Fighting For HOPE!

Watch Harry’s Fight HERE!

I love to watch the fights. Whether it’s on TV or amongst a boisterous crowd at a live event, something appeals to the boy inside me about seeing two men hurl flesh and bone at each other. I’m eternally curious to find out who’s more alpha. The primal, survivalist nature of the battle of wits, will and whoop-ass is a brutal combination that never fails to make my head spin.

I’m the first to admit there’s also a sadistic side that enjoys the concept of someone else getting an outright beating, while I don’t feel a thing. Whether it’s an after-school fight, or a colosseum battle to the death featuring swords and lions on TV, watching two combatants go at it has always been a welcome distraction from my feeble brain’s default predilection for tits and ass.

But Sunday, March 18th saw me ringside at a fight with a twist. I was there to see a local businessman and fellow expat enter an MMA cage for the first time. At 48 years of age! Against a legitimate, young fighter. For charity! Makes perfect sense… I guess.

The idea was simple: Last two two-minute rounds, raise a million yen per minute survived, and the proceeds would be used to help people in disaster-stricken Tohoku, and Ethiopia, via the HOPE International Development Agency.

A genius plan to help those in need? Or, pure madness, simply asking for trouble? As Mum used to say, it’s all fun and games until someone ends up in tears… or worse. Only time would tell which was to be, but as I walked around the giant arena, filled to capacity with hard-core fight fans, I tried to put myself in Harry’s place. How would I feel if I was about to walk out into that cage and test my mettle in mortal combat, in front of all those people?

The risk of irreparable injury and stinging humiliation, the knowledge that there was no backing out of this now, and that the clock was ticking towards the deafening silence that would inexorably follow the ring of that gong, and my inescapable moment of truth. From the safety of an admittedly over-fertile imagination, I tasted the fear. And I respected the man who was willing to step up, in spite of it.

As I was to discover, this was not just your average middle-aged businessman throwing himself into the fire to attract attention to a cause. It was a guy who’d been training martial arts all his life. A man who could handle himself, but more importantly, a man with a dream of community spirit, and of seeing himself and those around him continue to strive, and push to greater heights as human beings.

So, what became of Harry Hill and his noble quest? Harry did indeed last the full four minutes, and successfully raised ¥4 million in pledges from both Japan and abroad. Shimura Dojo, organizers of Sunday’s “Heat” event will also donate 30% of ticket sales via HOPE International Development Agency to clean water programs in Ethiopia and “Return to Self Reliance” projects in the Tohoku region. More details on the various projects to benefit are available at www.hope.or.jp

Watch Harry’s Fight HERE!

Read on for an exclusive NAGMAG interview with Harry Hill:

NAGMAG: How did you feel about your fight today? 

HH: It was good. The adrenaline was flowing really hard. I was hoping to be a little smoother, to have more combinations. But I think I did very well, I moved in and out well and I had good speed. I didn’t get hurt, I took one blow at the end, but other than that, I recovered quickly. It was good. For having the debut at 48, I’d say it was a pretty good start.

NAGMAG: This was not your first fight, was it?

HH: I’ve fought as an amateur, but never in an event like this.

NAGMAG: So this was the biggest fight of your life?

HH: By far.

NAGMAG: It must have been pretty intimidating to walk into such a giant arena.

HH: You know I spent the last seven months really preparing, and I’ve actually practiced harder in the last three months, more seriously, knowing that this was coming, than almost ever. And because of that, when I actually got out there, it felt good. It was kinda funny, I had the U2 song playing on the intro, and I don’t normally dance, but all of a sudden I danced a little bit, and it worked out OK.

NAGMAG: Were you concerned about your opponent at all?

HH: Yeah, I’d fought him before and he’d knocked me out once. So I didn’t want to get knocked out. It seemed like that would be a downer on the night. He’s a great guy, a big strong guy. But I was able to cover up pretty well, and pretty much avoid damage.

NAGMAG:You went the distance in style.

HH: Yeah, I went the distance, four minutes for four million yen, and I got all four minutes in, so I got my sponsors.

NAGMAG: So obviously you did this for charity. What was the beginning of this idea to fight for HOPE?

HH: It started at the beginning of the year when I was looking at myself and taking a little bit of inventory, and thinking that maybe I had lost a little bit of my challenging spirit. And I think it’s important for anybody to test their comfort zones. Because when you test your comfort zones, that’s where your creativity comes from.

And I started to feel that maybe I wasn’t doing that. And at the same time I was thinking that we’re a year removed from Tohoku. And we’re removed, of course, from places like Ethiopia and Cambodia. And as much as we talk about how even little actions that we take can make a difference, it’s easy to forget.

So Shimura-san saw me practicing in the gym and he said “You should fight. You’re in good shape, you can do it.” And I started thinking about it, and that really has taken me out of my comfort zone. Practices in the last three months have been really hard, I’ve had more little injuries than I care to remember, but I thought this was something that was symbolic of what HOPE was about. And we talk about the “Fight for HOPE”. I was reading one of our HOPE brochures and it says “people fight for hope every day” and I said “Well, why don’t I fight for hope.”

At my age I’m not going to be a pro. Of course I’m going to fight for myself because it’s going to be a personal challenge. But if I’m not fighting for something else, especially in my situation, if I don’t have a greater meaning, then I’m missing something as a human being. So I’m going to challenge myself [to fight in the cage] and to give back. And I’m going to challenge myself not to forget all these other people who are fighting a much more serious fight than what I fought today. As much as my heart was racing, these fights that happen in Tohoku or Cambodia, or Ethiopia or Somalia, these are real fights.

But I think what I’d like to say to everybody is [about] our fights, because every one of us fights for something every day. Our fights count, and our fights can be meaningful. Today I think I raised about 4 million yen. But it doesn’t matter if you raise four million yen, or raise four happy children. It’s about remembering that these fights count, and that they make a difference in people’s lives. And I think that hope is not about what happened yesterday. Hope is always about what tomorrow can be.

And I think there’s a lot of people in Japan, [not just] Tohoku, [but] anywhere who will think “Oh, I’m too old”, or “Oh, I don’t have a good job”, and they kinda forget that even little fights can make a big difference. So I hope that I was able to give back a little bit. I did this to remind myself, but  I hope that in the process of reminding myself I also reminded some other people.

NAGMAG: And maybe give some inspiration to the local community to be similarly motivated.

HH: You know, we all can do it.

NAGMAG:To help other people and push ourselves at the same time.

HH: Absolutely. You know, we all can do it. All of us can make a difference. That’s what it was for. And, it was fun!

NAGMAG: So what’s next for Harry Hill?

HH: My daughter is standing over  there and what’s important to me now is really, that I have my fight for the people around me, my family, my friends, and my company.  Hopefully if I can inspire people to fight a little bit, we can do great things.

NOTE: You can help Harry Fight For Hope. Donations are still being accepted.

Go to: www.tinyurl.com/FightFor-Hope for more information.

Watch Harry’s Fight HERE!

 

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