Music Monday: The Soundtrack To Shoko Sato’s Life

Japanese mixed martial artist Shoko Sato heads to the ring

Shoko Sato has produced near-flawless performances during his tenure in ONE Championship, but that is because he works hard and trains hard.

However, in order for the 32-year-old to train hard, he needs to have the right music.

The Shooto Bantamweight World Champion handpicks all the songs that are played at his gym, “Fight Base Toritsudai,” where he prepares for his bouts and teaches classes to eager students. So, in a way, you could call him a ‘house DJ.’

In this edition of #MusicMonday, the man from Tokyo, Japan reveals the songs that have inspired him throughout the course of his life.

The Soundtrack To My Youth

Sato has been a rap music aficionado ever since he was a teenager, and one Detroit emcee, in particular, had a big impact on him.

“I think I started listening to hip-hop because of my friends and my older brother’s influence. I used to listen to both English and Japanese hip-hop a lot when I was a high school kid. I listened to all of the songs by Eminem. 50 Cent and 2Pac were also my favorites,” he explains.

“Eminem is just simply cool. He is my idol. I went to watch 8 Mile (the movie with autobiographical elements from Eminem’s life) in a movie theater. I talked about the movie with my friends at school, such as the first scene – the one where Eminem tried to concentrate in the bathroom before a rap battle.”

Unlike his idol, however, Sato is not the type of guy who does special rituals before a big event. 

“I try not to turn my switch on,” he continues. “I try to remain calm as usual because if I turn my switch on, I cannot perform in a calm manner. My objective is to be calmer than my opponents.”

The Songs That Motivate Me To Train

Sato’s tactic is always “to be calmer than his opponents.” That’s why he doesn’t listen to music right before stepping inside the Circle.

However, it is a completely different story when the Shooto Bantamweight World Champion is training for his matches.

“I don’t listen to music before bouts. I will get nervous if I do. But when I am training, I use music to control my mind. Even when I cannot move because of fatigue, the music pushes me,” he explains.

“I play The Chemical Brothers and Madonna a lot at my gym. Many of their songs make me feel motivated. I use Spotify for playing music while I warm up and spar. Sometimes, when it plays a song that I’m not in the mood to listen to, I’ll skip the track.

“I play Madonna’s songs, from her early works to the most recent ones, like ‘Die Another Day’  and ‘Hang up.’ 

“Also, The Chemical Brothers’ songs uplift me. For example, ‘Star Guitar’ and ‘Go,’ I knew them from back in high school. At that time, I was not hooked on those songs, but recently, since around five years ago, I came to change my musical tastes.”

The Songs That Cheer Me Up

Whenever Sato feels down, there is only one style of music that can turn his mood around in an instant.

“I normally listen to slow tempo music when I want to cheer myself up,” he says.

“Lately, I’ve been listening to Al Green and Bill Withers, who recently passed away. I used Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’ as background music when I made a speech for my friend’s wedding. The lyrics are, ’Lean on me, when you’re not strong,’ so I thought this was a good wedding song.

“Somehow, I have a lot of experience with being saved by love songs. Al Green sings, ‘Let’s stay together, loving you whether, whether times are good or bad,’ in ‘Let’s Stay Together.’

“But whether it is a love song lyric or not, the song itself is so soothing and it comforts me. I think the definition of ‘love’ in those songs is broader [than the sense of just ‘love’ between couples].”

The Song That Relaxes Me

One of the mixed martial artist‘s favorite songs to wind down to from a long day of training is “Circus Night” by Tavito Nanao.

“Tavito Nanao is really good,” he says, excitedly. “I like his acoustic songs.”

But now, there is another reason why he really likes the Japanese singer-songwriter.

“The other day, I liked his Twitter post and he followed me back,” Sato adds. “I bragged a lot to my friends about that.”

My Favorite Walkout Song

Sato uses an edited version of “Jonetsu Tairiku” (which literally means “Continent Passion”) for his walkout song.

The pulsating track, which is known for its dramatic violin melody, is the theme music of a Japanese television documentary series of the same name.

Every week, the series features new episodes covering the daily lives of top professionals from various fields, including sports, music, academia, and agriculture.

“The documentary series deals with the daily lives of first-class experts. I remember being inspired by this series and the song,” he reveals.

“As far as I can remember, not many mixed martial artists have made an appearance on this show. It would be nice if I could get featured one day, but I need to build up my career to be worthy for [a spot on] that series.”

Read more: ONE Championship Unveils First Official Athlete Rankings

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