My Pride Adventure
by Nelson "DOC" Hamilton
Grappling Magazine / April 2006
My life took a detour on April 14, 1974, when I began formal training in the
martial arts. The “Do” for me began with judo and Hawaiian kenpo. Since
both of the arts and my instructor, Sensei Bill Ryusaki, are of Japanese
origin, it seemed only natural to immerse myself in all things Japanese.
I acquired a taste for sushi, udon soup, and Kirin beer. A Sony Walkman
accompanied all of my workouts. I recorded and watched every hour of the
“Shogun” series. I made a point to see any film directed by the
internationally acclaimed director, Akira Kurosawa. Such films as: Rashoman,
Seven Samurai, and Ran remain all time classics and an integral part of my
Included amongst the books I read was “Karate-Do,” the autobiography of
the “Father of Karate,” Gichin Funakoshi. I have studied the precepts of Zen
Buddhism, and was thoroughly captivated when reading the book of the
Samurai, “Hagakure.” The 970 pages comprising “Musashi”, Japans greatest
swordsman, became my friend and constant companion for many weeks. The
journeys of Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido, and, Jigoro Kano, founder of
judo, became almost as familiar to me as my own. I have to admit that I
became an unabashed, unapologetic, died-in-the-wool, Nipponphile!
Now then, you can well imagine my surprise and delight when, out of the
blue, I receive a call from Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE). They want to
know, am interested in going to Japan to judge the finals of the 2003 Pride
Gran Prix Finals? Are you kidding me? Needless to say, it was one of those
rare instances when I knew that all of the planets in the universe were
In a brief meeting, we work out the details and I accept the assignment. My
flight from Los Angeles International Airport leaves on 11/05/03 at 12:05
pm. After eleven and one-half hours flight time, three mediocre movies, two
bad meals, and a 17-hour time differential from L.A., I land at Narita Airport
at 5:10 pm on 11/06/03. After clearing Customs and Passport Control, I am
met by two very pleasant young men holding a Pride sign. They inform me
that we will leave for Tokyo just as soon as the flight of the noted trainer,
competitor, and ring official, Matt Hume, arrives from Seattle, Washington.
Approximately one hour later we board the bus for Tokyo. The distance from
the airport to Tokyo is approximately 43 miles. However, during the 6:30 pm
rush-hour traffic, it seems to be 143 miles, as it takes more than two hours
to reach our hotel. The traffic is about a bad as any I’ve ever seen!
At about 8:30 pm Matt and I finally arrive at our stay, the Rihga Royal Hotel
Tokyo. Upon entering the lobby we are directed to the Pride table where we
sign-in, are given our room keys and the schedule for the next couple of
We decide to drop the luggage in our rooms and go eat. However, before we
get to the elevator we run into some of the studs from Team Quest: Dan
Henderson, Randy Couture, Nate Quarry, and Heath Simms. They are going
to workout and urge us to join them. The six of us jump into two cabs, give
the driver an address and head into the night. About 20 minutes later we
arrive at a non-descript building housing a number of empty rooms, except
for the wrestling matted floors. Since he’s fighting, Hondo Henderson goes
round robin for the next couple of hours with his crew and Matt. Since
someone had to keep time, I volunteered.
After a spirited workout, we walk to a pasta and salad restaurant known to
Hondo. We are all famished and eat like there is no tomorrow. The
camaraderie is great! We decide to walk back to the hotel to burn off some of
the meal. After a good 45-minute walk we are in the hotel. It is 2:00am local
time and I have been awake for over 24 hours. As soon as I unpack I’ll be in
bed, tomorrow is another day and I can hardly wait.
To Be Continued…
©2006-2008 REFS: Ring Experienced Fight Specialists.