The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
DRAPED in a simple black tight-fitting T-shirt and matching jeans, Shihan Samson Muripo is on hand to greet me by the entrance of his Raylton Sports Club Dojo.
After the exchange of the usual pleasantries, focus immediately turns to three old newspaper cuttings pinned on the notice board right next to his office. One cutting, in particular, really catches the eye; a 2009 story from The Herald, written soon after the now 40-year-old won his first international title in Japan.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of that very same win in Osaka, Japan. The tournament that not only introduced Samson Muripo to the world, but also saw him make history by becoming the first international champion of African descent.
“June 30, 2009,” quips Muripo, as I tried to alert him to the significance of the date and interview.
“Yes, I remember it very well,” he said.
Almost 10 years have passed since that fateful night in Osaka, Japan but sadly very little has changed.
Yes, Muripo has aged— both in years and in wisdom— he has grown in stature both on and off the mat, but the 40-year-old is still the same person he was back then.
For a two-time world champion, Muripo is still humble and a man of very few words. He is still cooked up in his tiny little office, that could double for a storage space, as evidenced by the papers and kit bags in it. But more importantly; he is still the underdog in his own story, this despite having collected a plethora of local and regional titles. Not to mention, adding another international title to his name.
Now, the Fifth Dan black belt master gears up for yet another title defence, he will be returning to the scene of the crime when he travels to Japan for the fifth International Kyokushin Oyama Cup mid next month.
“Experience is the best teacher, and over the years I would like to think I have learnt how to prepare myself better -both mentally and physically- for these kinds of tournaments,” said Muripo.
“After Korea, last year, I did not stop training.
“With the exception of maybe five days-during which I travelled to South Africa — I have either been in the dojo perfecting my skills or in the gym working on my body,” he said.
Given his history and experience at international tournaments, Muripo has, however, tweaked his training regime, just a bit, to suit the conditions and treatment he is likely to face in Japan.
“I spend roughly eight hours training everyday,” said Shihan Muripo.
“Its tough out there for African fighters as we are yet to reach a point where we are treated equally.
“Officiating is the biggest obstacle, and one has to find ways of navigating around it.
“When I am not in the gym or dojo training, I am on YouTube watching videos that will help update me on the latest fighting techniques.
“I have also since taken up Mixed Martial Arts, as a way to prepare myself for hits in the face and knock out techniques.
“Knock-outs, while not a total solution, are one of the ways I believe can improve the bad officiating,” he said.