I recently had my first official meeting at the Fale Dojo wrestling training school in South Auckland. I entered the Dojo as a life-long wrestling fan, having to remind myself that I was now the Dojo’s Content Writer. While meeting the rest of the Coaches, and the Head Trainer, Bad Luck Fale, I sat down to observe a training session with the students who were led by Fale Dojo General Manager/Coach, Mark Tui. Known by his persona, Mareko, Mark has wrestled throughout New Zealand and Australia, his most notable match taking place at the NJPW Fallout Down Under pay-per-view event in Perth. Tui teamed with New Japan Pro Wrestling and former WCW star, Yuji Nagata against Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.
The Fale Dojo training regime has strong similarities to the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo. The students are trained under an intense and strict style called Strong Style which is defined as a Japanese wrestling genre that involves full contact and is influenced by martial arts strikes and submission wrestling. Its training educates students according to what is seen in NJPW and is credited with laying the foundation for the career of Fale Dojo founder and Head Trainer, Bad Luck Fale.
I watched the Wrestlefit session with students training at the beginner’s level. This particular session did not specialise in Strong Style, rather it focused on fitness, which was still relatively intense. Some of the workouts included the trainees doing 100 squats, shuttle drills, and chain wrestling.
Mark explained how shuttle drills are essential to the students when wrestling a match. “It focuses more on conditioning, endurance, and agility. When wrestlers get fatigued, the drills helps them to breathe and pace themselves, and to keep going”.
The chain wrestling workout involves two students locking up for one minute while the other students examine the grappling from outside the ropes. Mark describes the process of chain wrestling; “Chain wrestling teaches the students to think while working. The purpose is for the students to work together and maintain contact”.
When that one-minute interval is up, one of the two students tags out to another student from the outside; that student steps into the ring and chain wrestles the first student for one minute. Essentially, each student gets a turn to chain wrestle for two minutes; a minute each with a different opponent.
Mark adds that the minute intervals helps to build familiarity among the students, and is especially useful if students are of different sizes; “It’s beneficial that they work with each other, and it’s always important to learn how to work with different people and styles. It also helps the students to learn how to work with other wrestlers with different builds.”
Among the students are two experienced members who also serve as Coaches, Arthur Papali’i and Jordan Allan-Wright. The involvement of Arthur and Jordan is an added value for the students as Mark noted; “The trainers tend to pair the inexperienced students up against the more experienced so they can learn from them”.
In addition to teaching wrestling, Fale Dojo also teaches other forms of combat to the students. This is the requirement that aligns with the NJPW Dojo training as wrestlers who have graduated through the NJPW Dojo system are also disciplined in shoot fighting. The Coaching staff at Fale Dojo each holds a background in combat sports; these skills help to fulfil the Fale Dojo curriculum as it will serve their graduates with the precaution to take care of themselves if confronted in unexpected situations while also protecting the wrestling profession.
Tony Kozina, from Portland, Oregon is the Professional Wrestling Coach at Fale Dojo. Tony has over 20 years of experience in pro wrestling and has held multiple NWA championships and wrestled extensively throughout North America before making New Zealand his home in early 2018. Tony is also a Ju-Jitsu and Kickboxing champion and has had a hand in training Bad Luck Fale, Davey Richards, and Kyle O’Reilly. Tony Kozina is regarded as an all-rounder who coaches wrestling, grappling, boxing and ju-jitsu.
Fale Dojo has also had the additional guest coach come in from overseas to take a training seminar and scout for talent: The most recent of these guests was NJPW’s Jado, a Japanese legend, and a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
A major part of the training and culture at Fale Dojo is the humility and respect that is instilled in the students. At the conclusion of the session, the students honoured each Coach (and Head Trainer, Fale) with a brief and formal closing that was spoken in Japanese before turning to acknowledge each other and proceeding to clean up the ring. The student intakes for the Dojo also boasts an impressive roll call of trainees that have come from all over the world to train. One particular graduate was Hikuleo, the son of King Haku, and brother of Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.
Following the training session, I spoke with Bad Luck Fale about his match with Fale Dojo’s stand out graduate, Toa Henare at the G1 Climax, and what the match means to Fale Dojo; “That match highlights the fact that hard work and focus will get you to where you want to go.”
Fale reflected on the first time he met Henare, “I met him four years ago, I saw such a hunger in this young man, and the Fale Dojo gave him the guidance to work for his dream. The match sums up his dream and his work of the last four years”.
Fale Dojo has a positive impact not only on wrestling but on the community at large. It’s a training facility founded on respect and hard work, and it presents New Zealanders with the opportunity to pursue their dreams and ambitions in becoming a professional wrestler; much like Toa Henare.