Footage from last week’s Exhibition event showed family and friends of Daniel Puru at ringside, watching him compete. Puru shared that his friends were oblivious of his ability to grapple, He jokingly responded that it was because they had never seen him in a fight before.
The Soul Taker
Tangi Ropati, the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the NZ Dojo, took the trainees through an intense workout session. Ropati joined the Dojo coaching staff in January 2020 after being scouted by Coach Mark Tui for his particular skill set.
Born as a member of a renowned sporting family, both Ropati’s grandfather and father played rugby union respectively and represented the Manu Samoa team. Ropati played National Rugby League (NRL) on the world stage in NZ, England, and Australia, and represented Samoa in the 2008 World Cup, and 2009 Pacific Cup.
After a 14-year career on the rugby field, Ropati joined the world of fitness and bodybuilding and became a Personal Trainer. In addition to his duties as Coach to the NZ Dojo young lions, Ropati is also the Head Trainer of the Dojo’s General Community Classes.
Several of the trainees were side-lined with injuries, nevertheless, the training continued at its usual high level. Nicknamed the Soul Taker, for his rigorous workouts, Coach Ropati tested the trainee’s mental capacity to see whether they were still pushing themselves two days after the Exhibition show. Ropati is a firm believer in looking the part. His goal while driving the trainees into exhaustion is to build their conditioning and their appearance, so the results will show in the ring. This would also be a factor in having a long and sustainable career.
Youngest in the Crew
Daniel Puru is thriving in the workout while loudly shouting encouragement to his peers. As the youngest of the trainees, Puru said that he inherited his confidence from his family. Though some of the trainees are not used to his direct approach, Puru assured that it is his way of channelling his energy to uplift the class. Puru looks to his fellow trainees the way he does his family, with respect and affection.
Puru first trained at the Dojo as a 15-year-old in 2017. The experience of being pushed during his initial workout challenged young Puru to return for another class – that was when he met Toks Fale. Since then, Puru has remained a member, citing the Dojo’s supporting culture and the unconditional love that he described as what has drawn him after many years.
Pro wrestling has taught Puru some valuable life lessons such as slowing down and taking one’s time when setting some goals.
The trainees played a game of putting a medicine ball into a tyre. The objective was for a trainee to move on their knees (while holding the ball) towards the tyre that is placed meters away. However, another trainee is situated in the middle to stop the first trainee from reaching their goal.
The exercise was reminiscent of a tag team wrestling match, where a vulnerable opponent needs to make his way across the ring to tag his partner while having to fend off the opponent from intercepting contact.
Coaches Ropati and Tui concluded the session by telling the trainees not to pick and choose which exercises they were good at. Rather they should aspire to tackle every aspect of a workout.
Puru invited the camera crew to his family home in Manurewa, South Auckland. South Auckland is often vilified and scapegoated by the media. Puru, however, refutes the misconception that is put on his community.
Initially, Puru viewed wrestling as something fun to watch on TV, until he met Toks Fale in 2017. The reality has recently become clearer to Puru who is now training for an opportunity to become part of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Puru is hopeful that this opportunity will enable him to meet his personal goal of taking care of his mother.
It was announced by the Prime Minister of New Zealand that the country would go into a nationwide lockdown after the COVID-19 delta variant was detected in the community. The news left Andrew Villalobos and Tim Hayden speechless as well as disappointed following the success and the momentum from the Exhibition event.
One Week Later – A House Divided
Coaches Toks Fale and Tony Kozina moved into the NZ Dojo to continue the intake. They were joined by Richard Mulu, Eli Taito, Michael Richards, and Will Averill, as the rest of the class remained at the Dojo house.
At the NZ Dojo, Fale, Kozina, and the trainees wound down with a kava session after a long and tough workout. This is a traditional way to relax the body in the Polynesian culture. The trainees’ spirits are high as Averill serenades the team with a song on the guitar.
Watch Lion’s Roar Episode 8 on NJPW World