never saw Charlie enraged, but once a cat did make him lose his cool. I heard the following story from one of the most distinguished members of the Budokwai. He and his wife were visiting Charlie, and in his hallway they saw a cat which did a comical, cartoon-like, stiff-legged vertical leap when it saw them, and ran off. They went on in to where Charlie was and mentioned they'd seen his cat. "Cat!" Charlie yelled, jumping up. "That bloody cat..." and rushed into the bedroom, where he started shouting what he'd do to that cat, that it had peed on his curtains again. The bedroom occupied pride of place in his house, a real boudoir: silk curtains, bed curtains, the whole nine yards.

    I asked Charlie about it, and he said the cat seemed to have it in for him. He had an air-rifle, and soon after the peeing incident he saw the cat sitting on the high garden wall opposite the bedroom, just staring at him. Charlie drew a careful bead and hit the cat between the eyes. A tuft of fur flew off and the cat tumbled down into the garden and just lay there. He said he thought of putting one in its ear, but didn't. The next day the cat was gone, and soon after he saw the moggy limping around. At that point, Charlie said he considered he and the cat were even. He'd leave the cat alone if the cat left him alone.

    In the individual European Judo Championships, in 1957 Charlie came third, behind Geesink and Pariset. A few years later I saw him referee a contest between those two. They'd frequently fought each other over the years, but by this time it was no real contest. Geesink threw Pariset and Charlie started to put his hand up to signal ippon. But there was a little too much torque, spinning Pariset full circle onto his face. Charlie pretended he'd actually been moving his hand to scratch his nose. And the same thing happened a second time, before Geesink finally closed the match out.

    Palmer refereed very frequently, as a browse through the Judo magazines of the period shows. In East Germany once, I fought a fifteen-minute final with the kata-guruma specialist, Otto Smirat, which I lost by decision. Charlie was the referee. Afterwards, he told me I should have attacked more and gone out in a blaze of glory.

    Once, when I was waiting for my brother, Dick, at the Budokwai, Benny Hill (one of Dick's private students) came out of the small dojo and greeted Charlie with a friendly slap on his ample stomach. And, a few minutes later, one of Charlie's private students came out of the dressing room and left. She was stunning, like a young Jill St. John. I noticed also that she carried her judogi properly folded. Very nice, I said to Charlie. He flashed his fat satyr grin and described the wondrous sexual dexterity of her tongue.

    He never seemed to fumble for words and his responses were always immediate. I took the photo below (I’ll post it later) at the European Championship at Ludwigshaven, in 1971. Okay to take your photo Charlie? I asked. He gave his usual big grin and said he was about to take a sh*t and that I was welcome to snap him on the crapper.

    In the late 1960s I met a man called Mr. Sakamoto and became friendly with him and his wife. He liked Judo, and we practiced on occasion at the dojo of a private school. One day he asked me over for dinner, and when I went I was astonished to find the only other guest was Daigo, one of Sakamoto's old friends, it turned out. Daigo was clearly very unhappy about what Charlie was doing, in terms of Judo politics and the role and status of the Kodokan. For over two hours, with the four of us sitting around a small table, Palmer was the sole focus of Daigo's conversation. I later joked to Tony Orton that he was complaining of the way Charlie liked to sit on the fence with both ears to the ground, but it was only that, a joke.

    There are a number of references to Palmer in Olympic Revolution, the Olympic biography of J. A. Samaranch, and in Dr. Matsumae's book, My Turbulent Life in a Turbulent Century. My brother, who went through the book, found Samaranch's opinions to be slanted and said that the book seems to be more about dirty politics than Olympic ideals.
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    Cichorei Kano

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    Re: Charles Palmer piece from the old forum

    Post by Cichorei Kano on Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:33 am

    Tsurimaki,

    The Sakamoto you are referring to is not the one from Meiji, who was close to Kaminaga, very strong bloke, squared head, lots of muscle ?


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    "Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way." (Blaise Pascal)
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    Tsurumaki

    Posts : 14
    Join date : 2013-01-21
    Location : Tsurumaki, Tokyo

    Re: Charles Palmer piece from the old forum

    Post by Tsurumaki on Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:55 am

    Cichorei Kano wrote:Tsurimaki,

    The Sakamoto you are referring to is not the one from Meiji, who was close to Kaminaga, very strong bloke, squared head, lots of muscle ?

    No. But your description reminds me of another Sakamoto, maybe Eiji Sakamoto, who was captain of Waseda. Very strong, square. I'll post a photo if I can work out how to.
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    Cichorei Kano

    Posts : 1948
    Join date : 2013-01-16
    Age : 857
    Location : the Holy See

    Re: Charles Palmer piece from the old forum

    Post by Cichorei Kano on Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:26 am

    Tsurumaki wrote:
    Cichorei Kano wrote:Tsurimaki,

    The Sakamoto you are referring to is not the one from Meiji, who was close to Kaminaga, very strong bloke, squared head, lots of muscle ?

    No. But your description reminds me of another Sakamoto, maybe Eiji Sakamoto, who was captain of Waseda. Very strong, square. I'll post a photo if I can work out how to.

    Thanks. No, I was referring to Sakamoto Katsumasa. He appears in the Project X documentary together with Uemura-kanchô.


    _________________


    "The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was." (Thomas Carlyle)
    "Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way." (Blaise Pascal)
    "Quand on essaie, c'est difficile. Quand on n'essaie pas, c'est impossible" (Guess Who ?)
    "I am never wrong. Once I thought I was, and that was a mistake."

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    Re: Charles Palmer piece from the old forum

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