Fale Dojo / NJPW New Zealand Dojo welcomed the first intake for 2021. Having commenced on the 15th of February, the three-month professional wrestling training course is constructed and led by Toks ‘Bad Luck’ Fale, New Japan Pro-Wrestling star, co-owner and Head Trainer of Fale Dojo. He is joined by his coaching staff consisting of Mark Tui, Dojo co-owner, coach and graduate; Tony Kozina, Head Coach of Pro-Wrestling; Tangi Ropati, Strength and Conditioning Coach; as well as Michael Richards, Dojo graduate, presently serving as Senior Lion and Trainer. Additionally, the curriculum has enlisted the expertise of Frank Masoe, Striking Technique Specialist Coach; and Vik Pawaar, Dojo graduate and Kushti HIIT innovator.
The day to day running of the three-month course is overseen by Tony Kozina and Tangi Ropati. Their respective Pro Wrestling, and Strength & Condition classes make up the foundation of the curriculum.
Kozina, a 25-year veteran has taught eight intakes during his time at Fale Dojo. He also had a hand in training Toks Fale during his NJPW excursion which took place in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
“The February 2021 intake is almost three-quarters complete,” said Coach Kozina. “We have a new crew of two, plus Will Averill who has stayed to continue his journey on a second intake. After a slow start, which is usually the case, the young lions have now adjusted to the strict discipline and physicality of the training.”
“It is common for it to take several weeks or longer to get mentally focused on the daily responsibilities of being a Fale Dojo Young Lion,” Kozina the veteran continued. “With that said, AJ Visagie, Lloyd Morgan and Will are showing daily improvements in their abilities, and their confidence continues to build, while any self-doubts slowly fade away.”
“Attitudes remain pretty positive this year, which is a good sign,” Kozina observed. “The heavy demand and workload are very taxing, both physically and mentally, and it is not unusual to see someone quietly take their things and leave in the cover of darkness during an intake.”
Kozina continued, “They struggle still with teamwork and the constant communication required for maximum results, but with attitudes, I have no reason to believe they won’t overcome that by May. All in all, this has turned into another unique, and great group of guys, learning how to push themselves to their breaking point, and then go just beyond. When it’s you vs. you, and you walk away as the winner, understanding why you learn and that you are capable of whatever you put your mind to!”
Tangi Ropati joined the Fale Dojo coaching staff in 2020 bringing his vast background in international rugby league, fitness and bodybuilding.
“After completing eight weeks of the three-month Intake, the young lions are rapidly adapting to their surroundings and quickly learning,” said Coach Ropati a third-generation athlete. “For some of the young lions in this February 2021 Intake, not knowing what to expect has been an eye-opener into the reality of what it takes to be a professional wrestler. The sacrifices you need to make in order to make it to the top as an elite wrestler like the ‘Rogue General’ Bad Luck Fale.”
“As their Strength & Conditioning Coach, I have seen massive improvements from all of them,” Ropati shared. “All the young lions have even hit a few personal bests in the gym with some of the exercises they struggled with during our first week of training.”
“So I look forward to watching the lions get mentally and physically conditioned to withstand any training we may give them as they reach the last weeks of the Fale Dojo three month training course,” Ropati concluded. “They will soon realise that they too can be great one day and be a full time and successful professional wrestler if they truly want it, work for it and believe.”
Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Will Averill returned for his second intake. Now as a Senior Senpai to the young lions, Averill has been given more responsibility in running front of house during the Dojo’s weekday General Community Classes. This role which was first established by Averill’s predecessor (and fellow 2020 graduate) Derrick Shaw, largely entails face to face communication; welcoming clients and answering enquiries from the public. Averill embraced the role when he volunteered to return to the Dojo in January – a month early (and driving 7 hours from his home in Hastings) before the official start day of training.
“It’s different, this being my second intake,” explained Averill, the young lion. “In some ways, it’s been easier having been prepared, but at the same time there has been a lot of new challenges thrown at me making it almost equally hard; physically and mentally.”
The added responsibility became a challenge for Averill once the training began, having to prioritise his duties. As a former musician and television actor while based in Sydney, Australia; Averill was conditioned to the long hours of being onset. However, the demands of Fale Dojo was unlike anything Averill had undertaken.
“During my time in Sydney, I normally would arrive on the set of an acting gig early in the morning and I wouldn’t leave until late in the evening,” shared Averill, who is the first of the young lions to arrive at the Dojo to sit at the desk for the 6 am class until the lions leave together in the evening. “The Dojo requires the same level of commitment, but when training started, it went to a whole new level.”
Averill revealed, “Having more chores around the Dojo, plus helping the new lions as well as moving into the new Dojo house has presented some new challenges.”
“We train hard 5 hours a day from Monday to Friday, then there are our own individual workouts,” he added. “When I’m at the desk, I’m reminded to stay composed and not to appear tired.”
“It’s like being in the ring,” Averill elaborated on how the role relates to his training. “Even though I may be exhausted, I can’t give the impression to the crowd – or in my case, the clients, that they don’t have my full and undivided attention.”
“What you do outside the ring is almost more important than what you do inside the ring,” explained Averill. “This plays a massive part in my training where I need to be present in mind and body, and a crucial objective to being a professional wrestler is connecting with people.”
Averill also expanded on his experiences in training commenting particularly on the differences he has observed from his initial training in the September 2020 intake.
“Repetition has been the key to what I’ve taken away from training at Fale Dojo,” he shared. “I’ve noticed a lot of improvement in the things I may have struggled with in the last intake. Also working as a team with the lions is a highlight. Tony-San has introduced me to a lot of wrestling from the 1980s which I have a new love and appreciation.”
Averill’s ultimate goal remains the same from when he first arrived at Fale Dojo.
“I love New Japan Pro-Wrestling, the respect, and the passion the fans have as well as the strong style that brings back feelings of nostalgia from when I was a young fan,” Averill stated in closing. “My goal as the last intake is to main event the Tokyo Dome and become IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.”
Manurewa, South Auckland, New Zealand
‘Invest in yourself’ is a motto that Fale Dojo hopes will inspire their trainees, and encourage members of the Dojo’s community to seize opportunities and goals regardless of how great the feat is. Such is the case for Lloyd Morgan, who since 2019 has been developing his skills as a referee.
Morgan’s credentials include refereeing the Fale Dojo Exhibition series; officiating the Fale Dojo try-outs, and making his NJPW debut at the New Japan’s Southern Showdown tour of Australia. At the conclusion of the tour, he received invaluable insight from NJPW referee Hiroyuki ‘Red Shoes’ Unno. Morgan also took part in a seminar with the 2019 September Intake that was led by Jado, NJPW official during his visit to New Zealand. Presently, Morgan continues to invest in his craft as a referee whilst training as a young lion in order to gain some understanding of the mindset of a New Japan wrestler.
“My journey has been an amazing experience, from joining the Dojo back in March 2019 as a referee to becoming a Fale Dojo young lion in February 2021 intake,” said Morgan a proud member of the Dojo community.
“The training is physically and mentally tough, but it’s so rewarding,” he emphasised. “Nothing in New Zealand quite lives up to the Fale Dojo Intake: There’s nothing like it in all of Oceania.”
“This path doesn’t come without its challenges though,” Morgan stated. “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. However, it’s those times when you want to give up are the times when you are truly growing.”
The young lion proceeded to discuss his greatest obstacles he’s encountered in his training: “My biggest challenge I had faced was juggling a full-time job as well as being a young lion. But I had made the decision to leave my job and put all of my time and energy into training.”
“The next big challenge that I overcame was my return to training after a car accident which happened at the end of week 5 of the intake,” he revealed. “I was out for a week, and I’m currently undergoing physiotherapy and sorting out a plan of action to get myself back to full strength”
“More importantly, I’ve been seeking advice from my trainers Tony-San, Mark-San and Tangi-San, as well as my senpai Richard Mulu (Dojo graduate from 2020),” said Morgan. “This has helped me to stay focused and train hard with passion.”
In addition to the three-month course, Morgan and fellow lion AJ Visagie are supporting Will Averill in the Dojo’s General Community Classes in the evenings with their roles in maintaining the facilities and assisting the trainers. Morgan participated regularly in the evening classes prior to joining the three-month course, although as a lion he has participated on occasion as a way to support the trainers by showing members how to execute certain techniques.
“The 6 pm classes were amazing,” explained Morgan. “They were a great push and it definitely helped get me ready for the young lions training to hit the ground running.”
He added: “As well as assisting the trainers, I’m just trying to be as much of an outlet as possible as I know there are some skills like being a southpaw that is of great help. So any chance I can get to help people I try my best to accommodate.”
“Maintaining the Dojo and general day to day cleaning is a big part of our training,” a core discipline that is part of the three-month curriculum. “It gives all our lions a sense of pride in our surroundings and in what we do.”
Although Morgan has gained a wealth of knowledge in learning different aspects of pro wrestling, it will ultimately lead to further enhance his abilities as a referee. This is a role he treats with immense pride.
“I was inspired to pursue pro wrestling as a bonus to travel and have the ability to create memories that would last a lifetime,” Morgan said in closing. “As a fan of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, my long term goal is refereeing internationally and having the ability to train future referees who wish to make this crazy life a career.”
Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
AJ Visagie is the first New Zealander to travel from the student city of Dunedin. Visagie discovered pro-wrestling fairly recently through his two older brothers and was immediately drawn in particular to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. It was through NJPW that Visagie became aware of Fale Dojo’s world-renowned reputation.
“For as long as I have known about New Japan Pro-Wrestling I knew that Fale-San ran a pro-wrestling school in New Zealand,” said Visagie. “However, I only truly understood its reputation as one of only three NJPW Dojos in the world during an NJPW World press conference in February 2020 where NJPW Chairman, Sugabayashi-San discussed plans to expand Fale Dojo.”
“New Japan with all its spectacle and top-notch presentation is built on the principles of respect and passion to which I resonate with,” he shared with passion. “Wrestle Kingdom 14 demonstrated this to me through Jushin Thunder Liger’s beautifully emotional retirement and the big matches of varying styles. This show epitomised to me why any big New Japan show is both a marquee event for and celebration of pro-wrestling.”
Shortly after completing his first year of studies at the University of Otago, Visagie came to a point where he needed a reset. This prompted Visagie to step way out of his comfort zone.
“By the end of 2020 I felt lost and unsure about where to go next with my University studies,” he revealed. “During Christmas, I was watching several NJPW shows. This felt incredibly powerful after the challenging year. Wrestling brought me a lot of joy in these last three years and I wanted to see if being part of the pro-wrestling industry was for me.”
“In early January of this year, I booked my spot in the Fale Dojo February intake,” Visagie shared. “At the very least, doing this training gives me time to develop myself and gain some life skills.”
“For me doing this training has not been to obtain a career in pro wrestling,” Visagie explained. “But more so for the boot camp and life experience in order to challenge myself, develop drive and focus and undergo self-discovery.”
Upon his arrival at Fale Dojo, Visagie came across as a well-mannered and deep thinking conversationalist. His character never wavered despite the arduous training and physicality that was once foreign to young Visagie. In fact, Visagie thrived in embracing the Dojo environment.
“My time at Fale Dojo has been phenomenal,” he described. “I have reached a new level of fitness, I especially love taking part in the Dojo’s General Community Classes and working with the wonderful locals.”
Visagie added: “Learning more about nutrition, recovery, combat sports and general fitness has been exciting for me. This intake has been the life retreat that I wanted and needed it to be.”
“I have never been a gym buff and prior to this intake, I had no combat sports experience,” Visagie revealed. “So learning form and technique has been my priority. Honing my focus and intensity has also been challenging as I am not competitive by nature and feel comfortable in myself while being reserved and stuck in my head at times”.
“I’ve learned to reinforce positive self-talk, using focus and intensity to push myself,” said the young lion. “I’ve also learned combat sports fundamentals such as effective breathing, movement and striking and how to properly use gym equipment.”
“Despite NJPW being a global entity, it is not unobtainable and foreign for someone in New Zealand to make it into the pro-wrestling industry for a viable long term career,” Visagie discussed. “There is also comfort in meeting people from the industry in real life and not just behind a computer.”
“I am fairly certain that I will not become a wrestler, I would much rather have a supporting role,” he stated. “With an opportunity to return to University next year and study Physiotherapy, I would hope to use my qualifications from the degree to help support Fale Dojo and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, whilst staying open for public care. I potentially want to work as a referee as well. It’s a vital role in the industry that needs more people and I believe that I would really enjoy it.”
“A three month Fale Dojo intake is not just for those wanting to become wrestlers,” Visagie expressed. “It is an opportunity for people to do some self-discovery while getting fit along the way.”
“The staff at Fale Dojo are incredible people who will help guide you as you put in the work,” Visagie said in closing. “Doing this Fale Dojo intake has been a worthwhile monetary and time investment that is changing my life for the better.”
About Fale Dojo:
Founded in 2016 by Head Trainer Toks Fale, Fale Dojo is a professional wrestling training school and fitness facility based in Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand. Toks Fale first came into the wrestling scene as the first non-Japanese student (otherwise known as a young lion) to graduate from the New Japan Pro-Wrestling Dojo in Tokyo in 2009 before making his NJPW debut on 4 April 2010. 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 a decade, due partly to Fale’s reputation as the Club’s revered enforcer.
Toks Fale’s passion is to give back to his community. He envisioned Fale 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. Toks Fale’s reputation helped ensure a pathway between Fale 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 New Japan 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, Aaron Henare, Hikuleo, 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.
As a local fitness facility, Fale Dojo is equipped to offer a wide variety of classes to the general public aimed at building up people’s fitness, their self-confidence and supporting their journey and personal development. These classes include Body Shock fitness, WrestleFit, BoxFit, Boxing and Survival self-defence. The trainers that lead the classes are experts in their disciplines who relish the opportunity to pass on their knowledge and understanding. The Fale Dojo coaching staff reflect New Zealand’s rich and multi-layered cultural identity; they are equipped and ready to welcome people from all walks of life.
Fale Dojo is proud to be in partnership with Xplosive Supplements, Papatoetoe, South Auckland. Fale Dojo also is the first Pacific Island owned and operated professional wrestling training school in New Zealand.
Fale Dojo is an official part of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling training system, known internationally as NJPW New Zealand Dojo.