Tag Archives: Judo

Jews of the Week: Oren Smadja & Sagi Muki

Judo World Champion

Oren Smadja

Shay Oren Smadja (b. 1970) was born to a Tunisian-Jewish family in Ofakim, Israel. He was the son of Israel’s first judo coach, Morris Smadja, who played a key role in introducing the sport to Israel. Trained by his father, Oren Smadja won his first gold medal in judo at the age of 12. Seven years later, he was Israel’s judo champion. Smadja went on to represent Israel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where he won a bronze medal. Three years later, he won the silver medal at the 1995 World Judo Championships. In 2008 he was a participant in the Israeli TV version of “Dancing With the Stars”. Altogether, Smadja won a medal or championship in 14 professional tournaments. He retired after competing in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and turned to coaching judo full time.

Sagi Muki

One of Smadja’s first students was a four-year old Sagi Aharon Muki (b. 1992) from Netanya, Israel. At the young age of 8 he had to choose to pursue either soccer or judo, and went with the latter. Under Smadja’s tutelage, Muki went on to win the under-20 European Cup in Berlin in 2011. The following year, he was Israel’s judo champion in his weight class, a feat that he repeated in 2013. He continued to win in multiple international competitions, and was ranked second in the world by 2015. That year, he took gold at the European Games and the European Judo Championship. Muki represented Israel at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Unfortunately, he failed to win a medal after severely injuring his spine. Bedridden for months, it seemed that Muki’s career was over. Undeterred, he refused surgeries and instituted an intense healing and training regime. Muki got back into shape and returned to judo at the Grand Prix Tashkent in October 2017. Silencing all of his critics, Muki won gold. Half a year later, he took another gold in the European Championships. Earlier this year, Muki climbed back to the world number 2 spot. Last week he won gold at the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo, making him the first Israeli world champion. Muki also served in the IDF and carries the rank of sergeant. He takes great pride in representing Israel around the world, and is expected to bring home another gold at next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

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Words of the Week

Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, historically it is really your country.
– Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, Ottoman politician and Muslim scholar (1899)

Jew of the Week: Noad Lahat

IDF Soldier & UFC Fighter

Noah Lahat (Image Credit: UFC.ca)

Noah Lahat (Image Credit: UFC.ca)

Noad “Neo” Lahat (b. 1984) was born in Alfei Menashe, Israel, the son of two former IDF generals. He began practicing Judo when he was 5 years old. After serving for three and a half years in the Israeli Army, Lahat started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu and by 2010 was the world champion in the sport. Having earned two black belts (in judo and jiu-jitsu), he was introduced to mixed martial arts by a friend. Lahat moved to San Jose and began training with the American Kickboxing Academy. He was undefeated in all of his mixed martial arts bouts when he was finally invited to the UFC. Although he lost his first match, Lahat came back for a second go on July 26 and earned his first UFC victory. He is now on his way back to Israel, choosing to go back to the IDF and help the Israeli Army in the current Gaza conflict. This was a purely voluntary decision that has won him the admiration of many. In his post-victory interview Lahat said, “My mom and my dad have 15 seconds to run to get shelter when missiles are falling on them, and I’m here in sunny California. I love California, but I need to go and defend my home… As a combat soldier, there’s nothing I want more in the world than peace… I don’t want to see more killing and more blood. The only blood [should be] in the Octagon.”

Words of the Week

It’s just another round of this ridiculous game. Hamas are shooting at us. We try to respond, but we can’t because most of the world… don’t let us finish the job and take Hamas down. So we stop, and then they’re shooting again.
– Noad Lahat