Though Ayaka Miura had to begin her martial arts career without the blessing of her mother and father, her passion and determination to succeed helped to bring them around.
Ahead of her return to action against Tiffany “No Chill” Teo at ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE this Friday, 28 February, the Japanese athlete’s parents still may not like the idea of their daughter going into battle in the Circle, but they make sure she knows they are supporting her.
The 29-year-old’s mother and father were skeptical about her training when she first started judo in high school, even though her dad was a big fan of all kinds of traditional and modern combat sports. So much so that his enthusiasm had rubbed off on Miura and influenced her interest.
Her mother wanted Miura to give it up because it was dangerous and her grandmothers on both sides also appealed for her to quit, but their pleas were in vain.
“Even though they told me to quit, they knew I wouldn’t,” Miura says.
As she grew up and got a good job at a clinic thanks to her training in a traditional Japanese form of bonesetting called sekkotsu, she encountered a mixed martial artist who came in for treatment.
Despite their injuries, Miura was intrigued and decided to expand her repertoire of skills so she could understand her patient’s sport. Her relatives were sure to be even more concerned if they knew she was going to be doing something that involved striking as well as grappling, but that did not stop her.
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“I laughed and covered it up. I kept doing martial arts!” she says.
“I was living alone, so whatever they said, I was going to do it anyway.”
The Tribe Tokyo MMA representative’s persistence paid off, and when the time came to make her professional debut, she managed to convince her mother and father she was serious about having a career as an athlete.
In fact, despite their continued reservations, they got tickets for her first match in May 2014 on a regional show renowned for developing female martial arts talent. However, taking in all the action was still a little too much for her mom to handle.
“I wanted to show them how hard I’d worked – I wanted to appeal to them that I wasn’t playing around,” she says.
“Both my parents came to my professional debut. They were both in the arena, but only my father watched – my mother looked down the whole time. She just can’t watch!”
Her mother continued to go and watch all of her matches in Japan, but she still could not bring herself to see her daughter locked in battle. She does not even like to talk about them.
Still, she has found peace with Miura’s career choice and supports her in her own way along with Miura’s father after every victory.
“They congratulate me, but when I visit home, things are as normal,” Miura explains.
“We don’t talk about martial arts much. We talk about normal everyday things. We don’t really talk about my matches.”
The same rule applies to discussions about practice sessions, during which Tribe Tokyo head coach Ryo Chonan runs a notoriously tight ship to bring the best out of his students.
“We don’t talk about training. If I did, my mother would probably be angry at Mr. Chonan,” the Tokyo native adds.
“[He] is strict, so if she saw him during training she’d probably be shocked.”
They might be shocked, but they would also surely be impressed because Miura’s hard work paid off in competition, and allowed her to build a record that took her to ONE Championship.
In her first year in the world’s largest martial arts organization, she won three bouts that took her to a ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title eliminator against Teo. Her parents may still be concerned about her wellbeing, but they are happy to see her do well.
“When I go back home they feel relieved. They’re not against martial arts now,” Miura says.
Plus, she now has their unwavering support, which they show through their words, as well as surprising little gifts that help their daughter out.
“I sometimes suddenly get a package of cold patches!” Miura adds.
“They both send digital messages, and they also write letters with words of encouragement.”