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.