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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Corporate warriors find passion in the ring

Kyosuke Kobayashi

Jul. 20, 2017

Japan's corporate warriors are increasingly getting active after work, with some turning to the sport of kickboxing.

One gym in Osaka is filled with corporate warriors kicking and punching after office hours.

"It's tough but fun," one says. "I enjoy it more than work."

"It makes me feel young," says another.

46-year-old Yasuyuki Fujime is a typical salaryman. He works at a financial firm in Osaka. About 3 years ago, a friend took Fujime to see a kickboxing match. It made him remember how passionate he used to be about sports.

Since then, he leaves the world of finance behind 4 nights a week and comes here to kick and punch.

"I used to play baseball," he says. "But after I quit my school baseball team, I had nothing to dedicate myself to, and I spent my days fooling around. So I guess I'm trying to make up for that in a way."

Fujime used to live with his family in Fukuoka in southwestern Japan. But last year his company transferred him to Osaka.

He now lives with his daughter Kaede. She attends a nearby college.

Kaede is planning to study English in Canada. Her father and daughter joke that she should feel at home there, since "kaede" means "maple leaf."

She keeps an eye on her dad's diet ahead of a match.

"When my father's trying to lose weight, I eat the same things as him and work with him to lose weight," she says.

Fujime is training hard. He wants the match to be his farewell gift to Kaede as she gets ready for her big adventure.

"I want to show my daughter a side of me that she can feel proud of," he says.

The day of Fujime's big match has arrived. These matches are for middle aged amateurs only. Spectators are usually family members and friends.

In the first round, Fujime's opponent lands a ferocious kick. But that doesn't faze Fujime. His right hook connects with his opponent's face.

Fujime makes it through all three minutes of the two-round match. He wins on points.

"You were so cool," says Kaede.

"I'm so relieved I could win in front of my daughter," says Fujime. "I think I was able to let her see something of my never-say-die attitude and my fighting spirit."

So don't be fooled when you see a suit-clad salaryman during his daily commute. Under that mild-mannered exterior there may lurk a corporate kick-boxer.