AACC: Tokyo, Japan 2010
My first time in Tokyo was back in 2007 where my trainer Lana Stefanac and I both fought on the Smackgirl card which has now been replaced by Jewels. I absolutely LOVED it despite getting my ass handed to me and vowed to come back. In 2010, after spending three months in Rio de Janeiro and briefly stopping in New York and Berlin, I began the second leg of my travels in Tokyo, Japan. The sole reason for coming to Tokyo was to train at AACC with Megumi Fujii and her women’s MMA team. For those of you who don’t know about Fujii, she has a god-like status in the MMA world with a record of 23-1, which is amazing irregardless of gender. Here’s a little more info for the wiki:
Fujii is also a highly decorated fighter outside of mixed martial arts, with accomplishments including Japanese National Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion, five Second Place finishes in the World Sambo Championships, Ground Impact Professional BJJ Tournament Champion and 2004 and 2006 BJJ Pan-Am Champion. In 2005 and 2007, she earned Third Place finishes in the ADCC Under-60 kg. World Submission Championships.
We would train at night in the Gold’s Gym South Tokyo Annex and on weekends they would treat me to see excellent MMA and Shooto fights. Hands down it was one of the most hospitable gyms I have even trained at. One of my old trainers, Darren Uyenoyama has a gym down in Daly City which is affiliated with Abe-san’s gym. He initially put me in contact with Abe-san. I also spoke with pro MMA fighter Roxanne Modafferi who lives and trains in Tokyo. They both helped me figure out how to get there and Roxy became my new sparing partner and friend. I actually met Roxy years back at a Fatal Femmes Fighting 4 where she TKO’d Vanessa Porto with a wicked flurry of knees to the face. It was spectacular.
I ended up staying and training at AACC for 3 months and will definitely return one day hopefully soon. I think my first MMA sparring partner there was Emi. She is super tall with smooth stand-up and a very strong ground game. I think her reach is like two of me. I saw her flawlessly submit Harumi in the 1st minute in the 1st round at Jewels 9th Ring. This was followed up by another AACC victory by Ayaka Hamasaki who submitted her opponent in less than the 1st minute of the fight. Ayaka went on to take the entire 2010 Jewels Lightweight Queen Grand Prix Championship in Dec. These two are the next generation of Japanese fighters to look out for and I hope we get to see them soon in the US.
In addition to the new blood fighters, you have also some highly decorated veterans training there that you might also have heard of…
Sayaka Shioda who won first place at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship under 55kg division in 2007 and second place in 2009 for under 60kg.
Yasuko Tamada (玉田 育子 ) is the reigning Valkyrie Flyweight Champion. Tamada is currently ranked as the #2 female strawweight (96-106 lb) fighter in the world according to the Unified Women’s Mixed Martial Arts Rankings. She is also one of the smallest people that can drink most of you under the table.
Hitomi Akano (赤野 仁美) is a former Smackgirl Middleweight Champion at 128 pounds. She is currently the #14-ranked pound-for-pound female MMA fighter in the world by MMARising.com and the #8-ranked 135-pound female fighter according to the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings. She has some serious kicks that even when we were light sparring took the wind out of me.
As you can see it was difficult not to continually fangirl squee every time I went to the gym, but then again I was busy getting my ass kicked and learning new things. There are many other female fighters that call AACC their home and I hope to return to Tokyo this winter to get more training and more photos.
If you have a moment and happen to be literate in Japanese, stop by Fujii-san and Akano-san’s fight blog that features interviews and photos.
With Love & Respect,
Shawn K Tamaribuchi
(If you would like to learn more about Abe Ani’s Combat Club, you can download their English Brochure – AACC Sport.)