Lion’s Roar, the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 12 part docuseries, shared an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at NJPW’s NZ Dojo.
Led by Head Coach, Toks Fale, and his team of Tony Kozina, Mark Tui, and Tangi Ropati; Lion’s Roar followed the pride of 14 trainees as they were guided through a world-renowned three-month professional wrestling training course.
“I’ve seen a big change in a lot of the trainees,” Fale shared on Lion’s Roar.
“Generally, we’re looking for guys who are using what they’ve learned,” he explained. “I want to see guys who are hungry for this business, who are hungry for this sport.”
Early in the series, Toks Fale spoke about the core value of discipline that was ingrained into his own training at the NJPW Dojo in Tokyo. He emphasised that it was essential to instil the same high-level discipline found in Japan into the trainees at the NZ Dojo, to establish a solid foundation, and condition the mind to see their training through to the end.
The most memorable example of discipline shown by the trainees happened during the second episode when they were tasked to complete one thousand squats, a consequence of not learning the Japanese greetings.
The workout required the trainees to move in unison and it served the purpose of teaching the class to do so at a reasonable pace, a skill that would transition into the ring.
Furthermore, what eventuated into an exercise of two thousand squats, became a learning experience to complete tasks accordingly and effectively instead of racing through the motions.
The strength of one’s heart is an essential piece of a professional wrestler that Toks Fale searches for in a trainee. A heart must be mentally strong and reliable to perform at a world-class level.
“I’m looking for certain things, and the number one thing is Heart,” Fale stated on the premier episode of Lion’s Roar. “When I do a tryout, or when I recruit somebody, I try and gage what their heart is telling me.”
The workout that highlighted the character of each trainee was during episode four, when the class had to walk around the block in Otahuhu, the length of three kilometres, while carrying a massive tyre high above their heads.
“When I bring somebody to the table, the first question that I get from all the other wrestlers is: ‘Does he have a good heart?’” Fale revealed, indicating that his peers on the New Japan roster are also seeking the same quality from the prospects.
Much like the memorable two thousand squats, the tyre workout required the trainees to work together as a team. This exercise demonstrated how far they were willing to push themselves.
Incidentally, the tyre workout was a turning point in how the trainees would become a cohesive unit. This was evident as halfway through the three-month course, they impressed the coaches at the NZ Dojo Exhibition showcase event on episode seven.
“If wrestlers want to come to the NZ Dojo, rest assured, we can change whatever your direction is,” said Fale.
“Showing up is the first step,” Fale added. “I believe If you’re hungry enough to get here, then you’re hungry enough to get to the next level.”
New Zealand is a famous international tourist destination with immaculate sceneries, some of Auckland’s landscapes were beautifully captured throughout the series, during the trainees outdoor workouts.
In comparison, little is known about the Dojo’s modest contribution to NZ’s tourism: Since its inception in 2016, the Dojo has attracted aspiring wrestlers from all over the world, wishing to gain Toks Fale’s insight.
The Pacific hospitality complemented by South Auckland’s atmosphere (that Fale spoke of in episode eleven) is a cornerstone of the Dojo. The cultural experience has had a significant impact on past students which often accompanies their training.
Likewise, the Dojo’s local fitness facility has been a trusted destination for members of the public. Shaped by the values of the three-month professional wrestling course, the General Community Classes provide a variety of bootcamps with the aim of presenting an active lifestyle that is beneficial to people’s physical and mental well-being.
The Dojo’s safe and all-inclusive culture draws people from all walks of life and different fitness levels to train and support each other while focusing on their individual goals. This is similar to how the trainees on Lion’s Roar have been training together.
As seen in the eleventh episode, the trainees embraced the Pacific hospitality so much that the excitement spilled all over the premises and inside the ring.
While it may be a culture shock for some to adapt to at first, the influence has left a life-changing impression on many of the international alumni such as Yuto Nakashima, Oskar Münchow, Aaron Solo, Chris Cruz, Derrick Shaw, and Juicy Finau.
By the conclusion of Lion’s Roar, the NZ Dojo three-month professional wrestling training course accomplished what it was designed to do; stretch the mental and physical capacities of the trainees and transform their outlook on professional wrestling and life.