Jameel's Blog: New Year
Happy New Year to everyone from Japan! So picture this: my life is like Super Mario Bros., the original one. I could go through life and my MMA could improve one level at a time. But instead, I went to Japan for some private training, got the secret to the warp zone, and warped to the last level of the game. That's what's happened to my MMA level.
Its going through the roof right now, and I don't know if its just my being in Japan or if its the fact that I just realized there is a princess that needs some saving from a dragon creature and I have to train myself well to save her (jumping on mushrooms and turtles along the way). But I'm officially psyched for my fight coming in Pancrase. Before I get to this new attitude though, let me backtrack a little...
This last month and a half has been hard as hell. My lower back aches from takedowns, from changing my old stance, and from ten minute mit rounds non-stop. Going to all of these different gyms, training for four hours a day, plus some added swimming, lifting, and conditioning is enough to tax most people's bodies over time. I paid the tax and then some, give me my return please.
Well, this last week, in an effort to avoid over-training and allow my body to recover from the hell its been through, Tsuyoshi and I took a little vacation from two and three-a-day practices to just work on my jiu-jitsu and enjoy bringing in the new year. And actually, speaking of Tsuyoshi, he's probably more beat up than I am. The guy is 38 years old and doesn't run like he used to since he doesn't train full time normally. Evidently, he says he's going to the hospital as soon as I go back home. I guess I get to look forward to being old and injured when I'm 38, too. How wonderful.
The New Year in Japan, much like back in the states, contained two important themes for me this year: sports and partying. Only the sports are better and the Japanese somehow brought religion into partying. Also, the New Year here is far more than just eve and day of celebration. New Years lasts through January third out here, marking a huge and important Japanese holiday with lots of relaxing and fun.
Anyways, the in the perfect world, MMA would be THE number one sport and would be on live TV instead of pay-per-view, and would be the most viewed sport on TV. Well, welcome to K-1 on New Years. As an MMA enthusiast/ fanatic, watching K-1 Field's Dynamite was kind of like experiencing enlightenment, or maybe watching us land on the moon for the first time...well, it probably wasn't that cool, but it was awesome. Basically, it is considered the grand-daddy of MMA/kickboxing shows out in Japan, with the biggest Japanese superstars of fighting, both MMA and K-1. It's aired on public television. And, just so you know, Japanese MMA now is really a lot different than anywhere else, especially K-1.
The main reason for this is because its more like a mixture of MMA and professional wrestling. Everything is professional and is supposedly not staged, but there are crazy fights that would never be allowed by MMA events commissioned in the U.S. Things like David and Goliath matches or storylines of these old has-beens making their comeback. This year, the circus fight was a guy wearing a kunikuman anime superhero mask vs. Bob Sapp. When they showed the training of the fighters before the fight and the interview, the kunikuman guy's was just the cartoon show action. Kind of crazy, but only in Japan.
I guess the main point to the night was simply entertainment. Almost every fight had a super-long story intro trying to introduce the fighter beyond just being a professional sports athlete. There were clearly stories to everyone fighting. Needless to say, the event was a blast to watch and it was a highlight of my trip so far. It finished before midnight, and as such, Tsuyoshi and I ventured to the Temple for some New Years fun.
Traveling to downtown Nagoya on New Years is crazy. People flock to the temple on New Years so we had a hell of a time finding parking, and Tsuyoshi, with his infinite brilliance just ended up parking on the sidewalk illegally. It's a wonder we never got ticketed or towed. Before going inside the temple, Tsuyoshi and I stopped in a cool little bar and met some people and enjoyed bringing in the New Year with some good beer and some rowdy fun. After the New Years countdown, we ventured into the Temple, a chaotic scene really, that more than made for a fun trip.
Basically, in Japan, on New Years, tons of people travel to the temple grounds to make an offering and a prayer for their new year. The celebration here is not very formal though, since right outside the temple there are huge fairgrounds and stands and kiosks set up for maybe half a mile to sell fair-style food, really yummy, yet expensive food. That, and the guy in front of us in line was clearly drunk off his ass, being held up by his friends while going to pray to the temple god and actually flipping it off....no joke. Anyways, this chaos was police-controlled for some true Japanese efficiency in getting in and out of the temple grounds without being trampled on. We went, Tsuyoshi did his thing, and then we got some Japanese pie shaped like a fish filled with custard and some chicken and went home to get some much needed sleep. All in all, bringing in the New Year was a ton of fun.
The rest of the week took a much quieter tone. Mostly, we only went to jiu-jitsu practice with Alexander Ogawa. The groups were small, and all we did was spar for a couple of hours. I was very happy to finally get to roll with these guys without having practiced kickboxing and swimming before hand. It's just nice to be fresh instead of dead by the time I get to roll. Needless to say, I did a lot better. My GI jiu-jitsu is really coming along nicely, and I'm hanging with everyone at Gracie Barra now. I'm learning all of the different aspects of a GI well, with the lapel-chokes and how your positioning is a little different with a GI than without one. It haven't decided if GI is the way to go for MMA, but it might be and I am still deciding.
Sadly, the week ended on a low note. I must have angered the gods because Friday-Saturday night I woke up in the middle of the night to the worst pain in my stomach ever, which I just tried to ignore and sleep off. It would have been nice if pretending not to be sick would work, but just going back to sleep did nothing to help. Waking up the next day, I knew something was wrong. I tried to fight off being sick for most of the day, but it was a war I clearly couldn't win. If I may make a recommendation, don't eat corn-soup when you are sick because is does not come back up in a nice way at all. After my ill-fated venture to go and puke corn for a while, I slept, drank water, watched some movies, and slept some more. I haven't taken a single full day off from training since I have been here. So, I figured it really didn't matter so long as I wasn't sick for too long. It was probably my body begging to just relax, and it needed it. To my delight, I awoke the next day feeling restored, refreshed, renewed and any other r-word and basically got right back to business with training for my fight.
Being sick was actually a pretty good turning point for me out here. It's what kind of sparked my new found enthusiasm. To me it signified the end of all of my fun and partial vacationing. This next week signifies that this is no longer supposed to just be a fun trip here to Japan. It's not about trying to see the sights anymore, or chill and relax and meet new people. Its now time to get even more serious and to train my ass off even more for this next fight in Pancrase for that number one spot, because when I win this fight I will be fighting for the title. It's my mission, my goal, and is pretty much the only thing that matters out here at this point. Needless to say, I sure as hell didn't leave Wisconsin to come to Japan, train for two months and lose, and I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen.
On a completely different note, lots of my team mates are fighting all over soon and I want to make some shout outs and spread the news. First, Daisuke Hanazawa is fighting for the King of Pancrase title on this next show that I am also fighting on and Kiich Kunimoto is also fighting on the card too. I trained hard with these guys last year out here and they actually trained at Freestyle Academy for a couple of months just over a year ago. Just thought some guys back home would want to know. Second, to all of my team mates from Dave Strasser`s Freestyle Academy who are fighting at the Freestyle Combat Challenge this Saturday, Jan. 10 at Marina Shores in Kenosha: kill your opponents. I want the FCC shut down so get some killing done, especially you Brian.
Oh, and lastly, I have just been given the go-ahead to host a small seminar at Dave Strasser`s Freestyle Academy on Saturday, Feb. 21. I'm humbled to be asked to do this and I plan on teaching some of drills and techniques I learned in honing basic striking skills and some Japanese striking techniques not usually used in normal boxing and kickboxing. Also, included, if I have my way, will be some fully clothed sumo techniques for MMA and exceptional submission techniques I've learned out here. Basically I'm presenting what I've learned. More to come on all of the specifics of this but its should be awesome for those who can make it and lord knows I have the extra time to plan this so it should be a ton of fun.
Thanks to all for your on going support. I'm loving it out here, but I'm also homesick as hell and miss training in Kenosha and Madison. Also, sorry for the lack of any pictures at all this week. I'll be sure to bring my camera with me to everywhere from now on. Peace!