News and Updates

12/​04/​2016: Keith's second book, The Soul of Fighting: Martial Arts, Combat Sports and the Search for Warrior Wisdom, is now available on Amazon. Click the book cover below to check out the details and read a free sample. Currently, it's only being sold as an e-book, but a print version will be available in time for Christmas.
Also, Keith has new author pages on Facebook, Amazon, and Instagram where you can interact with him on social media or find out more about his books.


Keith's second book, The Soul of Fighting: Martial Arts, Combat Sports and the Search for Warrior Wisdom, is the long awaited follow-up to Philosophy of Fighting. In this new book, Keith guides the reader through the maze of legends and ideals that make up traditional martial arts and confronts the fierce challenges presented by kickboxing and MMA. The Soul of Fighting is a wide-ranging series of essays that will entertain, inform and provoke readers, regardless of their level of training in the fighting arts.

Keith's first book, Philosophy of Fighting: Morals and Motivations of the Modern Warrior is the first printed collection of the popular “Way of the Warrior” columns from Black Belt magazine. This anthology contains a diverse selection of articles on traditional martial arts, modern combat, and the mentality and inspirations of a fighter. These essays offer a unique perspective on the evolution of thought on martial arts, as well as a chronological view of the trends and traditions associated with the different disciplines. Philosophy of Fighting is available in paperback through Amazon and as an e-book through iTunes, Kindle, and NOOK. Click on picture above for the paperback version or the links below for your preferred e-book format.

Book Reviews

Fight Results

Below are links to the results of some of Keith's matches. Click on the pictures or captions for details on how he did. (Sorry, most of the pages are in Japanese only.)

11/21/2004: Winning the silver at the 4th Takada Dojo Submission Wrestling Tournament

From the Archives

Author, Fighter, and Martial Artist
Keith Vargo

Keith Vargo is a writer and martial artist based in Tokyo, Japan. He was a contributing editor for Black Belt magazine for 17 years, where he wrote a popular monthly column called, "Way of the Warrior." He has also written for Fightsport magazine, Karate/​Kung-fu Illustrated, Sports World Japan, and Maxfighting.com. Click on the links to the right to read some of his essays.

Keith is also the author of Philosophy of Fighting: Morals and Motivations of the Modern Warrior and The Soul of Fighting: Martial Arts, Combat Sports, and the Search for Warrior Wisdom. Those books are collections of his best columns, spanning nearly two decades of writing for Black Belt. The books explores how morality, mysticism, aesthetics, science, and human nature cross paths in the fighting arts. Click the covers in the left column to learn more about them and order.

Martial Arts Background

Keith began his martial arts training in 1984 under judo champion Jordie Hamilton. Later he attended Radford University, participating in the United States' only college-level martial arts training program. In 1996 he graduated from Radford with a B.A. in Psychology and a Certificate in Multi-Cultural Self-Defense.

Since moving to Tokyo in 2000, Keith has devoted himself to mixed martial arts. He trained for 10 years at the world-renowned Takada Dojo, where he learned from top fighters like Kazushi Sakuraba, Akira Shoji, and Yoon Dong Sik. He was also the first foreigner to have earned a shodan from Takada Dojo. More recently, he has trained with Shooto legend and ZST tag-team grappling champion Naoya Uematsu and welterweight grappling champion Kohei Yasumi.

Fight History

Keith's writing is informed by his experiences as an active competitor. He has fought amateur matches in Pre-PRIDE, PRIDE Challenge, Shootboxing, DEEP, and Kingdom Ehrgeiz events. He has also fought in many submission wrestling matches and tournaments as well. To read more about those matches and see some pictures of them, click on the links under "Fight Results" in the left-hand hand column.

Defending against a throw at Pre-PRIDE 3.
In 2001, Keith participated in Tokai TV's Pre-PRIDE, an MMA reality show. The fighters on the show trained at the best gyms in Japan for a few months and then fought each other in an 8-man, one-night tournament. The prize was a chance to turn pro and fight in a PRIDE Fighting Championship event. Pre-PRIDE helped launch the careers of many fighters, including the UFC fighters Yushin Okami and Eiji Mitsuoka

In the Pre-PRIDE 3 tournament, Keith made it to the final match, but lost by decision. The picture above is from that match. On the left is the late Naoto Morishita, the first president of the PRIDE Fighting Championships, watching the action.

A counterpunch in the shootboxing tournament.
Keith's best showing came in March 2007, when he took part in the 17th All-Japan Amateur Shootboxing Tournament. Winning this tournament is often a stepping stone to a pro fight career. In the past, it's been won by top fighters like shootboxing welterweight champion Kenichi Ogata and MMA star Hayato "Mach" Sakurai.

Again, Keith fought three times in one day. This time, he won all his matches decisively, even knocking his opponent down three times in the final match. With that win, he became the 2007 All-Japan Amateur Heavyweight Shootboxing Champion.

Waiting for the match to start in the DEEP ring.
Keith's best single-match performance was in June 2007. He fought in an MMA event for the DEEP promotion called Oyaji DEEP. It was an event for older fighters that was broadcast on Samurai TV. In it, competitors age 35 and up fought under full MMA rules. Keith was matched up against a judo black belt and scored a TKO in 14 seconds. It's his fastest win to date.

Going for the arm compression lock at the 1st Asian Combat Wrestling Tournament. (C) MC-ABSOLUTE / PHOTO : KYOKA UEMIZO
In addition to his MMA competition, Keith also fights in submission wrestling matches and tournaments. His most recent grappling competition was at the 1st Asian Combat Wrestling Tournament in August 2016. At 46, he managed to place first in both the men's 100+ kilo division and the master's A (over 40) 100+ kilo division. His most recent professional grappling match was in November 2013. At the age of 43, Keith fought 25 year old Pancrase and DEEP veteran Tatsuhiko Nishizaka to a draw at the Kingdom Spirit 2013 show. But Keith's biggest grappling match was in January 2010. He fought in the DEEP X Future King tournament, beating PRIDE, K-1, and UFC veteran Satoshi Honma via judges' decision and winning the heavyweight division.

Current Projects

Working for an armlock while MMA legend Tsuyoshi Kosaka watches in the background.
Keith is currently working on two new books. The first is a compilation of columns that were written for Black Belt after the publication of Philosophy of Fighting. It will include all of the columns written between 2008 and 2016, as well as some previously unpublished essays. This sequel to Philosophy of Fighting will be published this summer.

The second new book will be a collection of fighter profiles, interviews, and event reports written by Keith during the golden era of PRIDE and K-1. Readers will get to see the events through the eyes of someone who was there for one of the most exciting and controversial eras in the history of fighting sports. For readers who'd like a preview, two pieces from this book are featured in the "From the Archives" section on the left. This collection will be out in early 2017.

After that, Keith will return to working on a book about his decade of living, training and fighting in Japan. It will explore the meaning of the martial arts through his experiences in the training hall and in the ring. Readers will go along with Keith as he encounters centuries-old fighting arts, tangles with pro-wrestlers, tries to navigate Japanese martial culture, and fights a guy he used to watch on pay-per-view. Readers will also get insights on being a martial artist in the 21st century, as Keith tries to square the high ideals of the martial arts with the brute facts of competition.

Selected Articles and Quick Links