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Shoot wrestling
Country of originJapan
Famous practitionersSatoru Sayama, Yuki Nakai, Kazuo Yamazaki, Kazushi Sakuraba, Volk Han, Ken Shamrock
ParenthoodCatch wrestling, Freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, Sambo
Descendant artsShootfighting, Shoot Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts
Olympic sportNo

Shoot wrestling is a combat sport that originated in Japan's professional wrestling circuit (Puroresu) of the 1970s. Professional wrestlers of that era attempted to use more realistic or even "full contact" moves in their matches to increase their excitement, diminishing or eschewing the theatrical elements and acrobatics, looking more similar to an actual, unscripted fight. The name "shoot wrestling" comes from the professional wrestling term "shoot", which refers to any unscripted occurrence within a scripted wrestling event.[1] Shoot wrestling incorporated realistic moves from submission grappling and various kickboxing styles. It was particularly inspired and influenced by catch wrestling, a form of wrestling with submissions that was the predominant style of professional wrestling in the 19th and early 20th century, at the time not yet predetermined.[2]

The first wave of shoot wrestlers were students of Antonio Inoki and Karl Gotch from New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), two wrestlers which already were advocates of a stiffer and more realistic wrestling style. Their students left NJPW to form the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in 1984, pioneering in the new style.[3]

Shoot wrestling was popular in Japan from the 1980s until the mid-1990s, fading from popularity due the demise of the leading shoot-style promotion UWFi in 1996 and the simultaneous rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) in Japan. Most shoot wrestlers started to migrate to MMA or back to more theatrical forms of professional wrestling.[3][4] Shoot wrestling had a considerable influence on the sport of mixed martial arts.

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 sport of catch wrestling.[5] Shoot wrestling can be used to describe a range of hybrid fighting systems such as shootfighting, shoot boxing and the styles of mixed martial arts done in the Shooto, Pancrase and RINGS promotions. Organizations, promotions and gyms with origins in shoot wrestling are referred as the "U-Kei".


Historically, shoot wrestling has been influenced by many martial arts, most influential of them being catch wrestling, but also freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, and then sambo, karate, Muay Thai and judo in the sport's later stages.

Karl Gotch is one of the most important figures in the development of shoot wrestling. Karl Gotch would begin his journey into wrestling in the German and North American professional wrestling circuits, where Gotch found moderate success. However, it was in his tours of Japan that the early formations of shoot wrestling took place. 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" (large clubs) 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 nickname 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 black belt in judo, while Satoru Sayama had studied Muay Thai with Toshio Fujiwara and went on to study sambo with Victor Koga. This would eventually lead to the added influences of karate, Muay Thai and judo to the wrestling style.

One of Gotch's students, Antonio Inoki, hosted a series of mixed martial arts-style wrestling matches in which he pitted his "strong style professional wrestling" against other martial arts in an attempt to show that professional wrestling and shoot wrestling were the strongest fighting disciplines. Inoki would go on to teach these fighting techniques to a new generation of wrestlers in the dojo of his professional wrestling promotion, New Japan Pro-Wrestling. These matches eventually culminated into the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki. While the previous matches were predetermined, Ali and Inoki could not agree on the terms of the match and it turned into a "shoot".[6]

Later on, many wrestlers became interested in promoting this 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 shoot and strong styles of wrestling. While predetermined, the UWF featured effective and practical martial arts moves, which were applied with force. The organization would even host some legitimate mixed martial arts fights, where the UWF wrestlers were able to test their shoot wrestling techniques against fighters with other styles, mimicking Inoki's own exploits. However, internal conflicts between the wrestlers soon resulted in a breakup of the company.[3]

After the breakup of the original Universal Wrestling Federation, shoot wrestling branched into several disciplines. One of the first top stars to leave was "Tiger Mask" Satoru Sayama in 1985, he was dissatisfied with the UWF's internal politics and decided to follow his dream of founding his own martial art discipline. He combined his knowledge of shoot wrestling and other martial arts to create a legitimate fighting style which he later named "Shooto", holding the first amateur event in 1986 and first professional event in 1989.[7] Nobuhiko Takada and his supporters went to found UWF International, Akira Maeda founded Fighting Network RINGS while Yoshiaki Fujiwara went to found Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi ("Fujiwara family"),[3] in the latter, a few wrestlers such as Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, dissatisfied with Fujiwara's turn to lucha libre-inspired style and lack of focus in fighting skills, founded Pancrase in 1993, a company which used shoot-wrestling rules but promoted real unscripted fights.[8]

The multiple successors and organizations inspired by the UWF range from professional wrestling, to MMA and even standalone martial arts styles, they are collectively known as the "U-Kei" ("U-Group" or "U-Class").

Shoot wrestling itself was popular until the mid-90s due the demise of the UWFi in 1996 and the simultaneous rise of mixed martial arts in Japan led to a sharp decline in popularity. Most shoot wrestlers started to migrate into MMA—Fighting Network RINGS itself became a full MMA promotion—or back to more theatrical forms of professional wrestling.[3][4]

Currently, a few companies have been promoting shoot-wrestling events. GLEAT is a Japanese promotion founded in 2020 by LIDET Entertainment consists of former Pro Wrestling NOAH officials. The "Lidet UWF" is a sub-brand which has UWF-style matches.[9] Game Changer Wrestling—an American New Jersey-based promotion—promotes shoot-style wrestling events known as the GCW Bloodsport.[10] The events counted with former MMA and shoot-inspired pro wrestlers such as Minoru Suzuki, Josh Barnett, Matt Riddle and Dan Severn.[11]

Major promotions

Shoot wrestling branched into several sub disciplines after the breakup of the original Universal Wrestling Federation. The main forms and revivals are listed below.

Derived styles

Combat wrestling

Combat wrestling
FocusGrappling, Wrestling
Country of originJapan
Famous practitioners"KID" Yamamoto, Genki Sudo, Takanori Gomi, Rumina Sato, and "Mach" Sakurai
ParenthoodFreestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, Shoot Wrestling
Olympic sportNo

Combat wrestling, also known as "MMA without strikes" is a shoot wrestling variation founded by Kiguchi Dojo.

Doojo, a former wrestler, incorporated classic wrestling rules in his sport.  Famous mixed martial artists also participate in the tournament and a tournament is also held throughout Japan.  Even matchmaking, which is usually not seen by amateur wrestlers and mixed martial arts fighters, is attractive and is now a successful door for mixed martial arts fighters.

In addition, joint levers and chokes are considered fouls unless they lead to a fall, but in combat wrestling a fall does not result in victory (it will be a point at judgment). If a wrestler taps from joint blocks or throttling, a winner is declared. The basic rule is that percussion techniques are basically prohibited and are often practiced as mixed martial arts performed by amateurs.


Professional wrestler Satoru Sayama, a student of Antonio Inoki, founded Shooto in 1985 with the goal creating a sport that revolved around a realistic and effective fighting system. Shooto is focused on all aspects of fighting: striking, stand-up grappling and ground fighting. Practitioners are referred to as shooters or shootists.


An early term for MMA, based on the pro wrestling term "shoot" to denote that the fighting is not staged. It encompasses striking and grappling like MMA.


Kickboxer Caesar Takeshi founded Shoot boxing in 1985, a stand-up fighting league allowing standing submissions and throws.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Schramm, Chris; Oliver, Greg (July 29, 2007). ""God of Wrestling" legacy on wrestling may be forever Karl Gotch dead at age 82". Slam! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Archived from the original on February 19, 2013. Retrieved January 14, 2013.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e "The World's Greatest Fighter Was A Pro Wrestler Who Couldn't Fight". Deadspin. 2017-10-13. Retrieved 2022-07-14.
  4. ^ a b "Nobuhiko Takada: MMA's Most Important Bad Fighter". 3 July 2017. Retrieved 2022-07-14.
  5. ^ Pure Dynamite by Tom Billington & Alison Coleman, page 7, Dynamite Kid Co 2001 edition
  6. ^ Bull, Andy. "The forgotten story of ... Muhammad Ali v Antonio Inoki". The Guardian. November 11, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  7. ^ "A Blood Called Shooto - Home Called Shooto". Sherdog. Retrieved 2022-08-09.
  8. ^ Grant, T. P. (2013-05-02). "MMA Origins: Fighting For Pride". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2022-08-09.
  9. ^ Blanchard, Matthew (2020-08-20). "Former Pro Wrestling NOAH Owners LIDET To Debut New Promotion, GLEAT". The Overtimer. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  10. ^ Raimondi, Marc (2018-04-05). "Minoru Suzuki vs. Matt Riddle will now headline GCW's Bloodsport event". Cageside Seats. Retrieved 2022-07-08.
  11. ^ "Josh Barnett's Bloodsport Preview and Predictions". MMA Sucka. 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2022-07-08.