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Film

The legendary story of Steven Seagal and 'Judo' Gene Lebell

@TomTaylorFO

You don’t earn the nickname ‘Judo’ without knowing a thing or two about combat; just ask Steven Seagal. He learnt that the hard way when he came face to face with ‘Judo’ Gene Lebell and boasted that he was able to escape any hold that the human body could throw at him. It must be said at this stage that Steven ‘Sensei’ Seagal was also no slouch, just ask the crew on the U.S. Navy battleship Missouri when it came under siege (and he was just the chef on there!).

The story goes that Seagal threw down the tight-squeeze gauntlet one day and proclaimed he could Harry Houdini hardman his way out of Gene Lebell’s vice-like grip. Gene ‘The Human Jaws of Life’ Lebell happily obliged. Then, apparently after a brief struggle, Seagal not only passed out but succumbed to asphyxy discharge, that is to say, he passed out and pooped in his pantaloons. 

It is a story that has lingered in the legacy of martial arts movies like a fart in an elevator, no pun intended. However, is it true or just a hopeful piece of propaganda by big judo? Well, former UFC champ Ronda Rousey certainly refuted Seagal’s claims that it was purely fiction and that Lebell was senile. She had been training with Lebell when she said, “Well, would you ever admit it? Obviously, the guy is a liar… If he says anything bad about Gene to my face, I would have to make him crap his pants a second time.”

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While no forced second-degree defecation would ever be condoned, Lebell’s insistence that it really did happen is undoubtedly comic, but it’s hardly proof. Fortunately for Seagal, Ron Balicki was a stuntman who was there at the scene of the crime and he told the YouTuber VikingSamurai his own tale of the tape. 

In brief, he claims that Lebell and Seagal were casually chatting when they started discussing holds. A minor disagreement broke out over them and Lebell, being a judo black belt, offered some advice to Seagal. He slowly demonstrated the correct technique but the second he tightened by a fraction, Seagal’s sensei instincts kicked in and he gave him a swift blow to the bollocks. 

Naturally, this led to skirmish and Lebell embarked on a hold for real this time. Seagal seemed to nod to attendant bodyguards that everything was okay and he intended to squirm it out with Lebell. At which point Balicki, ran to get the chief stunt supervisor. The fact he missed what happened during this period of the scrap hardly adds to his ardent defence, but when he returned with assistance it was all but over and he said there was no hint of regurgitated canteen food in the air.

For the Lebell fans that likely won’t settle the matter, but for fans of Steven ‘Sensei’ Seagal, it should draw a line in the sand. However, the bottom line is that as long as someone claims that Seagal soiled himself in a struggle of his own making, the rumour will never pass smoothly. 

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