My translation of an interview with Ibushi Kôta published in the kamipro magazine on (held 1/31 and 2/7 2006).
Original content and images © ENTERBRAIN, DOUBLECROSS.
As always, my annotations are , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
The Man Who Failed to…Make His Big Break in the K-1 MAX in a Match Against Andy Ologun!
Be that as it may, remember this face and name!
On February 4th, for the K-1 WORLD MAX [tournament], Bobby Ologun’s younger brother, Andy Ologun, will make his debut! His opponent will be DDT wrestler Ibushi Kôta!
At the press conference that announced the card, he showed off a shooting star press while still in his suit. For a while now, he’s been hailed as “the man who combines the high-flying of Marufuji Naomichi and the kicks of KENTA”, and the “once in 10 years talent”1, and the super mega rookie who was handpicked for the opening match at Hustle Mania2 on November 3rd [of last year] and who had his debut about a year and a half ago and carries DDT on his shoulders as a pro wrestler, will take part in the K-1!
We at kamipro could not just watch this in silence! So, on January 31st, we conducted an interview with the Golden Star himself, Ibushi Kôta. We were full of enthusiasm, cheering for him to do his best and that this victory would just be the beginning, but right before the interview, it was announced that Andy Ologun would not be in the match due to injury…
However, producer Tanikawa said at the press conference the day before the show that he wants to give Ibushi a chance at the coming events starting in April. On top of still having opportunities to be in matches in the future, Ibushi Kôta’s intense wrestling persona is not going anywhere either, and if you read this interview, you will understand the reason why Tanikawa handpicked Ibushi and said that, after seeing only a picture of him, he thought he would kill it.
The Strange Mumbler (?) Who Flies Through the Air with the Future of the Wrestling World on His Back—Ibushi Kôta (DDT)
Ibushi, you are now out of the K-1 MAX [tournament] after so suddenly being added to it. The decision was reached on the day of this interview, right?
Ibushi: That’s right. After I accepted the interview with kamipro, when I was about to buy my ticket at the train station, I got the phone call that my match was cancelled. It really was right after. It totally came out of left field for me.
What a timing (laughs). During the interview you drank nothing but water, and it looked like you were suffering quite a lot from the weight loss [for the match], but did you decide to eat something [after the call]?
Ibushi: I did eat something first. [The news] shocked me, but it feels like that the first thing I felt, which was stronger than [the shock], was, I don’t have to lose weight anymore. It was really, really hard.
What’s the first thing you ate?
Ibushi: I went to an all you can eat and…ate cake. Then meat. I ate until I was completely stuffed, and then once I was full I returned to reality and thought, why did (the match) get cancelled? And that caused me so much stress or like, was such a shock, that I went back to eating, and more eating…I gained back 27 pounds in three days.
After I entered the gym, I was suddenly in an MMA match
27 pounds?! That’s an extraordinary weight gain (laughs). You’ve been at the venues for K-1 too. What did you think of the shows?
Ibushi: Hmmm…Watching it made me want to be [on a show]. To be honest, I also thought, if that were me in there, I would probably have been able to put on a more interesting match…If it’s me, I want to show people a KO, whether I win or lose. In that sense as well, I had wanted to be in the match and get the crowd hyped.
Do you feel like the fact that you were added to the card and then that [chance] vanished again sparked even more fire in your fighting spirit?
Ibushi: Oh, yes, to be honest, I do. I want to get my chance. Next time I’d like a little bit more time for preparation, but I want to challenge myself.
You went to the gym of Ônari Atsushi, who is a kickboxer in K-1 and a referee in All Japan, right?
Ibushi: Yes. A colleague at work introduced me [to the gym], and once I went there, three days later I was entered into an MMA match3.
So soon?! (laughs)
Ibushi: That’s right, that’s what happened. It seems like my colleague had told them how amazing I was and things like that. The match had been registered about a month before.
It was decided before you even went [to the gym] (laughs).
Ibushi: I went [to the gym] and then was told, “you have a match in three days, so here’s the match-up.” I had no idea how the [of the matches] worked either, so they had to teach me everything, but there was no way I would be able to actually do that in the real fight, so I did rugby tackles from my time in high school (laughs). It was a normal amateur tournament, so I had plenty of room to get a win.
Ibushi Kôta’s Anecdotes Part 1
“I was malnutritioned”
“When I was a trainee for DDT I had no money, and I couldn’t pay the electricity or gas bills. But I had running water, so I drank water. My cell phone stopped working around that time too, and because I was only drinking water, suddenly, the tip of my fingers felt numb…It was spring, so I thought, it’s not that cold, why [are they numb]? I got really cold. I panicked, and then got sleepy. I slept for a long time, and couldn’t get back up. A friend brought me to the hospital, and they hooked me up to the IV drip. I really thought I was going to die at that time. After I had my debut, I became (malnutritioned) one more time. The other wrestlers were concerned about me and asked me why I hadn’t said anything, but I didn’t know them, and back then I couldn’t really talk to [strangers] like that.”
You won? That’s amazing.
Ibushi: I thought, this is fun. A month later I would be at the K-2 Shin Karate show.
Still so early (laughs).
Ibushi: I lost that one in the first round, the very first one. It frustrated me to no end. I was like, this really can’t be it, and I trained really hard, and four months later I won once and it gave me my momentum back. I worked really hard to train for about a year after that, without being in matches, and then next I was able to win a tournament.
Did you also work while training so hard?
Ibushi: I did. I [trained] about six or seven times a week, on my days off too.
Such an amount of training is no different from that of a pro.
Ibushi: Looking back at it now, I trained my ass off. I think I liked pushing myself. I won thanks to that.
That was just expected after a training like that, I think. But immediately after winning the Shin Karate [tournament], you told Ônari that you’re going to quit because you’re going to become a pro wrestler, right?
It couldn’t possibly have been the day after the tournament, right?
Ibushi: It twas the next day (laughs).
The next day! That was soon again (laughs).
Ibushi: As I did it, I had slowly become obsessed with kickboxing, but in the end, I still felt somewhere that I [wanted to become] a pro wrestler. But I thought like, I can’t really stop here unless I win the K-2 Shin Karate tournament. So, I won that, and then it felt for me like I could end things [with kickboxing].
Because by winning you were able to get over [your loss], right?
Ibushi: Yes. However, They were really strongly against it. I had always said [I wanted to be a wrestler], but on that day, they wouldn’t listen to me at all, and from that point I always told them every day, so they slowly gave in, but told me, “You can be a pro wrestler, but continue kickboxing as well.”
Oh, they wanted you to do both.
Ibushi: I thought, we aren’t really getting anywhere with this, so I said I got it, and then disappeared like that.
You faded away (laughs). When did you become a fan of wrestling?
Ibushi: When I was in fifth grade, thereabout. I watched a video tape my older brother had rented, and I saw the high-flying moves like moonsaults and such I was very impressed. From there I went to rent [more] tapes, and slowly started watching [wrestling]. About a year after that I learned that they [show] wrestling late at night, and I began taping the [shows] and from there started to watch it properly.
Ibushi Kôta’s Anecdotes Part 2
“Practicing high-flying from monkey bars”
“I still do this. On the monkey bars in parks. I do think it’s dangerous. There’s sand below, and a little further is the [hard] ground, so it’s dangerous, but I’m fine with that. If it’s not, then I won’t be able to do it in a match. If I’ve gotten injured [doing that]? I have. I think that must have been because I wasn’t feeling tense enough.”
Is there a wrestler that you admired, or that stuck out to you the most?
Ibushi: I’d have to say Sasuke and Hayabusa.
Did you watch those wrestlers and copy their moves?
Ibushi: Yeah, I did [their moves] during play-wrestling and such. Usually things like moonsaults on the schoolyard.
Moves [so advanced as] moonsaults during play-wrestling? And on the schoolyard, no less (laughs).
Ibushi: Yep (laughs).
Didn’t you get quite the crowd of onlookers for that?
Ibushi: I did. But I found it fun when they were entertained.
When was the moment when you thought, I love this, or I’m going to become [a wrestler]?
Ibushi: In sixth grade or so.
Sixth grade? So you were aware of it pretty early on.
Ibushi: I guess so. About the time when I started sixth grade, I would often do bumps on thin mats [used for] mat exercises. I thought that if I did it with thick ones, I wouldn’t get used to it.
Oh, the balance. So at the time, you weren’t doing “play-wrestling”, but you were thinking about taking bumps in earnest, and doing it on thin mats (laughs).
Ibushi: Yes. Like finding the right timing to jump, and things like that…I didn’t really do anything that different from what I do during practice now.
Did you feel like you wanted to go to take an [entrance] test in a wrestling promotion somewhere as soon as you graduated highschool?
Ibushi: I thought about going as soon as I graduated middle school. But, oh, the very first one was when a wrestling [promotion] called West Japan Pro Wrestling was coming [to where I lived] during spring vacation, and I went to take [the entrance exam] there. I think I had an interview with Tokuda (Mitsuteru)6.
Ibushi: First they told me to send in a resumé. I told them I didn’t have one, they asked me about various details like my age and stuff, and they didn’t quite trust me.
Huh, you lied to them?
Ibushi: I did. I deceived them, but they found out immediately (laughs).
You were an elementary school student, no wonder they found out (laughs).
Ibushi: Even though they found out, they told me to move anyway, and I got to show them how I moved. Then they told me, ‘Your moves are good, but come back once you graduate middle school.’ But [I thought,] I don’t need to bother like that.
You turned them down (laughs).
Ibushi: Next, after graduating middle school, I thought about taking the test in New Japan, but I made my parents cry when I told them…I thought, this is bad. They told me to at least go to highschool. So I went to highschool.
Looks like there are a lot of cases [of parents telling their children] to at least go to highschool.
Ibushi: I’m from Kagoshima originally, but I thought if I went over there (Kantô), then I could become something. I went there without really understanding anything, and my place of work was at the Narita airport.
Did you go there without knowing where you’d work?
Ibushi: Yes. I thought, it’s no big deal, I’ll quit after a day.
Oh geez (laughs). So you went there saying to your parents or the people around you that you were working in Tôkyô as an excuse?
Ibushi: Yes. But somehow, that day, I couldn’t get the words ‘I’m going to quit’ out…
Well, they are hard to say (laughs).
Ibushi Kôta’s Anecdotes Part 3
“I love sweets”
“I love everything sweet. I make sure to eat sweet bread or something once I get up in the morning. I love meat and fish too, but what I love the most is bubble gum or candy. I love Hi Chew. You know those [candy] with stuff inside the gum you can just swallow like that? I love those types. I have put Hi Chew on white bread and eaten it just like that. I line them up on a slice of bread and eat them like that. If you toast it like that a little, they melt a little and it’s really good. When I was malnutritioned I was told that it’s very highly likely I’ll get gastroptosis and a basal metabolism, and if I don’t do anything I’ll get extremely skinny. I was told that normal people are okay with about 2500 calories per day, but they said I can’t have 7000 per day. Like it’s not maintainable.”
Ibushi: So, I thought, anyway, let me do this for one month, and then I worked for a month, and then I got my first salary, you know? And then I graduated highschool and it was my first time having so much money, and I thought, this is enticing. And I kept working little by little for about a year. In the middle of that I thought several times, ‘This is terrible, I want to join a [wrestling] promotion’, but I was like—there was a part of me that was scared of that. But I thought, first I’ll try kickboxing, and from there I fought in the Shin Karate tournament. After that, I watched DDT [have a show in] Lalaport7, and I thought, all right, that’s it’s decided, and I sent them my resumé.
Sounds to me like you thought you could make it work in a place like [DDT] (laughs).
Ibushi: I can say this now, but DDT felt the most lax (laughs). I thought, in a place like this, even I can succeed. I thought I’d quit up until the day of my debut match, though.
Every single time I do a high-flying move, I jump with the feeling that this could be my last time
After your debut match (laughs)? It’s the same as with the Shin Karate tournament (laughs).
Ibushi: Yes (laughs). It was just about getting into the ring one time as a pro wrestler, anyway. My opponent was KUDO, whom I respected, and I thought this will be the best occasion [to quit], there won’t be anything I’ll regret. I thought, let this finally be over, I want to have my debut match soon and then quit. I thought I’ll use all the moves I have to their fullest, if possible.
Other promotions wouldn’t just suddenly let a rookie use big flashy moves, I think.
Ibushi: Not usually, no. But I had decided to show everything that I could do. And then, when I went to do it, I realized that the fans were getting excited, and that was like, it really touched me. I couldn’t quit after that.
Have you thought about quitting since?
The cheers from the crowd were such an important [influence on you] in that, right? Like it felt good.
Ibushi: It was very important. When I was watching as a fan, I paid money and I watched them, and there were matches where I could tell that they were cutting corners and things like that, but I wanted to avoid that, so I put everything I had [into that match].
Taking only one high-flying move, even then there’s the aspect that it’s always accompanied by accidents. At the time of the Differ Cup, you said that you did [every high-flying move] so they could be your last, and that was very impressive to me.
Ibushi: I always jump every time feeling that I wouldn’t [regret it] if this were my last time. I’m ready for that.
Do you still feel like you’re jumping each and every time, planning to put your life on the line?
Ibushi: Hmmm. What’s very important for me now, is that I was able to do every move I had wanted to do in my debut match, or that like I was able to show every move I had wanted to show, and that Takagi (Sanshirô) gave his OK for that.
Did you talk to Takagi about your debut match, including that you wanted to quit?
Ibushi: I wasn’t able to tell him I planned to quit, but when I said, ‘I want to do everything that I’m capable of’, he told me, ‘As long as you can you do it, just do it’ and he also told me something like ‘But if you botch it, that’s it for you.’ With this gratitude [for his trust], I want to represent pro wrestling, or represent DDT in the future as well.
[Represent DDT], rather than yourself. It seemed like you didn’t take it too seriously in the beginning, but as you lived alongside the people DDT, did your feelings change to something like ‘I don’t want to leave’?
Ibushi: Yeah. Takagi’s human nature, or like that he’s able to trust me, that [means a lot].
Takagi would cry if he heard those words (laughs). A true Dramatic Dream Team.
Ibushi: I really do want to make DDT bigger. Even when I fight in the K-1, I want to get into the ring as a representative of DDT, and make people aware of DDT.
Thank you so much. We await your continued success and hope that your next venture in the K-1 will not be cancelled!
Ibushi’s Anecdotes Part 4
“I’m scared of strangers and I hate clouds”
“I hate crowds of people, or rather, I’m scared of them. I’m usually scared of meeting people when they’re people I don’t know. Crowds [for wrestling or events] are fine. When I wash my clothes at home too, the washing machine is outside the door, so I open it a little bit and make sure there aren’t any people there. Also I hate clouds. I don’t like clouds, or when it’s cloudy. Because I hate it when the sun’s not out. I don’t like looking at the sky either. Having said that, it’s not like I love clear, cloudless days. I often stay inside and play video games, and when I’m shutting myself inside I don’t like the sun. People often tell me that I’m so weird, but I think that I’m the closest to a normal person. I think that in reality, maybe everyone is scared of crowds of people.”
1 Referencing Tanahashi Hiroshi’s nickname, “the once in a hundred years talent”.
2 A yearly show held by the short-lived wrestling promotion Hustle, which folded a couple years after this interview. Ibushi tagged with Ishimori against Kaz Hayashi and Jimmy Yang.
3 For a more in-depth dive into Ibushi’s time at the gym and more, read my translation of another interview here.
4 A series of events held by the now defunct wrestling promotion Fighting Investigation Team Battlarts.
5 First part of イケメン (“stud”) sounds the same as in イケる (“be capable”, “got it”).
6 Retired wrestler who was known for his time in FMW and W★ING.
7 A shopping and entertainment complex in Funabashi, the roof of which DDT sometimes used as a venue for shows.