I have to survive 4 days in Japan with only 16000 Yen ($162 USD). I can do this.
I wake up in my cubby-hole the following morning, climb down and get ready to start my day. My internal clock is set to wake up early, so I have the entire day to get content around Naha before going to the gym that night.
The sun starts to set, and I make my way back to the gym. On the way there I see Rose Anne, one of the students at the gym. She helped me the night before with translating for Nakasone-san, so it's nice to pass the time by listening to why she came to Japan from the Philippines.
I can see the gym flags waving in the breeze and the blue glow of the mats. I place my Rainbow sandals in with the family of shoes outside and walk in, where I’m greeted by Nakasone-san. I set up my camera gear as he finishes teaching his junior striking class.
Watching these teenagers is intriguing and a bit intimidating. Most of the students have pinpoint accuracy and obvious power behind their punches and kicks. I am in the presence of the future.
Slowly, more Nogi adults begin to arrive. Nakasone-san dismisses the junior class, grabs a drink of water and starts the warmup for the following class. His energy is a mixture between that of a man of great respect, who will greet with you a warm smile and another who will put you through the ring if you cross him. His ears resemble water dumplings from the years of Shooto and grappling, and most of his students’ ears look the same. I feel naked with my only slightly crunchy ears.
Watching Nakasone-san lead the class in warmups, you can see the hours he’s spent on the mat, cat-like in his focus. He then teaches a series of single-leg entries on offense and defense. I believe it’s good to show both sides of the coin. It helps your students progress when it’s not so one-sided during sparring.
The detail and structure of Nakasone-san’s class is intriguing to film. I have to remind myself to stay focused and keep my eyes on the camera. My natural reaction is to soak up the techniques. I will most definitely be back to train with him in the future and highly recommend anyone who is looking to improve their wrestling for MMA or sports grappling to stop in and train here.
Nakasone-san has to leave after class to take care of his family, but a new coach named Ken Asahina takes over for the sparring portion. I don’t get to speak with Asahina-san, but I can tell you he is an incredible athlete. Remember his name. I predict his ascension into the mainstream MMA scene in the near future.
With the timer set, the grapplers are ready to spar. And they go hard. These guys train relentlessly. Having a camera around always intensifies things a bit, but it seems to be this way every day, every round. Their dumpling ears, flat noses, and healed brow lacerations showcase their samurai spirit.
I hand out some Grapplermag stickers, because everyone loves stickers, and then say my goodbyes. They reply, “Arigatou gozaimashita” (thank you very much). I appreciate the fact that they take the time to say hello and goodbye when their teammates enter or exit the gym. That’s one thing I like about training at Danimal BJJ, that family bond.
I stop in at a new ramen shop and gorge on food. I earned it from fasting all day. Once I’m done devouring my meal, I creep into my quiet hostel. This is the first quiet hostel I’ve ever stayed in. I guess that drunk asshole knocking stuff over and waking everyone up is usually me.