Actor Bo Svenson has broken four ribs, torn both hamstrings, dislocated a knee cap and busted his toes four times since returning to the judo mats in 2009. But just like his indomitable character, Sheriff Buford Pusser in the Walking Tall films, this 71-year-old black belt will not be deterred.
“I can't stay away from judo,” Svenson emailed recently from home in Los Angeles where he was recovering from a bout with laryngitis. “I love dojo life. I have competed in many sports, and done quite well in some, but no sport has become as much a part of me as has judo.”
Svenson is among more the 800 figthers, age 30 and older, pre-registered from around the world to face-off with floor-pounding throws, arm bars and chokes at USA Judo’s upcoming Grand Masters World Championships in Miami, Nov. 8-11. Many of these fighters will be near their prime, many are past champions. More than 80 are coming from France, 60 from Brazil and Russia each.
When Svenson steps onto the tatamis (mats) under chandeliers at the luxurious tournament venue, the Doral Resort & Spa, he won’t be wielding the oak club of the iconic Pusser but he will be wearing the fourth-degree black belt he’s earned - Who would win now? the Pusser he portrayed or Svenson the fourth-degree black-belt?
Svenson earned his shodan (first-degree black belt) at the famed and notoriously tough Kodokan in Japan, home dojo of the sport, in 1961 while stationed there in the U.S. Marines. He earned his nidan and sandan (third degree) in ’62 and ’63. Injuries forced him from the sport in 1965.
In 2009, “I found my old gi, which promptly fell apart when I put it on,” Svenson said. “I bought a new gi, found a dojo that let me train - and promptly fell apart.” The injuries ensued but there was no stopping. Work schedule permitting, he trains three times a week.
“There’s no sport like judo,” Svenson said.
He did use judo on at least one occasion during his respite from the mats. Svenson threw two opponents simultaneously in the 1976 motion picture, “Breaking Point.”
Svenson has starred in over sixty films and several hundred hours of network television. He starred in the second and third “Walking Tall” films – “Walking Tall – Part 2” (1975), Walking Tall, Final Chapter” (1977), “The Inglorious Bastards” (1978). He has also directed numerous motion pictures, mostly in the action-adventure genre. His television directing includes “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues,” for Warner Bros. He is presently starring in the Sydney J. Furie directed motion picture “Pride of Lions,” filming in Ontario, Canada, and Afghanistan with Lou Gossett Jr., Seymour Cassel, Margot Kidder, and Tom Jackson.
For more on Svenson, go to his website: WWW.BOSVENSON.COM.