ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Vladimir Putin is out on video as a judo master. Russian state-controlled media already have shown the powerful prime minister at the wheel of massive racing truck, shirtless on a fishing excursion, and tracking a tiger through the Siberian forest — just a few of the he-man presentations designed to boost his public image.
On Tuesday, he presented an instructional judo DVD that bears his name and shows him throwing an opponent to the mat.
"Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin" is the product of collaboration between Putin — a black belt — and other judo enthusiasts, including former World and Olympic judo champion Yasuhiro Yamashita. It apparently was privately made and intended mainly for Russians studying judo.
Early Tuesday morning, minutes into his 56th birthday, Putin talked about the video at a presentation before journalists and other guests at a state-owned venue. Putin said the video's title was little more than an "advertising trick." Anyone who watches it "will be learning not from your humble servant but from real geniuses" of the martial art, he said.
Portions of the promotion and the video were shown on Russian television later Tuesday. The video depicted a black-clad Putin talking about the history and philosophy of judo, as well as a white-robed Putin demonstrating moves against a practice partner — and throwing him to the mat several times.
"In a bout, compromises and concessions are permissible, but only in one case: if it is for victory," Putin says at one point in the video, as Asian-style music plays on the soundtrack.
Putin is a one-time judo champion of his home city St. Petersburg, called Leningrad at the time, and he doesn't hesitate to promote the sport.
For instance, the former Russian president has disclosed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to take some martial arts lessons.
"He is interested in martial arts, and we have decided to do some training together," Le Figaro, a leading French newspaper, quoted Putin as saying in an interview published last month.
Putin also is an avid skier, and his apparent fitness and devotion to physical activity helped increase his popularity in eight years as president. This contrasted sharply with his hard-drinking and chronically ill predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who died last year.
"The level of developing of sports undoubtedly defines the level of development of the country itself," Putin said during the video's promotion.
"Without sports, it's impossible to speak of a healthy way of life, about the health of the nation as such," he said.