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Gene LeBell

Gene LeBell

"Judo" Gene LeBell aka "the Godfather of Grappling" aka "the toughest man alive" is a martial artist, actor and professional wrestlers from Los Angeles, CA, and is know for working on over 1,000 files / TV shows, and many books on grappling / wrestling.

He started training grappling in his early childhood when influenced by his mother: "Red Head" Aileen Eaton, who was also a promoted of boxing and professional wrestling. Gene started catch wrestling with the famous wrestle: Ed "Strangler" Lewis at the early age of 7, but them moved to judo at 10.

Once receiving his black belt, he went to train at the Kodokan school in Japan. He had to deal with a lot of adversity when first starting to train judo. He was a big red hair guy trying to train traditional Japanese jujitsu in Japanese Dojos. Constantly beat up, tough training, but he stuck with it and earned the reputation as an outstanding student and competitor... with quite a personality.

Along with his films and coaching at Gokor Chivichyan's Hayastan MMA Academy, "The Toughest Man Alive" is also cited with having THE first MMA fight against professional boxer Milo Savage. Even though the rules were stacked against him, Gene won the first with a harai goshi to rear naked choke, showing the power of the grappling arts in a time where boxing was thought to be the king of all fighting styles.



The world's first DVD for Hayastan Grappling System qualification for belt promotions. 



In 1963, Gene LeBell became involved with a challenge by boxer / writer Jim Beck who took to the papers calling out Japanese martial arts. Beck claimed that a boxer could defeat any traditional martial artist in a straight fight and offered $1000 to anyone who could him prove otherwise.

Nudged by Ed Parker, Gene LeBell accepted the challenge and traveled to Salt Lake City to meet fight John. But instead of Gene going against John Beck, they brought in a "ringer": Milo Savage with a rule-set that greatly favored the powerful boxer.

Milo Savage, who had also a background in amateur wrestling and was well trained to deal with the throws and takedowns from Lebell. The fight was for 5 rounds, each round lasting 3 minutes.

Savage could use any type of punch, while the judoka could not kick, in the apparent belief LeBell was a karateka. An additional stipulation prevented LeBell from attempting double legs, single legs, or takedowns under the waist.

In return, Savage offered to wear a judo gi with special finger-less gloves. However, on the day of the match Savage appeared wearing a much thinner karate gi instead, which was much tighter and harder to grab. The Savage training camp said they did not know the difference.[

According to LeBell and other sources, Savage's gloves contained brass knuckles and he had also greased up his gi with Vaseline to make gripping it more difficult. This convinced Gene and his trainers, that Milo was trying to stack all the cards in his favor and knew what to expect from Gene.

Gene LeBell stepped into a boxing ring in Salt Lake City, Utah, to fight professional boxer Milo Savage, and "MMA" as born. There were a few other types of MMA like challenges, but until 1993 with UFC 1. MMA pretty much died away again right away and for the next 30 years.

The fighter spent some time feeling each other out, with LeBell being the bit of an aggressor while attempting to throw Milo Savage. Milo did a great job defending the takedowns, and even tried to sweep Lebell... convincing Gene and his camp that Milo had done some extensive grappling training to prepare for the fight.

Finally Gene took down Milo is a Harai Goshi and started attacking the arm bar. But decided to go for the rear naked choke instead. He didn't believe that Savage would surrender to an arm bar, so he decided to put Milo to sleep with a rear naked choke. LeBell, got mount, too the back and set it in the choke which rendered Milo Savaga unconscious in the 4th round, securing the win for LeBell.

The crowd was NOT happy about this, especially since Savage was the hometown favorite. Chairs, bottles, etc where all thrown into the ring. Even though Gene and his camp he'll resuscitate the KO'd Savage, the crowd was not happy and a man even attempted to stab Gene on his way out.


Gene LeBell has made a lot of nicknames for himself: "Judo" Gene LeBell, "the Godfather of Grappling" and also "the toughest man alive". In the 70s... and beyond he was one of the most saught after grapplers in the world, has trained with or taught grappling skills to many well-known wrestlers and martial artists, such as Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Bob Wall, Chuck Norris, Ed Parker, Gokor Chivichyan, Karo Parisyan, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Mando Guerrero, Manny Gamburyan and Ronda Rousey.

He is famous for wearing his pink judo gi, which started off as a laundry accident, but now his trademark attire. In fact, he had to compete in the pink gi the first time in Japan... which did not go over well with the Japanese crowd as they took it as an insult. FYI - Gene won his division and the pink trademark gi was born.

Gene LeBell is teaches and is associated with the famous Gokor Chivichyan's Hayastan MMA Academy. LeBell has even judged many MMA fights for several decades, but retired from it after Golden Boy Promotions: Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 on November 24, 2018. LeBell is friends with judoka AnnMaria De Ma, mother of the Olympic judoka and mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey since her birth. He has been seen in Rousey's corner during matches, and celebrated her victories with her.

LeBell is also know for this acting and stunt work. He has appeared in over 1,000 films, TV shows and commercials as a stuntman or as an actor. He even appeared in three Elvis Presley movies as a minor character who starts a fight with the character played by Presley.

He also worked on the Bruce Lee TV Show: The Green Hornet and developed a close relationship with Bruce Lee. Lee being one of the first martial artists to explore all martial arts and recognized the value in learning from experts, regularly trained with Gene to help him learn the grappling arts.

LeBell even had an encounter with the out-spoken Steven Seagal on the set of Out for Justice. Seagal said that he was essentially immune to being choked out. To prove him wrong, Gene put Seagal in a choke, and the put Seagal to sleep. Seagal then bad-mouthed Gene and pissed Ronda Rousey off immensely who even said she "Make him crap his pants a second time"


Judo Gene Pro Wrestling Finishing Holds (Action Only)

Hayastan Academy's Technique: "Judo" Gene LeBell Perfects Gegard Mousasi's Cross Face

In this video, legendary "Judo" Gene LeBell gives Gegard some tips on improving his cross face technique when going for a submission. As seen in the fight, this technique proved to be very successful against Mark Munoz, ultimately earning Gegard a first round rear naked choke submission victory.

Fist 2 Fist aka Hand 2 Hand Techniques

In this video, legendary "Judo" Gene LeBell gives Gegard some tips on improving his cross face technique when going for a submission. As seen in the fight, this technique proved to be very successful against Mark Munoz, ultimately earning Gegard a first round rear naked choke submission victory.

Judo Gene LeBell VS Bruce Lee In The Green Hornet

The Judo Champion & master of grappling, Gene LeBell, got his ass kicked by Bruce Lee.

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