Kazuo "Yoshiki" Takahashi Interview (Part 2 of 3)

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William C

Active Member
Sep 6, 2015
Aggression Personified: The Kazuo “Yoshiki” Takahashi Interview

Part Two of Three: Molded by the Fujiwara Family

By William Colosimo | wcolosimo@yahoo.com

William Colosimo: I believe you joined Fujiwara-Gumi in February of 1991, a month before their first event, and had your first match three months later in their second event- in May of 1991 versus Minoru Suzuki.

Kazuo Takahashi: Yes.

Colosimo: Why were you put in the events so early in to your training?

Takahashi: To put it plainly, I don’t know. But just to take a guess based on my own personal feelings, to imagine- I think that having scored ippon on the head of Fujiwara-Gumi a month after joining, and that I had made accomplishments in amateur wrestling, and that I was big physique-wise might be what was behind my debut.

Colosimo: I see. Who pushed for it?

Takahashi: I don’t know. Maybe the head of Fujiwara-Gumi. Or maybe Suzuki Minoru himself brought it up. I think maybe it was one or the other.

Colosimo: What do you remember about your first match for the organization, versus Suzuki?

Takahashi: I was totally running on autopilot. I think it was only about a two or three-minute match, but I ran out of gas and was completely exhausted. All I remember is how incredibly nervous I was. The ring, the fight (I don’t remember), but I remember I was shown it on video later and was like “Oh, so that’s how it went.” (Both laugh)

Colosimo: How about your feelings on the organization?

Takahashi: Well, the main thing was that I had finally turned pro and I was so happy about that. I was thinking about accumulating training from different places and getting stronger.

Colosimo: Your first match with Wayne Shamrock, in November of 1991, was fast paced and ended with a soccer kick to the face. Can you tell me about this match?

Takahashi: First, I tried going for a takedown but I let go of his leg too early and Ken didn’t fall facing upwards, he didn’t fall on his back, and I felt it with my body and I thought “Oh shit, I screwed up.” And suddenly, I mean I was supposed to have him down on his back, but I went to immediately go in for a tackle and just at that moment as I turned my face, the kick hit it. But I thought I was perfectly fine to keep fighting. However, Soranaka-san stopped the fight. I was asking him why he stopped it but, Soranaka-san, his expression was kind of somber. I hadn’t seen my face. Then, he said “Why don’t you take a look at your face. It’s gross.” And we were talking back and forth for a while.

Colosimo: What was the specific damage Wayne’s kick caused?

Takahashi: It was a fracture of the orbital floor. It was really painful.

Colosimo: On December 22nd, 1991, the month after your first match with Shamrock, you fought a mix-match versus a Thai boxer named Fakyau Na Pataya on an All Japan Kickboxing event, and won by submission. How did this match come to be made?

Takahashi: I personally have no idea. I think Fujiwara-Gumi-Chou and Hokusei gym’s owner discussed it and they came up with me having a match against a kickboxer.

Colosimo: There was no Fujiwara-Gumi card that month. Is that why it was held in All Japan Kickboxing?

Takahashi: I wonder why. I had only been in the organization about a year, and I had no rank in the company at all.

Colosimo: What were your thoughts at the time about your performance and win?

Takahashi: Well, first of all it being a match against a different style- there was no such thing as MMA at the time- and I just had a really strong feeling that I had to represent Fujiwara-Gumi against that different style. But anyway, in a fight against another style, I didn’t think I could ever lose.

Colosimo: And what were your thoughts after the match?

Takahashi: Well, I was relieved. And it wasn’t Fujiwara-Gumi’s ring, so I feel like I achieved being a part of Fujiwara-Gumi.

Colosimo: Was this opponent from Pattaya Beach in Thailand, like the Thai boxer that Takaku Fuke and Minoru Suzuki fought in Fujiwara-Gumi?

Takahashi: I have to guess so. My opponent I assume came from the same beach, being named Pataya.

Colosimo: Why fight so soon after incurring damage from Shamrock the month prior?

Takahashi: Well, no, I mean, back then, it wasn’t like today where everyone is really careful about their bodies. If you were okay to go, you went. It was an era where it was normal to have a real match every month. That was just the norm.

Gino Mongelli: According to an article in Shuukan GONG (Editor’s Note: #395), after the Pataya fight, you took the mic and stated to the audience, “I wanted to do pro-wrestling and that’s why I became a pro-wrestler, so for the time being, I don’t need any more MMA matches.” What’s the difference between a pro-wrestling match and an MMA match?

Takahashi: Well, in pro-wrestling, your opponent is a pro-wrestler and there is an interchange of technique, so more than in just fighting someone, there is a sense in which you can improve your technique. For example, when I fought matches against other styles, it was about trying to kill each other; no matter what, you cannot lose. Like I said earlier, I went out there as a representative of Fujiwara-Gumi, and as a representative of pro-wrestling, so I could only devote myself to winning, I guess you could say. I only thought of crushing my opponent.

Colosimo: In April of 1992 you faced (Toyohiko) “Yuki” Ishikawa in his debut fight, and then you had another match with him three months later in July of 1992.

Takahashi: Right. The April one was his debut match.

Colosimo: Out of all the Japanese fighters, he seemingly would be the only one you were matched against that was a kouhai to you.

Takahashi: No, my kouhai included (Ryushi) Yanagisawa. Ishikawa in actuality was a senpai. He was a year ahead of me in Nihon University, making him my senpai there as well. And when I joined Fujiwara-Gumi, he was already in there. The only thing was that I made my debut before him.

Colosimo: I see. So, when you had to fight against a kouhai, what was that like?

Takahashi: It was just like “Okay let’s give it all we’ve got, whether we’re going once or twice, just give it all.”

Colosimo: In May of 1992, one year from your debut against Suzuki, the two of you had a rematch.

Takahashi: That’s right.

Colosimo: How did you assess your skills versus Suzuki at this point?

Takahashi: At that point I hadn’t been able to beat him even once, so I had no idea if I could win. In any case, I went in without shin guards so I couldn’t kick, so I went in to test how strong my wrestling had gotten. There’s also that side to it, it’s just like I mentioned before, that it’s the pro-wrestling matches that, what can you say, let you improve various aspects of your own technique; there are matches that have that side to them. So, Minoru was good for me.

Colosimo: You had a rematch against Funaki in June of 1992. What was the atmosphere like at this event?

Takahashi: Korakuen Hall is always overflowing with excitement, and it was the same that night so it was good. The second time, well this is a strange way to put it, but I thought to stretch it out to a draw. It was a really tough loss for me.

Colosimo: What else do you remember about this Funaki rematch?

Takahashi: Well, at the time- whatever happened- I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t finished.

Colosimo: This was the first show since Masami “Sami” Soranaka’s death. From what you witnessed, how did Soranaka’s passing affect the Fujiwara-Gumi group?

Takahashi: Well, it was a sad, a sad… it wasn’t what you would call “sad,” it was something you couldn’t put in words. But as an organization, we had to look towards the future and push on. I wanted to show him like “Look, I’ve come so far as to be able to draw with Funaki!”

Colosimo: You had two matches against Bart Vale in 1992. What are your memories of Vale outside of those matches?

Takahashi: I remember him as being huge and having heavy kicks. That was my impression. But privately he was a really nice guy. But in the ring, his kicks were so hard. And he was really strong. In a sense, he was stronger than Ken.

Mongelli: Yeah, and he had really long legs.

Takahashi: Yeah, and he had really good grip strength too.

Colosimo: Did you interact much with him?

Takahashi: No, we didn’t do too much privately like go out together. Really, we just met at the gym. And even then we didn’t really spar. As for the foreign guys, I mostly sparred with Ken.

Colosimo: I understand he was close with Soranaka and Fujiwara.

Takahashi: Yeah. Also, there was a big hurricane or something in America and I heard that his house had flown away. We heard he was in a major natural disaster and we all worked to raise money.

Colosimo: You fought another Thai boxer in a mix-match fight at the Tokyo Dome for Fujiwara-Gumi in October of 1992, “Superman”-

Takahashi: “Superman” O Sottosaba.

Colosimo: Why was another mix-match like this set up, rather than facing a Fujiwara-Gumi wrestler?

Takahashi: That was the intentions of the company. It didn’t come from me. At that time, I was receptive to doing fights against other styles, so if a fighter came, I would go against them as the vanguard. And after that was Ken, Ken Shamrock. Next after that would be Suzuki Minoru, and last would be Funaki Masakatsu, that was the order in which we did it (on the fight card). For me, such a match was kill or be killed and I knew I couldn’t lose, especially representing Fujiwara-Gumi, and I would be the first one up among the four, so in any case, it was just that I had to win.

Colosimo: What were your thoughts about the O Sottosaba fight after your win?

Takahashi: Then it was time for me to root for Ken. Ken was also really nervous, that day. I remember us being together in the locker room, and I remember all the training we did together. When he won it was like “Fuck yeah!”

Colosimo: Was Superman from Hokusei gym?

Takahashi: He was not from Hokusei gym.

Colosimo: This show at the Tokyo Dome had a record attendance for a Fujiwara-Gumi event- over 40,000 people were reported. I understand the show was also broadcast on television, a first for the group?

Takahashi: Hmm, I wonder. As for it being on TV, I don’t really remember. But we were able to get so many people there to that huge venue and that was, I was the first to do it (with a) mixed-style fight in (that event). And at the end it was like “We did it, we did it!” There was a feeling of relief and accomplishment.

Colosimo: Your last match in Fujiwara-Gumi was on the December 1992 show against a giant of a wrestler.

Takahashi: He was Russian, right.

Colosimo: Yes, named I believe Aleksey Medvedev.

Takahashi: I think so. Aleksey Medvedev, it was maybe Medvedev. I think it was Aleksey, but I don’t remember because it was a Russian name. But he was big, I remember he was a tall fighter. And he was young, he was a young fighter.

Colosimo: What can you tell me about that match?

Takahashi: He got me in a headlock, and when I was in the headlock it was like my head was creaking. I thought my head was going to instantly crack. Also, when he came in for a shoot, and to defend against the shoot, I went for a leg tangle, and I heard something crack in his leg. I thought I finally had done it, but he went for the ropes (for an escape) and after that he went on fighting like it was nothing. I remember thinking that maybe Russians aren’t human (laughter). He gripped my head like a vice and he kept going with his ankle all messed up, so I started thinking maybe Russians aren’t human (laughter).

Colosimo: After the December 1992 show, there was a meeting with Fujiwara and the other wrestlers. At this point Suzuki told us he was fired, and Funaki knew he was also leaving by this meeting. Were you there?

Takahashi: I also attended, but I didn’t have any opinion one way or another so I was just watching the proceedings, listening to what was happening. When the head of Fujiwara-Gumi said the words “We’re disbanding,” I started wondering what was going to happen.

Colosimo: So, your main memory was of his words saying he was breaking up the organization.

Takahashi: Yeah, really only that.

Colosimo: How early on did Funaki and Suzuki first come to you with the idea of forming Pancrase?

Takahashi: After that, everyone was kind of scrambling around, and the first thing was to figure out what we were going to do. I talked with Minoru about that, because we were closest, I asked him “What are you gonna do?” and he kept telling me to wait. And for me, I’d only been in the pro-wrestling world for about two years, I didn’t know up from down still, so I was just wondering what I should do. But I believed his words that we would all do something together, so I took up a part time job to pay the bills in the meanwhile.

Colosimo: So, you were invited after some time had passed since that meeting.

Takahashi: Yeah. I don’t remember exactly when it was, though.

Colosimo: How were you asked?

Takahashi: Well, there originally had been a conversation with everyone saying we were going to make our own organization. It just happened that way, that’s definite.

Colosimo: Was it a hard decision to make for you?

Takahashi: Well, no, I thought that as long as there was still a place for me to fight, it’d be fine. And also, for example, I could go to Yatsu-senpai’s place or elsewhere. At that time, when I joined Fujiwara-Gumi and Minoru told me I’d never be able to defeat him again if I went anywhere else but with him- I understood the meaning of that then. So everyone, well we were all the same age, Funaki, Suzuki, Fuke, and me, we were all the same age, so we planned to continue all together.