Because sometimes you just can’t get to a dojo to train. 

“Anyone can be strong at any age!” Our Japanese language reporter Kouhey has always believed this. In fact, he’s always wanted to have the strength and the ability to defend himself and those in need, a sentiment that has only grown stronger with age.

But Kouhey, who is now in his late 40s and has no experience with any kind of combat arts, honestly can’t see himself training hard in something strenuous like boxing or mixed martial arts. Still, he didn’t want to live his life feeling like he wasn’t doing anything about his desire to become a martial artist, so to dispel those listless feelings, Kouhey decided to start practicing martial arts six months ago.

He found a dojo in the Ikebukuro neighborhood of Tokyo that he really wanted to attend, but he lives all the way out in Chiba Prefecture, to the east of Tokyo, and often works from home. Commuting to Ikebukuro on the regular would be difficult, seeing as it takes more than an hour and a half by train to get there. That’s why he opted for online training.

He’s been following a course called “Dare Tsuyo DOJOy”, which is a combination of “Anyone can be strong” and a mix of “dojo” and “joy.” It’s run by martial artist Katsunori Kikuno, a former UFC fighter and top Japanese martial artist who currently runs the Keiten Aijin martial arts competition, which greatly inspired Kouhey.

Most recently, Kikuno appeared in the first episode of a popular YouTube series produced by Japanese MMA fighter Mikura Kamakura called “Breaking Down”, which has one-minute battles between famous martial artists. In it, Kikuno took down a kickboxer who was once a sumo wrestler 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds) heavier than him in 59 seconds.

▼ One of DOJOy’s lessons

Screenshot from Dare Tsuyo DOJOy

Kikuno’s Dare Tsuyo DOJOy operates under the mindset that “anyone at any age can become a strong fighter” and bases its teachings on Okinawa Kenpo, or Okinawan-style karate. The purpose is to build technique and power without relying on physical strength or stamina, so people of all ages can practice. This greatly aligned with Kouhey’s own philosophies, so he began training with DOJOy online courses at the beginning of June. For six months, he’s been training and practicing at his own pace, and he does feel that he’s attained at least a little bit of martial technique.

▼ Here’s Kouhey practicing the Naihanchi Shodan kata in a suit. He says:
“It’s the first time I recorded myself…Any experience martial artist would scoff lol. I’ll keep training hard!”

But without anyone to spar with, how can Kouhey know if he’s actually getting stronger? He decided to make a special trip into downtown to visit a dojo in-person to test himself at kickboxing gym “Legless Ikebukuro.”

Kouhey attended two classes: a training class and a self-defense class. Ordinarily, online trainees can’t attend these classes, but they opened these sessions for them to help assess where they are in their training. There were students of all ages in attendance, from teens to those in their 70s.

Director Kikuno himself also appeared with his bright, friendly smile.

Don’t be fooled by that refreshing smile, though; the power of his punches and kicks is incredible. The first thing they did in class was check each student’s Seisan kata, which is a basic kata often practiced first in many kinds of karate. In this form, everyone moves together as one.

Though it looks simple, it’s actually pretty hard. Studying it along with a video was definitely a completely different experience from learning with a teacher. Kikuno worked with Kouhey one-on-one to carefully correct his stance and form.

As Kouhey suspected, it’s not something you can pick up right away. He definitely needed more training.

Next, they trained in throws. What Kouhey learned was not anything like judo, but a “centripetal force throw” which doesn’t use any physical strength at all.  Kouhey learned about this in his online classes but had never tried it on a person. He had doubts about whether he could actually do it.

First, Kikuno demonstrated the move on Kouhey. You have to grab both of your opponent’s arms to throw them to the side, but not with the strength of your body. He showed them how trying to use brute force doesn’t work.

However, when Kikuna lightly stepped back and went down on one knee, his opponent (Kouhey) came down easily.

You might be thinking Kouhey just threw himself for the sake of the gif, but that’s not the case. He says you don’t even feel the strength in the move, so you don’t have the chance to fight against it. You really do just get thrown like a ragdoll.

Of course, when Kouhey tried it on Kikuno for the first time, it didn’t work quite as well.

This is where Kikuno’s attentive coaching came in. It won’t work if you think of yourself as using a trick to take down an opponent. You have to think of them as an extension of yourself as you pull yourself down. The important thing is not to try to go into it with the mindset of affecting your opponent. So with that in mind, Kouhey tried again, and…

He did it!

He actually threw a former UFC fighter! The funny thing is, he had no sense of actually throwing him; it didn’t feel like he tried. This move was seriously impressive. Having been both on the giving and receiving end, Kouhey couldn’t help admiring how cool it was.

Lastly, they tested the power of the trainees’ thrust punches.

As Kouhey said, Kikuno’s punches are insanely powerful. The proof is in the nickname given to him overseas: “Katsunori One Punch Kikuno”. The source of that power isn’t physical strength but his special technique of transferring weight through the movement of his body.

Put simply, Kikuno transfers as much of his body weight into his fist as possible to create immense power in his thrust. In other words, even if you weigh just 40 kilograms (88 pounds), if you put ten percent of your weight into your fist, it would be like punching someone with four-kilogram (8.8-pound) dumbbells.

▼ All of that weight goes into the fist.

Kouhey also practiced this multiple times with his online videos, but he still had trouble executing it in person.

Kikuno then began to instruct him on the proper way to punch. The trick is not to use your whole body and punch from the hip like a boxer, but to imagine your hand pulling the rest of your body forward as you punch.

And when Kouhey tried that…

Wait. It didn’t even feel like a punch, but he did somehow feel his body weight had transferred to his fist. Kouhey had read in a manga at some point that the truly effective punches that feel the most powerful are the ones without any strength put into them. Is that what Kouhey experienced? Either way, somehow an almost fifty-year-old managed to send brawny Kikuno stumbling back.

If you were to ask Kouhey if he was a stronger fighter than before he started his online course, he would say yes, definitely. But compared to the trainees who regularly work out at the dojo, Kouhey couldn’t help but think that his growth had been much slower since he lacked the intuition and knowledge of other fighters that only come from training with others.

For example, one 74-year-old student, who had only been training at the dojo for three months, already had a more powerful punch than Kouhey.

This is a different punch from the one we mentioned earlier. It uses centrifugal force, which brings its own power, regardless of the age of the user. Even after all this, Kouhey didn’t quite believe that a punch that didn’t look “proper” could be effective, so he asked the trainee to demonstrate it on him.

At first, he punched lightly.

Kouhey thought, “Well, this isn’t that bad.” Until…


That was some power! He’d been hit on the right side of his chest, but he felt the shock all the way up in his skull, and before he could figure out left from right he had been sent stumbling back. That was when Kouhey really began to respect how awesome the in-person trainees were. The “anyone at any age” part was definitely not a lie.

So, can you become a strong fighter after half a year of training in martial arts with online videos? The answer is: it depends. It depends on how much time you dedicate to your own training. If you diligently watch the videos and train alongside them, even first-timers will gain some ability. But if you always train by yourself, you won’t be able to tell how far you’ve come.

Luckily, Dare Tsuyo DOJOy offers a solution to that problem by offering in-person “Training Sessions” in each region. In Chiba prefecture, for example, they hold monthly “Chiba Training Sessions”, where Kouhey has the chance to meet other Chiba-area students.

You can also sign up for one-on-one instruction with a dojo-certified instructor for an additional fee, so if you live in a region that doesn’t offer Training Sessions, you can build up the basics with the online classes and use this service to check in and see how you’re doing.

If you’re someone who is looking to gain some martial prowess–like smashing roof tiles with your fist–but hasn’t been able to take the first step, these online classes are a perfect introduction. If nothing else, it will help you change the way you look at life!

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