Warrior’s Road by Toa Henare: No. 2



Warrior’s Road by Toa Henare: No. 2

Spirits of my ancestors


I’ve just arrived back home in New Zealand, after a lengthy stay in Japan and a long time on the road for the Super Junior, Kizuna Road and the Southern Showdown in Australia Tours! A lot of matches, a lot of training, but most of all a lot of enjoying the “Puroresu” lifestyle. I love the nomadic life. It’s great for living a challenging but rewarding life, its good for any person to take up the challenge, but even more so it’s beneficial for a Warrior to test him(or her)self by living the nomadic life. Keeping the discipline of sticking to a good diet, keeping your training up, keeping a good attitude and keeping grounded in the real world. Did I mention it was challenging?


For most of the tours I’ve been focusing on strengthening my body through dieting and weight training. I think a lot of the fans have mentioned the difference that they see with my body in the ring, being a lot more powerful and a lot faster than I have been in the past. In truth I’ve stopped eating a lot of the food that makes Japan great: rice, karaage (fried chicken), Dojo chanko and ramen. Instead I’ve been eating vegetable-rich, protein rich foods – usually in the form of an outing to a yakiniku restaurant. While we are on tour and traveling from town to town, it’s always hard to find a decent restaurant, but you can always bet your bottom dollar that there is a good yakiniku place nearby in every town. All in all I’ve been able to shed 7 kilograms of fat since the Dontaku series, without losing much size or power. In my free time this tour I’ve started playing the ukulele again. It’s fun, helps release stress, and helps add beauty and art to the world.


Dropping Fat and Working on Power at the DOJO!


Going up against Shingo Takagi was great. I have a simple saying “real recognises real”, and the moment I stood in the ring across from Shingo, his face was all too familiar. Say what you want about Shingo, I can’t respect him for being in Los Ingobernables de Japon, but it cannot be denied that he is a straight up Warrior. He lariated my head so hard that I thought I was done for, but I pushed on and kept grinding it out like a Warrior should. One of the reasons why, was to see the final of the Best of the Super Juniors, featuring the Dragon himself. Add to that Will (or Billy-Boy as I like to call him), channeling the spirit of St. George, together they lit up Ryogoku with the fiery breath of a dragon and set the Sumo Hall ablaze. As a Warrior, it was amazing to watch. All of the tours were a fun time, with plenty of action and challenges to get through, moving up and down Japan. I got to get in the ring and trade skin with quite a few top guys – especially Naito, Takagi, Jay and Ishii, and I also felt more and more that the fans across Japan and around the world have come to like me that bit more, especially Australian fans. They can see that I’m putting in a lot of work and energy and not just focusing on pretending to be a superstar like a lot of other guys. I’m here, at the ground level. I love meeting fans at the many signings, dinners, fan events and photo sessions where we meet.

When I heard about my singles match with Ishii, my mind immediately skipped back to 24 April, 2018 at Korakuen Hall. My best match to date and my introduction to Strong Style Wrestling. This time I knew I had to do even better. It took a lot of preparation, along with a lot of travel moving from town to town and country to country. The fans in Sydney surprisingly jumped behind me with their support. To put it in perspective for our fans from other countries, Australia and New Zealand are usually at each other’s necks in almost every single scenario; so it was a big surprise that, as soon as I walked through the curtain, the fans were cheering my name rather than Ishii’s. I left it all out there and gave it my all as I do every other night. I didn’t win the match, but I did win the hearts of the Australian fans that tour and given the chance I would do it again a million more times. Like I promised the fans in my Twitter address post-match comments: NEVER. Strong style. HENARE. These three words will be synonymous in the future. As I’ve been saying a lot recently: Look to the Future!


Flying Shoulder Tackle on Ishii in Sydney.


Along with fighting Naito, Shingo, Jay and Ishii, I also got to share the ring with Okada and Tanahashi. I learn a lot from all of them, especially Tanahashi, who teaches humility, energy, presence, respect, Japanese language, and technique. But there is one thing that I have taught Tanahashi – THE HAKA!


Ripping out a Haka with Tanahashi san.


For those of you unaware, and who think I’m just poking my tongue out like an uncivilised savage every time I come out to the ring, the Haka is a traditional War Dance of my people – the Maori of New Zealand. Every action you make has a meaning, every movement and every word reflects something that you’re trying to convey. A fist in the air, a fist on the ground, a beat of the chest or a slap of the thighs all relate to a message you’re trying to get across.

It was made popular worldwide by the New Zealand Rugby team, the All Blacks, as well as being popularised during World War I and World War II by the Maori Battalion. The All Blacks perform the Haka ‘Kapa o Pango’ before every international rugby game, and if you’re there in the stadium when they do so, you’ll feel the chills climb up your spine as you wonder what just happened. It was traditionally performed before tribes would fight each other as a means of boosting your spirit, your energy, your ‘Mana’. It’s also a way to warm up, get your adrenaline pumping and to try and frighten whoever it is standing on the opposite side of the battlefield from you. Finally, it’s a way to connect with the spirits of your ancestors – for every person who has died in your line of heritage, when you yell and exude with all your passion, you’re also summoning the spirit of your ancestors.

It’s quite like the Japanese belief system of being connected with your ancestors at a level greater than the physical. When I am beaten down in a match and have nothing but a thread of hope to cling to, it’s the yelling, and the slapping and the stomping my feet that grants me the energy of my ancestors, in order to carry on fighting, like a true Warrior. Nowadays its most associated with sports, celebrations, birthdays, funerals, and other special occasions. For me – I use it to show the world where I’m from, and to give me that little boost of energy, to show that it isn’t an act, that I am well and truly a Warrior. A few fans have asked how I am so energetic every single match, every single time I’m in the ring – there is your answer. It’s hard to explain without having the audience ‘feel’ what I’m talking about, but one way you can understand it is by buying a ticket to an All Blacks match during the upcoming World Cup in Japan. They’ll perform a Haka before every match, and when you witness it, you’ll know exactly what I mean as you also feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And as I’ve said above, you’ll know exactly why they win all the time.

I’ve also been trained in the Maori Martial Art called ‘Mau Rakau’ – New Zealand hand to hand combat and stick fighting – but I’ll cover that in another post.

Anyway – here’s some shots from the Nomadic Warrior as we’ve travelled throughout the past three tours:




We Chilled and Chatted with Stitch Duran – famous MMA and Combat Sports Cut Man who worked with the New Japanese Featherweight Boxing Champion. He is a legend and was a complete gentleman.


It has been one year since Honma san came back from his spinal injury – one year since we all tagged with each other in a sold-out Yamagata crowd, as Okada fought Suzuki in the rain back in Tokyo. Thank you for having me a part of your journey Honma!


Carrying the Ukulele on tour has been fun and a good way to let go of stress while offering some art and beauty to the world (yes I realised the stereotypical nature of an island boy carrying a Ukulele around). I might upload some videos throughout the year!


Tanahashi and I went supermarket shopping after my victory in Melbourne! It’s always fun sharing tours with the coolest guy around.


I also got released on Fire Pro Wrestling! Please download me if you haven’t already! Try and use the ‘Shoulder Tackle Exploit!’


That’s all for now! See you next time!

Shin Nihhon Puroresu no Tame ni TATAKAAAAAAAAAU!

text by Toa Henare