Week 9 – The Lock Down
A mandatory isolation bubble for everyone in New Zealand was put in place. Members of the NZ Dojo young lions programme could choose to live in only one bubble.
Richard Mulu revealed that half of the trainees were living at the NZ Dojo house in Mangere East, while the other half were staying with coaches Toks Fale, Tony Kozina, and the film crew at the NZ Dojo in neighbouring Otahuhu. Mulu explained that those that relocated did so they could have more time with the coaches.
Fale and Kozina took the trainees through an up-close and intensive session in the ring, where they demonstrated a succession of wrestling holds.
Soldier | Fighter
Eli Taito was part of the group that moved to Otahuhu. Having previously trained in the NZ army, Taito was conditioned to relocate to various parts of the country at a moment’s notice as part of his service.
It was only natural for Taito to respond by moving into the NZ Dojo to see his mission through.
The Truth About Wrestling
As an all-around fighter in freestyle wrestling, kickboxing and boxing, Taito experienced that pro wrestling was unlike any of his other disciplines. Taito, however, is in the best place to gain the fundamentals, learning firsthand from Fale and Kozina.
“Pro wrestling is really difficult,” Taito emphasised. “If you watch a match, you don’t notice all the subtle stuff.”
“There’s so many little nuances that you need to be aware of,” Taito added. “It’s really technical, there’s a lot of thinking involved.”
Fale and Kozina led the trainees on a walk around Onehunga, another neighbouring suburb. Will Averill gleefully showed off a large bruise on his ribs that he got during a sparring session. Proud of his badge of honour, Averill assured that it was part of the process.
A World View
Kozina shared his view of NZ from an American’s perspective. He discovered NZ’s rich Pacific culture which is embedded in the community and showing respect towards elders.
Fale was forwarded a text message by the film crew which was sent to them from the trainees at the Dojo house. Without consulting the coaches, the trainees requested that the crew come to the house during lockdown to shoot their training. This infuriated Kozina upon seeing the text.
The Other Side
The trainees at the NZ Dojo house have made use of their space, utilising the ring in the backyard, and having minimal resources to work out. This also includes the park next door for fitness training.
Tim Hayden expressed uncertainty about the lockdown that was weighing heavily on their bubble, especially the Australian contingent. Lloyd Morgan went back home to Manurewa, South Auckland to be with his family which added to the concerns at the Dojo house. Plus, there was an uneasiness that someone would eventually catch COVID-19. But, despite the anxiety, training remained the top priority.
There’s Been Some Days
Hayden elaborated on the pressures that he has faced as one of the Australians who is new to the Dojo system. In addition, Hayden hasn’t been active in training due to an injury that he sustained at the Exhibition show, although his morale has been lifted being around his fellow trainees.
A Lonely Business
Mitch Schoemaker shared his heartache of being away from loved ones in Australia after the revelation that any flights back home were cancelled for the time being. The experience has taught Schoemaker to appreciate his loved ones more and has given him a small glimpse into the life of a travelling wrestler.
Tumanako Te’i continued working through the lockdown in his essential role as a security guard. Fortunately, Te’i is not at risk of being infected since there is very little movement in the community.
Tensions began brewing between Dan Puru and Te’i. It reached boiling point after what began as a friendly banter over playing video games became heated when Puru lashed out.
Later in the day, Puru, reflected on his outburst towards Te’i, sharing that his frustrations had been built up for a while. Puru and Te’i were also sharing a room until the Senior Senpais stepped in and moved Te’i into their room.
The biggest lesson that Hayden has learned in his training is the concept of strong-style wrestling. This has meant stepping away from a style that looks cartoonish and choreographed and leaning into the legitimate fighting style.
Hayden also shared the disruptions of the lockdown have helped him realise that his training at the NZ Dojo is not yet over, and he is willing to return for another intake. But before that, Hayden is eager to return home to get a piece of mind and visit his family and recharge before he resumes his journey.
Back at the NZ Dojo, Eli Taito and his cousin Richard Mulu were sparring with each other. Both trainees shared how grateful they were to be training together.
After a long day of training, both bubbles at the NZ Dojo and the Dojo house sit down in their respective homes for dinner.
Fale and Kozina discuss the situation at the Dojo house where the trainees asked the film crew to shoot their training without telling the coaches. Although their needs are met regarding a fully furnished house, the training will only take them so far.
Fale and Kozina have made the call to take back the NJPW tracksuits from the trainees at the NZ Dojo house.
Watch Lion’s Roar Episode 9 on NJPW World