The Truth About Vladimir Putin's Black Belt

Russian President Vladimir Putin is known for a lot of things. Many know him as a former KGB agent, a prominent Russian politician for over two decades, being anti-American, allegedly poisoning his critics, and even arranging his own public relations photo ops (via The Week). Yet, there is quite a lot more to this outspoken leader. Per the Kremlin website, Putin has a lot of hobbies. While vacationing and taking part in several leisure activities, he's even been photographed and seen shirtless and tanning. Putin apparently also likes to go fishing, per Reuters. He also fancies whitewater rafting, driving and collecting Russian cars, and is passionate about protecting animals and the environment.

As you'd imagine, he seems to have a wide range of interests. And when he's not making international headlines or running Russia, Putin is actually doing these interests. Martial arts is one of Putin's many hobbies, holding the highest title one can get in the fighting skill, and he strongly relates it to his life as a politician.

The martial artist

Vladimir Putin believes that the skill-set required to be a martial artist is vital for anyone holding a leadership role, via the Kremlin. With such an importance it has on his life, it should be of no surprise that Putin is also a black belt holder — the top martial arts rank that signifies expertise. In addition, he has a ninth-degree black belt — the rarest but most senior black belt someone can reach (via PRI). It was awarded to him in 2013.

Putin specifically holds a black belt in judo — a fighting skill that requires physical and mental determination, as both your mind and body have to work in conjunction for the best performance (per Team USA).

But his achievement isn't just a physical feat. Some of his critics have said that several traits often seen in judo have shaped the way he leads Russia — and they don't mean in a good way. According to a BBC article, all the schemes and toughness that Putin is known for are simply signs of someone who practices judo. He was initially drawn to it as a young boy to stave off bullies, and now holds the highest level.