"Judo" Gene LeBell was a legend in the world of grappling and the motion picture stunt business. Born as Ivan Gene LeBell on October 9, 1932 in Los Angeles, California, and was born into the combat arts at his birth. His mother, "Red Head" Aileen Eaton, owned the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and promoted both boxing and professional wre,stling matches at the Olympic. Gene began catch wrestling at age 7 and eventually graduated to the study of judo. Gene achieved his Black Belt, went to Japan form further training and returned to the US to compete as a heavyweight during the middle 1950's the heavyweight and overall AAU National Judo Championships at age 21 and a mere 160 lbs!
His colorful wrestling career included the infamous Boxing vs Wrestling match against Boxer Milo Savage who LeBell eventually threw Savage to the mat and choked him unconscious for the win. Gene retired from his combat Arts competition and entered the business of promotion and teaching from 1968 through 1982. It was during this era that LeBell also ventured into the world of movie and TV stunt work. His hard-earned nicknames followed throughout his career and included the nicknames "Judo" Gene LeBell, "the Godfather of Grappling" and "the toughest man alive" . A short list of his students, to name a few.
Some years ago 10th degree Black Belt Gene LeBell reads like a who's who of the martial arts, Benny "Jet"Urquidez, Bob Wall, Chuck Norris, Ed Parker, Goker Chivichyan, Karo Parisyan, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Mando Guerrero, and Manny Gamuryan to name a few.
Professor Gary Lee and the Sport Karate Museum Archives are proud to display the precious donated gift of "Judo" Gene LeBell's famous PINK Judo gi, a unique judo gi to be sure. This historical uniform came about while Gene was training in Japan and his competition gi was accidentally washed with some bright colored garments and when it came out of the machine it was pink. LeBell wore it to compete, to the consternation of the Japanese audience. Gene remarked" ``It was something different and when people teased me about it, it was a good excuse to get them on the mat and stretch their bodies a bit.'' Take it to the mat, that was the "Judo" Gene Lebell we all love.