SFM Interview –
Text and Photo by Mark Buckton
|worst thing would have
been losing the war, and at its worst houses and cars were destroyed
everywhere, people were dead and people had to live in small rooms.
Whole families in small rooms (gesturing to indicate a similar size to
his own room – approximately 2.5m x 3.5m).
MB – At what age did you start training for amateur wrestling and when did you win the European Junior Championship?
K – Eleven - no ten, but then I moved to Tbilisi with all the trouble. Eh, Euro Champ, I don’t remember – maybe ‘99, 2000, maybe ‘99? I don’t recall.
MB - You gave up amateur wrestling due to a rule change that limited your weight to less than 120 kg and you were already over 130 kg, but how did you find your way into sumo?
K – I thought I could lose the weight to continue in wrestling, but then if I did I couldn’t join sumo. If I wanted to join sumo I was at a good weight so (there was) no point in losing weight. At that time no-one understood sumo so when I saw it on Eurosport I thought ‘ah, that’s sumo is it?’
MB - Georgia’s Levan Ebanoidze (widely respected figure in amateur sumo circles) is reported
Kokkai, the Georgian shin- komusubi, was kind enough to sit for a lengthy interview with SFM's Editor-in-Chief recently. |
Taking almost an hour, the interview was conducted in Japanese in the sekitori's private room in Oitekaze-beya just to the north of Tokyo where, joined by one of the sekitori's tsukebito, the pair covered such topics as war in Kokkai's homeland, his ideal fighting weight and even his taste in music - plus a great many other subjects in between.
MB – Sekitori, you’ve won a yusho at each level except jonokuchi and makunouchi and have the experience and confidence to compete with the higher rank rikishi now. To that end, what are your next goals regarding sanyaku, attaining the rank of ozeki, or even the yusho?
K – I haven’t won the jonokuchi or makuuchi yusho, and as I am in sanyaku I do want to win the yusho of course, but my main aim now is to get rid of my bad habits from wrestling. That’s my main goal now. After that I can start
|thinking about the yusho.
MB - You were born on March 10, 1981 in Sukhumi (a town facing the Black Sea). What was the place like and what sports did you play when you were small? Any wrestling?
K – As a kid, my house was close to the sea. It was so beautiful and I enjoyed swimming in the sea. It was really nice until the war started. I enjoyed swimming, and after that, wrestling until I moved to Tbilisi a year later. For the six or seven years thereafter, it was all wrestling.
MB - The town became engulfed in a political dispute between Georgia and Abkhazia when you were a youngster - how were things around that time?
K - Really bad as we didn’t know from one minute to the next if we’d live or die, and for one week I didn’t know if my mother or father were alive or dead, but then I found out - by telephone - they were alive –and was happy. For Georgians, the