Ichiro Hatta was a judo specialist from Hiroshima who visited the United States in 1929, helping popularize the sport in the US, although his Japanese group fared poorly in wrestling competitions. Spurred by this defeat and with no judo competition in the Olympics at that time, he switched to wrestling to compete at the 1932 Olympics. In the same year, Hatta not only graduated from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics but also founded the Dai Nippon Amateur Wrestling Association. Although all Japanese wrestlers were defeated in Los Angeles, the Association survived to become today’s Japan Wrestling Association.
Hatta also coached the Japanese wrestling team at the 1936 Olympic Games. After six years of military service in China in World War II, he was elected chairman of the Japan Wrestling Association in 1946 and held this position until 1983. During this time Japan became a member of the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) and became an international power in the sport. In 1954, he was instrumental in having Tokyo host the World Freestyle Wrestling Championship and 10 years later, the 1964 Olympics. Based on his proposal, the wrestling mat was changed from a square to a round format.
Beginning in 1965, Hatta served in the House of Councillors, the Japanese upper house of the legislature, representing the LDP, but he was defeated running for a second term. Hatta also introduced professional wrestling to Japan, bringing in Western wrestlers to perform. He also established the Japan Sambo Federation, promoting the Russian version of martial arts. He held many influential positions as a sports official, not only in wrestling but also in bodybuilding, surfing, and other pro sports, and he also founded a kennel club. Hatta later received the Olympic Order from the IOC for his contributions to judo and the Olympics. He was known to write short Japanese poems and published a book of haiku.
A heavy drinker, Hatta was first hospitalized for liver cirrhosis around 1978 and eventually died in 1983. One of his sons became a women’s wrestling coach in the US and one of his disciples followed him as chairman of the Japan Wrestling Association. In 2013, a bronze statue of Hatta was unveiled at the Nippon Sport Science University
|Discipline (Sport) / Event
|NOC / Team
|1932 Summer Olympics
|Featherweight, Freestyle, Men (Olympic)