A monk and a kabaddi player may not have too many things in common, but Takamitsu Kono effortlessly strikes a balance between donning both roles. Kono, a part of Puneri Paltan’s kabaddi team, is a third-generation Buddhist monk from Japan.
“Being a monk helps me concentrate more on kabaddi and helps me remain calm in intense moments during the match,” says the 25-year-old.
A few years ago, he stumbled upon a page dedicated to kabaddi on the website of the Tai Sho University, from where he has a degree in Buddhism. Once Kono went through the videos uploaded on the website, he was hooked to the game.
“I was 18 years old at that time. And since then, I have been playing kabaddi. My father was my mentor during the earlier training period. Later, Keijun Ito, a senior national Japanese player, imparted kabaddi training to me and that helped me improve my game. It’s from him that I learnt the valuable lesson that in kabaddi, togetherness and team spirit are essential because that’s what forms the core essence of a strong player,” shares the right corner player, who was part of the Dabang Delhi team in Pro Kabaddi League Season 2.
He was also a part of ‘starting seven’ of the Japanese team in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. Kono was at 8th position in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup leader board, with 19 points, and at 7th position with 3.4 successful tackles per match.
Kono’s passion and dedication towards the sports prompts him to travel, thrice a week, from his house in Saitama all the way to Tokyo, where 20 members of the national squad practice.
While kabaddi is not a popular sport in Japan, it is picking up pace gradually, thanks to the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. “Now, there are University teams in Japan,” Kono adds.
Talking about his strengths and weaknesses as a player, he says, “I have sharp eyes, which help me… I am also very observant and can anticipate the raider’s moves easily, which helps me in defending. However, I feel I need to work on skill training and gain more weight.”
Kono says he is very excited about being a part of Puneri Paltan, which is “more like a family to him” than a team. He says that he enjoys practicing with the players, having food with them and travelling around.
“All the players are very friendly. We have lots of fun, we joke around and enjoy ourselves during practice and at other times,” he adds.
The team is coached by Arjuna awardee BC Ramesh and mentored by national kabaddi player Ashok Shinde. From being an underdog team to finishing in the top three in the last two seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League, the Puneri Paltan have really come a long way from season one.
The players are currently stationed at Symbiosis International University, Lavale Campus, for their training camp. The team plays its home matches at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi, in Pune.