Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Technical Wrestling Master Class: Japan Pt 1: Shoot-Style

Minoru Tanaka, shoot-style icon
Photo via ProFightDB
In my last article on this subject, I did North America. And if we're being perfectly honest with ourselves here, that wasn't exactly the most challenging article I've ever done. This isn't because there aren't a whole bunch of finely tuned and skilled grapplers here in the United States, because there are. The larger point, however, is that there is widely regarded as one American style, with small filters in it for region. But when you get beyond our shores, that whole paradigm changes. So, with that idea in mind, these master classes are going to get a bit longer and a bit more detailed. I might even be posting a link to the best match to truly get a sense of what it is that you might be missing.

We will be starting in the Land of the Rising Sun. Not just because there are just a metric ton of promotions here, but because there are so many different styles that come into play that a guy can literally make a name for himself just by staying in his own little fiefdom playing by the set of rules that he is the most comfortable with.

The best example of this, and the first style of this, is shoot-style. BattlArts (or BatBat as it is sometimes referred to) is the best example of this, but RINGS, FUTEN, U-Style, and some others I'm forgetting fit in with it as well. It's top-level matwork and submissions with vicious strikes kept in. Basically, for way of American explanation, if you can imagine William Regal or Finlay doing it, it's acceptable. But who is the best at the catch-all of this? Well, that's difficult to say but here are some places to start.

Firstly, Minoru Tanaka. He is maybe, depending on who you ask, the biggest success story out of BattlArts. It's difficult for those of us who have only seen his run in New Japan, All Japan, or a quick cup of coffee with an unfortunately named US promotion to understand what he was like in BattlArts. He remains the junior heavyweight archetype that so many guys try to imitate nowadays. A hard kicker who is smooth technically and can do high-flying maneuvers. Sound like anyone in particular? So I'm seriously telling you to go on your favorite video sharing website, type in Minoru Tanaka + BattlArts and enjoy the fun. Wince at the kicking. Marvel at the submissions. It's all glorious.

And the other master I'm thinking of is less slick, and more like a submission bulldozer. If all you know of Volk Han is that CM Punk referenced him one time, you're missing out. He tore through people in a promotion which is, by any reasonable measure, as close to a pure shoot as wrestling has actually gotten. RINGS was built around the idea that it was where real wrestlers went. Don't believe me? Fedor Emelianenko worked there for a short time. It's in his bio and everything. But Volk Han is special. You got the idea that if some promotion had brought him over, even to teach, that we would have really seen something special. Imagine if you let the Steiners, circa early-90's WCW, loose on the world with all of the submissions you see in the video below you? Yes please.