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In The Arena Blog

Chris Leben interviews MMA Legend Enson Inoue

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MMA Fighter, Bare Knuckle champion, and coach at The Arena Chris Leben sat down with legendary fighter Enson Inoue of Purebred for an interview while Enson was visiting our gym. During the interview the guys discuss what Enson is up to now running his gyms, the UFC fight between Randy Couture and Enson Inoue, and what it was like in the early days of MMA fighting in the Pride Championships.


Chris Leben: What’s up, everybody? Chris Leben. I’m here with Enson Inoue. We’re here at The Arena. Enson, you just flew in.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Welcome, by the way, welcome.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, nice to be back.
Chris Leben: It’s great to have you here. Yeah, it’s been a little bit since you’ve been here.
Enson Inoue: Three years, I think.
Chris Leben: Has it been three years already?
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it’s been three. Fast, huh?
Chris Leben: Wow, that’s great. It feels like your seminar was just yesterday.
Chris Leben: Tell us, what have you been up to?
Enson Inoue: Just the same old same, actually. Doing the bracelets. Got gyms that I go out to and watch the training.
Chris Leben: Okay, these are these bracelets here?
Enson Inoue: Yeah. These are power stone bracelets.
Chris Leben: Power stone, that is a-.
Enson Inoue: Yeah. Every stone has its own property. I go around shopping.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: I travel a lot, all over the world to get them. I love doing that.
Chris Leben: To get the stones.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Okay, and then who makes the bracelet?
Enson Inoue: I make them.
Chris Leben: You make them.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, I make them.
Chris Leben: You do the little weaving, okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah. I get them, yeah.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: I thread them and everything, yeah.
Chris Leben: So like this one, what is that?
Enson Inoue: This one is a smokey quartz, these brown ones. These are good for grounding.
Chris Leben: Grounding.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Grounding, okay. Quartz, I know is good for a lot of things, right?
Enson Inoue: Yeah, quartz.
Chris Leben: Quartz is a well-
Enson Inoue: … A positive energy-
Chris Leben: … Rounded stone.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, healing, yeah. Quartz is a real good one, yeah.
Chris Leben: I do some crystal work, actually.
Enson Inoue: Oh, really?
Chris Leben: I do, I like it.
Enson Inoue: That’s awesome.
Chris Leben: It helps me with my mediations, I-
Enson Inoue: It’s amazing though, that things that look like just rocks, but they actually have properties.
Chris Leben: It’s interesting. I’ll go into the rock store, and you can feel them. Some of them are too crazy. Too much for me-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, some of them too much.
Chris Leben: Too powerful.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: So it really depends.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: I suppose.
Enson Inoue: Interesting.
Chris Leben: Depends what you need. There’s a stone for everything.
Enson Inoue: I’ve been getting good results from it too. It trips me out, sometimes. Customers come in and say … Then they get something for their joints, and they come in, and a couple days later their joints aren’t stiff any more.
Chris Leben: So you’ll make them individually, for-
Enson Inoue: Yeah-
Chris Leben: … For whoever you’re catering to.
Enson Inoue: Almost all custom made.
Chris Leben: Custom made.
Enson Inoue: They all know the system now. The customers will come in, and they’ll have a list of the different ailments. Or, they’ll already have done their homework, and they’ll come in with the lists of stones that they want.
Chris Leben: Okay, okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so we try to coordinate something that would hit the properties that they want, while still having the look that they want.
Chris Leben: Okay, right.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: That is really cool. Now, is there some stones that go together, and some that don’t?
Enson Inoue: No, not really.
Chris Leben: Not really.
Enson Inoue: There’s no clashing, yeah.
Chris Leben: Any stone will work, because I’m just thinking-
Enson Inoue: I haven’t had any problems with that yet.
Chris Leben: … I know with drugs, you can’t take this, you can’t take that. These two go together.
Chris Leben: What about this one? Is that …?
Enson Inoue: This is resembling the black belt.
Chris Leben: Okay, oh yeah, the white, and the red, of course. Yeah.
Enson Inoue: This is actually designed by Alex O’Laughlin, from Hawaii 5-0. Yeah, he came in and he was playing with the stones, and he actually came out with this, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s nice.”
Chris Leben: That is super-cool.
Enson Inoue: The conch in the middle is Jiu-Jitsu.
Chris Leben: Oh, that is really cool.
Enson Inoue: And these stones, these stones are the black onyx, which negates negative energy. Good for working out, and power.
Chris Leben: Okay, okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, and these are for body pains, hematite.
Chris Leben: Hematite, that’s a metal, right?
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it’s a metal, yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: Hematite, it’s a …
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it’s a real heavy stone, it’s a lot heavier than the rest of the regular stones.
Chris Leben: Is that from asteroids? Is that coming down from …? I can’t remember.
Enson Inoue: No, this is just from the ground, yeah.
Chris Leben: From the ground, hematite is.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: Okay, that is really neat. So then, you travel around finding the different stones?
Enson Inoue: Yeah, part of my travels is for the stones, for shopping.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: And the other part of my travels is seminars.
Chris Leben: Seminars.
Enson Inoue: And doing stuff for the martial arts.
Chris Leben: Of course, of course.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: So you were telling me you were just in Hawaii.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, doing the bracelets.
Chris Leben: Doing the bracelets.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Do you have a list of clients over there, too, that when you got there, you were helping out?
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it’s huge, yeah.
Chris Leben: It’s really big, obviously, in Japan.
Enson Inoue: I’ve been doing it … No, actually in Hawaii’s the biggest thing.
Chris Leben: Hawaii’s the biggest.
Enson Inoue: Yeah. Japan, they believe this is like a protection thing. So they wear the bracelet, when it breaks, it’s actually taking something that’s supposed to come to you. In place of you, and it’s broken because of that. So, that’s why I started wearing it. I didn’t realize that every stone had a power.
Enson Inoue: When I learned how to make them, I started making them. Then, when I went a shop and I saw the different colors, they were telling me every stone has a different property, and that’s when I started learning on that.
Chris Leben: Well I know some cool shops around here.
Enson Inoue: Oh, really?
Chris Leben: If you get some spare time, I’ll take you to-
Enson Inoue: Oh yeah, I would love to go check it out.
Chris Leben: … To some hole-in-the-wall rock shops.
Enson Inoue: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: Yeah.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah, I’d love to go check those out.
Chris Leben: Absolutely. We got a lot in Ocean Beach here. We got a lot of hippies.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, that’d be nice.
Chris Leben: Some great rock stores.
Enson Inoue: When I’m doing seminars, for example I went to Guatemala, down below Mexico. So I went to Guatemala, and when I went there, I asked the guys, “Is Guatemala known for any type of gems or stones?”, and they said, “Jade.”
Chris Leben: Jade, really?
Enson Inoue: I was like, “Jade? Really?” I had no clue. They took me to-
Chris Leben: I wouldn’t have guessed it.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, they took me to this district with jade, and the jade was unbelievably beautiful.
Chris Leben: Really.
Enson Inoue: So I looked up Guatemalan jade, and it says Guatemala and Myanmar are the two best places in the world to pick up grade A jade. They have the best jade in the world. Not China, I thought it was China.
Chris Leben: It’s China, yeah, because I know in Hawaii, a lot of the women wear their jade bracelets.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, their jade bands.
Chris Leben: You’re not supposed to touch it-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, some people have-
Chris Leben: You’re not supposed to ever take it off.
Enson Inoue: … Their little quirks about it, yeah.
Chris Leben: They don’t like other people touching it. What is jade?
Enson Inoue: Jade’s protection.
Chris Leben: Jade’s protection.
Enson Inoue: And prosperity too.
Chris Leben: Prosperity, okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so the Guatemalan jade, I like it because of the deep green it had, but also they believe that the Mayan spirits, the warriors from the old days, indigenous days?
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: The spirit of the Mayans are in the jade.
Chris Leben: Oh, that is-
Enson Inoue: Which is like perseverance, and they never gave up.
Chris Leben: Right, that is super-cool.
Enson Inoue: I love that meaning, yeah, so I picked up some jade there. It’s neat, because I always travel. I go to Pennsylvania, I’m going to Toronto in October, and it’s pretty much training and seminars. I’m basically just doing that not to make money, but just to give back to MMA. I just feel like Jiu-Jitsu and MMA has made me who I am today. My name is still enough that people want to do seminars, which is cool because-
Chris Leben: Of course, yeah.
Enson Inoue: … I’m from back in the day, so … These people still want to have me out. I’m stoked, that’s cool. So they have me out, and they just pick up my air fare, and my hotel, and my food, and …
Chris Leben: Yeah, I was talking to somebody about it the other day, and it was just so much different back in the day, when you were fighting in Pride. I was recently watching one of your highlight videos. You beat my coach, you armbarred Randy Couture. I’ve never been able to submit that guy, and I trained with him for years. He’s slippery, you know? He’s very slip-
Enson Inoue: Oh, especially now, he probably is.
Chris Leben: He’s wrestling. He sweats a lot, and he’s slippery.
Enson Inoue: I think I caught him in a good time in his career, when he wasn’t really understanding the ground yet.
Chris Leben: But a world class wrestler. You definitely caught him, because I saw him when you rolled over, and really leaned in-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, he tried to pull out, yeah.
Chris Leben: … Really leaned into it. I think he didn’t realize it was as tight, but when you go back and watch it on the tape, his arm was definitely busted. Busted pretty bad.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, I felt it pop about three times.
Chris Leben: Oh yeah?
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Okay, wow.
Chris Leben: Nowadays, I think there’s just such a difference. You get these fighters that aren’t really … They’re not martial artists, they’re … You get a lot of kids that are great athletes, and they’re good at what they do, and they go out, and they fight to win. They fight a technical battle. It’s tit-for-tat. They don’t want to take damage. They’re not fighting with their heart.
Chris Leben: Some of the fights I’ve seen you fight, as far as self preservation goes, maybe not the best-
Enson Inoue: That was out the window.
Chris Leben: Maybe not the best style to have. I’m guilty of that sometimes myself.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, you should talk.
Chris Leben: But, just slugging it out. What was it like, because Pride, obviously for me, when I started and I remember watching you, fighting was still relatively underground in the United States. So, I would go, I had to walk two miles. I lived in my best friend’s mom’s basement, and I would walk a couple miles, because there was a Japanese toy store, and I could get the bootleg Pride videos there, and that’s-
Enson Inoue: Oh, the VHS tapes.
Chris Leben: The VHS tapes, like maybe 2001, 2002.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah.
Chris Leben: You know that? And that’s where I was first introduced to you, but it was already huge over there.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, in Japan it was huge.
Chris Leben: You guys were selling out giant arenas.
Enson Inoue: Tokyo Dome.
Chris Leben: Tokyo Dome, 60,000 people. What was that feeling like, fighting at that time? Certainly, the other thing is, now I’m an official here in California, you know?
Enson Inoue: Oh, okay.
Chris Leben: I referee and judge.
Enson Inoue: Oh, awesome.
Chris Leben: Your guys, the Pride, they let them go a little farther.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, they do.
Chris Leben: They let things go. You had that 10-minute round, and then they let it go. I can’t imagine. What was that like? Stepping in there, not really knowing what was going to happen?
Enson Inoue: Well this is such an awesome topic, because there’s such a big change in the sport. You’re going from martial art, to sport, to entertainment, now.
Chris Leben: Exactly.
Enson Inoue: And it’s, for me, everyone asks me about it, and I feel there’s pros and cons to it. I feel super-stoked, how big martial arts has become. Come on, you go to Vegas, and you see guys’ pictures-
Chris Leben: On TV-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, and fighting on TV.
Chris Leben: And on billboards.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: It’s unheard of. So, I’m happy about that, but I’m real bummed about the way the sport has turned, but I do also understand that in order for the sport to get as big as it is now, it had to take that turn. It had to make more rules. It had to stop fights sooner.
Chris Leben: Sure.
Enson Inoue: You ask about the way … Back in Pride days, there was no weight classes.
Chris Leben: No.
Enson Inoue: So we all fought in one weight class, so that is one thing that I liked. The other thing was they didn’t stop fights. That’s another thing that I liked, and it’s because … Not because I was tougher, or not because, “Oh, this guy’s more of a worry than this guy.” It’s because of the day and age that we grew up in. The people who didn’t like that, back in that day, wouldn’t fight because there was no money, there was no fame, and it wasn’t a thing to be a mixed martial artist. It wasn’t a thing at all.
Chris Leben: No, that didn’t make you cool.
Enson Inoue: No, it didn’t make you cool. It made you maybe a little weird, or almost like a little outcast, yeah.
Chris Leben: Right, right.
Enson Inoue: For back in the day, that was the things we were fighting … I was fighting to test myself.
Chris Leben: To test yourself.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it freaks me out to see fighters, even on the big stage too, just bragging about getting a fight, and saying, “I know I can beat him.”
Enson Inoue: For me, because it’s in this day and age, I understand that, that’s probably what they want to do, is get the fights they can win. Get the win money. Get advanced in the rankings and possibly get a belt. But, back in the day for me, it was I didn’t want … It wouldn’t be a test for me, if I knew I could beat someone, and I fought them.
Chris Leben: Right, right.
Enson Inoue: So for me, I wasn’t interested in fights that I think I could win.
Chris Leben: You want-
Enson Inoue: So I went for guys that I thought would kick my ass, or put me into a position that I would have to battle fear, in the midst of the fight.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: So I remember John McCarthy once came up to me, between one of my career fights, and says, “Man, do you ever take easy fights?”
Enson Inoue: I’m like, “No, I want to fight …”. Like for example, I think when I fought Heath Herring I was actually offered Frank Shamrock, Fujita, and Heath Herring, so I was lucky with Pride-
Chris Leben: A big man.
Enson Inoue: Pride took care of me, because they actually catered to who I wanted to fight. So, the fights that I fought, is the fights that I picked. All the fights I wanted to fight, I got to fight, except Wanderlei. I always wanted to fight Wanderlei, but they never let me fight Wanderlei.
Enson Inoue: But, I looked at the fights. I said, “Okay, Fujita is a wrestler, take-down hugger, boring fight.” That didn’t impress me at all.
Chris Leben: Great at it, but yeah.
Enson Inoue: Great at it, yeah, but not too scary.
Chris Leben: Yeah he’s gonna hold you.
Enson Inoue: I didn’t think he’s the type of fighter to bring me into that fear zone.
Chris Leben: Heath Herring was knocking people out.
Enson Inoue: And Frank Shamrock, I mean Ken Shamrock, just lost to Fujita. That was the big thing about “[inaudible 00:12:36] my heart,” where he felt shitty about his heart, or he told them to throw the towel in, or something.
Enson Inoue: So for me, I know Ken’s an animal, but after that fight I thought there was a little bit of dings in his armor. But then you got Heath, now just knocked out Tom Erikson. Oh my God, Tom Erikson, come on.
Chris Leben: Big, big, guy, big …
Enson Inoue: He’s a guy, you can see Randy Couture at the top, but there’s a rumor of him throwing Randy around.
Chris Leben: Yeah-
Enson Inoue: Tom Erikson was-
Chris Leben: Super-strong, yeah.
Enson Inoue: Then you got Heath Herring, knocking them out. So right there, when they said Heath’s name, I said, “Oh, I want to fight Heath.”
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so all the fights that I took, was fights that I didn’t think I could win, and for me, I guess maybe that goes down to the depth of my reasoning on why I started fighting. I didn’t fight because it was cool. Nowadays, guys want to do mixed martial arts because they see the title, they see the fame, they see the sponsorship, they see the money. But for me, it was more I saw the opportunity to grow as a man, and be able to be a person that could control my emotions through anything.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: When I was playing racquetball, back in the days, I can hit a shot 100 times, but when I get into the court, all of a sudden my foot work’s a little off, because of the nerves. Everything changes.
Chris Leben: That’s it, right?
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Being able to-
Enson Inoue: If you can do what you do in practice, every fight would be different. But a lot of times the nerves, anxiety, the weight cut, all this other stuff involved, it’s not the same thing as you do every day.
Enson Inoue: So I remember when I was a little kid. I remember I saw a movie where a guy was driving his family. His car went off the cliff, turned upside down, and went on fire. And, because the car was upside down, he was in a panic state. He couldn’t open the door, and his whole family died.
Enson Inoue: I just thought, he was so afraid, it was a matter of controlling his emotions.
Chris Leben: You have to.
Enson Inoue: In the racquetball court, it’s such a small thing about being able to hit a shot right, or it’s a little bit … In racquetball, the ball travels almost 200 miles per hour, so if you have a little projectory incline, the ball won’t come off the back easy. So it’s a real precise incline that you have to hit the ball at, and to be a little bit off because your nerves, will change the whole shot.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: And when I … That’s something so nitty-gritty, but when you look at it in a big scale, where if I can try and tune my anxiety, and control my fears in the racquetball court. It’s nothing life a life and death situation, but it will bring me a little bit nearer, and I’ll be a little bit better at handling a situation that came up.
Enson Inoue: So I thought, I’ll use racquetball as that, and-
Chris Leben: It’s like a metaphor towards life-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it’s a little step, I think. It’s this little, tiny, step.
Chris Leben: Right, right.
Enson Inoue: And when I did that, I felt … When I went on the National Tour with Egan, I felt I was almost 80% the player that was in the practice court, so I felt okay. My nerves are under control now. So okay, cool. Everything’s good, I retired from racquetball, went back to school, started Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and then I got to be good friends with the Gracies.
Enson Inoue: I remember when I was in Japan, Rickson came up and fought in the Vale Tudo in Japan, and he was good friend, because I was really good, close to, Relson.
Chris Leben: Relson, yeah.
Enson Inoue: I was there, and I was watching Rickson fight. I’m not the type to scream out in an arena, I’m more the quiet type, and like, “Yeah, he won,” or something. When Rickson won, he beat David Levicki.
Chris Leben: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Enson Inoue: And I just jumped up in the air, and I was like, “Oh, my God!” And I talked to myself right there.
PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:16:04]
Enson Inoue: I’m watching a friend fight in the ring because the sport is man to man combat. He’s trying to hurt each other. The excitement, I couldn’t control my excitement watching a friend. Then I had this thought in my head, man I got to get in there once. Just once. Even if I don’t control my emotions, to have the experience when the life in that situation if it ever happens, I would be better prepared. I wouldn’t say I would be able to perfectly perform life in that situation, but I’ll be much better prepared to do something. To save my family or whoever I’m with.
Chris Leben: You’re gonna know that much more about yourself.
Chris Leben: Yeah. Then I was on a quest just to get into the ring once. Called all the associations in Japan. Called Rings. They told me Rings and the UWF had this thing about how old you have to be under 22 and you have to be a certain height. I’m like, what does that matter?
Chris Leben: That doesn’t make sense.
Enson Inoue: For me, I was looking at that thinking, UWF and rings, pro wrestling, fake but maybe not. It was kind of in that iffy state.
Chris Leben: I remember back then some of them were great, some of them weren’t.
Enson Inoue: I figured okay, the next one who’s really real is Pancrase. Pancrase is good. So I called Pancrase. There’s new boy test you have to wait for. Send in your resume. I actually went and took, they wanted a full body and an upper body and a little resume of what I did. I sent that in. It’d be funny to get a hold of that from Pancrase. That’d be real funny.
Chris Leben: That is interesting.
Enson Inoue: But I sent that in and while I was waiting for the new boy test, I went and called Shooto. Shooto at the time was really unorganized and they answered the phone and said, come on down.
Chris Leben: There you go.
Enson Inoue: That’s where I broke in. For me, I just wanted to get into the ring once. I went in, Sayama Satoru, the Tiger Mask guy, he saw me. He told me spar this little kid in the gym. I’m thinking, this guy is like half my size. Oh yeah, I’ll spar with I’m. Sparred him. I remember he’s attacking my legs and I’m getting real uncomfortable with it but able to defend enough to not get submitted. I totally control the position, I choked him on the back, everything. Come to find out later that it was Yuki Nakai.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Chris Leben: Yeah.
Enson Inoue: Yeah. So it was one of their welterweight champions.
Chris Leben: One of their top guys. They were testing you.
Enson Inoue: Sayama got excited, he said okay we want you in the ring.
Chris Leben: Mm-hmm.
Enson Inoue: I said okay, once. That’s all I was doing. I wasn’t, you know what, I fought a lot of the streets, but you know the streets is different, because you get mad, something happens, and you start to fight. Its easy, its so easy to fight in the streets.
Chris Leben: Right, Right.
Enson Inoue: But in this professional gifting, you’ve got three months to prepare, you know your opponent knows about you. He’s preparing to try and hurt you.
Chris Leben: Specifically for you.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, and then its like that day just gets closer and closer, there’s a buildup, there’s interviews, and you know that intent that, you know I wasn’t planning to do anything like that. So I said okay I sucked it up, one fight, and did well. Up until the fourth fight, it was just one fight at a time. I never thought I perfected controlling my nerves, but I thought I got a lot better, and I didn’t want to be a fighter. I just wanted to get into that situation and test my nerves and my fear zone.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: And then after the fourth fight, I beat a K-1 fighter which was Andre Mannaart.
Chris Leben: Mm-hmm.
Enson Inoue: And then, right there, something clicked in my head, and I was like wait a minute, how good am I at this? So that ride just changes, okay you know what I’m gonna try this for long and just quit my…retire…I was like the four time Japan Racquetball champion.
Chris Leben: Yeah, okay.
Enson Inoue: But just cold turkeyed it. Like their champion just disappeared like whoa what is he doing, going to the ring now. So I just dropped everything and went full on into the ring.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, and then from there it was I noticed that this is not just about getting in the ring and testing those emotions, now there’s these big animals in the ring, you could even feel like life and death in there. If you’re working a nine to five job, when are you ever going to be in a situation like, never. But fighters man, every time we get in the ring, we’re in that situation because any wrong punch, any wrong blow can render you paralyzed, or fuck your jaw up, where it’s all gonna get wired shut. That fear zone in there is what intrigued me.
Chris Leben: There’s definitely something about, you really get to know yourself…
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah you do.
Chris Leben: …when you’re put into those high intensity situations, and that’s why I feel there’s something in martial arts for everybody. Everybody should do martial arts, maybe obviously not to that level, sure, but that’s what sets you apart from the norm, I think everybody benefits from it but then to be able, and step in there and test yourself and then look back and say what worked what didn’t work, what could I improve on, that to me is the spirit of martial artists.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah it is.
Chris Leben: And I think going back to what you were saying earlier, that’s what we just don’t see so much anymore, in fact we don’t see it as the big test and then trying to weigh yourself and your skills and your emotions, it’s totally much more sport orientated.
Enson Inoue: Well you know it’s not bad for the fighters too because they’re brought up in this day and age. If I was brought up in this day and age, I might be in that direction too. We had no choice, there was no money, there was no interference in the real path of what I call, the real path of martial arts…fight for honor, fight for building yourself as a man, as a person. These guys have got all this money flashing, these sponsorships flashing, fame, you can get famous doing it now, it obviously wasn’t like that. The rounds, they stop it sooner, and I always say, today’s martial arts, where the warrior begins is where the fights are stopped today. It’s just like man it’s sad because you see…okay now, right now we are going to see what this guy is made of if he really, really wants this fight and boom they stop the fight.
Chris Leben: That’s very true.
Enson Inoue: And its like ohh…
Chris Leben: That’s very true, and then it’s because, you know, you want them to live to fight any other day. But when you take that element away, it makes it so much more primal.
Enson Inoue: The shit-talking they do nowadays is so fake man.
Chris Leben: And you know what I really don’t understand is, oh I can kick my opponent, Randy was my coach, Randy taught me something, never put down your opponent, because it’s only going to work out bad for you.
Enson Inoue: Yeah you beat him but you put him now.
Chris Leben: You know what I mean like, a lot of these guys you know they are scared of their opponent, but instead they come out and you go, he sucks, I can kick his ass, and then what happens, you barely beat him.
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: You still won the fight, maybe you fought your heart out, had a great war but you barely beat him, so what are they thinking America, they think oh well see he barely beat the guy and he said he sucked.
Enson Inoue: Or worse off you lose to the guy.
Chris Leben: You suck yeah. I mean it’s a lose, lose. Are we rolling right now?
Enson Inoue: We can just talk.
Chris Leben: It’s a lose, lose situation.
Enson Inoue: And it’s bad when the other fighters try to mimic it because Conor made so much money doing that.
Chris Leben: I think, you know, originally, fighters were who they were, and now I almost feel like in the sport today, a lot of these young athletes feel like they need to be this character, they have to be half WWE, half professional athlete. And I don’t think it works for everybody, I think you have to be who you are.
Enson Inoue: It’s just this day and age that’s what pulling it out of the kids now. Because they see their proteges like Conor and all these big guys are doing that.
Chris Leben: They’re almost pushed in…
Enson Inoue: Like Colby Covington too you know the way he does it, it just looks so…he’s probably a nice guy but looks like such a dick. But you still got the breath of fresh air, Demian Maia, Max Holloway, they don’t talk shit.
Chris Leben: Max is just a thug from Waianae, I remember when he was just a little kid…
Enson Inoue: Yeah. He’s awesome.
Chris Leben: He lets his hands do his talking, which I respect because I always had a little problem with talking a little mess.
Enson Inoue: Oh, really?
Chris Leben: I’ve been known to put my foot in my mouth once or twice.
Enson Inoue: But it wasn’t for show right?
Chris Leben: But you see that was the thing, that’s who I was, you know that first season of the Ultimate Fighter I peed on a kids bed and did some stuff but, where I came from, I came from the ghetto, I never had any rules at all, it was wild, it was the streets and nobody ever taught me right from wrong, I didn’t learn a lot until, I was on The Ultimate Fighter and…I learned a lot of life lessons older. Because of martial arts, it’s changed me completely…
Enson Inoue: That’s awesome.
Chris Leben: It’s humbled me…
Enson Inoue: Yes, yes.
Chris Leben: So much. The things I said in my early twenties I would never say now, I’m sure you can probably agree with that but…
Enson Inoue: I cringe at some of the stuff I hear I said and did. Ohhhhh, I don’t wanna talk about it. Change the subject.
Chris Leben: That’s why, we were talking about it earlier, martial arts is so good for everybody, you learn so much about yourself. Whether you’re putting your life on the line in the ring or the in the cage, or you’re just on the Jiu-Jitsu mat, and you’re fighting off a choke. I think everybody should have to fight a rear naked choke at one point in their life.
Enson Inoue: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Chris Leben: I think it makes them a better person.
Enson Inoue: The thing when I fought, it was, I felt I was willing to die in the ring, there’s no bullshit man, everyone can joke about it but I train like that and I fought like that. And the reason being, people can call it stupid, but the reason being, I saw myself as a man. A man is the breadwinner of the family, the one who has to defend the wife and kids…
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: And if there’s anything that happens, I felt like I was a man that had to come out in front and protect my family. So I felt though the stronger and better man that I could become is the more I can help and defend my family. And if I died in the ring doing that, I think it’s and important thing to die for. Yeah, so people think it’s such a simple thing, like how stupid of him to want to die in the ring, but it’s not just dying for the sport, it’s dying for the person I am. And as a man too, I would not want to be running out of stamina, feeling the fatigue, being in a bad situation and getting scared and tapping out, because as a man my pride would be dented there, and I wouldn’t look at myself as a real man.
Enson Inoue: And I believe to stand up, whether I call my family my kids and my wife, or my call my family the boys that I call brothers, if there was a guy that was in trouble with the Yakuza, and they were coming at him, I would stand and take the bullet or the swords or whatever they have for him. As a man, with my pride, for me not to be able to do that, I don’t know if I could live with myself. I mean in my book, my first chapter, my book is a story about that. When I was a little kid, there was an older guy that befriended me. He was about four years older than me. He used to take me and kick soccer balls at the park.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: And then there was a day, I was Manoa in school so it was real calm, American-Japanese school with a lot of Asians. And he was already in Stevenson, Roosevelt area where the Hawaiians and the…
Chris Leben: A little bit more thug down there, yeah.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, the thuggy guys come in too. At Manoa park there was a day that these three guys came in and found him, and he was a white boy, so they pick on the young haole boy.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: And they start beating him up, and they beat him up to a point where he’s on the ground and then they find dog shit and they’re putting it on his head and rubbing it in his hair. And I’m there like four years younger, I think I was like twelve or something and they were in their sixteen, seventeens. Right there, that age, I’m there looking at that, I’m thinking, oh fuck if I even say anything these guys are just gonna kick me, beat me up.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: And the fear didn’t allow me to say anything, I stood there and watched. And dude, til today it hurts. Fuck, til today it hurts.
Chris Leben: That story right there, I do see that a lot with people that are new to martial arts, that come in. A lot of my students they come in and they give you that they’re normal, but you know that deep down inside there’s something in their past that they need to overcome, and that martial arts is the psychology for it and it helps. That story was like never again for you I’m guessing.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, never again.
Chris Leben: You know and…
Enson Inoue: And that’s the reason I wanted to build who I was, I wanted to build and become a stronger man so that I would never ever do that in any situation, life or death.
Chris Leben: Right, and martial arts did that for you.
Enson Inoue: Martial arts did that for me yeah.
Chris Leben: That’s phenomenal. So you’re doing the bracelets and you’re doing seminars after your career. That’s for you, that’s to give back because martial arts gave you so much or…
Enson Inoue: Yes, yes. That’s basically all I’m doing it for.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: I’m not really thinking of…I get offers for comebacks but I’m done.
Chris Leben: You did it man, you served your time. You know what I mean.
Enson Inoue: And the rules don’t fit my style you know.
Chris Leben: No.
Enson Inoue: Enson Inoue wouldn’t be Enson Inoue if we fought in the day today because all of the stops would be stopped before I could even show who I am.
Chris Leben: Right.
Enson Inoue: The Igor fight would’ve been stopped early.
Chris Leben: I’ve seen some of those fights, some of those fights are scary to watch now. Going back and seeing them.
Enson Inoue: Hahaha, you should talk.
Chris Leben: But again, even in my day, my day was different. You were one before me, you guys were the pathfinders and then really the way I see it was you, Randy, that crew came and then that’s what I saw. I started, watching that. There was already a place for fighters in MMA, then when I came in all of a sudden there was a reality TV show.
Enson Inoue: Oh, that’s right you were on the TV show. That’s so awesome.
Chris Leben: The stars, you know. All of a sudden people knew fighters, and it just changed completely. So definitely a different thing. How many seminars are you doing? Are you doing lots are you traveling…
Enson Inoue: I do about four or five a year.
Chris Leben: Four to five a year?
Enson Inoue: Yeah.
Chris Leben: Okay. Do you go to the same places? Are you mixing it up?
Enson Inoue: No, just two of them is Pennsylvania in Berwick, that’s the one I do every year and also Toronto.
Chris Leben: Toronto.
PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:32:04]
Enson Inoue: That’s for sure.
Chris Leben: Okay.
Enson Inoue: Actually not really Toronto. From Toronto, I drive to Kingston which is about three hours away.
Chris Leben: Kingston? Okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so that’s the two that’s always set every year. It’s been three or four years in a row already.
Chris Leben: Okay. Right on.
Enson Inoue: Other than that it’s all random.
Chris Leben: Right on. Then other than that, are you active in martial arts, in the gym much?
Enson Inoue: Well no, not really.
Chris Leben: Not really?
Enson Inoue: I don’t know man. Chris, I think I got burnt out. After all the training and everything I … after I retired, I just didn’t want to do anything. Even the teaching, I was just tired of doing that, all my gyms are run by my students. I don’t know. I just felt like I was done with that chapter and moved on. The only reason why I’m back into it now and why I’m back in shape is because of my girl. She’s 20 years younger than me and she’s in that process of chasing that dream and I’m in that … where I’m done and went through all that, so it’s kind of a neat thing.
Chris Leben: Okay. So wait, we gotta hear a little more about this story. What’s going on? Tell me about your girl.
Enson Inoue: I met her in New Zealand. Because she was a fight report announcer, and when we were … I know had Te Huna, had Mark Hunt, had me and some of the local fighters, Jason Suttie, you know, those guys. She had a list of the known fighters that she had to interview, and I was just one of the guys that she had to interview. And we … I don’t know what happened. We kind of hit it off. I got her business card. We started exchanging emails and talking, and just one thing let to another. I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. I was on the hunt for just an easy thing, just enjoying my life, just no relationship. Any girl that wanted a relationship, I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to … okay, next girl.” Yeah, I was in that stage so it was real good for me ’cause I was … in the midst of … that’s right after I got arrested in Japan, went to jail for marijuana. Yeah, and then there was … had a grow going, and doing all this crazy shit. Mingling with the Yakuza a lot, I was actually a big mediator for Yakuza ’cause I … because of my fighting, they were…
Chris Leben: ‘Cause everybody knows you. Everybody in Japan knows you.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, and they all respected me. I had a real good reputation where … the man of honor. So they would come to me with problems …
Chris Leben: So you did thug arbitration?
Enson Inoue: Yeah, yeah. I did, I did. Yeah, the arbitration goes where you sit two sides down and I’m kinda like the one they’re kinda griping to, and I make a decision on what I think is right and wrong. So like I said earlier, if there’s a hundred thousand dollar problem where these guys don’t wanna pay, I recommend that they pay and so far, there’s never been a time where they said “Fuck you, Enson. You’re wrong, we don’t wanna pay.” They pay. And then this side from their thank you, give me 50%.
Chris Leben: How do you fall into this career field? I mean obviously, you’re known well, in Japan, you’re a legend, your fights, everybody’s seen, but still, that doesn’t … I mean how did you … what made them decide that you had the personality …
Enson Inoue: Well, my fight style yeah. My fight style and the things I said in the fights. I think a big thing is how deep I took the fighting, the honor and the willingness to die in the ring and I think they saw that it wasn’t just talk.
Chris Leben: They saw that level of respect.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so what happens is back in the day, we’re … every Friday, Saturday, we’re in Roppongi all night partying and that’s where all the underground people are. Going to all the plush clubs because all the owners were fans so they would let us into the VIP rooms and that’s where all those high up guys will be. And they all wanted to be friends because they … And I guess you got the fighters like Masato, which all the girls would scream for, I would walk in the arena and see Masato walk in and all the girls screaming his name, and I walk in and it’s like the girls … it’s like the boyfriends and they freaking gangsters and it’s a … at the time I was like, ahh that’s kind fucked man.
Enson Inoue: But now I realize the girl fans, they disappear when you retire but the guy fans stay with you forever. Yeah so that’s where I had that respect from those guys and then at the nightclubs, I mingled and got to know all of them and got … they all wanted to be close to me, even ’til today. So I got to be good friends with all of them and so when these guys have problems with these guys, they know I … that we all know each other.
Chris Leben: Let’s talk to Enson and he’ll straighten it out.
Enson Inoue: And they ask me yeah. And so they ask … the guys who kinda get the money from these guys, they call me, I call them and set an appointment-
Chris Leben: ‘Cause you have the mutual respect fro both of them so when he says, “We’ll agree with that, we don’t agree with you but we’ll agree with what he says”.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so I would listen to both sides and mediate.
Chris Leben: What a crazy life man, it’s-
Enson Inoue: That’s mostly what I did for a big part of my career while I was fighting too.
Chris Leben: Really? That is so … that’s so interesting to me. The road that your life took is just …
Enson Inoue: So I got some really interesting stories of all that.
Chris Leben: That is … I guarantee there is.
Enson Inoue: And of course, I’ve had run ins with them too, yeah. I’ve had run ins with them where the … they’ve disrespected me and in that world, it’s real hard because if you get disrespected and you let it happen, then you lose a lot of face. If people know that you’ve been disrespected and nothing is done, and of course with me, I had that fearful reputation where “Don’t fuck Enson over ’cause he don’t care who you are.” So I had to live by that to keep that reputation. And then of course the power of mediation. So if I got screwed over by a guy in the Yakuzas, I would have to do something about it and to a point where I think … ’til today I’ve beaten up three of them, pretty bad. Of course now the higher ups have a face to keep now. If I beat up one of their guys, they gotta come out and do something to me.
Chris Leben: There’s the order of operations, there’s always a chain of command.
Enson Inoue: But I was good, because a very simple example is a guy who kind of backstabbed me and started running from me. I caught him at a party, I knew a party he was in, I sent some of the guys to grab him out of the party, beat him up in a park and I was beating him up, because I knew where he was and the word was out that I was gonna go get him, the underworld grape vine travels real fast. So they had three-
Chris Leben: I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.
Enson Inoue: Oh really? And they had three guys coming down to the park already, higher up guys and as in the midst of the beating, they came in and they, of course had to have face and they come and aggressed me. My guys held them back and this is where it gets real fine where I got lucky where my words and my choices on what to say was perfect because I told my guys “Let them go, man.” I said “I just one thing to say to them and if they don’t like it, whatever they wanna do, I’m ready to die tonight.” And they let them go, they came up and they were all pissed like little gorillas, they came through the bushes ’cause we’re in a park, and they came right through the bushes and then they told me that … that I gotta pay for what I did and I just looked at them and said “If someone fucked you over, wouldn’t you wanna hurt them?” They said “Yeah, but look how bad …” he was still standing, but he was all bloody.
Enson Inoue: And I said “Well, if someone fucked you over and you only did 30% of what you really wanted to do, don’t you think that’s kinda nice? They said “30%? Look at him,” I said “I’ve been beating him up for 20 minutes, he’s still standing.” And the guy just right there, something clicked he was like “Oh fuck.” He said “Please don’t touch him anymore.” I said “I got my shit off.”
Chris Leben: “I could have done worse,” in other words.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, I could have done way worse, man.
Chris Leben: I was taking the percent that was warranted.
Enson Inoue: Well, I actually told them that “If I wanted to kill him, how long do you think it would have took me to kill him? Under 20 minutes?” He said “Yeah,” and I said “Well, I’ve been hitting him for 20 minutes and he’s still standing, he still can talk.” He was all fucked up in his face but it was all superficial damage. Blood comes out but it was skin deep. So those things helped … those three instances that I did, I did get aggressed by the family, but the way I … I always did things, I never did pick on anyone and I always fought back for my honor and I did things in the right way. So I think that’s what kind saved me, my approach and the way I did things yeah, so kinda lucky.
Chris Leben: Okay. So how … where did you first meet Baret (Yoshida) at?
Enson Inoue: Baret was actually a student of Egan’s and he was training in Hawaii with Grappling Unlimited.
Chris Leben: It was Grappling Unlimited ever back then? When was this?
Enson Inoue: This was about 1996, 1997.
Chris Leben: 96, Grappling Unlimited, okay.
Enson Inoue: Yeah and at the time, Baret was just another student, I didn’t really remember him at the time, train, train, train and then … Baret was one of those guys who came from Relson too. And he was the guy who always was on the mat first, leaving the gym last. Always had questions and he was always just living Jiu-Jitsu. And I remember him like that, I remember his … Even when I used to go, I used to come in from Japan and he was still at Egan’s and I used to train and go hardcore, he would be one of thee guys wanting to come and spar.
Enson Inoue: It was a big joke in the Grappling Unlimited where I would come in the gym and half the guys would get up and leave. They go “Fuck, Enson’s here” But Baret was one of the guys who stayed, in fact one of the guys who wanted to spar with me all the time. And he actually came out to Japan for a couple of years. I think that’s where he met his wife. But he came up to Japan, I put him in one of the dorms on my gym and he trained with us in Japan for a couple years.
Chris Leben: I didn’t even-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, so we created a real good bond. He calls me his instructor but to be honest about everything, I think Egan is his instructor, but I was just the guy on the side that helped him out in some spots and trained with him and when he came to Japan, I helped him out with the MMA stuff ’cause he was more pure Jiu-Jitsu then.
Chris Leben: Okay, so he was straight … he went from Relson to Egan, all Jiu-Jitsu then it wasn’t until he went to Japan that he started fighting?
Enson Inoue: I think he started training with Egan with the MMA, but then he kinda wanted to … further it and came to Japan and stayed with me in Japan.
Chris Leben: And I think … your style is definitely a little bit more MMA orientated or …
Enson Inoue: Old school.
Chris Leben: It’s very heavy, it’s very aggressive, it’s …
Enson Inoue: Yeah, not too fancy.
Chris Leben: I wouldn’t call it a competition Jiu-Jitsu, it’s like “I’m gonna smash you.”
Enson Inoue: Yeah, it’s more the weight, more the … yeah.
Chris Leben: Which I think is more applicable to …
Enson Inoue: More basics. Even the seminar’s gonna be a lot of basics yeah.
Chris Leben: Basics win fights.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, I think so.
Chris Leben: Basics work.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, basic points. People will forget a lot of the basic techniques ’cause they’re so much more flashy stuff to learn. Like us before, our day was so basic that … I’m gonna start off the seminar tomorrow with a triangle. And there’s a lot of points that you even see today on the UFC that people thinking that trying the best part of the triangle is putting the foot behind the knee, which isn’t.
Chris Leben: Right, they-
Enson Inoue: It’s just such a deceptive thing.
Chris Leben: You know what I mean, and I don’t wanna talk … but you get the … Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan obviously nowadays, he helps with all of the … here’s the crazy twister move. How many finishes from the twister have you seen? How many triangle finishes have you seen, right?
Enson Inoue: Or mount punches, yeah, or back chokes basic stuff.
Chris Leben: There’s no better than submitting somebody from punching them in the face ’cause I could … because I was able to control position. What happened to being heavy on top and just holding a good position and hitting a guy. It’s definitely something that got away …
Enson Inoue: That’s such a alpha thing, though, such a good feeling to be on top of a guy in total control and seeing that fear and that desire to quit just start formulating in his eyes, man. Isn’t that such a-
Chris Leben: Right, if I have the choice, if I’m in mount, I’m not taking the armbar. Even if I know the armbar is there, all the … I’m thinking about all the suffering I went through, all the training-
Enson Inoue: Dieting,
Chris Leben: The diet, the weight cut, I’m gonna take it out on your face, this is my chance, for sure. Well, man, that is … that was an interesting interview, that was great. You’re-
Enson Inoue: We could go on forever, man.
Chris Leben: We could, we really could.
Enson Inoue: We got some good shit to talk about.
Chris Leben: Your stories are so much, man. Too much. I’m really, really excited to have you back, really excited for the seminar tomorrow.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, me too, man.
Chris Leben: It’s an honor. Since I’ve been here at Arena, I guess it’s been at least three or four years now that I’ve been training under Baret and so … to have that lineage of having you come out, we’ve got the big … we’ve got your seminar, we’ve got promotions, we’ve got the barbecue-
Enson Inoue: Yeah, a lot of stuff going on.
Chris Leben: … it’s just a really cool, really cool, really good week man, I’m really grateful you’re here.
Enson Inoue: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Chris Leben: Thank you, thank you.
Enson Inoue: All right, always nice talking to you Chris.
PART 3 OF 3 ENDS [00:45:11]

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