Training for the Phoenix 50 was actually a continuation of a decade of competing in Kyokushin, Enshin, kickboxing, and Muay Thai events. From fighting on tatami mats in the World Sabaki Challenge to events in an elevated boxing ring like Muteki Kyokushin’s Ring Wars, I’ve been blessed to have a lot of different experiences and in that time, fortunate enough to register a highly successful fight record.
Since 2006 I’ve been training for one event or another and have had to adjust my training many times over the last decade depending on the event. Take the World Sabaki Challenge for instance. I had to prepare for up to 5 fights in one night and, to further complicate things, needed to be ready to fight in the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado. Preparations for that tournament were much different than my training for a Muay Thai fight, which would be anywhere from 3-5 rounds and involve techniques not legal in Kyokushin; namely punches and elbows to the head and face. There have been short training camps of one month, to longer camps; like the one to prepare for my USKA Amateur Muay Thai Heavyweight Championship fight, but nothing…nothing came close to the training involved to get ready for the Phoenix 50.
The Phoenix 50 isn’t like the 50-man Kumite that we read about or watch online. This ultimate test of the Phoenix Karatedo Association, Kyokushinkai International, doesn’t consist of rounds of hard contact dojo-level kumite. Rather, the unfortunate soul who commits to this challenge does so with the expectation that they will encounter fifty fights…fifty people who are trying to win. None of the fighters in the Phoenix 50 want their name to be put down as losing a round to the challenger. In my mind, and from what I’ve read and seen, this trial is more intense. I say that hesitantly as I’m not attempting to lessen the accomplishments of others in any way. My perception of their events cannot possibly be accurate and I can only speak to what I’ve personally experienced and I can attest to the legitimacy of the Phoenix 50…being only the second person to attempt the challenge in our Association’s 35 year history.
In 2011, the Shihandai Dan Ryan, from our Associations’s branch in New Jersey, became the first person to attempt the Phoenix 50. As the Dai Sempai of the Association at that time, I was tasked with helping to select and organize the participants for the historic event. What transpired that afternoon in July 2011 was awe inspiring; and I immediately knew that I would want to make the attempt at some point in my training.
So…when did I start training for specifically for the Phoenix 50? I distinctly remember the conversation that kicked off the training. At our Summer Gashuku in 2015, Kancho Soller asked, “Sensei, when will you retire from competitive fighting?” to which I replied, “When you let me try the Phoenix 50”. By the end of our training weekend, my destination was set…in July 2016, I would become the second person to attempt the grueling Phoenix 50.
With the destination set, I needed to sit down and plot out the course of training. I was able to pull from a lot of my different training camps from my decade long fighting career, but for this one I had to call in some of the big guns. My great friend, and long time training partner, Sensei Jason Franklin was able to give me a lot of helpful direction. With his background, Jason was able to share the science behind what I would be going through during the Phoenix 50 and helped me to prepare my body in the months of training leading up to Summer Camp 2016.
Training was incredibly challenging, but at the same time painfully simple. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the three pillars of my Phoenix 50 preparations which I honestly believe will lift your own training to a completely different level.