Next Friday, August 2, the Yokohama native will challenge his division’s most dominant competitor, Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, but a lifetime of training means the 26-year-old will not be fazed by the challenge he faces.
Ahead of his battle for the ultimate prize in martial arts at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, Matsushima explains his long path to potential glory, from the karate dojo as a child to the global stage as a man.
Raised Around Martial Arts
A lifetime of sacrifice, patience, and love for martial arts has Japanese phenom Koyomi Matsushima ready to take the ONE Featherweight World Title off "The Situ-Asian's" shoulders! : Manila | 2 August | 5PM | ONE: DAWN OF HEROES: Get your tickets at http://bit.ly/oneheroes19: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp : Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, July 22, 2019
Matsushima has trained for as long as he can remember thanks to parents who were mad about martial arts.
His arts story began in the family living room, where his mother and father were glued to their TV whenever combat sports were on.
“They pretty much watched all kinds of martial arts you’d see on TV, from kickboxing to shootfighting, to daido juku (kudo), to karate,” he says.
“They really just loved martial arts. Neither of them did it themselves, they were just fans of the sports. I watched it because my parents watched it, and eventually that led me to do martial arts myself.”
“Moushigo’s” parents wanted him to learn judo at first so he could practice ukemi (how to fall), but there was no school nearby.
Instead, he was sent to karate classes when he was about 4 old, and almost as soon as he walked through the dojo doors, his competitive campaign began.
“I had my first fight when I was 4 or 5,” he says.
“I had about a fight a month. In the beginning, I didn’t ever win. I cried every time I lost. I sure was upset.”
Practice And Persistence
FROM ALL ANGLES Every shot of Koyomi Matsushima's electrifying KO of former ONE World Champion Marat Gafurov! The Japanese warrior faces "Pretty Boy" Kwon Won Il this Saturday!: Shanghai | 15 June | 5PM | ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST: Get your tickets at http://bit.ly/onequest19: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp : Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, June 10, 2019
The young Matsushima’s early struggles did not turn him off from his training. He persevered and embraced the psychology of karate, as well as its physicality, to eventually find a winning formula.
“I liked that karate wasn’t just about getting strong,” he says.
“Getting a higher belt depends on a combination of memorizing kata (form) and strengthening kumite (sparring). It isn’t all about being the strongest.
“Eventually, I started winning. My body has never been that big, so being able to defeat someone bigger than me with my small body made all the practice feel worth it.”
The winning feeling stirred a desire to practice other martial arts, and once he was in elementary school, he went back to his parents’ original plan and added judo to his repertoire.
“Judo teaches you how to grapple, and gives you substance. That’s why my parents wanted me to learn it,” he says.
Koyomi Matsushima makes a HUGE splash in the featherweight division with a unanimous decision win over Pretty Boy Kwon Won Il!: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, June 15, 2019
Karate and judo gave Matsushima a strong foundation in striking and grappling, which gave him a foundation of skills to become a mixed martial artist.
However, before he committed to a career as an athlete, he considered a more ‘conventional’ profession, but that turned out to be the wrong fit for him.
“I did go to university, thinking it would be best to pursue martial arts after graduating,” he says.
“I got a scholarship to study law, but honestly, I had no intention of getting a job in that field. I can’t even imagine it.
“Both my parents wanted me to become a mixed martial artist – they brought me up that way ever since I was young. Even when I left school, they supported me. Even now, they help me out a lot. There’s no suggestion of them disapproving.”
“Moushigo” gained some experience competing in kickboxing and wrestling before he eventually made his professional mixed martial arts debut in 2015.
The Kyokushin karate black belt got off to a brilliant start as he won his first five bouts within a year by KO, and claimed a Shooto welterweight tournament title. After four more wins in the Pancrase organization, the world’s largest martial arts organization came calling.
The Highest Level
2 AUGUST. MANILA. Martin "The Situ-Asian" Nguyen vs. Koyomi Matsushima for the ONE Featherweight World Title! Jonathan Haggerty vs. Rodtang Jitmuangnon for the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title! Eduard "The Landslide" Folayang vs. Eddie Alvarez in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix semi-finals! "Mighty Mouse" Johnson vs. Tatsumitsu Wada and Danny "The King" Kingad vs. Reece "Lightning" Mclaren in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix semi-finals!: Manila | 2 August | 7PM | ONE: DAWN OF HEROES: Get your tickets at http://bit.ly/oneheroes19: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp : Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, July 15, 2019
Matsushima made joined ONE last September to test himself against the best in the world.
“Ever since I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a martial artist,” he says.
“The first time I watched ONE, I saw there a lot of strong fighters, and I felt like I wanted to be tossed around by them!”
“This would help me become better and stronger. That was the thought process behind me joining ONE.”
The Pancrase ISM Yokohama representative made an incredible first impression to become an instant World Title contender when he scored a sensational first-round TKO against former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov.
A frustrating nine months on the sidelines followed due to injury, but a win on the 26-year-old’s return to action against “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il in June cemented his status as his division’s top contender.
Now scheduled to face Nguyen for the gold, he is confident the journey that began as a small child will end in glory.
“Of course, the goal is to win that belt, because the person who holds the belt is the strongest,” he adds.
“I want to win the belt no matter what. The time has come.”
Manila | 2 August | 7PM | DAWN OF HEROES | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneheroes19