‘I Had No Option But To Succeed In Martial Arts’ – How Takeru Was Pushed Toward Kickboxing Greatness
Takeru “The Natural Born Crusher” Segawa dreamed of becoming a kickboxing superstar since his childhood.
Now one of the biggest names in the sport, the 32-year-old Japanese athlete has gone further than he ever thought possible – but he isn’t done yet.
On Sunday, January 28, Takeru can claim the biggest accolade of all when he challenges “The Kicking Machine” Superlek Kiatmoo9 for the ONE Flyweight Kickboxing World Title in the main event of ONE 165 on home turf in Tokyo, Japan.
Before he meets the reigning king at the Ariake Arena, we look back at “The Natural Born Crusher’s” journey from a troubled youth to an international striking icon.
Childhood In Japan
Takeru was born and raised in Yonago City, where he lived with his parents and two sisters.
Nestled between mountains, lakes, and the Sea of Japan, the youngster had a comfortable upbringing, where he loved to spend much of his time in the great outdoors.
“I have an older sister and a younger sister. My siblings and I have been close ever since we were kids.
“I really liked to be active since I was little. I used to play around the local mountains, rivers, and the sea, surrounded by nature.”
Takeru’s father was a big fan of professional wrestling, and the pair would sit and watch matches together, but it was another sport that captured his interest.
Japan’s K-1 promotion hosted the world’s elite kickboxers in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the karate stylists that appeared at those events spurred “The Natural Born Crusher” into action.
“I had always dreamed of becoming a Kickboxing Champion when I was a child. I was watching K-1 on TV, and I saw a lot of karate practitioners, and I admired them. I thought if I did karate, maybe I could enter K-1.
“I always wanted to do kickboxing, but there were no kickboxing gyms in the neighborhood when I was a kid, so I started karate when I was in second grade.”
Trouble In High School
Takeru enjoyed his martial arts training and wanted to continue, but at that time, he didn’t know it could become a viable career.
So, when the time came to start making choices for his future, he enrolled in a high school, where he expected to prepare for a different type of path.
However, after falling in with the wrong crowd, his education got cut short:
“I always wanted to be a fighter, but I thought I couldn’t make a living only by fighting. So, I thought about what I wanted to do for a job, and I thought I could be a childcare worker, so I went to a high school that had the curriculum for that.
“I entered the high school, and I started to enjoy hanging out with friends. But I started to do bad things with my friends and got expelled after about three months.”
With his academic goals now out of the window, “The Natural Born Crusher’s” options were narrowed down to one.
Kickboxing was the only route he wanted to pursue, so his premature exit from high school crystallized his vision for the future.
Takeru reflected on that pivotal moment:
“I was expelled from school, and there was nothing left for me to do. During that time, I didn’t do martial arts, and I was just fooling around, but because I couldn’t go to high school, I felt I had no option but to succeed in martial arts, so I made up my mind.
“I found a kickboxing gym and practiced there for the first time, and I saw I could finally do what I wanted to do. I remember I felt very happy about it.
“I was hanging out with friends every night, but then I stopped because it would affect my practice. It was fun to hang out, but I had the most fun doing martial arts, so I thought it was better this way. Martial arts helped me get back on the right track.”
‘My Mindset Changed’
Now enrolled in kickboxing, boxing, and Muay Thai – building on his years of experience in karate – Takeru thrived and couldn’t get enough.
He wanted to take his game to the next level by going to Thailand to train, so he saved up money from multiple part-time jobs to pay his way.
Immersed in the culture of full-time fighters, the Yonago native was inspired to dedicate himself to professional combat:
“I saved all the money myself to go to Thailand. My mother was kind of strict. Since I was a kid, I was told that if I had something I wanted to do, I had to do it on my own – otherwise, it meant nothing.
“While I was in Japan, I used to do martial arts because I liked it, so it was more like a hobby for me. But after I went to Thailand, I found that all my teammates at the gym were doing it for a living. They were about my age and still in high school, but still, they were fighting to support their families, and it changed my view about martial arts.
“The strength of those who were making this desperate effort for their living was amazing, and I was impressed. My mindset changed, and I thought I had to be motivated in the same way. It made me decide to focus more on martial arts.”
Getting To The Top
Takeru’s single-track mind and fresh inspiration paved the way for one of the greatest kickboxing careers of this generation.
After plenty of success as an amateur, he stepped into the professional ranks, where he built an impeccable reputation on the regional circuit before realizing his dream of fighting for K-1 in 2014.
There, he dominated, defeating all comers to win titles in three weight classes during an unbeaten seven-year tenure in the organization.
With nobody left to rival him, “The Natural Born Crusher” set his sights on the world’s largest martial arts organization – and he can’t wait to tangle with the planet’s best stand-up competitors:
“ONE Championship is the organization where many champions and strong fighters from all over the world get together. Because this organization has all the strong fighters, I always wanted to fight there myself someday. I was genuinely happy when I got the contract.
“Of course, becoming the World Champion in ONE is the thing I’ve been aiming for. I want to win and dedicate it to all the fans who have supported me all those years.”