Ever wake up not knowing where you are? I’ve done it quite a few times due to heavy travel schedules over the years. One “Where the f^ck am I moment!” found me crammed into a tiny hotel room in Osaka Japan. I was literally on the other side of the planet from New Jersey. 12 hours time difference, a language I had a small grasp of and a few foreigners I was friends with that English was definitely not their primary language. My coach was around but busy doing K-1 business and spending time with his in-laws who live in Japan. Basically I was on my own in Japan trying to get ready for a fight and taking a crap with my one leg in the tub because the bathroom was so small.
You don’t know what commitment is until you find yourself in weird spots like I was in. It was amazingly cool to be in Japan but kind of lonely and hard at the same time. I went to the dojo and trained daily. All the Japanese students and fighters were checking me out because half of them were in my All Japan tournament bracket. The other half just found it funny to have this Gaijin doing work in their dojo. K-1 dojo in Osaka was used to foreign fighters but more of them were famous then not. I was one of the not.
To top off my discomfort my luggage got lost. I actually have a bag that has been to more countries then me now. My knee was also kind of screwed up due to having my 2nd scope job 4 weeks prior. Buying clothes in the Osaka flee market was interesting. I am not the biggest guy by US standards at 5’11 200lbs but in Japan I am huge. I ended up in some weird cargo shorts and a Newbalance shirt that fit like a rashguard with the finishing touch of some knockoff Teva sandals from China. I had the Osaka street hood look for 2001 down cold.
The good part of the story was the food. I lost a lot of weight after my knee surgery and came to Japan much lighter than expected. I was fighting at 190 lbs which I usually cut to from 200. My walk around Osaka weight was 192. I got to eat and eat I did. My coach had the cool spots down from his 5 years living in Japan with K-1 superstar Andy Hug. I had every Japanese food imaginable from street level to hi end. Up until fight time it was all food then after it was all food and drink. I have a soft spot for Asahi beer. I drank every Asahi I could find for about 5 days.
2001 was not my 1st trip to Japan for training or fighting but it was the most memorable because I was living what I had only watched on TV prior. I got to train in Seidokaikan/K-1 headquarters. I was coached my one of Japan’s top trainers, Minatoya and I ended up fighting in front of Japanese elite. I remember having my name called by the ref, walking into the ring and seeing Kyokushin legend Matsui sitting there watching me next to Seido boss Kazuo Ishii and his prize students Musashi and Tai Kin. It was all rather surreal.
I came home from Japan September 10, 2001. The following day I was woken out of my jet lag to find out the towers were hit. 3000 plus lives were ended September 11, 2001. I was fortunate enough to not be in one of those towers. I was fortunate enough to have some more time in this life. The towers coming down showed me how fragile our existence is and how important it is to live this life with a purpose. I gave up a lot to travel to the places I have been. At least I am still here to tell my tales and go out to create new ones.
If you want to be something you should be it. If you want to do it then you should do it. You never know when this journey will end and we all have no time to waste. I wanted to go to Japan. I now have other goals and aspirations that I am fighting forward to achieve. What is your Japan? Are you going for it?
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