20 Questions for the Machida Patriarch

20 Questions for Yoshizo Machida

By Marcelo Alonso Oct 19, 2009
Yoshizo Machida is a happy man at 63. After leaving Japan at the age of 22 and bringing Shotokan karate to Brazil, he never imagined what his desires would lead to some four decades later.

Machida fell for a Brazilian woman, Ana Claudia, was married and had four sons -- Take, Chinzo, Lyoto and Kenzo. A seventh-degree black belt, he has popularized his art in northern Brazil and revolutionized the mixed martial arts world. One of his sons, Lyoto, now wears the UFC light heavyweight championship and remains unbeaten 15 fights into his professional career. The art his father taught him has served him well.

A few months after Lyoto knocked out Rashad Evans to capture the UFC crown, his father sat down for an exclusive interview with Sherdog.com in Belem, Brazil.

Sherdog.com: Did you see Lyoto rescuing the real Karate?
Yoshizo: Yes, because the fight can’t only be about taking points from the opponent. For example, the guy can score 20 points in Judo, but if he takes an Ippon, he will loose, just like in jiu-jitsu. For what reason are the points important? If the guy is submitted or knocked out, it’s over. I always tell Lyoto that he has to finish the fight, not just take points. Once it starts, he has to try to finish as soon as possible. Of course, sometimes someone who paid to see five rounds will probably be disappointed to see the fight end in the first round, but the real fighter wants to see the fight finished as soon as possible.

Sherdog.com: Can you describe your first trip to Brazil?
Yoshizo: It was a very hard trip, a total of 40 days. The ship stopped in Hawaii, Argentina, Uruguay, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and finally in Belem. The ocean was so powerful that I remember that I spent the first 15 days vomiting. When I was down to 120 pounds, someone gave me whisky. Then I found out that if I got drunk, I couldn’t feel the ocean shaking the ship. After that, I got used to it and started to teach karate to everybody on the ship, and it was really nice.

Sherdog: What was it like after you arrived?
Yoshizo: When I arrived in Belem, I got a job thanks to Japanese immigration and a Japanese company that used to build roads. I worked on that for one year and then went to Rio de Janeiro, where I spent two weeks with Master Tanaka. Right after that, I went to Sao Paulo, where I met Inoki’s brother, and I started to take care of their academy. Later on, I went to Bahia, where I opened my own academy. Since then, I’ve taught more than 10,000 students, but only 250 received the black belt. I arrived here with only two pairs of clothes, nothing else, and I only knew how to say three things -- good morning, good evening and hungry. I didn’t sleep in the streets, but in the academies, without food, I dealt with hard times. After some time, I had my own academy and students. Today, I can say I’m a happy man. I believe every man has to do what he really likes in life, no matter if it’s common or different from other people. You have to try your best to be different from others. Today, that’s very difficult.

Sherdog: How do people in Japan see karate today?
Yoshizo: In the past, karate was just for self-defense and was used in fighting. Today, it’s much more like a sport and focused on competitions. I, just like many of my teachers, think the karate philosophy is being left out. Karate needs to be used to finish the opponent. Today, the fighters are faster, stronger and better prepared, but they fight to take points from the opponent. I think it should return to its origins in self defense.

Sherdog: How do you feel when Lyoto’s fights go the distance and people call him a boring fighter?
Yoshizo: The fighters need to work on his defensive positions; that’s why my son has never been seriously hit. But for the promoter, sometimes it was not a good show. There are many strong guys out there, and each fighter needs to have his strategy. Against Rashad, I told him to forget about the belt and take him down as fast as he could, and that’s what he did. This is martial arts. Anyone who practices a martial art knows about it, no matter which martial art it is. Our son is not making a show yet because, to make a show, you have to be really superior. In his last two fights, he has given a great show. Now, he understands he’s strong. I love Anderson Silva’s fights because he’s an artist inside the Octagon. A lot of people don’t like it because they think he wants to play and have fun. I don’t see it that way. I see him as a showman who’s very strong. Deep in his heart, he knows he can finish the fight when he wants. Anderson was born like that. Lyoto is different. He wasn’t born like that, but as he trains more, trusts his karate and believes in his style, he’s getting more confident and is giving a better performance each time out.

Sherdog: As competitor, were you more like Chinzo or Lyoto?
Yoshizo: Certainly Chinzo, because I was really fast. Between 23 and 36, nobody could touch me. I used my wrists very well. I’m very small, and I used to fight against guys who were stronger and heavier; if they touched me, I’d fall down, so I trained my speed a lot. I’m teaching that to Lyoto because he’s big, but when compared to some of his UFC opponents, he’s small.

Sherdog: You said Lyoto’s defense is very good. Do you think he would have won as many fights in MMA if he had a style similar to you and Chinzo?
Yoshizo: No. He would have lost already. Me and Chinzo have a real offensive style. We attack. Lyoto is more cautious, and thanks to that, he developed a lot of his defense. One of the best things about our karate in MMA is that it combines defenses and attacks. That’s why he’s doing so well in this sport.

Sherdog: What’s the difference between Machida karate and Shotokan karate?
Yoshizo: Shotokan nowadays is pretty much focused on competition. Machida karate thinks competition is very important -- we have many champions -- but we separate Machida karate. In the ring, our goal is to punish and take down an opponent. On the other side, Shotokan karate, which I also teach, is pretty much an educational sport.
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