In this interview for Scramble MMA gear and apparel, MMA great Kazushi Sakuraba talks about, well, everything.
"I started off with amateur wrestling, then moved into professional wrestling," said Saku. "Amateur wrestling like in the Olympics - folks… folks.. freestyle! Once I got into the world of pro wrestling, my Sempai (senior students) did submissions on me. I learned by doing.
"Wanderlei Silva didn't come from a wrestling base. It's down to each individual if they can do MMA. So I don't think you can say wrestling base is the best base for MMA. There are plenty of tough BJJ fighters out there.
After losing to Wand, Sakuraba trained at Chute Boxe in Curitiba and discusses the experience.
"There were a lot of people training there," he said. "A lot of physically large fighters, too. I was able to get some good training there. Basically Chute Boxe's style is mainly striking. So that is what we trained.
"There were a lot of instructors there. They changed day by day and each would teach. In the daytime, it was mostly striking practice. And in the evening Jiu-Jitsu practice.
"Who coached me!?
"When I was training at Chute Boxe, the main instructor was Cristiano Marcello. And I trained with people like Nino Schembri.
"I have a wrestling background, so they asked me to show them no-gi submissions. And, I asked them, how to use the gi. We exchanged techniques and took whatever was useful.
"I never went and asked for an opponent. The promoters would give me two or three people as options. I'd usually say 'Anyone is OK.' I didn't want to choose anyone too big, or too small. I can't say I ever requested of turned down a fight.
Sakuraba as known as The Gracie KIller, and discusses beating Royce, Ryan, Royler, and Renzo Gracie.
"It was just luck," said Saku.
"If we fought again, it might got he tother way. It wouldn't be the same every time.
"I basically don't have a plan. Just like training, I try to make them play my game. I win when I make them play my game. Sometimes I fall into my opponent's pattern, and lose.
"If we fought 100 times, I wouldn't win them all. In the end (the results went my way). But not all my fights went my way.
"It's like in baseball, if you bat 3 out of 10, it's good. Nobody can win them all. I think my situation is like that.
"With regards to sparring and weight training, I don't want to go down in weight, So I lift to maintain my bodyweight. I don't want to get any heavier. I just want to maintain my weight.
"When I was an amateur wrestler, I weighed 150 pounds! When I entered pro wrestling, they said 'put on weight!' If you're not big in pro wrestling, it's tough. So I worked hard to put on weight. And then I didn't want to lose it again.
"As for sparring, I have always enjoyed it, since I was young. I've always sparred very intently since I was young. I like it.
"Repeated drilling of moves is of course important. But you need to go against an opponent, and exercise your mind too. I'm always thinking of ways to direct my opponent's awareness.
"Even if your first punch is fast, your opponent will probably escape it. So you should feint from somewhere else, and then come back with your main.
"I think like that in sparring. When I spar, I imagine I am fighting against different kinds of people. For example, tall people. I can't reach their head, so I feint low to bring their hands down. Make them lower their stance, then do your techniques. That kind of thing.
"You can use the idea in wrestling, jiujitsu. For example, trying to do a sweep, if you try to grab the head or arm, they will defend. So you feint, for example to the leg. Then you can go for the neck or arm.
"Personally, I don't fight with a goal in mind. If I go for their arm, neck, or leg… there will always be a place where their awareness is not focused. I just use my instinct to find these places.
"It's difficult to explain!
"If you can just grab (your goal) then just do it. If not, then look for another place. I'm just trying to figure it out. I've been doing it naturally since high school.
"How can I explain it… Let's say I grabbed both of your hands. And, I purposefully squeeze your right hand harder. Your awareness will focus on your right hand. Keep squeezing with the right then suddenly attack with the left.
"You can use this idea in many different ways. If you feint and they fall for it the first time, that's lucky. If you don't need to feint, even better. Overall I keep trying and feinting until I get it.
"It depends on the day - sometimes the opponent is in good condition or bad condition. The same goes for me. It doesn't mean the same technique will always work.
"But… sometimes… some kids are stupid enough to fall for it every time. My opponents are also improving so I have to think "higher," and about where their focus is lacking. I train, keeping that in mind all the while.
"Advice against bigger opponents… As I said before, there will be parts on the body where their awareness is lacking. I don't think you can be aware of the whole body.
"If you use it to your admantage, even a lighter fighter can beat a bigger opponent.
"Never attack from directly in front. If you do that, you'll get smashed. You need to be evasive. Even if they are big, if you get them behind the knee where they're not expecting it, they will react.
"It's the same when going for a submission, or in strking, or trying to get a takedown. Use the concept of creating a reaction (Hiza Kakkun).
"There is no open weight class in amateur wrestling. Fighting without a gi is very different. Gripping with or without a gi is very different. The same ideas still apply though.
"Accurately attacking the joints will limit the opponent's power. Just roughly grabbing will allow the stronger fighter to take advantage. Of course, if you are outweighed by over 100 pounds, then it's not as simple as that.
"I have a black belt from Cristiano (Marcello). I have no idea about jiu-jitsu rules though. I didn't have a gi for jiujitsu training. Cristiano gave me a gi, and then a belt. 'I said 'white is fine' but he said 'have a black belt.'
"I've never been in a jiujitsu match though. I don't know about the points. I won't compete. But I trained in the gi at Chute Boxe. Strangely, I felt quite comfortable doing it. Armlocks and stuff, I could easily get submissions. I could get a "sleeper" hold. I didn't need to hold the gi. Leg locks were a little difficult with the gi.
"I was surprised how easy it was.
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