PRIDE 1 (Part 2)
"I want to show that the seed that the Japanese planted in Brazil has borne fruit", was Renzo's declaration to Japanese TV before the fight, in a respectful tone that permeated his attitude throughout the combat.
His opponent was Akira Shoji, a promising young fighter at the beginning of his career in major tournaments. For Shoji, facing the unbeatable Gracie, considered one of the most dangerous MMA fighters in activity, would be the opportunity of a lifetime.
(It should be noted that after this match Shoji had a prolific career, having fought 36 times (23 fights for the PRIDE organization), becoming a star and a favorite of the Japanese public, which earned him the nickname “Mr Pride”.)
As for the fight: there were no spectacular throws. There was no knockout or submission. What happened was a high-level technical clash, in which Renzo sought to apply his vast repertoire of submission procedures, without, however, achieving full effectiveness.
It can be said that Renzo dominated the fight, as some experts claimed. But the fact is that his submission attempts were blocked by Shoji, who spent most of his time disarming the Brazilian's attacks.
Furthermore, for the first time in his career of short fights and impactful knockouts or submissions, Renzo faced a long and psychologically interminable fight: there were 3 exhausting rounds of 10 minutes each, and the absence of judges to count the points resulted in a declaration of a draw.
(This is how PRIDE worked in its beginnings: without judges, either one of the fighters won the fight by knockout or submission, or the battle was declared without a winner.)
Apart from the fact that the presence of judges could have declared Renzo the winner on points, the concept of a draw was well applied in this case: having both fighters the martial arts in their DNA, Renzo and Shoji remained evenly matched during the confrontation, in an almost absolute balance of forces.
So, watching the ring that October night in Tokyo was like witnessing the physical translation of the Tao principle: yin and yang, opposing and at the same time similar forces, opposition and complementarity, in a game of transmission and transformation of energy in perpetual balance.
Symbolically, Akira Shoji was not a man, but Japan itself. The incarnate tradition. And that perhaps represented something untouchable in Renzo's unconscious – an archetype that couldn't, or rather: that shouldn't be defeated, at least not at that point in his life.
"My opponent is my teacher, my ego is my enemy," Renzo said after the fight, in a statement that echoed Chinese philosopher Confucius and the doctrine of Zen. And that is why it is possible to say that that draw had the value of a strange victory: something crucial had been understood there, a foundation that Renzo would pass on to his students throughout his trajectory as a teacher. And it was necessary to go back to the origins, to the homeland of Jiu-Jitsu, to understand it.