Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo welcomed the second intake for 2020 which commenced on the first week of June. The three-month professional wrestling course is led by Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale, Head Trainer and founder of the Dojo; Mark Tui, General Manager / Coach and Dojo graduate; Tony Kozina, Head Trainer of the three-month course, and Tangi Ropati, Head Trainer in health, fitness and nutrition. New Zealand has been fortunate to be in a position to contain COVID-19 and therefore resume business after closing its borders due to a nationwide lockdown. With the travel restrictions still in place, a contingent of international students were not able to take part in this intake. Tony Kozina addressed how the Dojo plans to remedy the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic.
“The 8 to 10 students who were set to join the June intake have all had to reschedule their start date due to border closures,’ said Kozina. “That, in addition to other enquiries has us considering running four intakes in 2021 beginning in January and running all through the year. All of that is on hold until we have open borders to NZ once again.”
The June 2020 intake consists of a trio who had already trained as part of the February 2020 intake. It’s common for graduates to train beyond their first intake in order to expand on their craft. Such was the case for Oskar Münchow, Jake Taylor, and Yuto Nakashima; each lion had extended stays throughout 2019.
“This intake has allowed us to focus on the three individuals that are with us now, and really give them specialized attention,” explained Kozina, the 20 plus year veteran. “They have all done the initial three months, which is no picnic, and now we are able to lessen their daily grind a bit, and put that focus into wrestling mat work, technique and understanding ring psychology.”
Kozina shared that the General Classes have been an integral part to the lion’s training as well as the Dojo’s wider community: “The lions are also active in our other general public classes as well. Since we have lessened their physical grind in the mornings, they make sure to get Box-Fit, Body Shock and WrestleFit classes so they remain in peak condition.”
“The boxing technique classes have been important for our young lions in developing their striking abilities,” Kozina added. “The addition of our new trainers has increased everyone’s fitness levels overall, which in turn, has continued to boost morale and that sense of team amongst not only our young lions, but our great members who take our morning, afternoon, and evening classes that are open to the public.”
“So despite having the lockdown, we still continued training without missing a beat. Then, once things opened back up, we shifted our focus out of necessity, to our public classes, and now have packed classes 5 nights a week, plus our new kid’s classes, and more to come.”
“All of that has made us all up our game in every aspect, and ultimately has been a blessing in disguise for our long term growth and success,” Kozina concluded. “It’s funny how things work out the way they do!”
In this article, each lion reflects on their journey as they reach the final month of the Fale Dojo 2020 June Intake.
Mangere East, South Auckland, New Zealand
My most recent interaction with Eliseni Fale was much different from our first meeting in February. A once shy and quiet Fale greeted me with upbeat energy and confidence, along with a beaming smile. Young Fale was quite modest in sharing about his journey at the Dojo. However, from my perspective, this humble 16 year old has transformed significantly.
Fale shared: “This intakes been tough for me physically, spiritually and mentally. I’ve had some good days and some bad days, but I’m still getting through it.
“In the February intake, we had big numbers. This made it easy for us to finish things faster – whether it was cleaning or training, for me, it was very motivating. But for this intake, we’re down to three. We still get things done but it takes longer than before. This has helped me to be patient and develop a strong attention to detail which I apply to my training.
“I’ve managed to do better at some of the wrestling techniques, like rolls, bumps, submissions holds, and although I still have a long way to go. I’ve been doing well with completing the push-ups.
“The inclusion of the new trainers and what they add has helped me a lot. Taking their classes has helped me to be stronger and fitter than ever before. I’m ready for what’s next to come!”
Otara, South Auckland, New Zealand
Richard Mulu, a Fale Dojo mainstay has adapted well to the Dojo life. Although he had recently trained in the three-month course, Mulu was part of the Wrestle-Fit class under Tony Kozina’s watchful eye and receiving invaluable advice from Toks Fale in how to wrestle the ‘big man’ style. Recently, Mulu has been balancing the realities of continuing to pursue his dreams while working as well as learning to maintain his family and cultural responsibilities. Mulu’s strength was renewed after receiving wise counsel from the Dojo staff, many of whom are Pasifika, shared their own experiences with the young lion.
Mulu shared: “As a student of the February and the June intakes, I haven’t felt a major change between the two classes. I’ve been training at Fale Dojo since 2018, so I learned what to expect and it’s helped me to adapt.
“My main challenge, however, is that I’ve started working again at my day job while training in the evening. At the moment I’m only able to attend the General Classes. I’m making sure that I make these classes count and that I have time for my body to recover for work the next morning. I still have so much to learn in that regard.
“During the previous intake, I shared that I was one of the few lions fortunate to still see my family. I’ve remained living at the Dojo while obligations within our Samoan culture still arise. I’ve found it challenging at times, and I’m sure other Pacific Islanders will understand what it’s like to be torn between family and chasing your dream. But I’m supported by the Dojo staff, in particular, Fale-San, who as a Pasifika knows first hand about having to make sacrifices. Fale-San will often remind me that I’m not just doing this for me, I’m also doing this to help my family, and that keeps me going. There’s no other training school in the country that can offer such wisdom and insight.
“The General Classes have been very important. These classes do the purpose of keeping our cardio in check, shaping our bodies, and learning technique. These skills help us to better ourselves in and out of the ring. Being able to move around better helps me to be more confident in front of a crowd. Just being open to everyone as well as helping others during our general classes is one of the things I look forward to.
“I remember what it was like to train in the Wrestle-Fit class before I joined the three-month course. Young lions would come from all over the country and around the world to train at the Dojo. I always felt privileged when they would join us as I learned a lot from the experience. Now I get the opportunity to do the same with our Dojo community.”
Portland, Oregon, USA
Polite, courteous and professional! That’s how I observed Derrick Shaw upon my arrival at Fale Dojo. I had literally hopped out of my taxi when Shaw welcomed and walked me inside the Dojo as we engaged in an enjoyable conversation. This was a rather different Derrick Shaw from when we first met where he was respectfully reserved. This time, Shaw was the initiator and showed a genuine interest to ask how my day was. Shaw’s new and outgoing transformation was complemented by his new build which he has worked very hard over the last 6 months to reach. With the guidance of Tangi Ropati, Shaw went from 126 kilograms down to 109.
Shaw shared. “Having been through the first intake and barely surviving it, this intake has slightly been a little more bearable. While I was able to finish my initial intake, I felt as though I kept myself at distance from letting go and just allowing myself to grow. I think I was resistant out of fear, and I lacked confidence, in not wanting to be uncomfortable. I was forced to change, and when I did let go, I was turning into a new and better version of myself. Here I am now, (and still developing). Currently, I’m 36 pounds smaller from when I first arrived at Fale Dojo. Clearly I feel much stronger, physically.
“This intake has been far more challenging on the emotional side because of the distance and time away from family and friends back in Portland, Oregon. I do my best to not let it affect my training. I’m not perfect and I’ve had bad days, but I still bring the same level of intensity each and every day. During the last intake, I was more in touch with friends and family on a regular basis. However, in this intake, I’ve actually taken quite the step back to do a better job at focusing on my training and new responsibilities.
“I’ve embraced more change regarding who I am and how I hold myself with everything from posture, confidence when speaking, as well as social interactions and looking people in the eye. I’ve also taken on more responsibilities as a young lion training and had the privilege of becoming an active member of the Fale Dojo staff member. Being a more active member of the Dojo helps reinforce my motivation and my purpose for pushing so hard to achieve my goal of truly elevating myself to get to the next level in the wrestling business because I’m not afraid to take on tasks while I’m already juggling so many other things already and I can show that I’m reliable and will see tasks through.
“I approach people I’ve never met with confidence and respect, the same as I would in a match. It’s still a work in progress and I have a lot to work on, but this new position is definitely helping me with my ring work as I go into matches now with a higher elevated level of confidence and it shows in my stance and my demeanour.
“Joining for the Boot Camp sessions has helped me both in leadership skills by continuing to learn how to cheer my team and the general public even when I’m very tired and exhausted. I’ve found the classes really help with my anxiety and feelings of depression because I have an extra outlet to vent and let out what I’m holding onto. Continuing to go to the additional training sessions keeps my rep counts high and constantly improves my cardio and my breathing, all things I still keep working on making better.
“I’ve realized during this intake I still have much to learn going forward regarding wrestling, technique, as well as who I am. It’s a journey I’ve been enjoying so far, even with the bumps and twists and turns along the way.”