Paul Conway wants you to head to Yokkaichi on the 14th and watch some MMA!
Up close and personal, the padding on the struts that make up the corners of the scrap-yard-evil looking ring (or rather, cage – nay octagon!) are gnarlier and considerably less bouncy-looking than might be expected after years of watching MMA (Mixed Martial Arts, that is) on the big screen. I wouldn’t want my noggin whacked against those, methinks. But then again, there are so few things in this world, even here in cuddly Japan, that I fancy having my head whacked against. But that’s just me. At KING OF FIGHT (capitals de rigueur) the room is full of people eager to risk just such a head-whacking, as long as they’re given the opportunity to get their own punching, kicking and general evil-intentioned manhandling in first. These people are serious.
New to all this? Well, take a deep breath because, make no mistake, MMA (in the guise of the globe-straddling MMA-behemoth UFC) is coming to get you. The fastest growing sport in the US and maybe even the world (dodgeball? yubizumo? forget it!), the stars of the UFC are just that: Stars.
That huge bloke who didn’t say much but looked a damn sight scarier than Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables? Randy Couture, former UFC heavyweight champion of the world. It’ll be a long time before David Beckham is getting those parts.
Maybe in the cold light of day (and who needs that?) the equipment used by the UFC is of such supple softness that it lovingly cradles the heads of the proud combatants, but I doubt it. In these bouts – these battles, these wars – nobody is lovingly cradling anything. This whole thing is serious. Bloody serious.
But this is not the UFC. This is KING OF FIGHT, an MMA showcase run by a bunch of blood-crazed would-be superheroes out of dojos in Aichi, Mie and Hell itself, probably. Yuzo Nomura, one of the organizers, is about one foot shorter than me, about two feet wider and, when he’s not smiling, at least three times as intimidating. Today at least he’s a cheery soul and smiles are in abundance. Am eager to hear just how a nice man like him ended up getting involved in all this. But first things first:
What does it feel like to punch someone in the face so hard that they lose the will to live?
“Sukkiri! Kimochii! You feel powerful. You think no more about your opponent. No hate. No nothing. It is done.” Jason, Yuzo’s sometime training partner, is just as enthusiastic: “It feels good. It’s a release. Man, it’s good!”
How on earth did you first get into this?
“I have worked with some bad people. People who like to fight. People you might call gangsters. It’s illegal to fight in the street, so we had to make somewhere we could fight and be left alone. Every man likes to think he’s Number One. This way he can find out if it’s true.”
What’s so special about KING OF FIGHT?
Oh, man! This is nothing less than a gathering of outlaws; people who love to fight. There will be knockouts, I can guarantee that. Everyone will want to see this!
I was at the last KING OF FIGHT and while it is long way from the high-flying dance-porn of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon it is, if anything, further still from the sweet science of Gentleman Jim. What it is, I am happy to say, is a glorious bloody mess; a playground fight with (barely) padded gloves, a funnily shaped ring and strictly-ish enforced rules between evenly matched monsters.
There are rules? You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, but there are indeed. About as many as you could write on the back of your hand: No eye-gouging, arm-locks or blows to the back of the head. And no chinese burns or asking the downed opponent’s girlfriend for her digits when said fighter is still comatose. But that goes without saying.
While the fighters strutting their stuff are not yet household names, that may not be the case for long. In the meantime, they’re having a whole bundle of fun and we get to watch. I can tell you that at the last event some of the gentlemen got themselves a whole world of pain and others, no doubt, got themselves very laid that night. And, given the martial arts skills on show, the blood, the gore, the barely believable comebacks and fantastic knockouts (not to mention the sheer damn spectacle of it) the rest of us got thoroughly entertained. A fair deal, I’d say.
For entertainment you can’t ask much more than three highly trained fighters in a cage (yes, at the same time) with evil grins on their faces kicking seven bells out of each other. Burned into my retina is the look on the face of the one fighter when he, and we, noticed the two other fighters giving each other the look that said (so much more eloquently than words could ever have) “Let’s get him”. You can guess what happened next. And if you can’t, there’s one way to find out: KING OF FIGHT, October 14th. Let’s get it on.
KING OF FIGHT Vol.3
Sunday, October 14th 2012
Australia Kinenkan, Yokkaichi
Standing ¥5000 (¥6000 at the door)