Global Training Report
From SRSDX No.
January 25, 2001
Interviewed by Yukako Ishiguro
Translated by Yoko Kondo
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
Ishiguro: It seems to be going well,
thanks to Dr. Sakuraba [Sakuraba plays the role of a Ph.D. in the
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
Sakuraba: I have nothing to say about
it. I donft care.
Ishiguro: Do you think they are
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
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
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
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
Ishiguro: Did you feel a power in his
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
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
Ishiguro: I felt your confidence in
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ishiguro: You used to say two years
ago, gI am a pro wrestler, but nobodyc..h. But you must be happy
Sakuraba: Well, yes Ifm happy. I was
told that I was the first lightweight fighter to get an award since
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
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
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
Ishiguro: You were running away from
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
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?
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.
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
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.
Ishiguro: Anyway, I hope you will do
your best this year too.
Sakuraba: Fu fu fu...(laughing
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.