Archive for the ‘Tokyo 2012’ Category

[VIDEO] Scramble’s Adventures in Tokyo 2012

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted July 31st, 2012

Scramble Matt took a trip to Tokyo recently and this is the result.

It’s basically me getting my butt kicked at three jiu jitsu classes.

I can’t say enough great things about the fight community in Tokyo – so helpful, friendly, welcoming – not to mention tough.

I visited Rikako Yuasa at Jewels BJJ class, Nakamura Daisuke at Grabaka, and Hiroyuki Abe at AACC gym for a spot of no gi / catch. Ouch!

I had visions of much more footage of Tokyo but sadly it rained most of every day which limited the amount of filming I could do. So just enjoy gratuitous jiu jitsu rolling.

Hiroyuki Abe
Daisuke Nakamura

I highly recommend visiting all three if you find yourself in Tokyo.

Special thanks to Kinya Hashimoto and Takehiro Iso for looking after me during the trip.

Bulgarian Voices
Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble



Jewels MMA Studio @ Muse


Scramble Tokyo Diaries: Day 1, Part 2: He f$%cking with me.

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted June 29th, 2012

Being the continuing adventures of Scramble co-owner Matt, in Japan.

Tokyo Isami is closed! I came all the way here and it’s closed!

I started walking up the stairs, thinking that maybe it kept the same strange hours as other Isami shops. Random days off, late openings, etc. Basically my kind of store. I heard some people come up stairs and I rushed down only to see the door to Isami slam shut. Hmm, I thought. Hmm.

Then Mr. Iso himself popped his head round the door and invited me in. Phew!

This was, I realised, a little like a football fan meeting David Beckham. Or maybe the guy who makes David Beckham’s shorts. Hmm. Either way, I was pretty pumped. I had met Mr. Iso before, once at ADCC in Nottingham, and once at the International Open BJJ tournament in Tokyo (where I was nursing a freshly dislocated shoulder and looking glum.)

So, there we were. The owner of Isami / Reversal and the owner of Scramble. Just a couple of dudes shooting the shit in Shinjuku. What did we talk about? Wouldn’t you like to know! What didn’t we talk about would be a better question. Whales. We didn’t talk about whales. Or Michigan. Or bunions. But we did talk about a whole bunch of stuff! The health of the Japanese MMA industry? You bet! Other big fightwear brands? You bet! Collaborations? You bet! Production techniques? That too! The fact that Joffrey is a total cunt? Uh, no. Not that.

We spoke for hours and hours, it was kind of a dream come true for me. The best thing about Iso-san, apart from him owning the best fightwear brand not called Scramble in the world, is that he is a really cool guy. Easy going and laid back. But, I would not advise “fucking with him.” He does not like to be fucked with, as people have found out in the past. A true boss.

Like a boss. Iso-san.

Talking done, it was time to train. The rain was kind of ridiculous. Obviously Tokyo had sensed an Englishman was present and decided to openly piss on his head to make him feel at home. Thanks a lot Tokyo, you suck. I had an umbrella but considering the rain was travelling horizontal, the umbrella didn’t do much more than give me a sore shoulder. Which was nice.

We drove down the rode to Yoyogi in Iso-san’s BMW SUV. The phrase “like a boss” absolutely sprang to mind and I definitely muttered it under my breath more than once. Then I caught a whiff of my t-shirt and decided to stop saying it.

We rocked up at Muse Music academy right on time. Muse is where Jewels MMA holds their BJJ classes. If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. No matter how many times it was explained to me it’s still just a jumble of random words. Still, there was some mats (and a drum kit and a PA system playing J-pop) and some people in jiu jitsu gis, and that’s all I needed to know. Rikako Yuasa was there – a recent addition to the Scramble team, and a super tough, super cute, super successful purple belt.

Wa wa wee wa!

I was also there to meet Kinya Hashimoto. Kinya is the Japanese dude that is at EVERY event. He runs the uber-successful BJJ blog for Bull Terrier that he reckons receives 5000 unique visitors a day. He speaks great English (as does Iso-san) and he knows literally everyone. He’s also a fan of Scramble.

I counted a few Scramble patches on the mat which was very humbling and pretty damn exciting. Halfway through the class another dude turned up wearing our Scramble Essentials shirt that he had bought a while back! Truly a great feeling for me to see our creations being worn and enjoyed around the world.

Apparently the custom at the club is for the visitor to teach the class.  I actually don’t mind teaching, and it didn’t phase me, but for some reason, I felt, being the visitor, I should not be too overbearing. We did a light warmup and I showed some half guard sweep that I remembered from the De La Riva seminar I went to last year, that I have been using lately. It went pretty well, luckily Kinya-san was there to megaphone everything I said in clear and precise Japanese. Cos I was just kind of mumbling. I had woken up at 5am that morning and missed a flight, as well as walking approximately a gazillion miles around Tokyo.

After that, we sparred a bit. Rikako was very good, super strong guard passing and a basically unpassable guard. Everytime I thought I had passed I realised I was just lying on top of her inverted legs. Does that sound wrong? Well it wasn’t. Being a music or performing arts school in central Tokyo, there were a number of girls in short skirts walking around and jingly jangly J-pop songs playing from loudspeakers. It was surreal but not unpleasant.

I knackered my neck almost instantly as I am wont to do, and looked around for a hard surface to prostrate myself on to see if I could crunch my thoracic spine back into place. I was wondering if anyone had a medieval torture rack of some kind but sadly there were none to hand so I just had to suck it up. Beer would help with that later. Speaking of beer, after training, we got down to the real business – of drinking beer. Expecting the usual Japanese marathon of seeing how many small glasses of beer you can drink before you lose count, I was pretty surprised to see most people taking it quite easy. I had been travelling all day though so I managed to sink a few, but everyone else took it slow. We ate some awesome food and talked late into the night about all kinds of geeky BJJ and MMA stuff. It was hugely enjoyable. It was good to meet Rikako, who is one of the strongest female competitors in the middle ranks worlwide at the moment, and to get a good relationship going with Kinya and Iso-san, both important people in the MMA and BJJ world.

I got a cap from the guy who owns Muse, Kenny, which says Las Conchas on it. I was all “Awesome! Las Conchas! High Five!”

Las Conchas is slang for “pussy” in Spanish, I think. Oops.

It was a hell of a day, and a very enjoyable evening. I got back to my hotel around 1:30 am and checked in drunk, as promised. With added bonus of being really sweaty and soaking wet. The hotel staff didn’t bat an eyelid, the bastards.



Scramble Tokyo Diaries: Day 1, Part 1: Planes, trains, and heated toilet seats

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted June 26th, 2012

Being the continuing adventures of Scramble co-owner Matt, in Japan.

I arrived at my local airport late due to the annual rainy season causing massive traffic jams, and had about 15 minutes until takeoff when I staggered to the check in area. Spying a large queue, calculating that I would not have time to join it, I engaged gaijin smash mode and stomped to the first vacant desk I saw, waving my passport and ticket around and sweating profusely. It worked – I was greeted with smiles and bows, however, the attendant figured I wouldn’t have time to get on the flight itself. Disaster! Luckily I had bought the tickets using air miles and this allowed them to change the flight easily. Strange as I had thought air milers were the lowest of the low, kind of like gathering up crumbs and smushing them together to make toast. Disaster averted, I was put on the next plane a mere half an hour later. This gave me plenty of time to be frustrated at the huge amount of wi-fi spots available in Japan and the non-existent amount of which are free to use. So that was nice. My Galaxy S2 became a very effective leg warmer, nestled away in my pocket, and not much else.

I’ve been to Tokyo a few times now, making me pretty much an expert, so I knew to get to Shinjuku I would have to get some sort of train type thing to a big station and then change to another big train type thing then walk around a bit. Looking at the spaghetti squiggles on the transport map it all came back to me – Yamanote-line, the ring of rust that encircles the whole city. Pretty soon I was standing next to my suitcase on the train, being aware that it was way too big and that I was sweating way too much and just generally taking up too much space. I pulled out the gigantic Game of Thrones book one and sweated some more to complete the package, ensuring that no Japanese commuter could come within about a metre of me.

Scramble sticker in posh Omotesando? KAPOWZORK!

I shrewdly calculated that my hotel, in West Shinjuku, could be easily accessed by heading west from Shinjuku station, and I was right. The walk took about half an hour longer than I thought but it was enjoyable. The scale of Shinjuku borders on the ridiculous. You can crane your neck up to the sky and still only take in about a quarter of the skyline, look down and you’ll see tree-lined sub roads and leafy squares nestled beneath the towers of steel and glass. And it’s clean, and quiet. With the size of it, and the amount of people, you’d expect a cacophony, but the overall feeling is one of quiet confidence and strength. Oh, and money. Lots and lots of money. As if these buildings are just a natural extrapolation of the quiet yet hardworking way many Japanese go about their daily lives.

I walked through a park that smelled earthy and moist, the air humid under the broad green leaves. A light rain began to fall. Homeless people living in neat, blue tent-like constructions swept the floor of leaves or inspected bins for leftovers. In a basketball court, two old tramps zinged baseballs at each other and yelled, reliving their high school days. At the far corner of the park is a temple. Incense hung heavy and fragrant in the air, a visible grey mist snaking from the temple doors.

Some statues in a park. Yesterday.

My last stay in Tokyo had been in an incredibly basic guest house, my room no bigger than my height when lying down on the bare tatami, no TV, shared bathroom and toilet, only a window to keep me entertained, so I was pleasantly surprised when I turned up at the Tokyu Stay. Sleek, modern, air conditioned, heated toilet seats (pretty unnecessary if you ask me, given the heat.) Wow! I thought. I want to take this hotel out for a nice steak dinner and smooch it. Until they refused to let me check in early – bastards. I warned them that, in that case, I would be forced to check in in the middle of the night, most likely drunk, but they didn’t seem phased.

By this time, dragging a 20 kilo suitcase through the streets and subways of Tokyo in the sweltering rainy season, my t-shirt was more sweat than cotton, and I feared if I took it off it would stand up on its own or maybe run off and attack the nearest clean-smelling Japanese person. But, a shower and a change were out of my grasp so I resigned myself to an entire day of stinkiness. It wouldn’t be the first, nor the last. They let me drop off my suitcase though, so 20 kilos lighter I ventured back to Shinjuku. My Tokyo schedule started at 3pm with a meeting with Takehiro Iso, the CEO and Big Cheese of Isami, one of the longest established martial arts supply companies in Japan, and Reversal, its daughter company and the brand at the leading edge of martial arts fashion worldwide. Reversal had also been my inspiration to start Scramble, so to say I was looking forward to the meeting was an understatement.

At Shinjuku station, I walked around for half an hour, looked in some shops, went up some stairs, down some stairs, through a tunnel, up some more stairs and… I was still in Shinjuku station. Few more shops, stairs, a coffee, tunnel and, yep, still in Shinjuku station. That place is massive, I mean really big. At my local train station in England you could pee from one end and hit the other. If you wanted, I mean. At Starbucks I counted 15 wireless spots on my phone, none of which I could connect to. Eventually I found Isami’s store, just east of the station, noted its location in my mind and ventured back into Shinjuku station to kill another hour. I could have visited each of the station’s public toilets and still had some to spare when an hour was up. If I wanted to that is. I’m just trying to convey the scale of the place, I’m not obsessed with toilets or anything. Look can we just forget that I mentioned toilets? Although the toilets in Japan are pretty amazing. Sometimes they have “flushing noise” buttons to cover up any unsavoury sounds you might make – OK enough about toilets.

I knew we would be training tonight and most likely going out after, so I went to Uniqlo and purchased some undies and a new t-shirt as the thought of wearing the same clothes I was wearing now after a heavy BJJ session was about as appealing as kicking myself in the face repeatedly. I might seem obsessed with trying to keep dry and clean, but I used to teach kids English in the sweltering Kyushu summer, and they would not hesitate to tell you that you were stinky or ask you why your clothes were so wet, maybe even make up a little song or chant about the fact, so I would always carry a change of clothes with me.

After an hour had passed, I headed for Isami. Similar to many of the Isami stores in Japan, it was on the fourth floor of a nondescript office building. I rode the small elevator up, spied the entrance and… walked straight into a locked door.

What the! Locked! But… but… I’m supposed to be meeting the manager here! What’s going on?!?!

Find out in the next installment!