We are living in interesting times, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down much of the world. In New Zealand, the government led by our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, took the extra precaution of instituting a nationwide lockdown at the highest alert level – 4. This was done to slow down the threat of the coronavirus spreading through our small nation of 5 million. Under alert level 4, non-essential businesses, as well as mass gatherings in public spaces including churches, schools, sporting events and the arts were closed down. New Zealanders were urged to stay at home in self-isolation and only maintain physical contact with those in their household (or as Jacinda Ardern often referred to, their ‘bubble’). To maximise our safety, the NZ borders were closed off to the rest of the world, making NZ the first democratic nation to implement such a massive undertaking of its kind.
What does this mean for Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo? We’ve suspended all general classes open to the public. The Dojo has uploaded videos of the coaches and young lions demonstrating simple exercise techniques to help keep people active. The three-month professional wrestling course has continued within the confines of the rules and restrictions set by the NZ government. Presently, the young lions from the 2020 February intake along with Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale, founder, Head Trainer, and Tony Kozina, Professional Wrestling Head Coach, are in self-isolation at the Dojo. Between the Japanese strong style experience of Fale and the American wrestling knowledge of Kozina, the lions are being provided with the world class training that will help them to pursue their goals when business is resumed.
This lockdown has been challenging for New Zealanders, many of whom spend their leisure time outdoors in social gatherings. However, it’s a sacrifice that the majority have heeded, and as a result of the strict measures, the loss of thousands of lives has been prevented. For the young lions, adhering to the urgency of self-isolation has been beneficial to their training, which at its core emphasises the values of respect, discipline, sacrifice and working as a collective for the greater good of the community. Jacinda Ardern continues to remind us to be kind to one another: It is absolutely crucial that these values are upheld now more than ever!
This is also a teaching that the parent company of Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo, New Japan Pro Wrestling exemplified after making the decision to cancel their wrestling events. In fact, NJPW and its sister promotion STARDOM were the first in the wrestling business to initiate this move in response to COVID-19.
Much like the NZ government, New Japan took a similar approach to suspend events to prevent the risk of community transmission at mass gatherings. NJPW President, Harold Meij followed up with releasing an open letter about NJPW’s activities in business and combatting COVID-19. Mr Meij would direct the fans attention to the NJPW World streaming service for their viewing pleasure, but not before he expressed his gratitude to the fans for their ongoing support. Mr Meij also invited everyone to join him and the rest of New Japan to do their part in staying safe. Not forgetting those working in essential roles, Mr Meij acknowledged and praised the essential workers for their tremendous service.
The message was amplified by NJPW star Hiroshi Tanahashi who on behalf of New Japan attended a meeting alongside representatives from other Japanese wrestling promotions. The united pro wrestling front met with Japanese government officials to offer their support and present a proposal that would assist their professional wrestlers with COVID-19 safety kits and financial compensation during the pandemic.
“I think it should be acceptable for professional wrestling to be the last sport to return to full activity,” Tanahashi told NJPW. “I want people to know that when professional wrestling is back, then and only then it means that truly that Japanese entertainment is properly recovered.”
The language expressed in Mr Meij’s open letter illustrated compassion and the involvement of the community, much like the tone that Jacinda Ardern articulates when she addresses New Zealanders. The similarity of their messages highlight the empathy and integrity in their respective roles as leaders, and the values shared between multicultural New Zealand and the Japanese culture. So much so that New Zealand and New Japan’s philosophies are being commended around the globe. This process also demonstrates why NZ strong style through Fale Dojo and Japanese strong style through NJPW are great allies in professional wrestling. It’s just as important that the common message, ‘we will get through this together,’ assures that no one will get left behind if everyone does their part, a theme that is unfortunately lost in some parts of the world.
Lastly, a shout out to Fale Dojo young lion, Chris Cruz. In addition to being a professional wrestler, Chris works as a nurse in the Emergency Department. Following the announcement of NZ’s lockdown, Chris returned to the United States to his essential role so that he could help save lives. Thank you for your service, Chris. God Bless.