Enson Inoue:  Then & Now

Enson Inoue: Then & Now

BJJL (Kris Shaw): How do you know Tyler and Marlin?

Inoue: I want to say Facebook or, I think it was Facebook, you know. I don’t know exactly, but I’ve been in touch with them for a while there.

BJJL: Now he told me about your seminar and I was so excited because you’re on my list with the magazine. I try to interview all the legends and you’re on my list. He said he was going to go to your seminar so I said, “You’ve got to hook me up.” My next question, you said that growing up in Hawaii was tough when you entered middle school. What island town did you grow up on?

Inoue: I grew up on the island of Oahu and when I was, up until elementary school I lived in the valley called Manoa Valley and it’s a real peaceful valley, but in Hawaii when you go to intermediate school it combines the districts around that area so including Manoa there was two other districts so a lot of the Hawaiians got mixed in with the, you know… Manoa is a lot of American Japanese community so it mixed it in and that’s when things got really rough.

BJJL:: I believe it. I assume you graduated high school in ’86. We’re the same age. Did you go to college or try trade school? Did you hold any interesting jobs right out of high school?

Inoue: I went, while I was in school, even in elementary from intermediate school, I used to deliver a paper route. It was a pretty cool paper route because I would use it as a workout. It was an old folks home. It was an apartment complex and I had it set up where I would ride the elevator up with all the papers and I would drop a specified amount of papers at each elevator stop and I would get to the top and I would weave down the building through the staircase.

BJJL: Do you remember anybody famous that you trained with back in ’88?

Inoue: Yeah, so when I started training with Relson, the guys that I met up there was, I think it was Homero, Homero Calculera and the Gracie brothers trained with Rixon.  Royce, Rorian, pretty much all the Gracie brothers. I was really close to the Gracies then.

BJJL: It was so early. It was even before, pretty much, the California scene took off.

Inoue: Yeah, it was before anything, yeah. Relson came to Hawaii and he pretty much couldn’t speak English.  No one knew what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was.

BJJL: No, not in ’88. They hadn’t even had the first UFC in ’88. What was the last belt that Relson gave you?

Inoue: Relson gave me up to my purple belt.

BJJL: Right on. What year did you get your black belt from AndrĂ© and John Lewis?

Inoue: I think it was ’98 or ’99. It was after my Randy Couture fight in ’98.

BJJL: Did you travel to Brazil?

Inoue: Yeah, I went to Brazil once and trained at Gracie Barra.

BJJL: Did you ever train at JSEC with John Lewis?

Inoue: Yes, I did. John actually, he was the guy who coached me when I went to Abu Dhabi and I fought Mario Sperry for the super fight.

BJJL:  You competed in the Golden Age of MMA, which is also my favorite time. You fought with some of the greats like Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, Mario Sperry, Mark Kerr, and Igor Vovchanchyn.  Is there one fight in your mind that sticks out that you consider your personal best?

Inoue: As far as victory wise, it would be probably Randy Couture. As far as learning as a fighter and learning as a person and who I was, it was probably the Igor fight. Igor Vovchanchyn.

BJJL: Why?

Inoue: Well for Randy’s, it’s because it was one of the first times I was actually being considered one of the best fighters in the world after beating Randy. It was a victory that brought me notoriety throughout the world. As far as the Igor fight, it was the fight that actually pushed me to my limits and showed me what kind of man I was.

BJJL: Wow. Are you still friends with any of these guys?

Inoue: I just saw Randy at the MMA Awards last week.  I actually shook the hand that I arm barred.

BJJL: Very cool. Your name is associated with… Yamamato Daimashii, which translates to Japanese spirit. What year did you move to Japan?

Inoue: I moved to Japan in ’90.  I’ve been there for 25 years, yeah. 

BJJL: You left without hesitation to help the victims of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami before it was even safe to do so. You arrived before the aid workers with supply trucks. Why? Why did you go? It was radioactive. Were you exposed to much radioactivity? Did the police try and stop you?

Inoue: Well, when I first went up it wasn’t into the radioactive areas. It was to the tsunami hit areas and I went and brought food and water and relief.  As I was making those trips… Well, I felt that, I heard that the people really needed assistance and I’m always that person that if I feel that I can do something to help, by all means I will try.

BJJL: I understand. Do you still have contact with the people that you helped in 2011?

Inoue: Yes, I do. I’m still doing missions up north. I’m actually on my 34th mission, 35th mission now. Traveling up north bringing up food and water. I’ve been doing it since 2011.  If you go to my homepage destinyforever.com, it will give you updates on all the missions.

BJJL: I went, but I must not have gone far enough because that’s my next question is the destiny forever bracelets, they’re beautiful but I don’t understand. You’re a fighter and a humanitarian. How do the bracelets fit in?

Inoue: Well, the bracelets were something that I personally really liked. It’s a symbol of protection. In Japan, they believe that when the bracelets break it’s taking something in place of you.  In actuality, the bracelets are made of power stones and the power stones each have different properties within each different stone. It’s a real classy, dressy bracelet, and it also has an inner meaning on the power stones, you know?

BJJL: Beautiful. If I was raised Japanese, would I recognize the bracelet? Are they a thing or did you invent this thing?

Inoue: No, I was taught from another Japanese guy and just changed a lot of how he taught me. I modified it, I actually made it different from how he taught me and created my own style so I didn’t really invent it but a lot of the way I make the bracelets I don’t think anyone else makes it like that. These bracelets also are what help me supplement my trips, my missions up north.

BJJL: Oh, that’s nice. They really are beautiful.

Inoue: Thank you.

BJJL: In 2013 you walked 1360 miles to raise money and awareness for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. You began your walk on September 11th. This date is very important for Americans. Did you pick it on purpose?

Inoue: Yes. I wanted to pick a date that I could start that I could remember and a date that would, in a way, bring significance and bring awareness to the people at 9-11.

BJJL: Nice. I followed your blog and daily posts every day. I couldn’t wait for you to post something new. I checked two and three times a day. It was a neat thing that you did and following it live was even more special. You traveled with Mike Fowler and Roman De la Cruz.

Inoue: Yeah.

BJJL: How much money did you raise and did you bring the awareness to the area like you’d intended? Did it unfold as you planned?

Inoue: Well, the first thing we did, as far as the first question, we raised $12,000 but, unfortunately, it was like a pledge. People would pledge what they would pay per mile and the cumulative was $12,000 but we only collected $6,000.  As far as bringing awareness, my whole idea of bringing awareness was putting it out on my Facebook page, putting it out on all my followers and they would be aware at whole. You’re walking from north to north and just to let them know that the north is still suffering. What I didn’t realize was I was going to bring inspiration and hope to the people of the north because when we walked through the north we had a little sign that read, I’ll never give up north Japan. We walked across the whole japan so we had those notes on what we’re doing on a little canvas that we made and when we walked through the northern tsunami areas we had guys tooting horns at us , thanking us. We had people stopping and telling us thank you. We actually had a guy come up and started crying on my lap saying, “I can’t believe that we haven’t been forgotten.” Not only to raise money and bring awareness to all the people in the world, one thing that I didn’t account for was bringing inspiration to the people in the north.

BJJL: Yeah, in the north you brought hope.

Inoue: Yeah, I mean, the fact that they know that they’re not forgotten, that there are people out there still thinking of them. I guess, you know, those dire times you feel you really don’t know if you can go on. Just the thought of people, you know, wishing the best and even just wanting to help them or thinking of them it gives them enough, that little drive to clear that hump sometimes.

BJJL:: Yeah, that they’re not alone. As one 40 something to another 40 something, how does your body hold up? Your back, your hips, and more importantly, your knees.

Inoue: Well, Mike had problems with his knees. As far as I went, the first maybe 10 days was the hardest because of the blisters and the muscle tightness but it’s amazing how the human body adapts because, after the second week, we were pushing a crazy pace because my body got accustomed, the blisters weren’t that bad anymore, and the body actually got into really good condition. It almost felt like I was… You know how you run a car a lot and the engine runs really smooth? It kind of felt like that.

BJJL:: Wow, I’m impressed. How long did it take you, how many weeks?

Inoue: Sixty-seven days.  Sixty-seven days of walking every day. We walked 12 to 16 hours a day, every day, no breaks.

BJJL: No breaks. Are you ready to do it again any time soon?

Inoue: Nope. That was a one-time thing. It was just something that was really intriguing to me. I do currently do an 880 mile pilgrimage and I plan to do that at least once a year. With my schedule now, I’m trying to shoot for at least once every two years, all on foot.

BJJL: In the same area?

Inoue: No. This is down south. It’s around the island of Shikoku. If you Google ’88 Shikoku pilgrimage, it’ll come up. If you just Google Shikoku pilgrimage, the pilgrimage will come up.

BJJL: When I was looking for your academies I found academies in Japan, Saipan, Guam, Thailand, and Washington state. Do you have any more academies that I should know about?

Inoue: The Guam, Saipan, Japan yes, they are directly associated with me. The Thailand one is, I guess it’s like an affiliate but I helped fund that gym. The guy who runs it is like a brother and we consider it the same gym. There’s the one in Washington, The Fisticuffs, that’s definitely an affiliate gym. We have another one like Washington. It’s in San Diego. It’s called The Arena. I just did a seminar there, yeah. The guy who actually linked us up to with that is Baret Yoshida. He’s like brother to me and where he goes, I go, yeah.

BJJL: At your seminar this past Tuesday in San Diego, did you show gi, no gi or stand up or striking?

Inoue: No, I’m not a striker. I’ve already been out of jui-Jitsu too long. I didn’t want to teach anything that I didn’t have confidence in but I did have confidence in grappling just MMA, no gi grappling, so that’s all I taught was no gi grappling. Some very interesting, practical moves that people probably haven’t seen before.  My whole thing and my kind of fame wasn’t really my awesome technique or my ability to be an undefeated fighter. My kind of fame was more the psychological aspect of my thinking and the strength of my heart in the ring so my seminars are usually half and half. Half of it is technique and half of it is philosophy. My fighting philosophy and my philosophy of life. It worked out really well where it was a good mix of technique and then a good mix of a lot of philosophy in fighting and in life.

BJJL:  Are there any up and coming MMA fighters that we should keep an eye out for?

Inoue: Not that I’m aware of. I’m more moving. I retired in October. I’ve actually moved on. I’ve actually become a fan of MMA. Yeah, so I more watch. If there’s any fighter that I’m looking forward to continuing a career would be my girlfriend, Sarah.

BJJL: Sarah who?

Inoue: Sarah McCann. She just went to Thailand. She’s going to get a fight in Thailand and then eventually, probably next year, move into MMA.

BJJL: Now, are you pulling my leg because you just think she’s a great girl or is she really your girlfriend?

Inoue: Yeah, she’s really my girlfriend.

BJJL:  Well, all right. We will keep an eye out for Sarah.  I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

Deneatra Terry

Mother, Blogger, Soldier -- Poet

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