Welcome once again to ?The Rise and Fall of an Underdog? and Jake’s story of his journey into the world of professional wrestling. As always you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
A kohai is a Japanese term meaning ?Young Boy?. These wrestlers are the lowest on the totem pole and are subservient to the more senior sempai. Jake was a Young Boy and didn?t like it. He had been working hard in the wrestling business for almost three years now and felt he knew his craft pretty well. He understood the business and the inner workings of the machine. But this was Japan and a totally different machine all together.
Jake was lucky to have his own apartment, as meagre as it was. Most trainees were crammed together on cots or in sleeping bags in the back of the training facility. Jake’s status had at least afforded him a proper bed. But it didn?t afford him much time to sleep in it. His wake up call came at 645 every morning in the form of a banging on the door by his less than a morning person driver. This ?driver?, who Jake now knew as Masuto, was actually one of the trainers and detested the fact that he had to pick Jake up on-route. And he certainly let Jake know it in training. For now though he was as silent as ever as they made the 45 minute journey to the training centre.
As one of the Young Boys Jake was required to help set up before the training sessions. He would help to move equipment and mats and he was even required to get breakfast for the head trainer, his own personal sempai, the great Futoshi. Jake detested the fact that he had to run errands for another wrestler just because he was more senior than him. He was used to a system in America where all the boys shook hands and shared dressing rooms despite your place on the bill. In Japan though he was seen as a lesser being and regularly humiliated for it. Futoshi had seemed like a nice enough guy when Jake first met him but as soon as training began he became a monster. Through gritted teeth Jake prepared his sempai’s breakfast and tried to eat his own fishy concoction.
If the living conditions and being made to act like a servant weren?t enough, then there was the training! Jake was in reasonable shape and had always prided himself on his cardio conditioning. Here though he could hardly make it through the ?warm up?. It’s hard enough to do hundreds of Hindu squats and push ups without having the added bonus of a trainer screaming in your face in a language you don?t understand while he whips your legs with a bamboo stick! Jake ended most warm ups throwing up into a bucket before facing the next gruelling part of his daily routine.
With muscles already aching, the trainees were put through an agonising round of stretching. For this, an experienced shooter (a wrestler who contrary to the ethos of wrestling, aims to hurt his opponent) would tie up his unwitting victims with holds they had never even imagined. Eyes would bulge, blood vessels would pop and the weaker of the pack would pass out. Jake hated every moment of this activity. He despised the thought of people wanting to inflict pain but even more so the fact that the trainees were not allowed to even show any signs of this pain. It was as if they were dishonouring the wrestling gods and this art form sacred to Japanese culture. The trainers would scream even harder if you showed an ounce of pain and then they would simply inflict more. It was sadistic and it took all of Jake’s internal strength to put up with it. He played the role of Young Boy and counted down the days till he could return the favour.
After having their bodies contorted and their spirits broken, the trainees would then commence a gruelling session of taking bumps; no moves, just bumps. Over and over again they would fling their bodies onto the mats. Welts and bruises would cover their backs and the risk of concussions was always in the air. Jake had been taking bumps since his first training session and was damn good at them if he did say so himself. He resented being made to do them but resented even more what came next. Without being allowed to do any actual moves of their own, the trainees acted as dummies for their trainers and sempais to practice on. They would try out new moves they were developing, most often high risk, and always take it a little too quick and rough on their trainees. Jake watched in horror as a trainee’s ankle snapped under the pressure of a new submission maneuver a trainer tried on him. That was the last day for that guy, but not for Jake.
With a break in training for a few hours Jake was afforded no free time. He would spend the time between sessions running errands for Futoshi. He would traipse from one end of Tokyo to the other buying groceries or picking up parcels. He even washed Fuutoshi’s car and picked up his kids from school. It was getting harder and harder for Jake to keep his mouth shut. His body ached all over, as did his soul, and he just wanted to kick the crap out of every trainer and sempai in Japan. Instead, he would just return to the training centre after his errands for another round of weight training and, of course, more squats.
Jake wasn?t on this trip to make friends and this was certainly the case. The trainers couldn?t be any further from friendly and the other trainees were almost as bad. They glared at Jake and called him ?gaijin?, a racist term for a foreigner, an outsider. Jake knew they resented him for trying to make it in their business, their country, but ultimately he didn?t care. He knew he was better than them and just needed the outlet to show it. He did manage to make one friend though, a British guy called Allan who wrestled for LDN wrestling in London. He approached Jake their third day of training as a group of the other trainees sat ridiculing them from the corner.
?I don?t know what they?re saying but I bet it’s not very nice.? he said with a grin.
?Good to see I?m not the only source of ridicule around here. It’s Allan right??
?Or as I?m more affectionately known; whimpering English Dog!?
They both laughed and enjoyed the one free moment they had in the day. They talked about the places they wrestled and the guys they both knew. Allan was a huge fan of the Crusher so Jake told him all about his mentor and friend. Most of all though, they talked about how much they were hating their time there and how much they wanted to go home. Jake enjoyed the conversation but it made him more homesick than ever. He quickly snuck away to a corner and called Alana.
?Jakey is that you??
It took all of Jake’s strength, more than it took to do squats or take bumps, not to break down on the phone instantly. He fought it off and put on a brave face for his wonderful girlfriend. They chit chatted about things and he even managed to talk to his Mom for a minute. They said their goodbyes and Jake quickly hung up the phone. He burst into tears, he couldn?t help it anymore. It was all too much for Jake. He loved wrestling more than anything in the world but didn?t know how he could make it through this. He didn?t want to walk away, he couldn?t walk away. He just stood in a corner of the gym crying. All of a sudden there was a ringing in his ear and lightning bolts shot across his eyes. Futoshi had slapped Jake as hard as he could and now stood over him with an evil glint in his eye.
?No crying! You worthless! You are not a man! Go! Go get my things!?
Jake stood up square in front of Futoshi. The trainer looked at him, willing him to do something. Jake stared at him for a moment more and then slowly and gracefully bowed to this trainer. Futoshi smiled and sent him on his way. Jake was going to play their game and he wasn?t going to lose.