Before every live event on NJPW World, Togi Makabe explains the rules of professional wrestling, signing off by saying ‘you win, you lose. You help people out, you get stabbed in the back. It’s just like life!’. So with those words in mind, who better to ask for life advice than professional wrestlers? We start this brand new venture with Kota Ibushi, who for this interview series trades the wrestling ring for a bit of life counseling!
–Thanks for being part of this new project! You seemed very motivated to do it, judging by your Twitter.
Ibushi: Oh yeah! I’ll give it to you straight. No sugar coating. I’m taking this very seriously.
–Do people often come to you with their problems?
Ibushi: You might not think I’m the type, but the people who know me know I’m very astute. I’ve had a lot of friends come to me for advice. I’m pretty good at it! Let’s go!
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been really shy around strangers. It gets to the point where I panic with new people and I can’t cope in situations like job interviews; I just clam up. Is there anything I can do?
Ibushi: Hmm. Well as soon as you’re conscious of your nervousness, you get even more nervous. It all comes from thinking too much about the other person and yourself. Try and empty your mind.
–Are you the shy type?
Ibushi: I used to be. I absolutely understand where this person’s coming from, but I’m not nervous anymore.
–And that’s how you beat your shyness?
Ibushi: Absolutely! First thing is not to think much about anything. It’s definitely a great way to get rid of that awkwardness.
Ibushi: If you start thinking about every single word you’re saying, you start worrying about what the other person is thinking all the time, and it’s all a vicious cycle. The first thing should be empty your mind a bit, don’t overthink anything, and it all gets easier.
There’s a woman that I have a huge crush on, but I’m too awkward to say anything to her. What should I do?
Ibushi: Hey, time waits for no man. We’re all going to die sometime. You shouldn’t waste your life away worrying you’ll get turned down. Don’t overthink, just give it a shot.
–Any experience in this area?
Ibushi: You know, I haven’t, but if there was someone I was really into I don’t think I would have a problem telling the about it. Or, you could make it so it isn’t a shock. If you’re a good enough person around her that she likes you as a matter of course, then it should be easy. It’s all in shortening that distance to someone. But you never know what’ll happen in life, or how much time you have left. These situations don’t happen as much when you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. So you need to take the chances where they come.
I’m scared of dying someday. It’s something I catch myself thinking about and it always spooks me. You’re always talking about living to 150! How can I overcome my fear?
Ibushi: Every now and then I think about what’ll happen to me when I die. The key thing is though, it’s gonna happen to everyone. None of us can avoid it. How you accept that fact is the key point. I think it’s important to accept it could be tomorrow, or it could be in 100 years, and all you can do is live the life you have to the best of your ability and have fun doing it.
–And how best can you go about doing that?
Ibushi: Well, if you look at it the other way, if I start to feel that I’m having a run of bad days, or I’m not feeling too great, I’ll make sure to do something completely opposite for a while.
Ibushi: Meaning I’ll do the exact opposite of what I’m thinking. If I think ‘I’d like to make a run to the convenience store’, I won’t go. If I think ‘I’m feeling hungry’, I won’t eat. Or I will eat if I’m not in the mood.
–You really do this?
Ibushi: Oh yeah. I figure that what I’m doing in the moment is sending me down this negative path. So the best way to be positive will be to do completely the opposite.
–And what about living to 150?
Ibushi: I think I could hit 200, actually. There’s really unlimited potential in human beings. I mean, a lot of people die in their 80s, but these days 100 isn’t all that out of the ordinary. 120 is just about the record, right? I think taking all I can do into account, I live with the intention of making it to 150.
–That intention is important?
Ibushi: Intention and feeling is important. You have strong intentions and positive feelings and it finds your way to good physical health as well.
I tend to get hurt quite easily, and I’m always fighting off colds. Is there anything I can do to be as strong as you?
Ibushi: I think that comes down to working out, eating right, studying hard if you’re a student. I think really if you want to get to the shape I’m in, it starts with really re-assessing your diet, and doing the homework on coming up with a training regimen.
–What’s your training regimen like right now?
Ibushi: I came up with a lot of it by feel. The thing is, everybody is different when it comes to putting on muscle in different places, so you shouldn’t feel like you should be the same as everyone else. You might find those parts of the body you work on but don’t seem to be seeing results are the ones you should keep working hard on, while the rest of your body can develop without as much effort. The most important thing is knowing your own body.
–You actually get colds quite often, right?
Ibushi: I do! But I get over them super quick. Whenever I get one I take it in my stride and tell myself ‘I’ve caught a cold. But I’m not sick’. And that seems to do the trick. Your mileage might vary (laughs).
‘Lime Loves Ibushi’
I’ve been dating the same girl for five and a half years and yesterday she told me she was seeing someone else. I was thinking about proposing and everything. How do I recover from this?
Ibushi: Right now I’m sure you’re dealing with a lot of shock, and you’re feeling heart broken. You’re feeling down, but I think you need that. You need to take yourself to rock bottom.
–Take yourself to rock bottom?
Ibushi: Right, because then you’ll build yourself right back up again. Maybe it’s hard to figure out right now, but… does it say how old this person is?
Ibushi: 22! So once you’ve gone through that low, and built yourself up, you’re sure to find someone new, and then you’ll get what I meant. Good luck! I’m pulling for you!
I cannot deal with my boss at work. They’re such a hassle that every day is a real struggle. I really envy you as a pro-wrestler taking out your frustrations on anyone in the ring! Have you ever had to deal with a senpai or a boss you hated?
Ibushi: I guess it all depends on the situation. If I really hated my boss I’d think about quitting, but if I loved the job and didn’t want to quit I’d try and find some way to show that I was above it. Show my own abilities enough that I would wind up being their boss. But at the end of the day you can just go ‘OK, whatever’ to them, and if you’ve got your own stuff in order and keep your head up then they can’t complain or hassle you.
–You can’t fix other people.
Ibushi: But you can change your own attitude.
–Would you ever freak out and snap on a boss you hated?
Ibushi: No, I’m not the type. I’ve been in that kind of situation a lot, and it’s always been a case of saying ‘Oh, really? OK’, but knowing in my mind that I’m better than they are. Stay positive, and nothing they can say can harm you. Sometimes it can really motivate you to get results and it can become a real plus.
I’m in the judo club at my high school. I really like my senpai in the club but I don’t know if I can make a move! I have short hair and I look quite boyish. Do you have any advice? Is anyone into girls from judo club?
Ibushi: I always liked the judo player type.
Ibushi: And this girl likes someone else from the judo club right? So if anyone has an undertanding about that type of person, it’s them.
–So Rinka really might be this person’s type.
Ibushi: Yeah! It’s just my opinion but it sounds like all Rinka needs is a push. So I’ll give her a push. Go for it! You’re in high school, you have a whole lifetime of possibilities in front of you. If it works out, great, if it doesn’t, more chances will come.
‘Miss Rabbit Curry’
I’ve been married three years and I think I’m falling out of love with my husband. He hasn’t realised anything yet, but whenever he’s at home I just feel like he’s in the way. I think maybe it all comes from being so busy with our child, but I just want to get back to the start where we were such a happy family.
Ibushi: I’m sure you can get back to that point, but it takes a lot of work. To fix something that’s broken takes time, but I’m sure you can do it if you put the work in.
–What would you suggest?
Ibushi: It sounds like this person is really busy with taking care of their child, but it’s important for both of them to think about one another and find what they respect about one another and what made them fall in love in the first place. They need to change their point of view and get some perspective.
I’m 18, and I’m leaving home to start work soon. I love my family so much, and I get so worried about what life alone will be like I get dreams about being homesick when I haven’t even moved out yet. Did you feel that homesickness when you left home? How best should I go out in the world on my own?
Ibushi: When I moved to Tokyo from Kagoshima, I definitely felt homesick, but wanting to become a pro-wrestler was the first thing in my mind. That kind of replaced all the homesickness in me.
Ibushi: I think the same is true for Hinako here. She’ll have a change of scene, make new friends, and that homesickness will pass. It’ll start to get fun. This is an experience you only get once, so I’m jealous of her in a way. I’m jealous of that excitement.
–And about living on your own?
Ibushi: It definitely takes some getting used to, to cook by yourself, do all your own laundry and everything like that. But you get used to it. It’ll be fine.
I graduated from university this year and started work in a new company. Everybody, even the other new recruits are older than me, so everybody is either a senpai or a superior. I find it really hard to communicate with everyone, and nobody really talks to me. How did you communicate with people more effectively as you got started in wrestling?
Ibushi: It has to start with you. You can’t expect people to open up to you, you have to go and speak to them. That’s a start point. Find out what people like, what they’re into. You never know, there might be another wrestling fan that becomes your best friend! But there’ll always be distance unless you close it.