This Man Will Inspire All Martial Artist
Yuki Nakai is a name that is almost lost to history, and that is just plain wrong. He may not have many accomplishments under his belt due to a tragic injury that ended his career entirely way too short, but this man should be the archetype that smaller grapplers should strive to be.
The year was 1995, MMA or NHB or Vale Tudo was still in its infancy. It’s still very much style vs style and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is very quickly showing it is the style to beat, and Rickson Gracie is the greatest practitioner of that style. Vale Tudo Japan 1995 was to be a top moment in Rickson Gracie’s career thanks to his Choke documentary. But the true star that faithful night in my opinion is the almost forgotten Yuki Nakai. Five foot seven and weighing in at 135lbs, Nakai was by far the smallest competitor that night. But did that matter to him? Absolutely not, he was determined to show his wrestling techniques and heart were unmatchable.
Learn how to integrate wrestling concepts and the foot lock game together with John Danaher.
First fight of the night was against six foot six 240lb Dutch kick boxer Gerard Gordeau, who you may know as the runner up in the very first UFC event. Outweighed by just over a hundred pounds did not deter Yuki in the slightest, he took the fight to Gordeau. Gordeau is known as a dirty fighter, he bite Royce Gracie’s ear in their UFC fight, and he repeatedly gouged Yuki’s eyes which eventually led to him permanently going blind in his right eye.
But that didn’t even slow Yuki down! He stayed on Gordeau like a boa constrictor and submitted that giant of a man with a heel hook. Now that one fight should be inspiring enough for us little grapplers, but it wasn’t enough for Yuki. With his face and eye bandaged up he made the walk again to fight and even larger opponent, Six foot one 250lb former Marine Craig Pittman. And once again outweighed by over a hundred pounds, Yuki took the fight to his larger opponent and forced him to submit to an arm bar. Unfortunately, the last fight of the night would not be Yuki’s, he had made it to the finals and was looking across the ring at the legendary Rickson Gracie.
It may have been Rickson’s fight, but I firmly believe it was Yuki’s night. He showed more heart, and grit, and determination than I have ever seen in any other competition. You can’t teach heart, but you can see it and be inspired by it, and that night in 1995 is the most inspiring series of events I have witnessed. I always go back to those clips when I am down on my personal Jiu-jitsu journey, and it never fails to reinvigorate me and get me to keep going. We need to keep the legend of Yuki Nakai alive, we need fighters like him to keep motivating small grapplers to keep getting on the mats even if we are just getting smashed by giants.
Our techniques will eventually surpass theirs’s, there is no other choice. And hopefully we can have nights like Yuki’s in 95, where size doesn’t matter in the slightest and our techniques and heart can win the day while inspiring many others for years to come.
Yuki Nakai as well as many Japanese Fighters were masters of the foot locks back then. They were known for their vicious heel hooks and leg attacks. Keep the inspiration of Yuki Nakai alive by adding some heel hooks and other foot locks to your game with John Danaher.