If you’ve ever checked out Megumi Fujii’s blog, you’ve seen — scattered amongst the myriad food- and kitty-related posts — photos of the youngsters with whom “Mega Megu” works as part of the staff at Tokyo’s Abe-Ani Combat Club. As one might imagine, AACC doesn’t exactly do the run-of-the-mill juniors self-defense program (with an emphasis on heel hooks). No, Fujii and head trainer Hiroyuki Abe are committed to molding their little grapplers into respectable citizens as well as great athletes.
In his new piece, “Abe-Ani’s Army,” Tony Loiseleur finds out just what drives the kids of AACC:
Notable of these many children is Ryuto Sawada, who at age 14 takes on the unspoken role of the team captain under Abe-sensei. A gold medalist in Japan’s national children’s wrestling competitions, the young Ryu looks forward to expanding beyond wrestling in adulthood.
“I started wrestling at age four. Around the same time, I saw MMA,” recounts the shy Ryuto of his formative first impression of the sport, and how it pushed him toward wrestling. “It was when I saw [Kazushi] Sakuraba versus Royce Gracie in Pride. It was then that I decided I wanted to do MMA someday.”
. . .
“Abe-san not only teaches the techniques of wrestling, but he also teaches children how to be considerate to each other’s feelings and respect one another. There are also things that he teaches, like Japanese budo, which I think is good,” says Akira Sawada, proud father of Ryuto and Chihiro.
Video by Tony Loiseleur
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