Nobuaki Kakuda, 46, is a karate fighter with the Seido Kaikan organization and the executive producer of K1, the Japanese sport that matches up practitioners of a variety of martial arts, such as karate, kickboxing, kung fu, tae kwan do and boxing. One of the world’s strongest fighters, Kakuda is in the 2001 and 2002 Guinness Book of World Records for breaking 27, and later 33, baseball bats within 1 minute, using only his right leg and super concentration. Although in the ring it was his punches that spoke volumes, in person he tells eloquent tales in fluent English and French. He also speaks Thai and Korean. Kakuda is a licensed high-school English teacher, an accomplished actor, singer and dancer of the tango and rumba who considers his memory his strongest point and credits his wife and two children for all his strength.
The best training is in daily life, not in the dojo. How a person lives every day, whether he faces hardships or not, is the test of a true fighter. If they pick the easy way out of responsibilities in life, then escaping inside the ring gets so much easier, too. Just fall down and wait for it to end. Training hard at life — being a life champion — is the best path to success.
Fighting in the ring is easier than outside. Right after university I opened a karate dojo in Kobe, but couldn’t make it a success and had to shut it down after 2 years. I continued karate training while washing dishes at a ramen shop, till I worked my way up to cooking. By age 28 I was a bouncer in a Nara public bath where I dodged knives thrown at me by the yakuza who were refused entry because other patrons were scared of them and their full-body tattoos. I was so afraid that I stuck a cup in my pants to protect my manhood. I survived 6 months there.
If you have a goal, you can endure just about any hardship. Next I worked in construction for a year. At the end of the day I would go up to my boss to thank him for letting me work. It was a routine. He would spit to his side, search his pocket, pull out a ¥10,000 bill and crush it with his fist. Next he would throw it on the ground, as far as he could. I would thank him, bow deeply and pick it up. I never showed him how I felt, but inside I swore I would rock him. I have never seen him since.
I am powerful because my wife is like a mountain — peaceful and relaxed — and like an ocean that envelops and holds life. Because a man is always up front and fighting, a woman should always accept him with warmth. No matter what happens, my wife is there, stable, flexible, fluid and infinite.
Don’t forget to feel impressed and moved, no matter how old you are. Some people forget what is important and keep talking about disappointments and crises and whatnot. But there are too many good stories to listen to, so I always find scenes that touch my soul. I cry a lot — I’m so emotional that if I see a child laugh on his mom’s lap, I burst into tears. Of course, I hide this because I am very shy.
Fighting sports are very primitive. If you stay in that world, you can remember what humans are. Outside the ring, technology overwhelms culture, when it should be giving us support.
Competition is the destruction of the body and the building of a strong soul.
Make it harder. I’m a fighter, so if the hurdle is raised, I will jump it.
I’m a chicken at heart. I actually care about what people think or write about me. Still, though I might get angry at a negative review, I take hints from it to get better. For example, some baseball players complained that I broke too many baseball bats for my Guinness World record. Once I heard that, it dawned on me how they viewed my achievement totally differently. I became more adult by looking from their side.
A man has to be strong. A group of six or seven kids beat me up for what seemed like no reason. I was 10 years old and maybe not happy, which is why they bullied me. I cried at home. My mom panicked, but my dad didn’t even look up from his newspaper, just listened to my sobs. All I saw was his back, leaning over the evening paper. He said that if I felt sad, I must get stronger as a man. That was it for me: at that moment I realized that if I didn’t get strong, I’d be miserable like that forever.
In elementary school I thought about how I should sign my name, not what I should do. I didn’t have a clear ambition of what I would be, but I had a strong desire to be a man who was asked for his signature.
Smart people have a sense of whether something is a chance or not. Once you recognize that something is indeed a chance, pursue it. Some can get it, others can’t. Make your best effort and stay in control.
I never hit my children. Once I told my son that I was going to punch him because he broke a promise. He said that I was right and he was sorry.
Parents and teachers are not strict enough. They can’t control themselves. They always push the responsibility onto others. For example, if a teacher hurts your kid, it is because your child did something bad. Think of this! In karate it is easy to explain the rules. We tell parents that we are very strict, but it is they who must ultimately show restraint. We cannot beat sense into their kids for them. They gotta do it themselves.
Children are great motivators. My daughter’s dream is to be more international, which to her translates into marrying a non-Japanese. I told her that her boyfriend must beat me to get her hand. I guess I’ll have to ramp up my training routine!
Ghosts and spirits are real, so I always protect myself. I carry good luck charms with me at all times. When I fly, I put a necklace on, but keep my most powerful amulet hidden as it might be too strong for others. It is a stone from the Emperor’s grave.
A good partnership is about different values, different sense, like when magnetic poles are attracted to each other. My wife seems to have no interest in my work at all. When I’m kicking a sandbag on the roof balcony, I can sense her looking at me from inside. I hope she feels proud of me but instead she says, “You look silly,” and shuts the window. I don’t mind. I go my way. We are good partners. We have been together for 16 years and support each other.
Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out and About.” Learn more at: http://juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/