Stung by almost universal criticism in the wake of another series of dreadful Autumn performances by Wales, Welsh coach Rob Howley has turned to one of sport’s most iconic heroes to inspire his side.
With Wales at present appearing incapable of adapting their game plan on the hoof, Howley and his management team have drawn upon the inspirational story of Kesuke Miyagi to try and encourage their charges to take better control of their own fate during games.
“The great Kesuke Miyagi knew how to empower his charges to make better life decisions,” said Howley. “And from that wisdom comes better decision making in competitive sport.”
During Wales’ opening forty minutes against Japan A last week the home side seemed to encapsulate the definition of madness: repeating the same action and expecting different results. Critics and ex-players believe Welsh players are either unable or unwilling to adjust pre-game tactics, preferring to await fresh instructions at halftime rather than playing what’s in front of them
“First thing Sunday morning we pulled the squad together and scrapped our planned post-match recovery session,” explained the former British Lion. “Instead, we pulled up some chairs and showed them John G. Avildsen’s masterful documentary on California's 1984 Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament.
“I thought we needed to freshen things up and the players would get more from something like this than just analysing what happened the day before.”
Mr. Miyagi’s abilities are legendary in the world of sports and martial arts and his achievements and personal philosophy to life have inspired countless athletes to aspire to be the ‘best around’ and the ‘best in town’.
Mr. Miyagi’s life story is well known. An immigrant to the USA, he was working as a simple maintenance man back in 1984 when he steered 1,000-1 underdog (and complete beginner) Daniel LaRusso to glory in the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament.
“What rings true when watching Avildsen’s film about Mr. Miyagi was he was focused on building the basics in his students,” said Howley. “Through constant repetition and hard work, he taught the likes of LaRusso absolute mastery of their basic skills. He gave students the tactics to employ as and when they saw fit. He didn’t over coach.
“Take the famous crane kick that defeated Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence, the tournament's defending champion and heavy favourite. While Mr. Miyagi had taught LaRusso the kick, he never told him when to use it. LaRusso’s decision to engage that tactic for the deciding exchange of the final, whilst horrendously injured, was a decision made by the athlete alone.
“Go back and watch the tape. It’s outstanding. LaRusso makes the call and you can just see that Mr. Miyagi trusts his student’s instincts. It’s a complete contrast to the Cobra Kai tactics, where both leading trainer and fellow athletes are constantly calling for Lawrence to sweep the leg or put LaRusso in a body bag. Tactics that ultimately come to nothing.
“That’s what we want with Wales. The ability to know not just how to perform a crane kick, but to do it when it’s right in a game situation. There is no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.”
One player in Saturday’s match day squad, who wished to remain unnamed, says that next week several of the younger squad members are expected to visit Howley’s home and spend time painting his fence and waxing his car. The Welsh Rugby Union have refused to comment on this at press time nor confirm how much, if anything, clubs will receive in compensation for such activities should they occur.
Howley claims the squad had reacted positively to the story of Mr. Miyagi, especially considered many of the squad were not even born when LaRusso and Miyagi rose to global fame.
“We make sacred pact,” Howley told players. “I promise teach rugby to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.”
Wales are also believed to be looking to make future savings on medical staff by adopting Mr. Miyagi’s famous ‘clap hands, rub hands and heal body’ technique.