Friday, December 21, 2012

Striking pressure defines where a fight goes

When Japanese MMA is evaluated, it is often pointed out that many fighters do not know how to do a proper weight cut. What I would also like to note is that most fighters do not fight in the weight class that is defined by their body frame.

For example, in boxing, Shinji Takehara is the world champion of the heaviest division. His division is middleweight (160 pounds), and he stands 6 feet 1 inch tall. Boxers have a more strict view about fighting at their proper weight. There are fighters in MMA with smaller frames who try to gain muscle for more grappling strength. Therefore, I can't say that everyone fits my theory, but still many Japanese fighters choose the wrong fighting weight.

Motonobu Tezuka fought against the clearly bigger Alex Caceres. After the fight, Tezuka said that he can drop down to flyweight. That makes me think that, when a Japanese fighter enters a major organization where foreign fighters have bigger frames, the Japanese fighter should drop down a division.

That's not to say that every fighter must do so. Certain fighters are not meant to drop the weight, such as the grapplers that I mentioned who bulk up in order to allow themselves to improve their grip on submissions or to maintain position on the ground. Those fighters excel by using their physical strength to their advantage and they would struggle if they cut weight and lost muscle. It becomes risky when they can no longer use their familiar fighting style once their strength is diminished.

There are also many fighters who choose to compete in higher weight categories because there often isn't as much money to be made in MMA's lower weight classes like flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight. Fighting in the higher weight classes leads to bigger paydays. Frankie Edgar, for example, captured the UFC lightweight title even though he only has a bantamweight frame. I am worried that there is too little investment in the lighter weight categories, which limits the sport's potential for growth.

In MMA right now, grapplers need to develop striking pressure to succeed at setting up takedowns at the highest level. Fighter need use strikes to keep opponents off-balance to set up takedowns.

Striking pressure can be made up of a fighter's reach, speed and power, but technique can be used to create space or to close the distance. Striking pressure can be overcome if you take note of distance, angles, combinations and so on. Shinya Aoki did try to do this in his fight against Eddie Alvarez after he had previously lost the pressure battle in his bout with Gilbert Melendez, but due to his lack of power and chin, Alvarez overwhelmed Aoki anyway.

When an opponent has a longer reach, and can adapt to any situation, the fight becomes tougher for a grappler with a shorter reach. This means that divisional flexibility has become much tougher than before.

In the past, you saw fighters trying to submit opponents from the bottom. Once elite fighters learned how to defend submissions from the top, wrestling became much more important in grappling. And now that fighters have become better strikers and have learned how to sprawl to defend against takedown attempts, it is difficult for grapplers to turn fights into grappling matches without first using striking pressure.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent (from MMA Rising) for English editing.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Japanese BJJ Dojo & Gym list

BJJ is common skill for MMA at now.But at now MMA's grapple is definetely have more content than that.Fusion with wrestling and Judo give progress at grappling depart for sports.

At Japan we lose many detail of traditional Jiujitsu because of Judo's strict policy.But that make certain part of BJJ and Judo fusion which not happen at otehr coutries.

I have made a list of Japanese BJJ Dojo & Gym with their official websites. There are loads of gyms, so I can’t introduce them all. Also many MMA gyms have BJJ classes which I don't introduces here. I’ll try to give the links to their website, what prefecture they are in, and what railway station is nearest (in that order). Sometimes when that information is not available, I’ll make a guess - I could be wrong.

MAX Jiu-Jitsu Academy & Yoga Studio (Tokyo,Kinshicho)
(Link to English Page) 

Tri-Force Gotanda (Tokyo,Gotanda)
(Link to English Page)  

Tri-Force Ikebukuro (Tokyo, Ikebukuro)

Tri-Forcce Shinjuku (Tokyo,Shinjuku)

Carpe Diem Aoyama (Tokyo,Omotesando)
(Link to English Page)  

Carpe Diem Mita (Tokyo,Mita)
(Link to English Page)  

AXIS Jiujitsu Academy Chiba (Chiba,Higashifunabashi)
AXIS Chiba youtube channel

AXIS Jiujitsu Academy Yokohama (Kanagawa,Yoshinocyo)
(Web include English)   

AXIS Jiujitsu Academy Tokyo Headquarter (Tokyo,Meidaimae)
(English Web)

Team Sora (Kanagawa,Kawasaki)

X-treme Jiujitsu Academy Yokohama (Kanagawa, Higashikanagawa)
(Link to English Page)  

Carpe Diem Kamakura (Kanagawa,Kamakura)

X-treme Jiujitsu Academy Ebina (Kanagawa, Atsugi)
(Link to English Page)  

De La Riva Japan (Tokyo,Shin-Itabashi and Tokyo,Koenji and Chiba,Chibaminato and Tochigi,Utsunomiya)

Clud De Jiujitsu (Tokyo, Hakusan)

Itadaki Jiujitsu (Tokyo,Higashinippori)

Trydent Gym (Tokyo, Minamiosawa)

Ohga Dojo (Tokyo, Shibuya and Tokyo, Chofu and Tokyo, Kanda)

Pato Studio (Tokyo, Sugamo)

Nova Uniao Japan (Tokyo, Sugamo and Tokyo, Koiwa and Kanagawa,Kashiwadai and Hiroshima, Mihara and Gunma,Isezaki)

Physical Space (Tokyo, Ogikubo)

Isshin Jiujitsu Academy (Tokyo,Kamata)
(Link to English Page) 

Pogona Club Gym (Saitama,Higashiyamato and Saitama, Higashikawaguchi)

Free & Free (Saitama, Wakoshi)

PGN Higashiyamato (Tokyo, Higashiyamatoshi)

Brazilian Jiujitsu Academy Paixao (Saitama,Miyahara)

RJJ (Saitama,Ageo)

Checkmat Japan (Saitama, Konosu and Ibaraki, Mitsukaido and Ibaraki, Kandatsu)

Shrapnel Jiujitsu Academy (Saitama,Naka-Urawa)

Dragon's Den (Saitama,Kawagoe)

Hiro BJJ (Kanagawa,Kannai)
(Web include English) 

Alavanca Jiu-jitsu Academy (Kanagawa,Odakyusagamihara)

Strapple Ohana (Kanagawa,Tsujido)

Shonan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Hiratsuka (Kanagawa,Hiratsuka)

Vanguard BJJ (Kanagawa,Shibusawa)
(Link to English Page)   

Ambitious Jiu-Jitsu Academy (Kanagawa,Hon-atsugi)

Gracie Barra Yamanashi (Yamanashi,Kokubo)

Bonsai Jiujitsu (Shizuoka,Iwata)

JAWS Jiujitsu Academy (Shizuoka, Tenryugawa)

JAWS WEST (Shizuoka,Takatsuka)

Trial & Error (Shizuoka,Shimotogari)

Ishida Dojo (Aichi,Hirabari)

Carpe Diem Hope (Gifu,Hozumi)
(Link to English Page)  

Dream Fantasy 7 Niigata (Niigata,NiigataDaigaku)

Ichiken Jiujitsu Academy Toyohashi (Aichi,Toyokawa)

Fubuki Jiujitsu (Aichi,Kachigawa)

Fukuzumi Jiujitsu (Aichi,Nonami)
(Link to English Page)   

Shima Brazilian Jiujitsu Academy (Mie,Ugata)

AXEL Fight Club (Kyoto,Nagitsuji)

Suita Jiujitsu (Osaka,Higashiyodogawa)

Naniwa Jiujitsu (Osaka,Kami)

NR Jiujitsu (Nara,Shin-Omiya)

Gracie Barra Japan (Hyogo,Sannomiya)

TK Training Center (Hiroshima, Higashi-Takasu)

Iwamoto Jiujitsu Academy (Saga, Nishi-Karatsu)

Trust Jiujitsu Academy (Kagoshima,Kagoshima-Chuo)

SKILL MMA's Japanese MMA scene gym list

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A fan's reaction to a fight depends on their education from the media

The recent UFC flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez was booed because the content of the fight itself was not understood by fans and critics of the organization who aren't real fans of MMA.,

In reality, people don't have an opportunity to learn how fighters make moves or change strategies in order to take advantage of an opponent's actions because this is rarely described in fight commentary or articles.

The fact that both fighters must come together to make a fight goes unnoticed as a result. This causes people to not understand that MMA is a game with strategy and diplomacy, and thus they cannot enjoy it for the game itself. That lack of understanding is the source of this problem.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent (from MMA Rising) for English editing. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Aesthetics of Trash Talking and a Fighter's Position

Chael Sonnen's quotes attract attention and produce what people demand. As martial artists or fighters sell self-skill, people demand "strong" and "tough" images. It is natural in the history of the fight scene.

Fighters often adopt different kinds of characters when they are in different countries. They react to market demand and change their character in individual countries because the market differs from place to place.

The idea of "Sports for sports" and "Martial arts for martial arts" only exists when fighters or trainers don't demand money or seek investors who don't want security. When speaking of pure sport without money, vision and a system of blame, it is problematic and such discussions often ignore awareness of that point.

"Sports for sports" is a totally new idea among the middle class. When people are very poor, sports can't exist. Organizations like Shooto, which pursued this concept, existed for Japan because of the country's economy. In other countries, the focus has been more on producing fighters for big events that lead to fame and financial gain.

Of course, sometimes people misunderstand things with the contradictions between sports and money, but whether trash talking is worth paying attention to or not is a totally different subject.

Chael Sonnen talked trash about Brazil and Anderson Silva, but often we found that he didn't believe what he was saying. Sonnen said his remarks were clearly inspired by pro wrestling and designed to try to sell PPVs. Do you believe Sonnen's excessive expressions destroyed Brazil and Silva's public images?

Regardless, certain people enjoyed it. Moreover, people miss the importance of position and stature in this sport.

For example, there is a huge difference between the income of a UFC champion and that of other fighters. Therefore, fighters like Sonnen and Frankie Edgar jumped at their recent chances to compete for titles, while Jon Jones was more defensive about defending his championship. Their positions are different.

When I interview fighters, I do so whether they've just had a dominant win, a tough decision win, a loss, become a champion or lost a belt. All positions affect how fighters comment through their quotes, so it can be difficult to find out a fighter's real personality when their position at the time affects how they respond.

That point is no different anywhere in the world, but that does not mean that the fighters have personality problems. Rather, it means that fans and journalists should try to find common beliefs from.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent (from MMA Rising) for English editing and Chris Nelson (from Sherdog) for English editing advise.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

JMMA in Cage

Vale Tudo Japan 2012 trailer

Shooto promoter Sustain announced that it will hold its Vale Tudo Japan event on December 24, 2012 at Yoyogi Gymnasium.  Vale Tudo's concept is to bring together a wide range of talent from throughout the world, starting with inviting Rickson Gracie.

Of all the Japanese fighters currently on the UFC's roster, Yushin Okami has the most wins, followed by Takeya Mizugaki.  These two fighters share a similar history, having both fought at GCM events (e.g. Cage Force and D.O.G.).  Naturally, the global success of Japanese fighters such as Okami and Mizugaki are crucial towards maintaining the popularity of MMA in Japan.  For the Vale Tudo Japan event, Shooto promoter Sustain will be holding their fights in a cage, rather than the more commonly used ring.  They hope to hold two to three events per year, possibly utilizing the unified rules of MMA.  Sustain is open to fighters coming from other organizations, and will also encourage Zuffa fighters to participate in Vale Tudo Japan.

Pancrase, which is now under a new organizer, as well as DEEP will also begin to use a cage for its fights.  It is the hope of promoters such as DEEP's Shigeru Saeki that experimenting with a cage will help increase the global popularity of Japanese MMA.

Big thanks to Dean Ryuta Adachi  (holler at scholar) for English editing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Japanese Kick Boxing History and MMA Relations

Kickboxing was born in Japan, but when and how?

Over the years, kickboxers have taught MMA fighters how to strike, but fans often don't know much about kickboxing's history. This is the history of kickboxing as it relates to MMA.

For kickboxing, there is neither a universal fight database nor a comprehensive historical record, so I decided to create this article. I may not be the most knowledgeable person about kickboxing, but I have noticed that most kickboxing websites are seriously lacking in their knowledge of the history of the sport. This is partly due to the language barrier between English and Japanese, which is understandable, but people must realize that most media members are unaware of kickboxing's origins.

With this article, I hope to change the standard of knowledge for kickboxing history. I have done a lot of research, but due to the lack of record keeping and history books, some facts may be omitted. However, I believe that this article will be much more detailed than those found on any English website.

The sport began in Japan and I am Japanese, so therefore I must admit that this is heavily written from a Japanese viewpoint.

Kickboxing was born when Nihon kenpo karate practitioner Tatsuo Yamada became interested in Muay Thai. He wanted karate to become a sport. In 1962, he held his first karate sports event. Also that year, boxing promoter Osamu Noguchi became impressed when he watched a Muay Thai event. He wanted to hold a karate vs. Muay Thai event and discussed it with Yamada and Masutatsu Oyama.

In 1963, the Oyama Dojo sent three fighters to Bangkok, Thailand: Kenji Kurosaki, Tadashi Nakamura and Akio Fujihira. Only one karate fighter, Kurosaki, lost there, but he later became a great contributor as a coach for kickboxing.

Kurosaki is a father of Dutch kickboxing. In 1966, he went to Holland by invitation of Jon Bluming, who was a student of Kurosaki and also taught many students in Holland. Under Kurosaki and Bluming's teaching and influence, coaches in Holland learned kickboxing skills.

Coach Jan Plas (Mejiro Gym) later taught Remy Bonjasky and Andy Souwer. Thom Harinck (Chakuriki Gym) taught Peter Aerts, Hesdy Gerges and Badr Hari. Johan Vos (Vos Gym) taught Ernesto Hoost.

Kurosaki left Kyokushin and built Mejiro Gym. Jan Plas's Mejiro Gym in Holland is a branch of Mejiro Gym. The Japanese Mejiro Gym produced the most important talent in kickboxing history.

In 1966, the first kickboxing organization began in Japan, the Japan Kickboxing Federation. It started with Tatsuo Yamada's students and Tadashi Sawamura. Sawamura was the first star of Japanese kickboxing, but he was built up by promotional hype and was never able to beat the top-ranked Thai stadium fighters during his career.

In 1971, All Japan Kickboxing Association (AJKA) began. AJKA had stars with the greatest skill. Toshio Fujiwara began kickboxing at Mejiro Gym in Japan. Kurosaki's hard training regimen, coupled with Fujiwara's original footwork and clinchwork, made Fujiwara the AJKA champion and also the first foreign Rajadamnern champion. AJKA dissolved in 1981.

AJKA's successor, All Japan Kickboxing Federation (AJKF), began operations in 1987. AJKF brought in fighters from Europe including Maurice Smith, Rob Kaman, Vitali Klitschko (current world boxing champion) and many more. They also collaborated with pro wrestling companies like UWF International, Rings and Pancrase. Because the pro wrestling audience was large, AJKF became very popular.

However, it wasn't long before internal troubles and a new wave of independent organizations hurt the local Japanese kickboxing scene.

In 1985, Martial Arts Japan Kickboxing Federation (MA Kick) began to develop with fighters and gyms leftover from AJKF. By 1996, many gyms formerly belonging to AJKF were independent. They built a new organization named New Japan Kickboxing Federation (NJKF). In 1997, the kickboxing gym Active J became independent from AJKF and started the organization known as J-Network.

At the same time, local talent began to grow and started to have success. Atsushi Tateshima and Kensaku Maeda's rivalry started to boost kickboxing's popularity. Celebrities began talking about both fighters. AJKF's 70kg and under division developed interest among hardcore fans.

In 1984, organized MMA began with Shooto. This inspired one man, Tomofumi "Caesar Takeshi" Murata, who wanted to make a new sport that combined elements of MMA and kickboxing. Murata is a former kickboxer at the Japan Kickboxing Federation who taught at UWF. He had grappling experience with pro wrestlers. Murata built "Shoot Boxing" in 1985.

Shoot boxing uses kickboxing rules, but also gives points for throws and permits standing submissions. This allows many MMA fighters to compete and have success. Mark Hominick, Toby Imada, "Lion" Takeshi Inoue and Antonio Carvalho have all competed for Shoot Boxing.

Shoot boxing is best known for leading to Andy Souwer's run in K-1, but before he fought for K-1, Souwer made his name in the "S-Cup," which is the biggest tournament in Shoot Boxing. The S-Cup has included current MMA striking coach Hiromu Yoshitaka - who is responsible for Akitoshi Hokazono, Takashi Nakakura and many Osaka MMA fighters' striking - and Mohamed Ouali, who has assisted greatly with American Top Team's striking improvements.

While small, local kickboxing organizations continued to develop, major kickboxing organizations began. K-1 started in 1993 and its tournament format and frequent heavyweight knockouts charmed the audience. Some of the K-1 fighters were later invited to compete in MMA. Branko Cikatic, Mirko "Crocop" Filipovic, Ray Sefo, Peter Aerts, Mark Hunt and many others fought in MMA.

Nowadays, people know that Crocop changed the standard for MMA striking technique. Mark Hunt is currently on a winning streak in the UFC and Ray Sefo is a trainer at Xtreme Couture. By contrast, some fighters transitioned over to kickboxing after starting in MMA. Examples of such fighters include Semmy Schilt and, of course, Alistair Overeem.

K-1 also initially held lighter weight tournaments, K2 and K3, but they did not succeed.

While K-1 did not succeed right away with promoting the lower weight classes, the local Japanese kickboxing scene produced young prospects for the future. By 2000, K-1 began to have more success at promoting the lighter weights. The start of K-1's 70kg division largely came about because of "Masato's" appearance on the local scene. Masato Kobayashi was ambitious about turning kickboxing into a major sport. He became freelance after winning the AJKF championship and also started his own promotion, "Wolf Revolution."

Masato helped to develop the market for under-70kg fights by becoming the first Japanese K-1 champion. That market depended heavily upon his popularity, however, and it made for a severe conflict with the officiating in kickboxing. In the 2004 K-1 Max final, Masato faced Buakaw Por Pramuk. The fight was ruled a draw by the judges, but Masato had clearly lost. Masato did show drastic improvement in his boxing skill, though, and he was further helped when K-1 adjusted its rules to remove clinching.

At the same time, K-1 brought in talent from its parent MMA company, Hero's. Masato faced MMA fighters such as Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante, Genki Sudo and Tatsuya Kawajiri, which gave Masato a celebrity status as the defender of K-1.

Local shows continued to feature lighter fighters who had not received an opportunity to compete for K-1 but wanted to elevate their divisons to a higher status. AJKF held 60kg tournaments. Toshio Fujiwara built his own gym after retiring and produced fighters like Masahiro Yamamoto and Hisanori Maeda, as well as Haruaki Otsuki, Satoshi Kobayashi (later in his career), Naoki Ishikawa, Genki Yamamoto, Shinobu Shiratori and more.

Meanwhile, NJKF had succeeded in building up its 60kg division with captivating fighters such as Tetsuya Yamato, Ryoichi "Rasyata" Sakiyama and Yohei Sakurai.

When K-1 Max charmed people and attracted a local hardcore audience with 60kg fights, K-1 heavyweights began to struggle to keep fans interested until the emergence of Bob Sapp. After fighting well against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira under MMA rules, Sapp was picked up by K-1 and matched up against Ernesto Hoost. His enormous physical force allowed him to stop Hoost even though his fighting style was not technical.

K-1 was clearly pleased with the powerful but not technical Sapp and he became very popular, though this was really more because he was a newcomer entering K-1. Sapp went on to face famous Yokozuka champion sumo wrestler Taro Akebono. He brutally knocked out Akebono, who had no clue about the striking game. Sapp did make an impact with that freak fight, but his record got worse as his career progressed. He lost to Mirko "Crocop" and Ray Sefo, but defeated Seth Petruzelli and Yoshihiro Nakao.

During this era, Remy Bonjasky and Akio "Musashi" Mori led the K-1 heavyweights. Neither was a strong finisher and the success of the events depended heavily upon knockouts. Therefore, K-1 relied more upon fighters with big frames and power than on ones with technical skill. The organization brought in former Ssireum (Korean Sumo wrestling) fighter Hong Man Choi. Besides winning some freak fights, he could not make an impact in the sport.

Fighters began to convert from MMA back to K-1. Semmy Schilt, who had a background in Daidojuku Karate, fought in MMA and then converted to kickboxing. Schilt used his big frame for clinch attacks but he also had skills outside of the clinch. His jab and front kick were important parts of his fighting style and they allowed him to stop the advance of opponents with a smaller reach. While he did not display great athleticism, Schilt's presence brought a new theme to the scene.

"Who can beat Schilt?" fans wondered.

Badr Hari and Alistair Overeem became known as answers to that question. Hari brought speed to the K-1 heavyweight division, while Overeem brought power. Overeem was also known for his career in MMA, but his striking skill is what really got him noticed. Especially when he KOed K-1's next star candidate, Hari.

Overeem's huge muscular body and striking pressure forced opponents to move backward, which is not as easy to do as in the lighter weight classes because it is harder to control one's balance at a heavier weight. Hari showed amazing speed for a heavyweight and a long reach; both of which he used against Semmy Schilt. Hari's speed allowed him to overcome his reach disadvantage and his defensive skill allowed him to avoid Schilt's jab en route to knocking Schilt out.

At 70kg, Masato decided to retire following his second win of the K-1 tournament. The organization needed to find new stars. They tried to make Yoshihiro Sato into a star, but they did not succeed even though his match with Masato was exciting. That forced K-1 to launch a 63kg division.

Giorgio Petrosyan lead the MAX after Masato retire

K-1 tried to build up the number of quality talent. When they had started the 70kg division with Masato, it was difficult for K-1 to find other fighters with comparable skill. Therefore, they used their brand and Masato to collect young talent from across the nation.

This led to the formation of K-1 Koshien. It was named after the Japanese high school baseball tournament, which is the most popular amateur sports event in Japan. K-1 Koshien produced Masaaki Noiri, Hiroya Kawabe, Kizaemon Saiga and others who helped to develop a deeper 63kg division.

Tetsuya Yamato won first K-1 Max 63kg Japan tournament

At the same time, under-63kg fighters never had a chance to compete for a major organization. Therefore, these fighters in Japan looked for a new challenge in Muay Thai. Muay Thai's most talented fighters have always belonged to the lighter weight classes because of Thai fighters' smaller average height.

One fighter known for challenging many Thai opponents was Arashi Fujiwara. He had no opposition in Japan at his natural weight (53kg), so he fought above his weight division like Hisanori Maeda. However, Fujiwara still could not beat the top-ranked Thai stadium fighters. No foreigner could beat the ranked Thai fighters until Genji Umeno knocked out Wutidej Lookprabaht with an elbow to become the first Japanese Lumpinee ranked competitor.

At last, Fight Entertainment Group (FEG) - which ran K-1 - can no longer promote any more events. They owe a considerable amount of money to fighters and are unable to pay. Many kickboxers now train MMA fighters instead. In Europe, Glory bought its main rival, It's Showtime, and now just one organization will run kickboxing.

We have already seen Mark Hunt knock out opponents in the UFC. If Alistair Overeem passes his drug tests, we may get to see a K-1 grand prix winner challenge a UFC champion. Of course, Overeem has had a much longer career in MMA, so such a fight would not be "MMA vs. Kickboxing," but fans and media will surely talk about his K-1 background if that day comes.

SKILL MMA's Japanese Martial Arts Gym (include many kick boxing gym) or Venue photo series

SKILL MMA's Japanese Kick Boxing / Muay Thai Scene Gym List

SKILL MMA's Japanese Kick Boxing / Muay Thai event list

Big thanks to Robert Sargent (from MMA Rising) for English editing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Antonio “Pato” Carvalho interview

Antonio “Pato” Carvalho was actively fighting during Pride's heyday and the “kakutogi boom” in Japan. However, he never fought for Pride, seeing that Pride never had a featherweight belt to compete for. During that particular era, the UFC did not have a featherweight division, and the WEC was yet to be purchased by Zuffa. Regardless, Pato made a name for himself while fighting for the Shooto championship. After several ups and downs in Japan, he rebuilt his career fighting in his home country of Canada. Finally, he is on the UFC roster and awaiting a chance to fight in the Octagon on his home turf. Throughout his career, Pato raised his stock through taking on some of the most prominent names in the Japanese regional MMA scene. Known for being especially fan friendly and open to interviews, he remains active in many MMA forums around the world wide web. For this interview, I decided to focus on details about the individuals he has trained with, his unique contractual situations, his fighting style (Karate), personal hobbies, and future matches. I have tried to bring his personality to the forefront as much as possible.

-At UFC 149 on July 21st, you'll be facing George Roop, who is known for his long reach and tall frame. What are your thoughts on this specific physical advantage of his, and how are you looking to overcome this?

George is a very interesting opponent due to his physical features.It's not too often you find such a tall opponent with such reach in the featherweight division. So that alone will be a very tough challenge in itself. Not to mention, he also happens to be a very skilled and an all around tough fighter. I will need to use quick footwork, long strikes to set up my entry into a distance where I can possibly do some damage. I am also not against taking him down and trying a ground fight if I find the right opportunity. I think I can match up well from any aspect of the fight. I just need to be selective as to how long I stay within a certain range of the fight as to not give him the advantage. I think we can both look at each other and find ways to win. That is the beauty of the fight game and why I find it so intriguing; I can see myself winning in certain ways, but can also see how I might lose if I am not careful. I am never over confident when I fight. For me, it's about deciphering the puzzle that is George Roop. Hopefully, I can pull it off.

-Looking back at your career in Japan, you always seemed to be matched up with guys who were either champions, future champions, celebrities, or some other kind of notable names in the Japanese MMA community. For example, Hatsu Hioki not only became the Shooto champ,but also the Sengoku champ and is currently on a title run in the UFC. Hiroyuki Takaya has faced his share of difficulties stateside, but he still holds the Dream title. Yuji Hoshino became the Cage Force champ, but after losing to Sandro, he couldn't fight for awhile due to some political reasons. Your clash with Rumina Sato happened in what many would call the twilight of his career. Have you kept up with the career developments of your former opponents? Do you
have any thoughts as to your place in their careers as well as vice-versa?

I always follow all my past opponents. I have a deep admiration and respect for everyone that I have ever fought. They all have their place within my history of the sport. Not to mention, I am still a huge fan of the sport in general and all past opponents mentioned are very skilled and have provided me with plenty of entertainment during their fights. I am very proud and honoured to have been in the ring/cage with them and am very happy to see that many of them are still successful in their careers; whether that is competing or passing on their teaching to others at their own gyms.If I were to go down the list of fighters that you mentioned, fighters such as Hatsu Hioki are still very relevant within the Featherweight division. He should be very proud of what his has accomplished. I mean, after my very close win over him, he went through a difficult time. However, he managed to overcome those obstacles and become a champion. After we fought, Hioki asked me to please win the Shooto belt. I could see how much that title meant to him and that if I did capture that title, then his loss would not have been in vain.We all know that I never did do that which is something that I am still bothered by to a certain degree... Anyways, Hioki captured the Shooto belt and if I ever get a chance to speak with him, I will certainly remind him of what he asked of me and the fact that he did not need me to vindicate him by winning the Shooto belt. He did is all himself!Also, I would like to talk about Rumina Sato. I don't know that he ever understood how much he meant to me when I first started fighting.Rumina is still to this day, one of my heroes of this sport. So to be given the opportunity to fight him was by far the greatest moment of my MMA career. I don't know if that feeling will ever be topped. I
certainly hope to one day tell Rumina this. I know often things are lost in translation, but Rumina "Moonwolf" Sato, you are one of the reason why I am where I am in this sport and I own a ton of gratitude for your inspirational fighting style and all of the heart you have always shown in your fights. Arigato Gozaimasu (Thank You)!

-You've trained at AACC in Japan. Hiroyuki Abe rarely fights these days. Darren Uyenoyama recorded a UFC win and is now starting his own gym. Joachim Hansen can't seem to get a fight. Takafumi Otsuka is struggling in DEEP. Megumi Fujii will soon have the biggest fight of her career. Are you in touch with any of these people? What are your thoughts on their recent performance?

I am still in touch with all of those people mentioned. Hiroyuki Abe, or I prefer to call him Abesensei; Not only is he a close friend, he is also one of my mentors in this sport. Abesensei opened the doors to me at AACC and provided me with endless knowledge, not only in the
martial arts, but also in life on how to live the martial arts lifestyle. I owe Abesensei a ton and can't thank him enough. He is certainly one of the reasons why I managed to survive the amount of time I did living in Japan.Darren and I still stay in contact a lot. I actually have gone to San
Francisco to visit him. I met his wonderful family and also spent time at his gym meeting and training with his students. I am very proud of Darren since he came from a similar background to me in MMA. He certainly did not take an easy road. Darren is a very talented and a self motivated person. I have have learned a ton from him and I am very honoured to call him my friend. As far as his performance in the UFC against Kid Yamamoto, I think only myself and those that are close to him truly knew what he is capable of. I was not surprised in the least by the outcome of that fight. Although I know everyone else watching was. I can't wait to see the impact he is going to make in the flyweight division in the UFC.Hellboy is and always will be the one of the best fighters I have ever had the pleasure to train with and corner in his fights. I never knew what it took to be a champion until I met Joachim Hansen. He has created some of the most memorable fights for the fans. That night that he fought Eddie Alvarez is one night I will never forget. I mean, Joachim gave it his all. We had to carry him into the dressing room because he was completely exhausted. I have never outputted so much in any of my fights to the point that I could barely walk out of the ring. Joachim showed me this though his actions and he is one of the most honest and honorable men I have ever met and is one of my best friends. I know that he is not performing at the level he is capable of at the moment, but have faith we will see "Hellboy" rise again. I really hope to see him stateside in the UFC or Bellator. MEGUMI FUJII is by far the most talented female fighter there is. She is such a sweet, kind and humble person outside the ring, but is a complete animal when she fights. Although I mean an animal with incredible martial arts technique. She is a perfect example of what the martial arts are all about and how empowering it can be. Especially for a woman in Japan. She has crossed boundaries in Japan for women's MMA and lives her own way on her own terms. This is an incredible feat considering Japan is a very male dominant society. Anyways, in my humble opinion, MEGUMI should still be undefeated and her recent loses we're unjust. I thought she won both fights and I am very sad that judges can make such poor decisions. That said, she is still the pound for pound queen of women's MMA to me.

-After you left Japan, the WEC bantamweight and featherweight divisions were absorbed into the UFC. In Japan, Sengoku had a remarkable FW tournament. How do you look at the state of the FW division around the world, and the rising acceptance of FW fighters as they grow in popularity, particularly at this point in your career? Why did it take so long for the lighter weights to breakout?

Now that the FW's have a bigger stage to fight on, more and more talented fighters are beginning to appear. There is more of an incentive for fighters to stay in the weight class now. So many fighters that were often undersized in the lightweight division now have a proper weight class where physics don't play a factor in a 3 -5 minute round fight and there are more lucrative possibilities for them in the future. I think that is one of the main reasons why it took the lighter weight classes longer to breakout. The UFC absorbing the WEC and creating those divisions in their roster has certainly helped with exposure for the FW division. Also, Bellator has put on several incredible FW tournaments. So the casual fans are beginning to see how exciting and fast paced the FW's can be and they certainly get their moneys worth in terms of entertainment value.

-Other than those discussed in this article by Tony Loiseleur, is there anything you can think of that needs to be improved in the Japanese MMA scene?

I think the grassroots of MMA in Japan is still head and shoulders better then the rest of the world. I still believe that Shooto, DEEP and Pancrase have great systems in place where young fighters can get the experience they need before they fight on a bigger stage. I think the main problem with Japanese MMA is that it can be too centralized and the thought of fighting outside Japan can be a daunting one. I truly believe that with international experience that a lot of Japanese fighters can compete with the best out there. Japanese fighters are very used to fighting on home soil since for years, Japan was the mecca of MMA.People like Yushin Okami and Hatsu Hioki are great examples of how Japanese fighters can excel outside Japan on the world stage.

As far as revitalizing MMA in Japan, I'm not entirely sure how to do that. In my humble opinion, I think that the Japanese fans need someone to transcend the MMA subscuture; I mean, they need someone that can cross over and be a mainstream star and win fights all at the same time. I think someone like Masato is a perfect example of this. During his time in K1, he was recognized and very popular not only because of his fighting abilities, but also because of his fashion sense and his appearances on mainstream television. So Japan needs someone like that to revitalize the sport. In the meantime, as I said earlier, the grassroots scene will continue to exist and thrive because there will always be a small hardcore fanbase for MMA in Japan.

-You've had a lot of exciting fights in your career, but you've also had many injuries as well. Karate offers a counter-based conservative game plan. Of course different styles always have different pros and cons. Fighters train to maximize their advantages, while minimizing the risks. At this point in your career, how do you feel about a self-defense/martial arts-based conservative style, versus putting on an exciting show for the audience?

There is one thing I understand very well as an MMA competitor, I understand that ultimately, I am an entertainer. I am paid to go into a cage or ring and perform in front of an audience. Of course I want to succeed and win. However, I am well aware that fans are paying money to see fighters entertain them. MMA is no different then any other professional sport in that regard. I just believe that out sport is more exciting and visceral to the eyes. People go to MMA events to enjoy themselves and perhaps forget their own problems in everyday life. That said, I never compromise my principles and believes when I compete. I don't put on a "face" and try to be someone I'm not. I simply love to compete in the sport and applying my craft.

-At UFC 142, someone in the crowd tried to shoot a laser beam into your eyes. Did you realize this? Any thoughts on the need for security to check people's personal belongings at future events if such things continue to happen?

I didn't realize that actually. Only later when I watched the video of the fight. I don't know how they can stop such things. Thousands of fans go to these events and it would be impossible to check every single person. For the most part, I think the UFC does hire the best security they can find and I never felt unsafe while staying at the hotel or during my time in the cage when fighting for the UFC.

-Many people may not know this about you, but you are an old-school arcade video game fan. What is your favorite game and what specifically do you enjoy about it? Also, what about retro-gaming do you find particularly charming? The simplicity? The originality? Something else?

I have so many favourite games from my past from many different genres. I can honestly say my favourite era of gaming was definitely the late 80's to mid 90's. I still love 2d sprite based games. I always loved the artwork and creativity by the game designers, programmer and artists. I mean, I enjoyed the 8bit NES/Famicom era; However, I loved the 16 bit era best. Everything from the PC Engine (which is not really a true 16bit machine) Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Famicom/Super Nintendo and the Neo Geo. I always enjoyed the games made by Capcom, Konami and SNK. I was not a big RPG fan and I still prefer a more pick up and play approach to my gaming. Arcade games certainly provided this concept better. Easy to pick up and play, but hard to master. I still find myself gravitating towards those types of games even on my IOS device (Iphone/Ipad). I still own a large collection of games from each of those systems mentioned and still manage to get some gameplay time in every once and a while when I can hook them up to my old CRT television!

-You're known to often show up in forums and chat with fans. What is your favorite memory of communicating with fans?

I think just communicating with the fans in general is what I like. I don't mind bringing some insight into things that sometimes people can't know from just looking on the outside. I think a true fan can appreciate it when I come online and bring some new and exciting insight into a fight or something behind the scenes. It makes this sport so much more interesting. That all said, I am still and always will be a huge fan of the sport and love talking to others that share that same passion I have for it.

Big thanks to Dean Ryuta Adachi  (holler at scholar) for English editing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Michael Haskamp interview

This week, I interviewed Michael Haskamp, who is the co-founder and matchmaker for Legend Fighting Championship. I spoke with him after he reacted to my tweet about low standards in MMA journalism. After that encounter, I became interested in Legend FC and found out a lot about the promotion.

Legend FC has signed many well-known Japanese fighters and also ones known only to hardcore fans. When I found out that they had signed Taiyo Nakahara and Hideto Tatsumi, I was surprised by the choices. Nakahara showed a lot of improvement in the SRC bantamweight tournament, but he was not a tournament favorite. He won a dubious decision over Shintaro Ishiwatari, who is the current Pancrase champ. He also had DQ win over Akitoshi Tamura. Mr. Haskamp watched Nakahara’s actual fights as an evaluation rather than simply looking at his record only.

Moreover, I was even more surprised by Hideto Tatsumi's signing because he is still very early in his career. However, even despite that, I see a lot of potential in his performances. He lost at Legend FC 7, but considering his short career, I still like this signing. These only happen when matchmakers devote the time needed to perform in-depth research. I am impressed by that.

Here is his interview. I feel that it is one of his best and hopefully sets a higher standard for MMA journalism and promotions. Take note of his clear and logical thoughts about Chinese MMA's future. 

Legend FC events have thus far been held in Hong Kong and Macau, but to look at the area's future, we can't ignore the potential of mainland China as a market for MMA. What do you think about the long-term potential of the mainland for MMA?

Mainland China is a huge potential market for MMA, and there are many tournaments already being held up there which don’t catch much international attention because they don’t publish any of their marketing, PR, or results in English. Last year, martial arts were the fifth most broadcast category of sports on TV, measured by total hours of programming. There is already a lot of interest in MMA, and I think we’re going to continue to see that grow, especially as more Chinese fighters go overseas to compete against high-level international opponents. 

In terms of our overall audience, China is already Legend’s biggest market. We have the largest broadcast footprint in China of any MMA organization. And of course, holding an event up there is part of our plans. We’ve been speaking with various potential partners for almost a year now, and once we’ve established the right partnerships up there, we’ll be moving forward with our first Mainland Chinese event. 

Recently, mainland China included MMA bouts at events like Hero Legend at Changsha, which drew an audience of over 10,000 people. These events fare well economically, but it appears that foreign fighters are only brought in for the Chinese fighters to beat. What is your plan for competing or cooperating with them?

Unfortunately, you are right that historically many Mainland Chinese promotions have looked at foreign fighters as only a way for Chinese fighters to demonstrate their own skills and superiority. However, as the sport has grown, the audience has also become more sophisticated, and they are becoming more aware of mismatches and one-sided fights. Chinese MMA fans want to see their local heroes fighting against the best international opposition, and we think that’s one of the main reasons why Legend’s Chinese audience is growing so quickly – because we make exciting, competitive matches that put Chinese fighters against some of the best opponents in the region. That approach won’t change, and I think will be one of the keys to our continued success in China. 

In areas like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, I feel that people tend to care more about business than sports, and even when people have a choice of sports, activities like running, tennis or golf attract more attention than fight sports. How do you plan to go about changing those people's minds?

I can’t comment on Singapore, but in Hong Kong and Macau, fight sports have traditionally been thought of as “dirty” because of certain past associations between gyms, promotions, and organized crime. And as a consequence, combat sports have been considered a low-class and unskilled activity. That view is quickly changing though, and I think that’s being driven by two things in particular: 1) more people are training in a variety of combat sports – from Muay Thai to Boxing to BJJ – as a way to stay fit and shake off the stresses of daily corporate life, and this is giving people a greater appreciation for just how complex MMA is, and how skilled the fighters are; and 2) Legend has developed a track record and reputation for holding high-quality events featuring some of the best fighters in the Asia-Pacific, which reinforces the idea that MMA is an elite-level sport. 

Chinese have history and tradition in martial arts like Kung Fu. However, I do not think that Kung Fu matches up well against other current martial arts. Do you feel that Chinese traditional martial artists will struggle initially in MMA like karate fighters did, and do you think that a Kung Fu fighter could one day become a champion like Lyoto Machida did with his karate?

I think it’s important to make a distinction between traditional forms of Kung Fu, and competitive forms like Sanda. I agree with you that traditional forms of Kung Fu are not particularly well-suited to MMA. However, as a freestyle form intended for competition, Sanda actually lends itself very well to MMA, particularly considering that it even incorporates some throws and takedowns. When Pat Healy and Brad Hannah from Team Quest traveled to Xian to run a six-week training camp, they commented on how effective Sanda striking was for MMA, and they even incorporated some of the Sanda techniques into their own MMA training. 

That said, like all single styles, Sanda is not a complete system for MMA, and fighters coming from a Sanda base (which is most Chinese fighters) need to work on their wrestling and submissions to round out their skills. But having watched the evolution of Chinese fighters over the two years since the first Legend show, I would say that they have shown the greatest overall improvement in skills. 

In matchmaking for Legend FC, you have featured Japanese talent ranging from famous fighters like Taiyo Nakahara and K-taro Nakamura to prospects like Hideto Tatsumi and Yuki Niimura. I watch a lot of the Kanto region's local MMA, but you really seem to have a passion for finding the top talent for your organization. How do you find this talent?

For all of us at Legend, this is not just a job for us – it is a passion. We love everything about MMA. We love the sport. We love the athletes. We love the fans. And so keeping an eye out for talent is one of the things I enjoy the most about my job. In Japan, I keep track of about 40 different fighters. Some of them are, as you said, famous fighters. Others are relatively unknown but have a lot of potential. Take Yusuke Kawanago for example – I was turned on to him by an American MMA fan living in Japan who sent me an e-mail simply saying, “You really need to have a look at this guy.” And this is basically the same approach I take for every country in Asia – it just happens that Japan has one of the richest pools of talent in the region. 

But we are selective about how we sign fighters. Even though we only require exclusive contracts for our titleholders, my belief is that every fighter signed to Legend should be able to fight at least three to four times per year for us because I consider it our responsibility to keep them busy. And as we increase the number of shows we do (we will have four the first half of 2012), we will sign additional fighters. But right now, our approach has been to keep our roster small but busy. 

At Legend FC 7, Taiyo Nakahara was DQed for punching the back of the head. While I definitely think that Nakahara should know basic MMA terminology in English, I also feel that the referee should have separated the fighters and warned him before calling off the fight. What do you think about the finish of that fight and the overall officiating in Legend FC?

I agree with you about the Nakahara fight: in my opinion, the referee should have separated the fighters and given Nakahara a yellow card, but it shouldn’t have been an immediate disqualification. And after the show was over, I shared my opinion with the referee. However, as I tell the fighters repeatedly at the rules meeting two days before the fights, I do not interfere with the officiating process. While we do select the referees and judges, it is critical to the integrity of Legend that my colleagues and I have absolutely no influence on the officiating process. I might disagree with a referee’s call or a judge’s scoring (and I certainly have in some of our past fights), but as long as what they do is within the rules, I will not interfere. Referees and judges need to have 100% of my support in order to exercise their authority. And fighters need to have confidence that the promoters will never interfere with the officiating of a fight. 

That’s not to say that I’ve always been happy with the way things have happened. For example, in Yusuke Kawanago’s fight against Mark Striegl at Legend 5, my opinion was that Kawanago won that fight. And as I mentioned, I thought Nakahara should have received a yellow card, not a disqualification. But referees and judges are human beings, and they see things subjectively. And as we also tell the fighters in the rules meeting, if they really want to guarantee themselves the win, they need to finish the fight instead of leaving it to the judges. 

Lastly, please tell me about your upcoming Legend FC 8 card and your plans for the future of Legend FC. 

I think this is one of our best cards yet. Jadamba vs. Nam will be an awesome fight. Both of them are outstanding strikers, but Jadamba is the more technical and disciplined fighter, whereas Nam is more of a brawler. Regardless of the outcome, both of these guys are great to watch. And the co-main event featuring Ji vs. Kawanago will be an interesting battle: Ji has submitted all of his previous opponents, but Kawanago has great takedown and submission defense, and lethal counter-striking. I’m guessing that fight won’t go to the judges. We’ve also got some great new Japanese talent debuting on the card: former Sengoku welterweight champion K-Taro, Shooto rookie champion Kasuya, and DEEP light heavyweight title contender Niimura. Overall, I think this is a great card – certainly one of our best yet. Almost every single one of the undercard fights could just as easily have been on the main card. And fans can watch the entire undercard live and free on our YouTube channel

As far as future plans go, we’re focused on doing more shows in more cities, and expanding our broadcast coverage even further. We’ll be back in Macau on June 16, and then it looks like our rescheduled Jakarta show will be three weeks later, on July 6 or 7. My wife Lin (who is also a colleague at Legend) will be giving birth to our baby daughter around June 25, so I’ve definitely got a very busy summer ahead of me! We’ll probably take a break during the Olympics in August, and then we’ll be back with a strong calendar for the second half of the year. All in all, it’s an exciting time for MMA in Asia, and all of us at Legend are just happy to be a part of it. 

Michael Haskamp Official Twitter

Legend FC Official Web

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ian Dean interview

This week, I interviewed Ian Dean, who is the matchmaker for Cage Warriors Fighting Championship in the United Kingdom. At first, Cage Warriors did not catch the eyes of some MMA fans. Cage Rage received more attention. However, after many elite British fighters came through Cage Warriors over the years, people began to understand that it was a top organization in the area.

For me, I watched GCM's Cage Force in Japan and saw Dan Hardy's improvement in his fights there, but I never imagined then that he would someday receive a UFC title shot. That was quite a surprise to me and changed my perception about MMA in the U.K.

I asked Ian about the upcoming Cage Warriors female 125-pound tournament. Olympic athlete Ronda Rousey recently received a lot of attention at 135 pounds in Strikeforce, and Bellator had its 115-pound tournament with Megumi Fujii in 2010. While there is currently less attention paid to 125 pounds, the journey to find new stars will begin with this tournament.

As more 125-pound matchups take place, we will see improvements among the fighters and the division will become more significant. We must not overlook this Cage Warriors women's tournament and should watch as they build up new stars.

- For women, Strikeforce has a 135-pound division and Bellator has 115 pounds. There is no 125-pound division in those organizations yet, but Cage Warriors has its upcoming tournament at 125. I feel that CWFC has succeeded at finding and showcasing top European fighters before major organizations realize their talents. Do you think the 125-pound division is overlooked by major U.S. promotions?

Without a doubt, I honestly feel 125 lbs has the potential to be a big weight class for women's MMA. Not only does it have a lot of crossover appeal with some 115 lbs fighters moving up, but I also feel that a lot of 135lbs fighters could move down, too, but currently don't want to because no major North American promotion has pushed that weight class. You only have to look at the unified women's rankings to see the talent that is there and I feel there are many intriguing match-ups to be made.

- I am interested in the beginning of your tournament this week in Dubai. It seems like fewer women take part in sports in the Middle East than in other areas of the world. Have you been asked about women’s MMA often since you arrived?

To be honest, I don't know the exact figures and the Middle East is a very contrasting region. However, they do have a healthy interest in western sports in general, with our hotel and other areas showing soccer games, basketball and even the UFC.

This also will not be the first female bout in the region, and although it may not be accepting in other Middle Eastern areas for cultural reasons, our first female bout in Jordan back in September was warmly received and I know a lot of people here in Dubai are looking forward to the Gaff/Maia bout here, too.

- Is there any particular fight or fighter that you would suggest that people pay special attention to in this tournament? I felt that Sheila Gaff's clinch knee strikes against Aisling Daly were impressive last year.

I feel all four fighters bring something special to the tourney. Jennifer Maia has her association with the world famous Chute Boxe team, has a good record on her domestic circuit and is yet still largely unknown outside of Brazil, which brings with it a certain amount of mystique to the tournament. Whereas her opponent, Sheila Gaff, looked fantastic last time out on Cage Warriors stopping Aisling Daly with strikes and, at only 22 years of age, she has amazing potential as well as devastating KO power.

Whilst in the other bracket, both Rosi Sexton and Aisling Daly are very popular amongst U.K. and Irish fans and are both known stateside, too. I think everyone in the women's MMA scene has wanted this match-up to happen and I personally can't wait for it to happen.

- After this tournament is over, would you like to match the winner up against a top American opponent? Any particular fighter you might invite?

I'm also looking to bring over quality fighters to Cage Warriors. For whoever wins this tourney, I will look to get them another top-ranked fighter for them to defend their title against. I don't want to name names, but we'll do our best to bring over someone worthy of a title shot. Although it has been difficult at times to get U.S.-based female fighters onto our show, I hope that after this tourney we will get more interest.

- I looked at MMARising's female unified rankings and there are four European fighters in the rankings. Did that help to motivate you to start this tournament?

We are lucky to have several European fighters at 125 lbs and I guess that has made things a lot easier. And, with both Aisling Daly and Rosi Sexton being available, it's just common sense to use them when we can.

- Would you be interested in holding another women's tournament at a different weight? Strikeforce seems to be dropping the 145-pound division and 105 pounds is starting to develop in Japan. Perhaps CWFC could showcase some fighters that other organizations have overlooked?

If the talent is there, I would like to use it. However, you need fighters available to really push a division and, domestically, 105 and 115 don't have too many high level U.K./European fighters yet, but I'm always open to suggestions.

- Unfortunately, Cage Warriors is not yet recognized by most Asian fans except for super hardcores, but many elite fighters from Europe have fought for CWFC. Could you please describe the appeal of CWFC to those who read this interview?

We just try to do things the 'right' way. We like to push MMA as a legitimate sport. We are fair and try to treat people well. We are not only trying to push MMA in the U.K. and Ireland but across Europe and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa region) as well. We have great TV and distribution deals and are live on, and I honestly feel that we are not only a show that MMA purists can enjoy but also a show for non-hardcore fans who enjoy seeing quality MMA action.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

André "Benkei" Vinícius Aurnheimer interview

I recently interviewed André "Benkei" Vinícius Aurnheimer, who is an MMA coach best known for physical training at American Top Team. He has worked with fighters like Antonio Silva, Thiago Alves, Gesias Cavalcante and many more.

Benkei does not only work on conditioning and physical training. He and Mohamed Ouali develop striking styles fit for MMA at ATT. In interviews with Manabu Takashima at Gong Kakutougi magazine and Fight & Life magazine,Benkei discussed Kyokushin Karate and provided his knowledge on striking,physical training and nutrition. He also talked about ground and pound knowledge that came from Tameshi-Wari.

I was interested in this. I have talked about Japanese fighters who aren't good at physical training and conditioning, but part of advanced American physical training and nutrition comes from Japanese traditional martial arts.

Benkei has left ATT now, but he continues to coach MMA fighters. Normally MMA coaches are asked about training students but are not asked about where their own training and knowledge came from. This interview is about an MMA coach who has a traditional martial arts background.

- Matsuro Megumi was a Kyokushin fighter who was sent to Brazil by Masutatsu Oyama. How did you start in karate and what was your first encounter with your master?

- I was Judo fighter (old style, no Olympic rules); with 18 years old I want some striking style to complete myself as a fighter (almost 30 years ago)... I trained a little be Kung Fu (Hung Gar style), but that not make me happy... I never use it in fight and always use my ground game to submit easy my opponents... I became friend with the kung fu teacher, and he told me he was training different style of karate... I never like Karate, to stiff style, but when I saw Megumi Sensei style I just Love it... He did not accept me as his students easy... he did not even talk to me for one year when I did start training... he started to talk to me after I trained hard against his old studdents, and did not give up after they destroy my legs. I was there, invited to his original uchi deshi, to that special training!!! I did not give up, but the other guy did not resist to the powerful leg kicks, and asked to stop before the end. After that Megumi Sensei started to talked to me, and made me his new uchi deshi. The time passed and he also became part of my family !!!

 - Kyokushin was focused on physical training and you learned how to build strength from Megumi. Also, part of your MMA coaching skill is developed from Megumi's influence. Please tell me about how Kyokushin and Megumi's philosophy affects your coaching for MMA.

- The first thing come to my mind everyday is dojo kun; in special: - "Hitotsu, wareware wa, shinshin o renmashi, kakko fubatsu no shingi o kiwameru koto". - "We will train our hearts and bodies for a firm unshaken spirit". I guide my life under that principles, my Master was not a big guy, and I am strong but also not taller guy also, that made me work strategically my moves all the time. Megumi Sensei, made me open my eyes an see suntimes the best fighter loose by strategy and hard training. Megumi Sensei always said :  Truth stood on one side and Ease on the other; it has often been so!!! 

 - Kyokushin is known for its emphasis on power. Masutatsu Oyama says, "Techniques exist inside of power." That philosophy distinguishes Kyokushin from other styles of karate. Do you feel that is what you learned from Megumi?

- Yeah, I can give you one good exemple. Take a look at the fighters i trained before and now they bt their own. Thiago Alves just fought against martin kampmann, the technique is almost the same, but the power was not there anymore. When you kick the legs and take it, destroy it by power is one thing! when you continous hit without damage is nothing. you can see it in JZ Calvan also with no power, the Striking and ground and pound, Technique can not be apply!!!

- In karate, students are often subjected to unreasonable amounts of training by their mentor or master. It helps to build a mindset for fighting, but it can also hurt the body. What is your opinion of karate's over-the-top type training?

 - That is the question... To feel the limit between push harder, no give up and sport science  is the Ultimate challenge of my work. The Scientist in me always fight against the kyokushin warrior inside me also. lol... But That is the magic... get the right time between rest, protecting the physical integrity of my fighter and "osu no seishin"- to persevere whilst being pushed . 

- Currently, elite fighters like Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo demonstrate the importance of speed in sports. What is your philosophy on speed and reflexes in karate and fighting in general?

- Speed is the key of power... if you can move fast, you can control the distance... if you control the distance you control the fight. I push so hard the training to get more, and more speed. I must to have the faster fighter in battle. All strategy start in the antecipation, and the speed is the key to get it. The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with accurance. 

 - We have seen more karate-based fighters competing in MMA recently. I find it interesting that some karate fighters lose when using tsuki (hand strikes) against boxers or kickboxers at shorter distances. Karate's tsuki have merit at greater distance and for accuracy of  strikes. Is there any suggestions that you can provide for karate fighters who face boxers or kickboxers at a short distance?

- I saw the light when i saw kazakhstan boxing skills! Use the foot work Constantly in angles, can help karate fighters to get the control over shorter distance. Some old Technique can help also as: Hiji Ate and Shita Isuki!!! "I have not permitted myself to be ignorant of any martial art that exists. Why? Such ignorance is a disgrace to someone who follows the path of the martial arts." ~Masutatsu Oyama~ 

- I read a magazine and found that you had been unable to contact your master Megumi since 2006. Did you find him? If not, please provide a message to the world and the people around Megumi. 

- Not yet... and now I must to!!! My wife is pregnant and my son soon will be here to he can training him. I need the information about where he is, I know he is in Japan now! I know he was with his family in Amami Ōshima ! I wanna go where he is right now, take out my hair and eyebrow also, and ask him to forgive my proud... I did everything because him and to him.... please if anyone know something about him, please send me one email to ...."If every man would help his neighbour, no man would be without help." ~Bruce Lee~  osu...
Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.