Warrior Profile: Steven Saito


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The popularity of MMA has led some people to question the old ways of traditional martial arts. Yet local fighter Steven “Soul Samurai” Saito is a living example of how you don’t have to forget the past to embrace the present. And his family’s own past is certainly not something he can ignore.

“My uncle Del is a 10th degree Shitoryu karate expert, my uncle Robert spent his childhood at the Shaolin Temple, and my dad trained in karate in Okinawa during the Vietnam War,” says Saito. “More than the physical aspect of training, it was the philosophical debate between my uncles, my father, and the influence of Bruce Lee’s The Tao of Jeet Kune Do that shaped my path in life and martial arts. I remember on many days these men would sit down and debate or discuss religion and philosophy for hours upon end. It was very much an East-versus-West, Buddhism-versus-Christianity, karate-versus-kung fu, tradition-versus-modernity kind of discussion.”

Saito attended Kahuku High School and spent his youth surfing the North Shore. Though steeped in traditional Asian martial arts, he was fascinated by the new era that dawned with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. To him, here was a new path to take on his journey to really getting to the “soul” of martial arts.

“I remember when the first UFC came out and this skinny Brazilian guy named Royce Gracie beat guys twice his size in no-rules combat in a cage,” recalls Saito. “From the moment I saw that, I said to myself I had to do that because it would be the only way for me to discover the truth. Thus, my MMA journey began.”

Saito has competed in MMA tournaments in both Hawaii and Australia, fighting in such events as X-1, ProElite and Rumble on the Rock. He has also kept busy teaching his own unique blend of martial arts, with a special focus on classes for women and children. However, both competing and teaching are on hold right now as Saito prepares for what may be his biggest challenge yet.

“I am going to get married soon and am expecting my first child, so there are a lot of things that that has caused me to need to take a step back before plowing ahead,” he says.