ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a black belt in judo, lauded the martial arts during opening ceremonies for the World Combat Games.
The international event is being hosted in St. Petersburg through Oct. 26. Putin noted the individual focus and strength needed to succeed in martial arts, RIA Novosti said.
"Various martial arts differ in technique and rules, but they all share the same common principle that fair victory always goes to the genuinely strongest," the Kremlin website quoted Putin as saying. "Not chance but the athlete's own will, and not the team's strength but personal skill and courage decide each combat's outcome. There is no hiding behind your teammates in martial arts."
Putin said 4.5 million Russians practice some form of martial arts, making it one of the country's most popular sports.