Forward by Larry Hartsell
Shoot Wrestling is a popular martial art and combative sport in Japan founded by Satoru Sayama and brought to the United States by former Shoot Wrestling Champion and highest-ranking instructor under Sayama, “Shootist” Yorinaga Nakamura. Shoot Wrestling, also called “Shooto”, “Shoot-Fighting”, or “Shooting”, is a unique blend of Russian Sambo, Judo, Jiujitsu, Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling, and Kick-boxing & Thai-Boxing.
A truly combative martial arts sport, Shoot Wrestling utilizes long range kicking, punching, kneeing, evasion, and footwork. Practitioners are allowed to throw, tackle, takedown, or sweep the opponent and continue on the ground fighting and engage into submission and locking.
“Shooto” is originally derived from the Japanese characters, Shu and To, the rough translation means to “acquire” and “fight”. Fight means not only a physical confrontation, but also a struggle to overcome and to persevere in life.
It was in the winter of 1984 that Satoru Sayama first established his dojo in Seta, Tokyo, which he named “Tiger Gym”. Later, he moved it to Sanjenjaya, Tokyo, where it became the now legendary “Super Tiger Gym”. It was in this new venue that the art, philosophy, and sport of “Shooto” were started in earnest.
Actual Shooto competition began in 1985. It was simply referred to as “Shooting” but only existed as amateur competition until 1989, when the first professional event took place at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo in May of 1989. Within those first four years, the sport had time to evolve and grow until 1993 when most of the development process had reached an optimum level.
Shortly thereafter, the first U.F.C. competition was held in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. After witnessing the effectiveness of the ground striking used there and in the initial Vale Tudo tournaments, then being held in Japan, which was prohibited in Shooto at the time, Sayama decided the sport must assimilate these techniques, thus evolving his vision even further in his Shoot Wrestling.
Ground punches to the head were fully implemented in 1995. This played a major role in making Shooto more technically exciting! The skill level of professional Shooto fighters began to increase substantially.
Sayama’s chief student is Sensei Yorinaga Nakamura. Nakamura is the former Shooto World Champion and has carried on the Sayama legacy by brining Shooto to the U.S.A. by way of the famous Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts (Inosanto.com). There he has taught and certified Guro Dan Inosanto and Sifu Larry Hartsell (jkdassoc.com) and 2X Shoot Champion Eric Paulson to carry on the teachings of his mentor Sayama and to help perpetuate the sport here in the United States.
I first witnessed Sensei Yorinaga’s amazing talents during my first visit to the Inosanto Academy around 1995-96 when he performed a fantastic Shooto seminar there amidst an eager crowd of martial artists. I was stunned to see how gracefully Yorinaga would slip and shoot in at his training partners with unbelievable skill! He easily flowed into transitions as he executed locks and submissions that most of had never seen even before. Here was a Master-Shootist on a level beyond most anyone I’d ever been exposed to prior or since!
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken classes under him at the Inosanto Academy, where he still trains his students during parts of the year when he lives here in Los Angeles. Most of the time he spends in his native Japan conducting business as the President of the Shooto Association and teaching his students there.
by Paul S. Lewis