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The meaning of Yamatodamashii to Enson:

(Taken from an interview with Hody Jae Huh in 2007 for Purebred USA)

ENSON: A lot of people come up to me and say that they don’t understand how I don’t tap when I hear my arm popping and everything but…. that’s a whole other episode to me. You might think…. any person or fighter that watches a fight might think that this guys has him in an arm lock and he feels that his tendon is gonna break or his arm is going to break. Any normal person…. there will be two options that come into their head.

Your whole life is about options. You’re driving a car and a person jumps in front of you. You either hit the car or turn and hit the wall. You know what I mean? There’s always an option. When you’re getting your arm broke or when a fighter is in any critical type of situation in a fight, there’s also options. The only reason why I move the way I do is because of the way I think. It’s not because of what I chose in my options. The way I think will control the outcome of what my options will be. 

For example, a normal fighter or any person on the street who had never fought before gets in an arm lock. Two options will pop into their head because they live their life as a normal person. Fighters train hard, fighters experience fear…the point of falling down because they cannot train, the point of sparring when they think they might die. But a lot of fighters don’t take it in the right way, don’t take it and absorb. They become a regular person. So when they’re in the fight and they’re getting their arm locked and it’s starting to pop, they’ll think like a normal person. What a normal person’s options probably will be, your arm is going to break or you’re going to tap. There’s two ways, there’s only two things. 

But for me, I’ve been raised the Yamatodamashii Way, where you give everything you’ve got until the very end. The only time you know you couldn’t do it is because you ran out of money; you couldn’t do it because you’re out of any more options. Basically when I’m getting in an arm bar and my arm is folded backwards – that’s another story. But if I can’t even hear my arm pop two options will come to my mind -- your arms going to break or get the fuck out of it. That’s it. Everyone says Enson = Yamatodamashii. Enson’s so tough, so brave, a warrior. You know what I mean?          

I become a warrior not because of what I do in every situation as it comes I become a warrior because of the way I live my life. The reason why those two options are different is because when I live my life, whether it’s fighting or it’s my arm breaking or working whenever I’m in the gym, or working on business somewhere else with another group – I’m giving all I got until the very end. I’ll try to negotiate a business deal until I cannot do anymore. Until I absolutely cannot do anymore and then I’ll quit. I don’t think I’ll quit, actually I’ll just let the situation die. I will not ever quit in a situation. So the same thing, you know?

It pops into my head, get out or get your arm broke. I don’t want my arm broke so I’m going to get out. As I’m getting out, I’m never going to know when my arm breaks. I don't ever want to wonder what would have happened if I didn't tap. If I could have gotten out, or if my opponent would have given up and moved to another hold. God only knows when my arm breaks. It’s like when you go to sleep when you get choked. Only God knows when you go to sleep from a choke. Who am I to decide and play God and decide when my arm is going to break or I go unconscious? All these people come and pay millions of dollars to watch the fights. I get paid 6 figures to fight. I’m there to entertain, give 110%, and leave everything in the ring. That’s all I do.

You’re going to pay that much money to see me fight. A promoter is going to pay that much money, they’re going to kiss my ass, they’re going to bring 2 corner men, put us up in hotels, give us food money, put us on TV, and put us in magazines. All these people are going to come watch us and cry at some of our fights. There are a lot of people who cry when I walk to the ring. I mean, it’s that big of thing. So you’re going to play God and decide when to tap? There's a referee, ring doctors, and your corner men. Trust them and concentrate on just putting it on the line.

I’ve never seen a fighter, except Renzo Gracie, where his arm broke and then realized he was beat. 99.9% of the fighters will give up before their arm breaks. 99% of the fighters will give up before they go to sleep. Why? Because they’re anticipating the outcome, they’re anticipating the fear. They’re assuming that their arm is going to break and instead of doing that, why don’t you assume that you’re going to get out? The thinking is really different. It all depends on what your mind is focusing on. I’m focusing on finishing an opponent. If he hits me hard enough to wobble me, I’m focusing enough I hit him right back with the same kind of punch. 

This guy gets me in an arm lock and I can hear the ligaments pop, on hearing that I’m thinking -- That mother fucker! Before he breaks it, I’m going to hit him right back with a punch, just as bad. You know what I mean? It depends on what you’re focusing on. If I’m focusing on the penalties of failure when my arm is going to break…I’m going to sleep and I don’t know when I’m going to wake up – I’m going to tap because I’m going to be scared. But that’s not what my fear is going to do. My fear is going to make me stronger. My fear is going to make me want to get out before he breaks my arm. My fear is going to give me adrenaline to punch, even if I am so tired. 

I was brought up on a situation when I was a kid where this philosopher came and talked to me. I always went to sports psychology for racquetball. This guy told me this situation, which is an exact situation where your arm is going to break – if you’re going to focus on the penalties of failure or the benefits to success. Benefits of success meaning, getting my arm out and stomping on his face or something. Penalties of failure, not tapping and having my arm broke. Which one you’re going to focus on, is what you chose. 

Say if I were to tell you, a 2 X 4 width, a foot long… say 20 yards long, a plank. And what I do with the plank is I put it on the mat, this soft mat right here. Enson is referring to the floor mat in his gym. The same kind of mat you can find probably in most MMA and BJJ schools. And put $1,000.00 on one end and tell you, you walk from one end to the other without touching the mat, a foot long, that’s pretty long, you can keep the $1,000.00. What would you do? You’re going to go shit and get the $1,000.00 and walk back and your done. Now what if I were to do this, the same $1,000.00, the same plank but I stretch it across to the other side of that building and say if you don’t fall off, you can have the $1,000.00. What are you going to do? Your probably going to wobble or say fuck it, you know what I mean? It’s the same plank, the same money, the same atmosphere, the same everything except what I’m doing with the situation is …. When you have the plank lying on the mat, the only thing in your mind is if you fall of the plank you’re not going to get the $1,000.00, you’re not going to lose nothing; you’re not going to lose your life. Your mind starts focusing right there on when you get to the other side, what I am going to do with that $1,000.00. But when I put you in the different scenario and I control your fear, I control how you’re going to think. All of the sudden, BAM, instead of the rewards of success what your focus is going to be on is….Shit, 7 stories up, shit, if I fall – I die. Right there, you’re not even thinking of the $1,000.00. You’re not even thinking of one way of how you’re going to spend the $1,000.00 because you’re so worried about falling.

I believe every fighter has that, whether it begins at the beginning of the fight or when he’s getting arm locked. I believe every fighter has that in them where they have fear and at that point, where you’re going to become a Yamadamashi fighter or you’re not, is what you do with the fear and how you look at it. And what you focus your mind on. If you focus on the fear you’re going to tap. No one is going to fight with all they have. But I’ve been living my life by giving 100% until the very end and focusing on what you’re going to gain from it. And if you don’t, then that’s something you learn. 

People think that I’m a crazy guy or a bad ass warrior. I threw down with Igor because I don’t fear anything. When I threw down with Igor I feared it. I threw down with Igor because I knew that was a situation that I’d never be able to be in again. That fear of his…one punch can knock the shit out of me. You know what I mean? Like that Brazilian guy* he fought that he fell forward and his eyes rolled back after one punch. So one punch can do that to me. Can you imagine that fear, being in that range? I know that I’m hitting Igor so if I can hit him, he can hit me. And we’re throwing down, one blow after another. Like walking into a danger zone – walking into a fire and trying to save some people in the fire and think straight. Yeah, so it’s a misunderstanding that Yamatodamashii is not machismo, not about being tough, it’s not about no fear, no pain. It’s about what you do with that fear and pain. How you live your whole life that will affect how you react in these situations. 
*Francisco Bueno, Pride 8 

HODY: For people who don’t seem to understand. How does that transition into training? Cause sometimes you have to tap.

ENSON: OK, yeah. Training is a whole different thing. Training is not a life or death situation. Training, your there to learn your there to get better. I’ll tap in training. I think tapping is good in training. If there is any situation that is even near an arm bar or is bad enough, I’ll tap. I won’t risk injury in training. 

Like I said, getting into the ring, fighting, it helps put your self into a life and death situation -- without really being in a life or death situation. But training isn’t like that. Training is a different thing. You know I always emphasis to my students, all this discipline that I’m setting in you, all this thing I’m talking about, you pushing yourself is not only about fighting it’s about your whole lifestyle. I don’t want them to learn and go out and train hard and be a pussy in their work. Don’t want to go to work and they call in sick. You know what I mean? I’m trying to emphasis that. Training is a part of life, I believe. Tapping in training is very different than tapping in the ring. 

It’s like having a negotiation with your mother or your father and giving in on the negotiation, even if you think you’re right, because it’s your family and you don’t want to get into a fight with your family. Same thing, you don’t want to cause this funny aggression against this fellow member/fellow teammate. You don’t want to break your arm – same thing. Same thing that you don’t want to have a family argument. But if you’re in a misunderstanding with another Yakuza group or you’re in a misunderstanding with a promotion – that’s a whole different thing. It’s like fighting in a fight. Training is like having an argument with your family. But having an argument in a business negotiation is a different thing. That’s like fighting, I think.