François Besson

François Besson

July 4, 1946 – May 25, 2010

François you wrote: « Forgive me for the grief I am causing to you ». If our grief is great, it is as great as the person you were. You have our forgiveness and all our love, because these very last words reveal your generosity, your sense of friendship, the love for the family you formed with Isabelle, Alexandre, your brothers, your close ones, and the family you called my « extended family », your Judo friends, in the four corners of the world.

Even if, with humour and humility, you defined your position as that of « a plain gymnasium caretaker », you clearly were the warden of our values – respect and mutual help- values that you knew so well how to transmit.

Tokyo is the place where you forged your firm, humble and courageous soul. On the Kodokan and Meiji U mats you gained an affectionate nickname, Kuma chan, in the image of a courageous bear, feared but loved.

Because of your unflinching dedication and your humane qualities, you are and will remain one of the few foreign judoka who gained the respect of the greatest Japanese sensei.

As a European and then a World judo leader, you brilliantly developed your sport, preserving the balance between modernization and traditions. But you wore yourself out fighting arbitrary decisions and the merchants of the temple.

As a modern Cato would, you struggled to the very end to see justice, equity and freedom triumph, these values that you held in such esteem.

Your sport achievements, your titles, your decorations are so many signs of the hard and long road that was yours. For forty years you accepted gruelling missions throughout the world as a necessary obstacle race, but you rarely lost your humour or your smile.

Side by side with a strict and meticulous François existed another François, always ready for a joke. I can still see you, a few weeks ago, in your office at the French Federation, triumphantly waving a flyer at me, a flyer according to which, we could finally buy the latest Japanese device, a jewel of electronics, « the world’s most sophisticated toilet seat ».

Behaving as an older brother, you loved to make us laugh with your jokes as much as you loved to protect us and make life easier for us. None of us will forget your culinary talents, your foie gras terrines, the meals you prepared with refinement and love, but also the tremendous quantity of pots, pans and kitchen gadgets you used. This was another aspect of the immoderate craving for perfection that was yours, no matter what you were doing.

As a great amateur of Japanese culture, you certainly knew this haiku by Kobayashi who wrote in the 18th century:

This imperfect world,

Yet covered

With cherry trees in bloom

You were and will remain for us « a cherry tree forever blossoming in an imperfect world », strong and frail, imposing and delicate, respected and admired. You were and you will remain a role model, for us and for all those who in their daily lives give a concrete dimension to honour and dignity, to loyalty and friendship.

Good bye my friend. Sayonara kuma chan…

Michel Brousse, June 2, 2010