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 firstname.lastname@example.org ...."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.