History of Maharashtra Judo

Spread of Judo in India
Judo made its initial foray in India around 1929 during the pre-independence era. At the invitation of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, a Japanese sensei (teacher) named Mr. Takagaki Shantiniketan came to India and conducted direct demonstrations of judo. However, due to the lack of consistent training opportunities, the spread of judo came to a halt. Nevertheless, these demonstrations marked the entry of judo into the historical records of India. Subsequently, in 1932, Shri Gyaneshwar Deshpande from Amravati was awarded a black belt by the renowned Kōdōkan Institute, the global headquarters of judo. Between 1901 and 1910, around 14 Indians received training and participated in gradations, which is also noted. However, the comprehensive promotion and dissemination of judo in India gained momentum after 1940 and its primary source was “Maharashtra and Marathi people.”

Sensei Raghunath Damodar Khanevale (1909-1980)
Sensei Dr. Jigoro Kano and Sensei Professor Mifune, the founding figures of judo, personally trained Sensei Khanevale (7th dan black belt) in Japan. This was around the year 1930 when stick-fighting, wrestling, and archery knowledge were already prevalent. Sensei Khanevale, who excelled in archery, was sent from Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal in Amravati to Japan to receive archery training. For this purpose, he received a scholarship from the Maharaja of Ichalkaranji. Prior to this, Shri Gyaneshwar Deshpande was also sent to Japan for archery training under the same scholarship program, but due to certain reasons, the endeavor remained incomplete. Later, after considering Sensei Khanevale’s capabilities, he was sent to Japan for archery training. During his four-year stay in Japan, Sensei Khanevale not only acquired archery skills but also obtained training in judo. Upon his return to India, he initiated judo classes in Ichalkaranji (Kolhapur district) to teach local wrestlers. He later moved to Pune, establishing a permanent base for judo promotion and commencing the spread of judo around 1940.

During the year 1935, Shri Khanevale was the manager of the Indian judo team that participated in the Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. Due to their efforts, the promotion of judo in Pune became highly influential, and a significant number of students were trained. These students played a key role in spreading judo throughout Maharashtra. Subsequently, judo expanded in districts such as Nashik, Kolhapur, Amravati, and Satara, and later in Thane, Aurangabad, Nagpur, with Shri Khanevale playing a pivotal role in introducing judo in Maharashtra. The initial group of students under Shri Khanevale’s guidance included Deepak Tilak, Sarang Sathe, Bal Devkar, Sharad Joshi, Pradeep Mohite, Vijay Limaye, Ramchandra Joshi, Shrinivas Kulkarni, Subhash Joshi, Ratnakar Patvardhan, Dhananjay Bhonsle, Purushottam Chaudhari, Rajkumar Poonkar, Gyaneshwar Agne, and many others, who contributed significantly to the spread of judo.

The promotion of judo also began in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Shri Narayan T. Bangera (5th dan), who was a practitioner of the Japanese martial art ‘Aikido,’ had a keen interest in judo as well. He learned judo under Professor T. M. Suvrna’s guidance, which helped Shri Bangera gain expertise in judo. In the 1960s, Shri Bangera established the Mumbai Judo Association and continued to work towards its growth and promotion. Alongside Shri Bangera, individuals like L. K. Daga, Moiz Mohammadali, K. N. Pastakia, K. D. Doctor, Dr. Barodawala, Arshish Wadia, Parvez Mistri, and others also contributed significantly to the promotion of judo in Mumbai by actively supporting its expansion.

The Maharashtra Judo Association was established in the year 1968, marking the growth and expansion of judo in Maharashtra, India. Taking into consideration the increasing reach of the sport, the organization divided Maharashtra into two geographical zones: Maharashtra ‘A’ comprising Mumbai and the surrounding areas, and Maharashtra ‘B’ representing the rest of the state excluding Mumbai. Dr. S. A. Pisolkar, based in Hyderabad, also established the Andhra Pradesh Judo Association, while other individuals such as Mr. Daga, Mr. Mahammadali, Mr. Deepak Tilak, and Mr. Bal Devkar laid the foundation of the Judo Federation in 1965.

Following the establishment of the federation, Mr. L. K. Daga and his team worked towards promoting judo in other states as well. They established connections and maintained regular contact with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the Government of India to gain recognition, affiliation, and prestige for judo. Eventually, judo was recognized as an official sport by the government at the national and international levels. Subsequently, in the 1970s, efforts were made to further enhance the reputation of judo in Maharashtra.

Several athletes from Maharashtra were sent to the Kōdōkan Institute in Japan for advanced judo training, and they achieved black belt ranks through their training there. These athletes actively participated in the promotion and outreach activities of judo in the state. Numerous camps were organized at various locations, facilitated by the expertise gained from the training received in Japan, which accelerated the promotion of judo in the region. After 1970, regular judo competitions were organized in Maharashtra. These competitions led to the development of skilled judokas at the district and state levels, ultimately establishing Maharashtra’s dominance at the national level.

Mr. L. K. Daga invited representatives from the Kōdōkan Institute in Japan to Mumbai in the 1980s and organized a judo camp in collaboration with the Kōdōkan Institute. This provided an opportunity for Indian athletes to receive training and benefit from the expertise of Japanese trainers. Among the participants were Mr. Nitin Kanitkar, Rajeev Dev, Arvind Vartak, Sanjay Gawhane, Avinash Joshi, Bhaskar Patwardhan, Anand Abhyankar, Shailesh Tilak, Annasaheb Patole, Pramod Sanvatsar, Suresh Kapadia, Ravindra Metkar, Sharad Pawar, Kishor Ahirrao, Shubhada Vaidya, Datta Aphale, Vikas Patil, and many others. The successful and talented players from the state included Dr. Satish Pahade, Vijay Dhimane, Vijay Patil, Satish Bagal, Narayan Gaydhani, and Archana Kevale, who received advanced training at the N.I.S. Patiala under these trainers. Mr. Rajkumar Punekar and Purushottam Chaudhary were the first N.I.S. coaches in the state. In Mumbai, Mr. Ravindra Patil, Manohar Bangera, Suresh Samel, Kavas Bilimoria, Yatish Bangera, and other players established judo clubs and played a significant role in producing excellent trainers.

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