It’s the Instagram of the tiger; the thrill of the likes.

Having spent his period of self-isolation mastering the kendama, our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma is always seeking new skills and challenges to push himself with. He is especially drawn to cool-looking stuff like fight training, but he didn’t want to spend a lot of money on specialized equipment or befriend anyone in the meat industry who’d let him punch their frozen carcasses for free.

Fortunately, one day Masanuki hit on a great idea while checking out the Twitter account of Jiri Prochazka, a former light-heavyweight champion of Japanese MMA organization Rizin.

Unlike the punching bags seen in countless boxing movies, Prochazka was honing his counters and coordination with a boxing reflex ball. But more importantly for Masanuki, it looked quite rad and would be a perfect addition to his own Instagram portfolio.

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このクッション使えるかも…!

A post shared by 砂子間正貫 (@sunakoman) on

Searching online, our reporter found that these balls are very popular and easy to purchase. Moreover, there are lots of demonstration videos and they didn’t look too hard to use. He picked one up on Amazon for 1,299 yen (US$12) and it arrived in no time.

The instructions were in English, but he had no problem understanding how it worked. Just wrap it around your head and punch the ball repeatedly. It’s like one of those paddle ball games but instead of a paddle, the elastic is connected to your forehead.

There were also two balls colored pink and black. Presumably, they represented different difficulties with the pink being easier to see and thus easier to punch, so he chose that one to start with.

Not wanting to damage any of his antique lamps, Masanuki took his ball outside for some training. He didn’t know much about building fighting techniques, but he knew that the key to looking cool on Instagram was to have a continuous rally with the ball as long as possible.

After getting pegged square on the jaw with his new piece of equipment, Masanuki realized that he had been instinctively punching at the ball with all his might. However, that would just make the ball come back at his face with an increased speed, so he tried to hit with more controlled strikes and ensure a steadier rhythm.

That didn’t work either, but by this time he realized that herein lied the essence of fighting. Punching bags or frozen cows is fine and dandy, but any fighter will tell you that you’re useless in the ring if you can’t also take a hit.

This ball didn’t really hurt that much when it repeatedly beaned off our reporter’s face, but he noticed that it was the fear of getting hit that clouded his senses and affected his own ability to hit the ball accurately. That was an important lesson which Masanuki appreciated having learned.

So, his Instagram post was an example of how real warriors improve themselves by taking blows and building the courage and resilience to fight onward to victory.

Satisfied with his meaningful social media post, Masanuki decided to continue with his boxing reflex ball training from here on out. Even if he never steps into an octogon, the eye-hand coordination benefits from this exercise could aid him in any number of his favorite sports, from Pokémon GO to pachinko.

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