Story and Photos by
Sgt. Gaelen Lowers
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — There is always a silver lining.
That is the hard lesson learned by Randal Kumagai, intelligence analyst, 8th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, after his second loss of the day during the Tripler Army Medical Center Combatives Tournament, Jan. 13-14, at Martinez Gym, here.
“It was a very good learning experience,” Kumagai said. “I met some great guys. Win or lose, I always learn something, and I seem to learn the harder lessons from the matches I lose more so than the ones I win. The losses stick with you longer. Today, I learned quite a bit.”
As he prepared for the tournament, Kumagai started training, weighing in at 160 pounds. The weight class that he was going to fight in was the 140-pound Lighweight category. He had six days to make the weight.
“Part of the appeal was people saying that it couldn’t be done, so naturally I had to try,” he said. “Managing hydration was a critical portion of the diet. I lost 12 pounds in water-weight alone.”
His chain of command was supportive, he said. His chain of command allowed him to conduct physical training on his own, permitting him to do the training necessary to lose the weight and prepare for the tournament.
After the weigh-in, Kumagai started eating more to regain some of the strength and weight he had lost by dieting.
“From the time I stepped off the scale, sat down and starting eating, I gained eight pounds,” he said.
The matches presented him a varied group of wrestlers, grapplers, judo fighters and many other forms of mixed martial arts fighters, but fighters who train on a regular basis outside of military were the ones that were the most challenging.
“Those are the toughest guys; the higher echelon,” he explained. “Those are the guys that I knew I would have trouble with. They have far more experience than me. I knew that they would hit me with something that I have never seen before. I expected that. I knew that was going to happen. You just have to go out there and see where you match up.”
Kumagai was defeated by the third and second place finishers in his weight class. He held each fighter in high regard and that respect went two ways.
“I think he is as strong as an ox,” said Alvin Concepcion, 1984th U.S. Army Hospital Detachment, and second place finisher in Kumagai’s weight class. “He has that martial arts spirit. He doesn’t have an ego that would stop him from learning. I would like to train with him in the future.”
Kumagai’s second loss, Calvin Johnson, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 516th Sig. Brigade, 311th Sig. Command, echoed those thoughts.
“Overall I thought he was a tough opponent,” Johnson said. “Everybody here has different backgrounds. If there were striking allowed, I would probably have been in trouble.”
All in all, Kumagai thought the tournament was a good experience. You go out there, you see where you match up, and inevitably you come out a better fighter, he said.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be in the tournament, the opportunity to bow in with another opponent,” he said. “I may lose but you will never break my spirit. I might not come out on top, but I will always come out fighting.”