KID Yamamoto was too damn cool for all of us.
He had swagger and serenity. Speed and flow. Savagery, passion, and love. From his deep brown eyes to his silver grill, he was just too damn cool.
Krazy Bee announced on social media that Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto has passed away today, 18 September 2018.
KID was born to wrestling royalty and through his generation, it continued into something even more grand. He was the son of Olympic wrestler Ikuei Yamamoto; his sisters Miyuu and Seiko are multiple times world champions. Miyuu’s son Erson has taken the Yamamoto lineage into the next generation.
After winning three state championships in the US as a high schooler, KID went on to a spectacular MMA start. Then he returned to wrestling in order to follow in his father’s footsteps – compete in the Olympics. A devastating injury in qualifying saw the dream crumble, and the cameras witnessed his team and family share in the emotional loss. For me, that moment now encapsulates the strength of the Yamamoto family.
As an MMA fighter, KID inspired not simply a generation, he inspired a movement. From his Shooto beginnings, through his K-1 HERO’s Middleweight Grand Prix run against Royler Gracie, Caol Uno and Genki Sudo, his kickboxing match against Masato, and his 4-second flying knee knock out of Kazuyuki Miata, KID delivered larger than life moments. Larger than his 5’4” frame should have allowed him to.
The once and future lightweight King.
As a coach, KID’s methods have obviously yielded amazing results: Kyoji Horiguchi, Yusuke Yachi, Issei Tamura, Kotetsu Boku. The training is hard, like any other good camp, but the feel of YSA is something completely unique. Just like KID himself. There’s a dichotomy of expressions, carefree yet so determined.
Because like-minded souls gravitate to him. Not just fighters, but people from all walks of life. The first time I visited the Yamamoto Sports Academy, I was surprised that his gym wasn’t full of fans clamoring for a session of pad work. There was a wrestling class for little kids going on. The parents who were lingering around didn’t seem start-struck or like they were sports fans either. So I asked, “Why did you choose Yamamoto Sports Academy gym for your kid?”
One father said, “I want my son to learn discipline, but I want him to enjoy his life. Look how happy he is!”
Another mom said, “KID is so great, my daughter loves him, and his wrestling is so amazing.”
KID took care of everyone at YSA and in Krazy Bee as he would any member of his immediate family. Teenagers with huge dreams came to train with him and found a teacher, a brother, and a staunch supporter. Even when Krazy Bee was at a financial low point, KID kept a rented flat for the students who trained on the week and went home on the weekends, including coaches who came from overseas.
And contrary to the oft-portrayed fringe of society group of fighters, YSA gym parties were not heathen affairs with Rasta rap and lingering smoke; they were boisterous, family-centered gatherings with baby wrestlers, teenage hopefuls, fitness moms. They mingled comfortably – like any tight family – with Japanese rap stars, tattooists, and show girls.
To KID, life was art, and art was a thing to be celebrated. Art was a culture unto itself, and if KID could have wanted anything for his life post-MMA, he told me it was to create art. His ever-growing collection of tattoos. His fashion line, HardHit. His curry stall where you had to prepare for oral blast off. Everything in his life was about creation.
That’s how I will always see KID Yamamoto – as a creator. His image, his students, his legacy. He created very special moments for MMA fans and career-building moments for fighters. Therefore, he lives on, having truly left his mark on the world.
I wish the Yamamoto and Krazy Bee family strength of heart under the weight of this enormous loss.
Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto
1977 – 2018