Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo welcomed the final intake for 2020. The three-month professional wrestling course commenced in the first week of September. The programme is led by Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale, New Japan Pro-Wrestling star, Head Trainer and founder of the Dojo. The coaching staff also includes Mark Tui, General Manager / Coach, and Dojo graduate; Tony Kozina, Head Coach of the three-month course; and Tangi Ropati, Head Trainer in health, fitness and nutrition. This Lions intake includes two enthusiastic young students who are in the infancy of their journey to becoming professional wrestlers. In addition, the Lions are joined by Michael Richards who continues to serve as a senior lion and elder. This article features the young lions as they approach week 9 of their three-month training.
Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand
As a young boy growing up in Palmerston North, Finn Grant discovered wrestling while watching television. Grant became mesmerised with the theatrics and was drawn particularly to wrestling matches that showed a definitive contrast between the heroic underdog and the heinous villain.
“I was around 7 years of age when I first started watching pro wrestling,” Grant remembers. “I have a long list of professional wrestlers who I respect and admire. “Switchblade” Jay White, Chris Jericho, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the Rock stand out.”
Grant moved with his family to Auckland in 2010. He attended Auckland Grammar School then went on to the University of Auckland to study Media and Communications, and Sociology. Grant shared his feelings about being unchallenged by university study.
“I tried a year of university coming out of high school, and it just wasn’t for me,” he explained. “As fun as it was, I didn’t feel a sense of purpose or direction. I was going through the motions and I did what was needed to pass my papers. It was without truly going outside my comfort zone.”
Grant seized the opportunity to pursue his pro wrestling aspirations not before seeking wise counsel from his family.
“My parents were very supportive of my decision to train for wrestling,” said Grant. “I had regular conversations with my parents about taking this unconventional journey even while I was studying at university, so it wasn’t something that came out unexpectedly.”
With his parents’ blessing, Grant began his new journey. He was meticulous in his search for formal training in a particular ‘strong’ style. This led him to Fale Dojo.
“I was looking online for pro wrestling schools in my area and came across the Fale Dojo website,” said Grant. “I was already familiar with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Fale-San so I saw it as an amazing opportunity to be shown the right pathway and taught the correct guidance needed in order to ultimately achieve my goals.”
He continued: “Professional wrestling is something that I have always been passionate about. My mind-set behind pursuing this is that I would be able to give my all to what I love and hopefully grow and learn a lot. Furthermore whilst also doing some pretty cool things in the process.”
“I am very captivated by NJPW. What stands out to me is the heart of the wrestlers and their undeniable will to be the best. There is a prominent sense of discipline, and honour shown by the roster in their matches. Regardless of the individual’s personality, whether they are humble and fair or cunning and devious, you can tell that everyone has a high level of respect for wrestling that can be highlighted through their intensity and drive to succeed in the ring.”
Grant is currently experiencing a small taste of the strict and high-level preparation that NJPW wrestlers endured when they entered New Japan’s revered training system.
“Peaks and valleys would be the best way to describe my journey at Fale Dojo,” he shared. “This intake overall is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Some days it can be very tough both mentally and physically, but soon after your mind clears and you realise how important it was for you to go through such times.”
“There is always a lesson and a reason behind everything,” he added. “Although it may not seem obvious at the moment, it all makes sense in the end.”
One of the barriers which Grant spoke of was being away from his family to whom he is very close.
“I am blessed to still live very close to my family who are just a 10-minute drive away. However not seeing them as much as I used to has been hard,” he revealed. “Even though living away from home is getting easier, I don’t think there will ever be a time where I don’t miss them. It is important for me to learn this now as my dreams and goals will require me to regularly be across the world from them.”
Other challenges that Grant alluded to was the self-doubt that surfaced after being corrected and reprimanded. Grant, in retrospect, recognised that it is all part of the process of being reshaped to a higher standard.
“I have needed to grow some thicker skin,” he said. “There have been times where I have messed up and gotten punished for it which is fair enough. Rather, it is getting past the fear that I have let down or disappointed my Senpai that I have had to deal with.”
“Messing up may still sting, but I’m getting there and one day I will be able to take these things on the chin and not give any time of day to these negative or unproductive thoughts that result in me overthinking.”
Grant added: “I have gotten a lot of great advice and direction from the trainers, and I realised that it is all about treating these moments as lessons rather than failures whilst making sure to be better next time.”
Grant also highlighted the teachings that have significantly helped mature his perspective of the professional wrestling business.
“Attention to detail and taking pride in your work is regularly reiterated. The habits you develop when doing chores are the same ones you will carry over to training and thus your wrestling,” Grant stated. “Whether it is sweeping the floors, cleaning the ring, or making sure that the weights are aligned and facing the right way, it is all about being presentable and paying attention to the small things.”
“I’ve learned the importance of grappling and striking and the ways in which it gives you an edge over other wrestlers,” Grant added. “Also, I have begun to view wrestling with a closer eye, noting the different ways wrestlers move and their intentions behind their movements.”
“I’ve learned to take things day by day,” Grant said in closing. “However, my ultimate purpose for coming to Fale Dojo is to wrestle on the NJPW roster.”
In addition to the three-month professional wrestling course, the young lions are also active in the Dojo’s general classes which are not only beneficial to improving their fitness and technique, but they are also very popular with the general public.
These core classes include Body Shock, led by Tangi Ropati; WrestleFit, run by Tony Kozina; Box-Fit, run by Aniva Laulu who has recently joined the Fale Dojo staff; and Kushti HIIT, a blend of disciplines fused into an exciting workout and taught by its innovator, Vik Pawaar.
While the demand for more general classes has grown in spite of two lockdown periods in Auckland; Fale Dojo has responded by running classes three times a day from Monday to Friday with added support from Toks Fale, Mark Tui, and Michael Richards.
Cronulla, New South Wales, Australia
Will Averill left his home in Hawke’s Bay, NZ for Australia after graduating from high school. While residing in New South Wales for the last seven years, Averill worked as an actor and musician, during which time he appeared in several independent films and television advertisements.
“I was what you call a casual pro wrestling fan,” said Averill. “My favourite wrestlers were Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Sting, Bret Hart, and CM Punk. As I became an avid watcher, I soon discovered wrestling in other areas of the world, particularly Japan and the New Japan Pro-Wrestling promotion. My favourite wrestler since I made this discovery is NJPW’s, Kazuchika Okada!”
“Pro wrestling was always my dream even when I was acting,” Averill continued. “But I was a bit fearful and I didn’t know how to pursue wrestling. It seemed so far away at the time, however, that’s all changed since NJPW began to expand out to the west and into Australia. Now there are a lot more options especially with Fale Dojo being an official part of NJPW.”
While searching online for NJPW events in Australia, Averill came across a Fale Dojo article. The piece helped inform him of Fale Dojo’s NJPW training system that was available in New Zealand. This prompted Averill to return to NZ in pursuit of his new path in pro wrestling.
“There were various factors as to why I wanted to train at Fale Dojo,” Averill explained. “Firstly, it was a good reason for me to come back home. But when I look at the wrestling scene in the United States, it seemed that any wrestler that wasn’t an American or Canadian was diluted, and there weren’t any options to wrestle elsewhere and be authentic.”
“With New Japan expanding into the States, and Fale Dojo becoming the NJPW New Zealand Dojo, I think there will be a stronger representation of diversity in professional wrestling,” Averill added. “I love the dedication that NJPW wrestlers put into their matches as well as the freedom to be themselves.”
Averill is enjoying all aspects of the Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo curriculum. Most of all, he is intent on working towards his ambition in becoming the best in professional wrestling.
“Fale Dojo is more than just an international professional wrestling training facility,” said Averill. “We’re learning about the Japanese and Pacific cultures, life lesson tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and professional etiquette in and out of the ring.”
“Having to do 1000 plus squats a day is just one of my many challenges,” he expressed in laughter. “It’s demanding both physically and mentally, though the entire experience has been incredibly rewarding.”
“We are working interdependently as a team which lifts my spirits. I’ve learned that you don’t have to master a technique straight away, which is why the length of the Dojo’s three-month course is so imperative to one’s growth. Over the duration of the course, you realise that your body is capable of a lot more than you think.”
“My goal, for now, is to become a Fale Dojo graduate,” Averill stated in closing. “My long term goal is to wrestle in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, become IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and main event at the Tokyo Dome.”
About Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo:
Founded in 2016 by Head Trainer Toks Fale, Fale Dojo is a professional wrestling training school, wrestling promotion, and fitness facility based in South Auckland, New Zealand. Toks Fale first came into the wrestling scene as the first non-Japanese student to successfully train as a young lion (rookie) at the New Japan Pro-Wrestling Dojo in Tokyo from 2008 to 2009, before his 2010 debut in NJPW. Known professionally as the “Rogue General” Bad Luck Fale, his wrestling status was elevated in 2013 when he became one of the founding members of Bullet Club. Regarded as the hottest faction in pro wrestling, Bullet Club has maintained its dominance in the wrestling world for over half a decade, due partly to Fale’s reputation as the Club’s revered enforcer.
Toks Fale envisioned the Dojo as a way of sharing his experience and knowledge with his community with the goal of presenting professional wrestling as a viable career opportunity. Fale’s reputation helped ensure an affiliation between the Dojo and New Japan Pro-Wrestling which has allowed graduates from the Dojo’s three-month professional wrestling course to pursue further training at the NJPW Dojo and from there the possibility of gaining a spot on the NJPW main roster.
Notable graduates to emerge from Fale Dojo include “Switchblade” Jay White, Toa Henare, Robbie Eagles, Gino Gambino, and Aaron Solow. The incentive and the opportunity to gain Fale’s insight has drawn in many locals, as well as attracting students from all over the world.
Fale’s passion is to give back to his community, to share his experience and knowledge of the wrestling profession, and to instil the teachings required to become a successful professional wrestler.
Fale Dojo is proud to have partnerships with Coca-Cola, and Xplosive Supplements, Papatoetoe, South Auckland. Fale Dojo also is the first Pacific Island owned and operated professional wrestling training school and wrestling promotion in New Zealand.