|Country of origin||Japan|
|Famous practitioners||Karl Gotch, Kazushi Sakuraba, Volk Han|
Shoot wrestling is a combat sport that has its origins in Japan's professional wrestling circuit of the 1970s. Professional wrestlers of that era attempted to utilize more realistic or "full contact" moves in their matches to increase their excitement. The name "shoot wrestling" comes from the professional wrestling term "shoot", which refers to any unscripted occurrence within a scripted wrestling event.1 Prior to the emergence of the current sport of shoot wrestling, the term was commonly used in the professional wrestling business, particularly in the United Kingdom, as a synonym for the legitimate sport of catch wrestling.2 Shoot wrestling can be used to describe a range of hybrid fighting systems such as shootfighting, shooto, pancrase, RINGS submission fighting and shoot boxing.
Historically, shoot wrestling has been influenced by many martial arts such as freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, catch wrestling in the beginning, and sambo, karate, kickboxing, Muay Thai and judo in the final stages.
Karl Gotch is one of the most important figures in the development of shoot wrestling. Karl Gotch eventually graduated to the American professional wrestling circuit where he found moderate success. It was his tour of Japan though, that set the stage for the birth of shoot wrestling. Gotch was a student of the "Snake Pit" gym, run by the renowned catch wrestler Billy Riley of Wigan. The gym was the centre of learning submission wrestling as practiced in the mining town of Wigan, popularly known as catch-as-catch-can wrestling. It was here that Karl Gotch honed his catch wrestling skills. Karl Gotch also travelled to India to practice the wrestling form of Pehlwani; later on he would propagate the exercises using the "Hindu mace" (mudgals) and would go on to incorporate the Indian system of exercises using push-ups, neck exercises, yogic breathing exercises and "Hindu squats" for conditioning. Gotch attained legendary status in Japan, earning the name of Kamisama ('god [of wrestling]'). In the 1970s he taught catch wrestling-based hooking and shooting to the likes of Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Satoru Sayama, Masami Soranaka, and Akira Maeda. Most of these professional wrestlers already had backgrounds in legitimate martial arts. Masami Soranaka had been a student of full contact karate, kodokan judo, and sumo. Yoshiaki Fujiwara was already a Muay Thai fighter and black belt in judo. Satoru Sayama had studied Muay Thai with Toshio Fujiwara and went on to study sambo with Victor Koga. This would eventually lead to added influences of karate, Muay Thai and judo to the wrestling style.
One of his students, Antonio Inoki, hosted a series of mixed martial arts matches in which he pitted his "strong style professional wrestling" against other martial arts. Inoki would go on to promote these techniques in his professional wrestling promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Later on, many wrestlers became interested in promoting an even more realistic style of professional wrestling and in 1984, the Universal Wrestling Federation was formed. The UWF was a professional wrestling organisation that promoted the strong shoot style/strong style wrestling. This essentially meant that it employed effective and practical martial arts moves, which were applied with force. The organization even hosted some real mixed martial arts matches, where the wrestlers were able to test their shoot wrestling techniques against other styles.
After the breakup of the original Universal Wrestling Federation, shoot wrestling branched into several disciplines. Each of the disciplines were also strongly influenced by other martial arts.
Shoot wrestling branched into several sub disciplines after the breakup of the original Universal Wrestling Federation. The main forms are listed below.
- "Tiger Mask" Satoru Sayama founded Shooto, which added Muay Thai, Sambo and Judo to the shoot wrestling arsenal.
- Kickboxer Caesar Takeshi founded Shoot boxing, a Stand-up fighting league allowing standing submissions and throws.
- Akira Maeda's founded Fighting Network Rings, a defunct league which emphasised submissions.
- World renowned gyms like the Lion's Den, Takada Dojo and Shamrock Martial Arts Academy propagate shoot wrestling-based styles of martial arts.
- Dutch kickboxer and MMA legend Bas Rutten trained with shoot wrestler Masakatsu Funaki.
- Canadian standouts Arthur Lee and William Hamilton developed "pro style" shoot wrestling. A mix of light strikes, basic submissions and traditional folk wrestling, the style stemmed from traditional pankration and was later incorporated in early MWW events.
- In 2004 pro shoot wrestling received official sport status in western Canada and was eligible for licensing. The first of many matches were held open to the public to build a foundation of awareness for the new sport.
- Junior National Korean Tae Kwon Do champion Masa Kin Jim has trained in shoot wrestling. During a brief tour of Japan promoting Korean Martial Arts Masa Kin Jim was fascinated with the style shoot wrestling brought to Martial Arts. He opened one of the first shoot wrestling academies in South Korea in 1998.
- In 2002 shoot and pro wrestling superstars Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Minoru Suzuki squared off in a mixed martial arts match-up. Suzuki won via submission (rear-naked-choke) at 1:48 of the first round.
- Pure Dynamite by Tom Billington & Alison Coleman, page 7, Dynamite Kid Co 2001 edition
- Catch: The Hold Not Taken (DVD). 2005.
- Scientific Wrestling.
- Website of the film 'Catch - the hold not taken', which looks at the history of shoot wrestling
- Chan, Sam. The Japanese Pro-Wrestling: Reality Based Martial Art Connection. bjj.org. URL last accessed January 7, 2006.
- Shoot Wrestling Canada. Ron Beer's Family Self Defense, home of Shoot Wrestling Canada.