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Old 31st March 2005, 12:16 AM   #1
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Default Training MMA in Japan (Part 1) by Hody Jae Huh

Training MMA in Japan I
by Hody Jae Huh. Moderator at

Click here for entire Training MMA in Japan article.

Ever since the first UFC, martial artists and fans have been drawn to the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Suddenly over night grappling submission arts had an influx of new students.

The following information is based on my personal experience in Osaka, Japan (while training Shooto and BJJ for the last couple of years). First off, I don’t recommend that everyone leave their home countries to train in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, Japan is a great place to train, but when you consider costs, culture, and various other factors, you might want to stay where you are, or simply move to a major location where access to MMA is plentiful. IE. California.

Here’s some information that you might find useful if you decide to come to Japan. The information is for those planning on living and training in Japan for an extended period of time. However, those planning short-term stays, might also benefit from this information as well.

First check with your local embassy to see how long your Tourist Visa is good for. If your country has a Working Holiday Visa, you might want to consider getting this before coming to Japan. I believe Canadians and Australians can get a Working Holiday Visa but Americans cannot (we get a 3 month Tourist Visa).

1. Student Visa/Cultural Visa
It is possible to get this kind of Visa if you plan on studying Japanese culture, which includes martial arts. However, I believe this is restricted to traditional Japanese martial arts like Judo and Karate and not MMA styles/organizations like Shooto or Pancrease.

I don’t know too much about this kind of Visa, so you will have to do your own research if you’re considering this route. I was told by one of my friends that you will have to file a lot of paper work (in Japanese of course) and will need a dojo (gym) and teacher (in Japan) to sponsor you. I believe that this Visa is only good for one year and has certain restrictions on working.

2. Tourist Visa
For the most part, this Visa is generally the easiest to obtain, length of stay varies from each country so check with your local embassy. If you arrive on this Visa, you cannot work legally. Most people arrive on a Tourist Visa, find a job, and get a Working Visa.

3. Working Holiday Visa
If your country has this arrangement with Japan, you can arrive in Japan and land a job pretty easily and start working. This Visa is arranged (I believe through the Japanese embassy in your home country) prior to your departure to Japan.

4. Working Visa
If your country doesn’t have a Working Holiday Visa in Japan (IE...The US) then you will have to get one. You can only get a Working Visa after you have secured a job and filed all the appropriate paper work. You can either get a job before coming to Japan, or you can arrive here on a Tourist Visa, and then go job hunting, and hopefully land a job and start the paper work for the Working Visa.

Financially speaking, landing the job before you come to Japan will be easier on your wallet, but competition is higher. In addition, due to the economy, many companies are recruiting domestically and have reduced their overseas recruitments.

So you’ve come here on your Tourist Visa and you need to get a job. I’m assuming that most of you are not rich – and even if you are, you’ll quickly find out that Japan is very expensive. A few years ago I was reading Forbes magazine and they rated Tokyo and Osaka (Most MMA gyms are going to be located in Tokyo or Kansai area, which includes Osaka) the first and second most expensive cities in the world to live.

Most foreigners work either as an English teacher, bar staff, hostess, or stripper.

The following is just general information. There are plenty of good sites on the Internet that covers working in Japan and where to look to get a job. Spend some time researching and you’ll come up with the information that you need.

1. English teacher
You’ll need a 4-year University degree. Your major and what University you attended is not important, so long as you have your original graduation diploma with the affixed seal with you. If you do not have at least a 4-year University degree, you will not be given a Working Visa. It will take 1-3 months to process the paper work for your Visa, after you have found a job and your company has submitted their documents. Then you will have to fly out of Japan and submit your paper work to the Japanese embassy in the country you are flying to. Most people fly to Korea since it’s close by and cheap. You’ll probably stay 1-2 days there to process your paper work. This alone will set you back over $300.00 (to Korea) for a round-trip flight, a departure tax at the airport (around $25.00), hotel accommodations, and etc. All of which is at your expense. I haven’t heard of anyone whose company paid or reimbursed them.

If you’re lucky enough to have a Working Holiday Visa or valid Working Visa, you can hit the ground running. As soon as you land in Japan and find a job, you can legally work. You won’t have to fly out of the country, as you will already have a valid Visa. This will also be to your advantage, since you will be able to start work immediately, whereas someone who is on a Tourist Visa cannot legally work until they have been approved for a Working Visa.

It’s not necessary to have experience teaching English. However, if you do, it will definitely help you. If you have a Masters Degree in teaching, this will open-up more doors and command you a higher salary.

I have heard of people landing jobs with fake University degrees – the kind that you can buy off the Internet. If you decide to do this, it’s at your own risk. I don’t know if criminal charges could be filed, but I assume that you would at least be deported.

When figuring out your finances, consider the following: the time it will take you to actually find a job, the 1-3 months of down-time while waiting for your Visa to get processed, the flight and processing fees to fly in and out of Japan, and the one month that you will have to wait before you even see your first pay check (which may or may not be a full months paycheck, depending on the pay cycle and when you start). Not to mention your living expenses, food, entertainment, and misc. expenses. I personally don’t recommend coming to Japan unless you have at least $3000.00 with you.

2. Bar staff
While waiting for their Visa to get processed, most people work as bar staff (bar tenders and clean-up people). These jobs are usually easy to come by and sometimes pay in cash at the end of your shift. However, if your planning to train in MMA, this will be difficult due to the life style and working hours. Technically you would be working illegally since you are still on your Tourist Visa. However, some people also continue working after they get their Working Visa as a means to supplement their income for the first 1-2 months. I’m not sure whether or not it is legal to work as a bar staff after you have obtained your Working Visa. Technically your Working Visa is for teaching English.

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Old 31st March 2005, 12:17 AM   #2
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3. Hostess/host and stripper
These jobs usually pay in cash. However, there¡¦s not a big demand for men in these jobs. Hosts and hostess are basically people who entertain Japanese business men/women while they drink. You drink with them, sometimes singing karaoke, and pretend to feign interest in their stories. The bar you work at charges the customers an outrageous price for your company and jacked-up prices on alcohol and food. Sometimes the bar will give you a kick-back on drinks. The more drinks a customer buys you, the higher your commission is on those drinks. In some cases, you might go on a date with the customer before coming to the bar/club. Again, the customer pays for your company like going to dinner, sight seeing, and etc.

In theory, both a host and hostess are simply entertainers or paid drinking buddies. I have heard of some people who cross the line into prostitution, but that was by choice. I¡¦m sure that there are also cases where people are forced to prostitute themselves, so caution and common sense is the rule.

Many people I know (mostly girls) that go into this business become wrapped-up in it. They become prima donna¡¦s. They are making good money, having gifts bought for them, dinners paid for, being ogled every night by various men, propositioned, and etc. In short, the nicest down-to-earth girls become bitches after a month of working as a hostess. Keep this in mind if you are planning to come to Japan with your wife/girlfriend. Not to mention that their working hours begin at night and end at the wee hours of the morning.

These types of businesses are usually affiliated or run by the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia ¡V the guys with the body tattoos and missing fingers) and are even frequented by them, depending on which bar/club you work at.

Obviously they speak Japanese in Japan, however, if you¡¦re a native English speaker than you are in luck. In the major cities where MMA gyms are located, you will find most signs in Japanese and English.

English is a mandatory subject for Japanese students, but that does not mean all Japanese are good at English. When I was a student, I had to take science and math classes, but that doesn¡¦t qualify me to work at N.A.S.A.

It goes without saying, if you know Japanese; your life will be much easier. However, you can survive in Japan without knowing too much Japanese, provided you befriend someone who can occasionally translate for you.

For those of you with friends who cannot speak English well but want to train in Japan. I highly recommend they either improve their English or learn Japanese. It will simply make their life in Japan easier.

For the most part, Japanese are very friendly people and like foreigners. You will become a kind of celebrity at first. People will want to talk to you, stare, and some might even giggle. At times this will be cute and other times it will be annoying. Everyone I know has millions of good stories and just as many bad ones too.

You will find your experience in Japan and MMA training more enjoyable if your open-minded and can go with the flow. If not, I recommend you stay in your home country. There are always people (foreigners) who give the rest of us a bad name. I¡¦ve seen hundreds of foreigners here in Japan making an ass of them selves, both drunk and sober, simply due to the fact that they are in Japan. I seriously doubt that they would act this way in their home countries. Have fun and enjoy yourself but remember that you are a guest in this country and should act accordingly.

A bit of research on the Internet will help better prepare you for your awaiting culture shock. Some things will be good while others not. It¡¦s a matter of your perspective. Just remember, you chose to come to Japan and can always return home if you hate it.

Not in any particular order.

1. Prescription medication. If this applies to you, bring enough to hold you over for a month or two, until you get settled and get a feel for Japan. I don¡¦t take prescription meds. so I have no idea how easy or difficult it is to get in Japan.

2. Condoms. All joking aside, condoms are more expensive in Japan and your favorite brands might not be available here. It¡¦s best to play it safe and bring a nice stash of condoms. Last time I went home, I literally bought all the condoms in the store and had a ridiculous amount of condoms that I thought would last me several years. Luckily I was able to use all of them within a year. ƒº I hope all of you have the same kind of luck! ƒº

3. Tampons. Obviously applies to women, unless your some kind of sick weirdo. I have never had to shop for tampons in Japan, but I was told by an x-girlfriend that their tampons aren¡¦t as good as the ones in the States. She told me she was a heavy bleeder and the ones from the States were more absorbent, so I always had to buy her a bunch when I went home for vacations (how embarrassing is that!?) That was way more information than I needed to know! She also said the reason might be due to the fact that pads are more popular here.

4. Deodorant. Japanese tend to use really weak deodorant or no deodorant at all (yet most Japanese don¡¦t smell as bad as most Westerners). Depending on where you live and what shops around you cater to foreigners, you might be able to find some brands you like, but you¡¦ll probably pay a lot more than you did back home. Best to buy a nice bulk of them and bring them with you. After all, it¡¦s not like you won¡¦t use them eventually.

5. VISA/Debit card. This is a must! Until you land a job with a legal working VISA, you won¡¦t be allowed to open a Japanese bank account. You will probably spend the cash you brought with you faster than you think and have to tap into your account back home. It also might be a good idea, since you will not know what kind of accommodations you¡¦ll have, when you first arrive to Japan. It might be difficult to secure your cash in a safe location until you¡¦re able to open the Japanese bank account.

I used my debit card to withdraw directly from my checking account back home, VIA an international ATM. With the current exchange rate I got a good deal. The transaction fee was only like $1.75, per transaction, at my bank back in the States.

For those of you that have Citibank in the States. There is a Citibank in Japan, but it¡¦s set-up differently. I¡¦m not a member so I don¡¦t know the specifics, but a friend told me that they have no real banking relationship. Therefore, transferring and accessing funds might be expensive. If this applies to you, you should call Citibank and find out more about this before coming to Japan.

6. Vitamin and Supplements. You should bring enough to hold you over for the first couple of months. Of course there are Vitamins and Supplements in Japan but they tend to be expensive and the information is written in Japanese. You might be able to find some good deals eventually or even switch to Japanese brands, but in the mean time, its good to have products you know and trust. You can always buy stuff off the Internet, but then you have to deal with International shipping rates and if your total exceeds a certain amount ¡V you will have to pay an import tax. I think I had to pay around 30% one time when I bought some stuff that totaled around $130.00

Common sense is the rule, and if you don¡¦t have any, you shouldn¡¦t be allowed to come to Japan, much less leave your house. Make sure your stuff is legal and don¡¦t even think about bringing illegal drugs. Explicit pornography is also illegal to bring into Japan. Even though Japan is rampant with porn, all the legal porn has mosaics (the annoying blurry spots over the lower genitals). Trying to sneak in your favorite magazine or video might cause you some problems with Japanese Custom Authorities. I¡¦m not saying it¡¦s impossible, but given the current world climate and increased security checks ¡V why risk it, especially if you plan on coming here to train. Check with the Japanese Embassy in your home country to get a list of prohibited items.

Japan has very strict laws, especially when it comes to illegal drugs. Japan has an unheard of 99% criminal conviction rate (according to last years National Police Association stats). I¡¦ll let you speculate on why that number is so high. Let¡¦s just say, ¡§Guilty until proven innocent, and good luck with that.¡¨

You can threaten to call a lawyer, your Embassy, or whoever ¡V but it won¡¦t do any good. The laws and protections that you are afforded back home DO NOT apply here in Japan. Being a foreigner does not afford you any special rights here in Japan, unless you have some kind of diplomatic connections, and even then ¡V they better be pretty high up

Basically, if you have no intentions of doing anything illegal, you will be ok. Japan is an extremely safe country. Little kids ride public transportation alone at all hours and women can walk freely at night. As with any country, there are some dangerous areas and crime does occur. Overall though, if you use common sense, you will find Japan a pretty safe place to live.

This wraps up the first installment of Training MMA in Japan. Please check out the next installment in Issue #4. I¡¦ll be covering information on finding a gym, gym etiquette, helpful culture tips, and more information regarding training MMA in Japan. This will also include detailed information for those of you with aspirations of becoming pro fighters, especially in Shooto.

I hope you found this article useful. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know.

Hody Jae Huh

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Old 31st March 2005, 02:13 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by edouble
Last time I went home, I literally bought all the condoms in the store and had a ridiculous amount of condoms that I thought would last me several years. Luckily I was able to use all of them within a year. ļ I hope all of you have the same kind of luck!
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Old 1st April 2005, 11:57 AM   #4
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Great read.
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Old 1st April 2005, 02:35 PM   #5
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Interesting read.
If you are good with computers degrees are easy.
and if you really need drugs, just buy them here.
" I knew that Musashi couldnt hurt me so I turned up for the fans and K-1." Ray Sefo
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Old 24th May 2005, 11:15 PM   #6
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Great Read.
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Old 21st May 2008, 06:22 AM   #7
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How fast does the $3000 that you recommend bringing go?
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Old 21st May 2008, 06:29 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Ba Bu View Post
How fast does the $3000 that you recommend bringing go?
That will largely depend on how you want to live your life here, where you want to live, and what you will be doing (hobby/work).

Give me some general thoughts of those things and I can give you a ballpark..
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Old 21st May 2008, 11:21 PM   #9
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What if I wanted to come and spend two weeks there training. That would be ridiculously expensive I'm guessing?
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Old 3rd June 2008, 02:45 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ba Bu View Post
What if I wanted to come and spend two weeks there training. That would be ridiculously expensive I'm guessing?
Japan is really no more expensive than visiting Manhattan, San Francisco or Los Angelas. Although the current exchange rate isn't in your favor right now.
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