Akio Mori (森 昭生, Mori Akio, born October 17, 1972), better known by the name Musashi (武蔵), is a Japanese former professional karateka and kickboxer. He is a four-time K-1 Japan tournament champion, a former WAKO Heavyweight Muay Thai champion and two-time K-1 World Grand Prix finalist. Following a 14-year career, he announced his retirement at a press conference in Tokyo on August 26, 2009.
Mori was born in Sakai, Osaka, Japan. After he started practicing Seidokaikankarate, he took his ring name from the famous samuraiMusashi Miyamoto, as his kicking techniques were said to resemble the latter's sword-slashing moves. Musashi took part in international karate competition, and this eventually overlapped with his kickboxing career. In 1995, he earned 4th place at the Seidokaikan Karate World Cup.
Musashi made his entrance into kickboxing and K-1 debut with an impressive knockout victory over fellow karate competitor Patrick Smith in 1995. Despite this initial splash, his first three years with the organization were mostly marked by loss, and he emerged from 1998 with a K-1 record of 4-8-1 (1). The following year saw a reversal in fortune, as Musashi secured his rival Kirkwood Walker’s WAKO Pro World Muay Thai Heavyweight title and won his first tournament – the K-1 Spirits '99 Japanese Grand Prix. The year ended with him earning entry to the K-1 Grand Prix '99 Final Round, but advancing no further than the quarter finals.
Despite this loss, Musashi’s runner-up status in K-1’s most prestigious annual tournament elevated him to prominence. Upholding his new standard, he remained undefeated throughout most of the following year, achieving a four-match winning streak that brought him to the K-1 World Grand Prix 2004. He defeated returning opponent Ray Sefo and Thai sensation Kaoklai Kaennorsing before meeting Remy Bonjasky in the finals for the second time. The match was a furious contest, with Musashi bringing his opponent to one knee with low kicks and sending Bonjasky out of the ring by dodging a lunging kick. With the judges undecided after the initial three rounds, an additional round was ordered, and then another. Despite showcasing excellent agility throughout by evading Bonjasky’s kicks and knees, Musashi was visibly exhausted by the final round and endured several unanswered strikes that resulted in his defeat by unanimous decision.
The bout marked the last time Musashi reached the WGP finals, though he made it to the semifinals the following year. His regional tournament wins were behind him now, too: despite winning his semifinal match at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2007 in Hong Kong, a groin injury kept him from advancing. Over the next four years, Musashi accumulated wins and losses fairly evenly. He sought retirement as the end of the decade neared and announced his intentions on August 26, 2009, along with a request to enter the WGP one last time. Despite not having fought that year or being among the previous year's top eight competitors, Musashi was inserted into the tournament's elimination rounds by popular vote and fought what was to be his final match on September 26, 2009 at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 in Seoul Final 16. He faced longtime K-1 veteran Jérôme Le Banner and put on a valiant performance, avoiding Le Banner’s heavy strikes while landing his own. Then, in the final 40 seconds of the third round, he was knocked down by a powerful combination. In the end, Le Banner won by unanimous decision. Failing to qualify for the year’s WGP, Musashi – age 37 – announced that he would not enter the ring again.
At the time of his retirement, Musashi was arguably the most successful active Japanese kickboxer of the heavyweight division. An ex-world champion and winner of four regional tournaments, he was also one of only nine fighters to reach the WGP finals more than once. During his 14-year career, he defeated at least eight current or former world champions and one WGP winner.
In August 2009, Musashi co-founded the martial arts promotional company Pound for Pound Co., Ltd. with his younger brother (and fellow K-1 alumnus) Tomo. He currently serves as the company’s senior managing director.
In 2010, the company produced the Musashi Rock Festival – a combination rock concert and fighting event. The show took place on October 23 in Tokyo and featured performances by Sex Machineguns, Maximum the Hormone, and Loudness. The main event was an exhibition kickboxing match between Musashi and his brother. After fighting his sibling to a two-round draw, Musashi joined Sex Machineguns onstage to perform the songs “Iron Fighter” and “Death Game.” Musashi has stated that he would like to hold the festival again in the future.
Beginning in the mid-2000s, Musashi engaged in an acting and television career. His first dramatic role was as a guest star in the mystery series Kyôto chiken no onna, and he was a frequent guest on Japanese talk shows and variety programs. His most famous role was playing Issei Kurosaki/Kamen Rider Caucasus in the 2006 tokusatsusuperhero film Kamen Rider Kabuto: God Speed Love.
Musashi also appeared in the music videos for “Bonds” by Galneryus and the Mihimaru GT/Soffett collaborations “Skinats” and “Crying Summer.”
Musashi's entrance theme - "Battleship Musashi" - was recorded by Japanese heavy metal band Loudness. Musashi took part in the band's 25th anniversary concert at the Tokyo International Forum, where he personally congratulated the performers.
Musashi's manner of fighting was fairly unique for a K-1 front runner in that he was a technical fighter who relied primarily on his fists for offense. A longtime student of former WBASuper Middleweight Champion Frankie Liles, Musashi would continually employ the powerful kicks that inspired his stage name but focused on punching combinations to wear down his opponents. He was a conservative fighter whose technical approach resulted in relatively few knockout victories for a K-1 headliner, but he also boasted a steely defense that made KO losses a rarity as well.
K-1 producer Sadaharu Tanikawa and fighter Peter Aerts have praised Musashi's strong defense, with Aerts also complimenting his kicking and clinch-fighting abilities. Conversely, Aerts criticized his punching power and Tanikawa his lack of aggressiveness.