Vladimir Putin I started doing sports when I was 10-11 years old.
After realizing that my boisterous character was not sufficient for being the leader in the school and on the street, I went to the boxing club. However, I quit soon after they broke my nose. The pain was terrible, I could not touch the tip of my nose.
I decided to go in for unarmed self-defense. Wrestling was popular at that time, and I attended the wrestling club near my house. Coach Anatoly Rakhlin played the key role in my life, he safeguarded me from the bad influence of the street atmosphere.
Then the trainer made the decision that we would prefer judo to unarmed self-defense, and the entire group passed to judo. Judo is not just a sport, this is a philosophy. The people with whom I attended the judo club, are still my friends”.
Writer Did you smoke?
Vladimir Putin No. I could try several times, but when I started taking judo, I never smoke. I concentrated on the sport entirely, I went to the judo club every day and had no free time.
Writer Did you try karate?
Vladimir Putin We did not take seriously karate and all other non-contact sports, we perceived them as warming-up, as ballet. Real sport is about sweating, blood, hard work.
Writer Did your parents approve your taking judo?
Vladimir Putin At first, they were suspicious as they were thinking I am gaining some negative experience and can use it on the street. Their attitude changed after they had met the coach and he came to our apartment. After my first success in sport they understood that this was very serious for me.
Writer Did you start winning competitions?
Vladimir Putin Yes, a couple of years later.
Vladimir Putin After I started studying at university, I gained other values, I studied much, but still continued judo training and taking part in competitions.
In 1976 I became the champion of the city of Leningrad (today - St. Petersburg). Our judo club had professionals, champions of the world, Europe, Olympics in unarmed self-defense and judo. I gained Master of Sports qualification both in unarmed self-defense and judo. I had to win the fights with the sportsmen of certain qualifications.
I will remember some of the fights for all my life.
At the end of one fight I could hardly breath, I only wheezed. The guy was strong and it took all my force to win.
I remember one more fight although I lost it. I was fighting with world champion Vladimir Kyullenin. Several years later, this brilliant sportsman started drinking and was killed somewhere on the street.
I will never forget my friend’s fight. I had a friend at university and persuaded him to start taking judo. He had good results. There was a competition, he made a throw and pushed his head into the ring. The guy’s neck-bone displaced, and he became paralyzed. He died in hospital 10 days later, I still feel sorry about my involving him in judo.
Sergey Roldugin, Vladimir Putin’s friend
One day Vladimir invited me to the church at Easter. When we were returning home, several drunk guys approached us and asked, ‘Don’t you have a cigarette?’ I said nothing while Vladimir replied, ‘Don’t’. ‘Why are you speaking like that?’ He, ‘Doesn’t matter’ I could not understand what happened next. Probably, one of them pushed or hit Vladimir, and I just saw the guy being thrown far aside. After that, Vladimir told me in a calm voice, ‘Let’s get out of here’. And we left.
I liked the way he protected himself.
from the book “Talks with Putin”