Features

'The Gentle Way' Has Guided Yoshihiro Akiyama To Superstardom

June 07, 2019

A lifetime in judo forged Yoshihiro “Sexy Yama” Akiyama into an elite competitor and a better man.

The Japanese-Korean hero, who will make his ONE Championship debut against Agilan Thani at ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST next Saturday, 15 June, says he already feels at home in The Home Of Martial Arts because of the principles he shares with the organization.

Expect fireworks when Malaysian sensation Agilan Thani welcomes Japanese icon Yoshihiro Akiyama to the global stage on 15 June!

WELTERWEIGHT WAR Expect fireworks when Malaysian sensation Agilan "Alligator" Thani welcomes Japanese icon Yoshihiro Akiyama to the global stage on 15 June!: 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 3, 2019

Through his time as a world-class judoka, he learned that a martial artist’s conduct away from the mats and the ring is just as important as their ability in competition, so he chose to take on the final challenges of his career on a platform that embodies the same moral code.

“I think the intention and sentiment behind ONE Championship is connected to Budō [the martial way],” says Akiyama.

“I think it is an organization that values the fundamentals, such as manners and respect for your opponent. These are things I learned through judo, and I think ONE Championship and I have a lot in common.

“Sexy Yama” began his life in martial arts at the age of 3 when his father – a lifelong practitioner – took him to the dojo.

As he grew older, he started to take practice more seriously and thrived on the mats. He loved the physical and technical aspects of the sport, but the values he was taught impacted his life more than anything.

“Of course, I love competing, but what really drew me to judo was the etiquette involved,” he explains.

“I learned a lot from that. I think that’s the most appealing aspect of judo.”

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Japanese icon Yoshihiro Akiyama doesn't limit his challenges. He challenges his limits! : 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 Friday, May 31, 2019

The 43-year-old was a phenomenal competitor, and his discipline in the dojo paid dividends as he collected a myriad of titles and positioned himself as one of the very best competitors in the world.

In 2001, Akiyama won gold medals at the prestigious Kodokan Cup and the Asian Judo Championships, and in 2002 he added to his impressive medal tally with golds at the Jigoro Kano Cup, the Tournoi De Paris, and the Asian Games.

In 2003, he won the All-Japan Championships with a victory over Olympic gold medallist Kenzo Nakamura, and earned a spot on the Japanese team at the World Judo Championships, where he placed in the top five.

“I wanted to know how good I could be, and challenged myself to see how far I could go with it,” Akiyama recalls.

“Although I’ve won a lot in judo, the most meaningful wins were from the World Judo Championships.”

In 2004, “Sexy Yama” made the switch to mixed martial arts. The base of skill and athleticism he had built through his life studying “the gentle way” set him in good stead, and he quickly became a K-1 HERO’S Grand Prix Champion.

His clinch skills, throws, and submission prowess provided the foundations for his success, and remain a key part of his arsenal as he returns to action at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China.

Two-sport ONE World Champion Stamp Fairtex defends her ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Title against Australia's hottest striking sensation, Alma Juniku! Plus, the ONE debut of martial arts superstar Yoshihiro "Sexy Yama" Akiyama!

15 JUNE IN SHANGHAI! Two-sport ONE World Champion Stamp Fairtex defends her ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Title against Australia's hottest striking sensation, Alma Juniku! Plus, the ONE debut of martial arts superstar Yoshihiro "Sexy Yama" Akiyama!: 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

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“The importance of judo to a mixed martial arts fighter is evident by watching my fighting style,” says Akiyama.

“The technique of being able to throw or knock down an opponent is a necessary technique, so I think judo is very important for mixed martial arts.”

However, the 43-year-old’s grappling skills are not solely responsible for making him an international icon of his sport. The striking skills he picked up along the way and his fearless approach under the lights have earned him a legion of fans.

Now, after a layoff of almost four years, he is ready to display his warrior spirit on the global stage for martial arts. Fueled by a fresh drive to compete and reach a new audience, he hopes to inspire the next generation to enter the dojo and find fulfillment for themselves like he has.

“Martial arts is about being stronger, being gentle and kind to others,” states Akiyama.

“This is my principle. It’s been important for me so far, and it will be the same in the future, too.”

Shanghai | 15 June | 4:45PM | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onequest19