Lucha libre, Mexican pro wrestling, comes to Chuo

Mr. Shimizu, host of the event, speaks of its charm



Mototsugu Shimizu talks about lucha libre during an interview with Hakumon Herald.
Mototsugu Shimizu talks about lucha libre during an interview with Hakumon Herald.

A lucha libre match is to be fought at the square outside the library of Chuo University’s Tama campus during lunch break on Nov. 29. A kind of pro wrestling, it is one of the most popular sports in Mexico. It is loved by Mexican people so much that almost every town in the country has its own ring.


The event is being prepared for Chuo’s International Week on Mexico by ”Secret Base,” a Japanese pro wrestling organization headed by Mototsugu Shimizu. He had lucha libre training in Mexico and has a license of “luchador” (meaning a male wrestler in Spanish). Since returning home, he has been performing skills unique to the Mexican sport at various locations across Japan.


 Hiroshi Sakamoto, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Economics who has helped organize the event said, “I thought it would be wonderful if Chuo students could get in touch with Mexican culture and enjoy it. We will open the ring to them after the match to let them have some unusual experiences.” He added that they will be served torta, a Mexican hot sandwich, so that they can enjoy the match in the same way as locals do.


 Shimizu told of some highlights of lucha libre during an interview with Hakumon Herald. “Lucha libre wrestlers prioritize elements of entertainment in addition to fighting. I say you mustn’t miss out the floridness with which they fight a match. You will be surprised at their acrobatic performances, too.” The event will be a must-see for any people who want to feel a real Mexican atmosphere no matter whether they have or have not ever watched a pro wrestling match.


  Hakumon Herald asked Shimizu about his training in Mexico and the charm of lucha libre during the interview.




In pursuit of skills to make up for bodily smallness



Shimizu poses for a photo in his ring costume.
Shimizu poses for a photo in his ring costume.

-Why did you go to Mexico to get training?



Shimizu: When I took an interest in pro wrestling, being tall and burly like Antonio Inoki was vitally necessary to be a wrestler. The door to that world was virtually shut to small persons like me. However, what changed that was the debut of Ultimo Dragon (a Japanese wrestler whose real name is Yoshihiro Asai), my mentor in lucha libre. He was struggling with his tiny body, too. Then, he decided to take on a challenge at the world of lucha libre where bodily smallness is not much of handicap. After his hard training in Mexico, he made a success as a lucha libre wrestler. Upon returning home, he brought a tremendous change to the Japanese pro wrestling world. He overwhelmed his bigger opponents with his vivid performances and submission holds called jave in Spanish which he had acquired in Mexico. I was encouraged by his great success and made up my mind to get lucha libre training in Mexico.

清水 私がプロレスに興味を持ち始めたころは、アントニオ猪木選手に代表されるように、背が高く大きな体を持つことがプロレスラーには必須の要素でした。体の小さな私ではその世界に挑戦さえできなかったのです。しかし、これを変えたのが私の師匠であるウルティモ・ドラゴン選手(日本人レスラー、本名浅井嘉浩)の登場です。ウルティモ選手も私と同じく体の小ささに悩んでいました。そこで彼は「にならないルチャリブレの世界に挑戦したのです。ルチャリブレで成功を収めた彼は帰国後、日本のプロレス界を大きく変えました。メキシコ仕込みの派手な演出、ジャベと呼ばれるルチャリブレ独特の関節技で体の大きなレスラーを圧倒します。彼の登場は私を鼓舞し、メキシコ修業を決意するきっかけとなりました。


  -You experienced a lot of hardships while getting trained in Mexico, didn’t you?



Shimizu: In Mexico, I entered “Toryumon”, the lucha libre gym set up for Japanese wrestlers by Ultimo Dragon. It took some time for me to get used to the environment at a higher altitude where the gym is located. But I could spend fruitful days with cheerful Mexican people who didn’t treat me unfairly because of the language barrier. By the way, I was given a harsh lesson of a “hundred-time karate chop” during my debut match in Mexico. That was really a bitter memory for me.

清水 メキシコではウルティモ・ドラゴン選手が設立した、日本人向けのルチャリブレ養成所「闘龍門」に入会しました。滞在地が高地だったことで、最初はその環境になれず苦労しました。しかし、言語の違いで不公平に扱われることもなく、陽気なメキシコ人と充実した日々を過ごせました。修業を終え、ルチャリブレデビューの際に100発チョップを体験したことは苦い思い出です。


Shimizu delivers a submission hold to his opponent.
Shimizu delivers a submission hold to his opponent.

-What is that?



Shimizu: I was told to stand for the pain of a hundred chops to get psyched now that I was entering the ring to make my debut as a pro wrestler. Well, I had to experience that just because I belonged to a gym run by a Japanese. My Mexican friends gazed at my red and swollen chest and laughed at me saying, “You got hustled too much.”



清水 プロの選手としてリングに上がるのだから気合を入れる必要がある、という理由で経験しました。これは日本人経営のジムだったからの経験です。真っ赤に腫れた私の胸を見たメキシコ人は「気合を入れすぎだ」と笑っていました。

Bringing charm of lucha libre to Japan



 Shimizu poses with a copy of Hakomon Herald in hands.
Shimizu poses with a copy of Hakomon Herald in hands.

 -What do you think are the differences between Japanese pro wrestling and Mexican lucha libre?



Shimizu: One of the characteristics of lucha libre is that it is a part of Mexican people’s daily life. Another feature is the wrestlers’ strong awareness of the feverish excitement on the part of audiences. They show off their flaring skills and techniques to enthuse the audiences. While some audiences watch their performances enthusiastically, others just enjoy themselves eating and drinking with their family members and friends. Mexican people freely enjoy watching lucha libre matches. Meanwhile, as for Japanese pro wrestling, there is an atmosphere where only hardcore fans come to watch it. I think those are the differences between Japanese pro wrestling and Mexican lucha libre.

清水 プロレスが日常生活に溶け込んでいるというのはメキシコ特有ですね。観客の熱狂を特に意識するのがルチャリブレの特徴で、観客を楽しませるために、レスラーは派手な技を披露します。熱狂的に試合を観戦するお客さんがいる一方で、飲み物や食事を片手に家族と友達とゆっくり楽しむ人もいます。彼らはルチャリブレを自由に楽しんでいます。一方、日本のプロレスには熱狂的なファンだけが観戦するような雰囲気があります。そこが日本とメキシコの違いだと思います。


  -Can you give some comment on the upcoming lucha libre match at Chuo?



Shimizu: Wrestlers full of Mexican spirits will fight in real earnest. I do hope that those who have not watched pro wrestling and students who wish to feel a Mexican atmosphere will come and see their performance. I bet they will enjoy something quite extraordinary.

清水 メキシカンス・ピリッツにあふれたレスラーが本気で戦います。プロレスを見たことのない人に限らず、メキシコの雰囲気を感じたい学生のみなさんは是非見に来てください。非日常を楽しめますよ。


  -Thank you.



(Interviewed by: Hideki Kato)(聞き手:加藤英樹)