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Global Training Report


@Interview with 

Sakuraba Kazushi@

From SRSDX No. 38

January 25, 2001

Interviewed by Yukako Ishiguro


Translated by Yoko Kondo


[Translator's note: "Gimmick" is the title of a video + book, published by Gakken, starring Sakuraba, who has become a super star in Japan, not just in the vale tudo sphere. His boyish grins and penchant for gimmicks has made him everyone's favorite. That and the fact that although he never loses, he freely admits that he might. Japanese people appreciate this style and attitude. In this interview, Sakuraba and Miss Ishiguro are also using the word "gimmick" in the sense of ploy, trick, stage prop, costume.....]

Sakuraba: How is the sale of gGimmickh  going?

Ishiguro: It seems to be going well, thanks to Dr. Sakuraba [Sakuraba plays the role of a Ph.D. in the video].

Sakuraba: I see.

Ishiguro: Three thousand copies sold is considered a big hit for kakutogi-related video. Ten thousand copies of gGimmickh were shipped within two weeks after it went on sale. It is virtually a mega-hit.

Sakuraba: But, gGimmickh is not a kakutogi video, is it? (laughing)

Ishiguro: (laughing). But itfs very funny.

Sakuraba: Yeah, it was very funny. I laughed at it myself (laughing). Honestly speaking, I was thinking of doing it, a pose of gThe Best Kidh, in the fight with Ryan ["The Best Kid" is the Japanese title of the American movie "Karate Kid"].

Ishiguro: Is that what you meant when you said at the press conference that you would do something special when the fight started?

Sakuraba: Yes, thatfs right. Only people who knew what I was going to do would know it when I did it (laughing). But I forgot to do it. (laughing).

Ishiguro: Oh, you forgot it (laughing).

Sakuraba: I wondered if Ryan would be scared by my Best Kid pose, wondering what would happen next (laughing).

Ishiguro: But you, who made gGimmickh, were completely bamboozled by Ryan's gimmick, werenft you? [the interviewer actually refers to it as the "Gracie's gimmick", seemingly implying that Sakuraba is contending not only with Ryan but with the whole clan.]

Sakuraba: Aaaac you are talking about thatc.(smiling). [They are referring to Ryan's taped shoulder.]

Ishiguro: Well, speaking of liars, you are a liar too (laughing). It is unbelievable that you, who have used gimmicks to confuse and discombobulate [kirikirimai] the Gracies up to now, got a gimmick back (laughing).  

Sakuraba: In the fight, there were some parts which made me wonder if he really was injured. I felt a strong power in his shoulder sometimes, and he didnft let go of his hold on me even after I stopped his tackle. I think it might be very painful to his shoulder to hang on like that. Soc

Ishiguro: Speaking of suspicion, that color taping was very suspicious (laughing).

Sakuraba: He taped just a little bit. Even a fighter like me knows how much taping is necessary for the shoulder which was badly injured. I really wonderc

Ishiguro: He was speaking out, gI got injured!h, wasnft he? You were conversely set up by the Gracie with a gimmick which you were trying to use in the fight with Renzo, that you were trying to show up with a triangle bandage on your face, or with crutches.

Sakuraba: Oh, I see. Itfs OK. I will fight back again. I will show up with crutches next time. I mean it (laughing). Donft you think I can do anything I want to now?

Ishiguro: Yes, you can, because Ryan was in a good condition at a separate interview held two days before the fight, promising that he would say gkonban-mi, Ryan desuh in Japanese (good evening, I am Ryan) [imitating a Japanese comedian] if he defeated Sakuraba.

Sakuraba: Is that so?

Ishiguro: Then it was rumored one day before the fight that he got injured during the training, or he got injured when he played with a team member.

Sakuraba: Itfs suspicious! I was close to him, so I know the details. When the fight was finished, Ryan got up, and moved his shoulder like this after glancing at his corner. I think itfs impossible to turn his shoulder so much if the tendon was cut. Something strange!

Ishiguro: It was something like gI was in a bad condition todayh, wasnft it? (laughing)

Sakuraba: Thatfs right. I had some doubts when I saw him moving his shoulder after glancing at his corner.

Ishiguro: Isnft it amazing if the rumor is true, that he got injured when he played with a team member? (laughing)

Sakuraba: It is out of the question. How is it possible for a team member to cut the tendon? (laughing) Who has such a power? Who is it? Is it Goodridge?

Ishiguro: No, I donft think it is a fighter (laughing). Maybe his elder brother Renzo thought, gthere is no possibility for my younger brother to defeat Sakuraba who defeated me. We Gracies never tap. But Ryan has no stamina. He might tap.h  (laughing)

Sakuraba: Wha ha ha (laughing)

Ishiguro: I think one condition when the Gracies send a representative to fight under their name is whether he is a type of guy who will tap or not. That is a belief that they have been sticking to, isnft it? They demanded to extend the time limit, or one fight ended up with throwing in the towel, or the other was finished by the referee-stop. They lost after all, but they put an importance on the fact that they didnft tap. So, I guess that Renzo came up with an idea, gOh, we can use that trick!h (laughing)

Sakuraba: Find a doctor! (laughing)

Ishiguro: I heard that Ryan described his pain as incredibly severe when a doctor checked him. The official diagnosis is gjyowan nitokinken sonshoh. But if the person in question says, git hurtsh, then it will be considered as gsonshoh [sonsho means injury].

Sakuraba: Well, even if he doesnft feel any pain, it will be diagnosed as gsonshoh as long as he says, git hurtsh. The doctor canft feel his pain. He canft know if itfs true or not.

Ishiguro: What do you think about the Gracie family who did their best not to lose with a power of the whole family?

Sakuraba: I have nothing to say about it. I donft care.

Ishiguro: Do you think they are wonderful?

Sakuraba: I am a liar too (smiling).

Ishiguro: When I watched the fight, I thought it was just like a catching a wrist-band game broadcasted by Kansai TV before.

Sakuraba: Yes, yes, yes. Thatfs right.

Ishiguro: All an opponent does is just to run away for three minutes. But your fans or spectators are expecting you to tap Ryan within the time limit.

Sakuraba: Itfs out of the question. Itfs impossible under such a hard defense. It might be possible if he doesnft know me, but he knows me well. I canft do it. Itfs impossible as long as he defended himself so hard.

Ishiguro: His way of escaping from you in the end looked like that game too, didnft it?

Sakuraba: Yes, I think so too. It was like this, wasnft it? He put his hand between the thighs. I was thinking to spank him so hard in the end, but I changed my mind to chop his butt, because it might cause trouble later if I spanked him. I thought, gOh, here is the butt! This guy is doing something badh. There were only 30 seconds left at that time, so I thought it was impossible to tap him. Instead I came up with the idea that if I spanked him, everybody would enjoy it. But I chopped him, not spanked, in order to avoid a complaint possibly coming up later like gAre you making a fool of me (or him)?h [Translatorfs note: Sakuraba doesnft mention clearly who will complain about spanking: Ryan? Spectators? Or Ryan's side?]

Ishiguro: But looking at his taped shoulder, you couldnft attack that part indeed, could you?

Sakuraba: I was thinking to take it, if there was a chance. But I tried not to do it as much as possible, because I didnft want to listen to any excuse later in the case I tapped him, something like gI couldnft help it, because he took my injured armh.

Ishiguro: Oh, I see. Regardless of the way he loses, he can come up with some excuse.

Sakuraba: gBecause I couldnft use my shoulderh, something like that. But he used his shoulder quite hard in the fight (laughing). I think it would be very hard for him to hold me in this situation that I was breaking his tackle, if his shoulder really hurt.

Ishiguro: Did you feel a power in his shoulder?

Sakuraba: Quite strong!, so that I couldnft get his arms off me. When he came to take my back like this, I was trying to take his arm. But his hold was so strong and he never let it go. I could have cut it, if he had just grappled me. But I was pushed to the corner with that position, so I couldnft do anything for it.

Ishiguro: Apart from a gimmick, how was Ryan in reality?

Sakuraba: He had quite a lot of power.

Ishiguro: How do you compare him with Renzo or Royce?

Sakuraba: Well, it seems to me that in terms of technique Renzo and Royce are more resourceful. Ryan is not very resourceful, so he holds on to me with that position after attempting a tackle. If itfs Renzo, he will make a different move once he finds it impossible to take a tackle, like drawing me in to his side. But Ryan didnft do like that.

Ishiguro: Ryan left for his country, saying gmy condition was 50%h.

Sakuraba: Oh, it is the same as mine. I did training only 50% too (laughing).

Ishiguro: You looked composed in spite of only 50% of training.

Sakuraba: But maybe 50% of training gave rise to this good result, because no fatigue remained in my body (laughing).

Ishiguro: I felt your confidence in your face.

Sakuraba: Mmmmc not really. I thought I had to be careful at the moment when he let go of me, because I thought he might push me at first, and quickly let go of me, then jump into the attack with punches.

Ishiguro: But in spite of 50% of training, you were well prepared this time, like a gKashin maskh. That part also made me think that you had confidence.

[Translator's note: Kashin is the pro wrestling name of Ishizawa, who lost to Ryan in Pride 10. Sakuraba below is referring to Kashin's masks.] 

Sakuraba: No, I didnft have confidence. Regarding the entrance, if it was like Tokyo Dome, I was thinking to do the same way as Kashin did in Pride 10 (vs. Ryan), one Kashin showing up with a bucket and another Kashin with a towel. I was asking for these roles to Matsui and Minoru, showing up ahead of me with a bucket and a towel. But what actually happened there was not so goodc

Ishiguro: It went wrong?c. But you prepared the presents and brought your hand-made belt. It is coming from the event when Kashin got a belt of IWGP junior, he trampled it under foot, and brought his original new belt, isnft it?

Sakuraba: Thatfs right. One of my friends from university made that belt. He loves pro wrestling, and he used to make belts when he was in an elementary school. He came to me and said, gI made a belt. Why donft you use it at the fight, if you like?h.

Ishiguro: Oh, it happened in a simple way like that (laughing).

Sakuraba: I was decide to fight with Ishizawa (Kashin) on Dec. 31, and he already has his own belt. So, I was thinking it a good idea to use it like, gI want to fight with him for this belth.

Ishiguro: This belt looks pretty good. It is made of cardboard, isnft it? Ifve never heard of any pro wrestler who put on a cardboard belt after four successive victories against the Gracies.

Sakuraba: It didnft cost much, but it took time.

Ishiguro: By the way, who and what is this belt authorized for? (laughing)

Sakuraba: Well, it is a Christmas present!

Ishiguro: For whom?

Sakuraba: (pointing at himself)

Ishiguro: For yourself ? (laughing)

Sakuraba: To tell the truth, I was thinking to use it even if I lost. If I lost, I was planning to tie the belt around Ryan. I thought this idea was very interesting (laughing). So I wondered one moment what I should do, or if I should lose.

Ishiguro: Wo! But itfs very interesting. The belt authorized by Sakuraba!

Sakuraba: I wonder if it would had been more interesting, if I had said, gI lost today!h, and taken the belt out of the bag and tied it around Ryan, and raised his hand.

Ishiguro: Whatfs the name of this belt? Usually it has name like IWGP, or something like that.

Sakuraba: How about Saku belt?

Ishiguro: Is this the world belt?

Sakuraba: No, it is the Setagaya ward [a neighborhood in Tokyo] belt.

Ishiguro: It is very a limited area (laughing). Is it for the middle class?

Sakuraba: How about an open class. Anyway I wonft fight with anyone heavy (laughing). But, only name!

Ishiguro: Oh! A good idea flashed across my mind! Why donft you fight with Mark Coleman for the champion belt of gPrideh?

Sakuraba: He will be angry to hear that (laughing). But this belt is more attractive than an ordinary belt in that it is made of cardboard, isnft it? (laughing)

Ishiguro: Yes, I want this belt made of cardboard much more than the IWGP belt (laughing). But I am stunned with your careful preparation this time. Itfs not easy to make a mask, is it?

Sakuraba: Well, I ordered it at a considerably early time. (laughing) At first, I was planning to show up without doing anything special. But I realized that it would be a Christmas day. Then many ideas came to me like, putting on a hat, and putting a beard on the mask. So I called and ordered the mask maker to put a beard on the mask. He said, gI see. How about a beard like Tiger Mask (pro wrestler)?h. I answered, git is OK with meh.

Ishiguro: To be sure, you looked Tiger Mask for a moment when you put on the hat.

Sakuraba: I never use Tiger Mask. Never! I often get a mail at Dojo, saying gCould you use Tiger Mask next time?h I never do what anybody can think of. I used Kashin because my opponent was Ryan. It was out of revenge for him.

Ishiguro: Speaking of mask, I heard that you will give the mask to our readers as a present. Thank you very much.

Sakuraba: Not at all.

@*-- omitted part here [not so interesting and impossible to translate]----*

Ishiguro: Indeed, last year was great for you, wasnft it? Congratulations on getting an award as the best pro wrestler last year!

Sakuraba: Thank you very much.

Ishiguro: How do you feel about it?

Sakuraba: Getting an award means I was recognized as a pro wrestler, so I call myself a pro wrestler (laughing).

Ishiguro: You used to say two years ago, gI am a pro wrestler, but nobodyc..h. But you must be happy with it.

Sakuraba: Well, yes Ifm happy. I was told that I was the first lightweight fighter to get an award since Tiger Mask.

Ishiguro: Moreover, you got an award without doing gpure pro wrestlingh.

Sakuraba: I havenft been doing pro wrestling. I became a pro wrestler this time by being officially recognized (laughing).

Ishiguro: I imagine that there were some things which changed drastically last year.

Sakuraba: In the beginning I thought an increase in interview was just because I was going to fight with Royce. The reason why I could get MVP lies in Royce. I thought that no reporters would come to me after the fight with Royce, but they came one after another and asked the same question every time.

Ishiguro: gWhat kind of child were you when you were a little?h, something like that? (laughing)

Sakuraba: Thatfs right. That question is hardest to answer. I donft know how to answer. So when a reporter asked me about my nature, I asked the same question back to him, saying gI donft know what to say about my nature. Then how do you think about your nature?h. Then he answered that he didnft know. I said, gWell, then, I donft know eitherh. (laughing)

Ishiguro: It goes on and on, doesnft it? (laughing)

Sakuraba: I had no time for rest after training, which is what I hated most. I donft like to be disturbed from my pace.

Ishiguro: You are by nature the type of person who does only what you like.

Sakuraba: Well, yes, I am. (laughing) So I donft like this case too that a newspaper man suddenly comes to me and asks, gCan I talk to you a minute?h I will run away in that case. (laughing)

Ishiguro: You were running away from them (laughing).

Sakuraba: Usually they say, g5 minutes, or 10 minutesh. But it will be 20 or 30 minutes after all. I donft like it.

Ishiguro: So how about this year?c.

Sakuraba: I will take a one year vacation this year.

Ishiguro: Oh wait a second! I was trying to say that is what I was worried about. (laughing)

Sakuraba: I am becoming tired of everything. If I disappear now here, everybody will forget about me. I will fight again around the time when I am gone from their memory.

Ishiguro: Donft say that! Keep on fighting! For instance, with the fight with a pro wrestler Kashin last year, how do you think about doing pro wrestling?

Sakuraba: Nothing specialc. I cooled down after the fight with Royce. I thought no more pro wrestling in a dull condition after a long holiday. I used to say before the fight with Royce that I wanted to do pro wrestling too. But after a long vacation, that idea was gone.

Ishiguro: Which do you have more strong feeling to do, pro wrestling or Pride?

Sakuraba; I want to do Pride much more than pro wrestling. For the present I will do pro wrestling if there is a chance, but I have no intention to ask to make a match for me.

Ishiguro: In view of that, what is your goal for the 21st century?

Sakuraba: Nothing special. I donft mark off the time like the 21st century, or next year, and so on.

Ishiguro: Isnft there anyone you want to fight with?

Sakuraba: No, there isnft.

Ishiguro: For example, gI want to fight with Rickson.hcsomething like that.

Sakuraba: No, I have no one in my mind.

Ishiguro: Speaking of Rickson, he is very critical only to you, isnft he?

Sakuraba: He said that I was just waiting for a mistake of my opponent. Itfs opposite, isnft it? (laughing)

Ishiguro: I think perhaps Rickson cares about you very much. But it seems that he doesnft understand you, or in other words, you look like an alien to him.

Sakuraba: Mmmmc

Ishiguro: Do you understand the psychology of ko-gyaru [young teen-age girls who dye their hair blue or white or other colors and get their skin tanned darkly at tanning rooms, and wear platform shoes]?

Sakuraba: No, I don't.

Ishiguro: In the same sense, Rickson can't understand you, I think. He must think like this, "Why does he come out with a mask?" or "Why doesn't he consider kakutogi seriously like, training in the mountain or doing yoga at the beach". (laughing) Thinking  why such a guy [who trains like you do]  is so strong might get on his nerves.

Sakuraba: Is that so?

Ishiguro: I think Rickson recognizes you and you are coming into sight, but he doesn't want to understand you, saying like, "Go to the mountain if you want to be strong!", or "Don't drink beer, don't smoke!". (laughing)

Sakuraba: Yes, maybe right. (laughing)

Ishiguro: Rickson is usually cool, but he somewhat loses his presence of mind when he is asked about you.

Sakuraba: He might suffer from alopecia [Sakuraba uses the expression enkeidatsumoosho, which means sudden loss of hair in circular patches due to stress] . But I understand from his comments that he is using uncomplimentary words only to me. I wonder why? He doesn't like me? Maybe he considers me like a fly, which is flying around and never gone as long as there is food.

Ishiguro: Maybe, you are something like that. Rickson has been fighting so far by implanting in his opponent his strong image expanded 1000 times as big. But you think you will never be cheated by such a Rickson gimmick, don't you?

Sakuraba: Me? Well, maybe, I won't. If we don't exchange glances, there will be nothing much to see. I will make a mask of demon made of cardboard....

Ishiguro: I wonder if he would react to it. (laughing)

Sakuraba: Yes, what would he do? I wonder what kind of reaction he would have.

Ishiguro: Apart from Rickson, his wife or his followers might be upset, saying like "Are you making fool of Rickson? And Rickson, on the other hand, might consider what he should do to look cool there. He is a man who is conscious of being watched by people, isn't he?

Sakuraba: I wonder if he won't look at my eyes.

Ishiguro: I really want to watch what will happen there. I hope the fight between Rickson and you will come true. Maybe it's not a big matter to you, though.

Sakuraba: (smiling)

Ishiguro: Anyway, I hope you will do your best this year too.

Sakuraba: Fu fu fu...(laughing ironically)

Ishiguro: There seems to be something behind your laughing.... suspicious! Anyway, don't suddenly disappear from us, please!

(c) 2001, Yoko Kondo. All rights reserved.