I started studying Ashihara-Karate in 1995; back then it really stood out as its technique allowed you to grab an opponent’s head and gi as well as use knees to the head. It felt very innovative, especially in comparison with more traditional karate styles that I was aware of. I was 15 years old at that time with some training in classic judo and a lot of experience in street fights. I did not feel interested in classic karate with its limited contact and points-scoring. I wanted to find a martial art with sparring rules that were closer to a real-life fighting and Ashihara-Karate fulfilled that requirement nicely.
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At a certain time, because I didn’t feel that I was getting enough sparring action at my dojo, in addition to my Ashihara training I regularly visited some Kyokushin Karate schools. I liked practicing their striking techniques and sparring with new partners many of whom were hard hitters. I also spent some time attending a Kickboxing gym where I discovered that I like using my hands for head punches which I wasn’t allowed by karate rules.
By 2007, I felt I outgrew Ashihara-Karate and could not learn anything new, so I decided to broaden my horizons by studying boxing techniques. Soon after, I began competing in Muay Thai and Kickboxing tournaments and events. At some point I attended a MMA gym where I mostly studied the stand-up part of fighting and how to defend myself against grapplers in a free-form fight.
Starting in 2003, in addition to being a competitive fighter, I also run my own school and train my own students. Despite the fact that combining those activities was more and more difficult as time goes by, I kept competing. It’s hard to fully understand what motivated me; I think the big part is that I was somewhat addicted to the “adrenaline rush of the victory” so to speak…
My last fight was in May 2014, and I’m still not certain that I fully retired from fighting; I feel that I “still have it” – and that one day, sooner or later, I will again enter in the ring (or step into the cage).
I have met Kancho Hidenori Ashihara on several occasions, such as seminars and tournaments. Out of all meetings one stood out: when I got to interact with him the most, that was when I came to Japan, to the Ashihara-Karate’s headquarter, to take the black belt’s second degree exam. That was quite a story… I never cared much about pursuing formal rank advancement, at that moment I have had a rank of first degree black belt for 9 years, and wasn’t planning to test for second degree (or third, or whatever). I always felt that my fighting record would speak much louder for how good a fighter I am than the degrees of my belt. But this time around, my fellow Ashihara fighters from our Branch were traveling to Japan to take the black belt exams and convinced me to come along and take the test. That was the time when I was training for a MMA fight and two days before the flight to Japan I broke my hand by punching one of my sparring partners, a MMA fighter with a particularly strong head. It was a pretty nasty break, and very painful too, but I still wanted to go ahead and take the belt degree test, even if I was wearing a cast. When I arrived to Japan, during an evening training session, I informed Kancho about what happened. He didn’t say anything. On the exam day, Kancho didn’t let me proceed taking the test, and I thought I was disqualified. But after the exam was over, Kancho handed me the second degree black belt and explained that I deserved it and in his opinion I had earned it a long time ago. So, I’m probably the only honorary second degree black belt in the history of Ashihara-Karate.
CONSTANT AND HARD TRAINING
Generally speaking my strategy is train hard, train a lot; get as much sparring time as you can with experienced and challenging partners, and constantly look for new partners to spar with. It is advisable to attend a focused several-day long fight training camp 2-3 weeks before the competition. As for my preparation to the tournaments, I usually did all strategic planning myself, especially later in the game. I really can’t say anything regarding involvement of any Russian government bodies or other third-party organizations. I’m not aware of anything like that.
I think 10 years from now I will still be a competitive athlete, not necessarily in a field of combat sports. I’m interested in running, triathlon, or maybe something else. I do plan to stay connected to competitive fighting community by helping to promote and develop the martial arts and combat sports and train new champions.
Foto: Facebook Alexander Lavrushin