Long days filled with menial tasks and thousands upon thousands of calisthenics. That was the lifestyle of Jay White while he trained as a "young lion" at the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo in Tokyo.
White provided details of his time in the dojo during an interview with ESPN.com, conducted in advance of Ring Of Honor's Best In The World iPPV from Lowell, MA.
A native of New Zealand, White arrived in Japan in January of 2015 to become one of the NJPW trainees.
White detailed the daily routine at the dojo as follows:
"You're up at 8 o'clock, you clean the dojo and clean the bathrooms and the floors -- outside, as well -- you sweep the road outside the house. Then, once you've done that, you've got between then and about 9:30, 9:45 to have some food if you want. But then at 10 o'clock, you're gonna start training for three hours at least, usually sometimes longer. The training is horrible, especially at the start; it's just such a shock to anything you've done before. Five hundred squats every morning, sometimes a thousand. Normal squats, that is, and then you'll have jumping squats on top of that. Hundreds of press-ups, just grinding you into the ground in the training there. Once that's done you'll finish up, go shower, and then you'll go and wait in the kitchen to look after the Senpai, the older wrestlers who are gonna obviously be eating and stuff. So you do their dishes for them. When they're training, you're going to do their laundry, keeping an eye out for them putting their laundry baskets out. Wash, dry, fold it. Once it quiets down in the kitchen, you'll get a chance to go and have lunch yourself. Once that's done, clean up and you've kind of just got to hang around to keep an eye on the older guys, really anyone that's coming in, just make sure you're around to help them out. In the evening, if you have time, it's up to each person; I would go in and do more weights, seeing as in the morning it would be a lot more body weight-based."
NJPW trainees also are responsible for setting up and tearing down the ring at every New Japan event, and also fulfilling any other task that may be needed during the events.
"Korakuen Hall shows are the easiest, because they're the closest to the dojo," he noted. "We get there, and we would have to go get all the water and put it in all the water bottles, and then [to the] changing rooms, where we'd get changed. Make sure if anything else needs to be sorted out, we'd do that. Most of the time, the young boys would be training before every match, as well, even if they're not wrestling that day. ... Once you have that match, you've got to go back, get changed, and then you go ringside for all the other matches to help out, or to put the stairs against the ring for the guys to enter. You take their costume to the back, as well. So you're constantly on call to do any jobs."
White lived that lifestyle for the entirety of his time in the dojo -- about a year and a half before graduating -- and told ESPN he considered himself "pretty fortunate" to complete training in that time frame.
"Especially the Japanese guys that start fresh, they could do it from two to three years," he said.
White has been in the United States for about a year, on "excursion" with Ring Of Honor, which has a working relationship with New Japan. His time in ROH has included a show-stealing match with Will Ospreay. He also was victorious in an eight-man tag match at Best In The World, the most recent ROH iPPV.
"It's pretty rare for any of the foreigners to get sent away. If they send you ... they're really considering you one of the Japanese-style guys, so that's really fortunate for me," White said. "I was pretty happy that they looked at me that way -- the fact they sent me away means they look at me as one of their own New Japan guys, which is cool."
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