Volume 96, Issue 87
Friday, March 14, 2003

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Japanese wrestlers bring foreign flavour

By Jordan Bell
Gazette Staff

Niru Somayajula/Gazette
DON'T PISS OFF THESE GUYS AND GALS. The Western Mustangs and Tokyo Nodai University wrestlers put on a pretty face for this team picture.

In a time of impending war, the governments of the world could learn something from the Western Mustangs and Tokyo Nodai University wrestling teams.

Nine wrestlers and numerous coaches from Japan's Nodai University converged on Western's campus for two practices in Alumni Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday. The visit is part of an exchange co-ordinated by Mustangs coach Ray Takahashi and Nodai coach Yasumitsu Toba.

"We met 20 years ago when I was training in Japan," Takahashi said. "He's been here before with a couple wrestlers and I was there about two years ago. [The exchange] is a dual competition and cultural experience – it's a win-win all around."

Instead of putting the Japanese wrestlers up in hotels, Takahashi had them stay in the homes of various members of the Mustangs. Takahashi, a former Olympian, said the experience just wouldn't be the same without the close connection.

"It's an important experience for them," Takahashi said. "They get to see what it's like to live as a Western student."

Takahashi added the Japanese are very adept at the Greco-Roman style of wrestling, a discipline that is completely focused on the upper body, prohibiting leg use.

Mustangs wrestler Seth Ross, who defeated Shohei Otomo 13-2 and lost to Tomohiko Miyachi 6-5 in exhibition matches Tuesday, said the Japanese wrestlers are extremely proficient at throws and their balance is tremendous.

Ross is housing Hayato Ikeda, and said the communication between the two has been frustrating at times, but the bare necessities have been covered.

"We've learned the Japanese swear words," Ross said with a laugh.

Jokes aside, Ross explained the true meaning of the exchange and what it brings to both parties involved. "I'm amazed every year at how sport can transcend language and cultural barriers. It's great to see other people experience our culture for the first time."

However, Takahashi, who has experienced cultural differences firsthand, said the Japanese and North American approach to sport and life are polar opposites. The Japanese structure is rigid and disciplined, whereas the North American structure is more lenient and casual, he explained.

When asked which approach is best, Takahashi said it's impossible to compare. "I would love to be able to implement some of their methods here, but it just wouldn't work. These athletes have been brought up very differently, so I don't think one system is best."

Ikeda, who spoke to The Gazette through an interpreter, said he thoroughly enjoyed Takahashi's coaching because he makes the experience enjoyable.

The Nodai squad, Takahashi and Mustangs wrestlers Sarah Gil and Al Birmingham departed yesterday for the 2003 Junior National Wrestling Championships in Fredericton, N.B.


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