Christophe Pruvost came to Japan to travel but couldn’t escape his love of Thai Boxing. Despite working as an accountant, Christophe scaled the heights of Japanese Kick Boxing world becoming the first European to win the Japan championship. Tokyo Weekender sat down with the star before he entered the ring for the “Shooto” championship at Tokyo Dome.
Tell us a little bit about your story and background coming to Japan.
I first came in 2005, there are two stories: official and unofficial. Unofficially there was a girl behind it, officially, I just wanted to travel more. I had a working holiday visa, then I was lucky enough to find a full time job as an accountant — the job I thought I had escaped when I left Switzerland!
How did you get into the fighting world?
When I was a kid I loved watching movies, I started Karate when I was 12 and some Judo but I stopped. I thought, hey — that’s not like the Ninja movie I saw!
I did no more sport for until I was 18, I heard about Thai Kick Boxing. At first I wanted to see what a gym looked like, then I tried a class and then I really fell in love with the sport, every time I had spare time I would go to the gym.
After that I entered some amateur fights but still on the local level. After I moved to Japan I really started to train hard and up my game.
When I joined a gym in Tokyo, it was great to learn the local culture and language, I made many friends too.
What are the difficulties for foreigners to get into fighting in Japan?
The hardest thing is the visa! (laughing). In Japan when someone has a hobby they really, really get into it. The same in the gym, the fighters take it so seriously, they expect you to be that committed.
If you miss a day, or turn up late, they will be really disappointed in you.
If you want to prove yourself, you have to make a lot of sacrifices.
How often do you train?
Six days a week. Each day working on different skills, focusing on a different part of the body.
What are your most significant achievements so far?
I won a belt in the United States against a Thai fighter but I think my biggest achievement is winning the All Japan Kickboxing Federation (AJKF) belt.
That was a huge challenge and a real honor. You don’t get to keep the belt, if you lose it gets passed on to the next fighter, and some top fighters including MASATO were the previous owner of this belt . Personally I took it off he famous K1 fighter Yamamoto Yuya.
When I started I didn’t think I would make it this far but my trainer really believed in me, he said “you will make the title one day,” so when I won the belt I was so proud.
You get in the ring with some of the most dangerous guys in the world – are you sometimes scared?
Always. I’m always scared! Even today but I think it can be good to be nervous, the pressure makes you focus.
You must not get overcome by stress, that can happen. You just have to train hard and set objectives to reassure yourself.
With experience you learn to deal with your fear.
What is your favorite technique or skill?
I really like elbows. Elbows can be used in various ways and with one good hit you can cut your opponent and the Doctor will stop the fight.
What is your worst injury?
I have hurt my hands and legs but that’s no big deal. My worst injury was against a Thai fighter, he elbowed me in the face and broke three of my teeth! then I heard the bell go but there was still two rounds left.
During the interval I tried to explain the situation to my corner corner but my Japanese was really bad, I just said “teeth — broken!” but my trainer thought I meant the other guy! They told me “Great Job , keep going!” ..
Then I took off my mouth guard to show them , I thought they would call off the fight,but my coach was really serious. “You have to continue, your friends support you. If you stop now you will leave with nothing.”
My corner really cheered me up, I ending up winning the fight, there was lots of blood and pain but I won.
How can you do that but still keep your job as an accountant?
At the time I needed to work, but I was lucky that my employer was really flexible and supported my training.
Many people think fighters must be thugs or gangsters, but many of us have real jobs!
What keeps you motivated?
I don’t really know! I tried to stop when I moved back to Switzerland. I stopped for a few months but something was lacking in my life.
I need to train. Fighting is the only thing that has provided by best memories and my worst memories. It is the best feeling in the world.
Do you want to open your own gym?
Yes, It’s my dream. Not just for champions, for all people, kids, women, everyone.
Switzerland doesn’t do much to support athletes, I think I can change that.
Watch Shoot the Shooto, Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing event at Tokyo Dome.
November 5th and 6th.
Official site: www.x-shooto.jp