Saturday, November 19, 2016


Mega Battle 4th: Kohrin
"1st Anniversary"
May 16, 1992 in Tokyo, Japan
Ariake Coliseum drawing 10,369

Recently, as I surveyed the waza-hungry young judoists assembling on the mats before me on a night not unlike any other at our place of judo, one such judoist sidled up and quietly told me that his friend would be coming a little later for judo, he just had to take home a fish first. I thanked him for letting me know. I mention this to you because the only explanation I can credit as to why Volk Han, following his more-or-less ideal hiza-hishigi (knee-crush/calf-slicer) win over Akira Maeda at MEGA BATTLE 3rd: IKAZUCHI, has no bout at this RINGS 1st Anniversary MEGA BATTLE 4th: KOHRIN, is that he must have had to take home a fish. Otherwise he would be there. Samboing. Judoing. Sambo/judoing. Judo/samboing. To completion. But when you need to take home a fish, all other plans and desires become, at best, secondary. This is deeply human.

Wait, I blew it, Volk Han totally has a match on this one, how did I miss this: he's got Grom Zaza in the second match, and it'll probably be awesome, what am I talking about. This is a terrible beginning. And yet I will not undo it. "I have been stupid in a poem / I will not alter the poem / but let the stupidity remain permanent / as the trees are / in a poem / the dwarf trees of Baffin Island," Al Purdy said one time, and so in all humility I will simply proceed, and tell you that this 4th Mega Battle opens with a contemplative Akira Maeda presumably reflecting on the year that has been; it has not been without it's setbacks for Maeda, græpplingly (æsthetically, of course, it has been flawless and without peer).

The (shoot?) weigh-ins for this ([largely?] worked?) event take place in the skyblue RINGS ring (the RING, I guess) itself, and everyone seems to be buddies. That is definitely what weigh-ins were always like in my experience, everyone just palling around like "hey pal, how's your weight? hahaha yeah!", stuff like that, it was great, and then the cowardice would set in as you hung out in junior high gyms and hallways awaiting your division's call (always last), or maybe did some refereeing or timing or score-keeping in the morning to help things run along smoothly because while it is always true that we are all in this together and just have to try to get through it this is even more true when you're at a judo tournament because man oh man there is a lot to be done at one of those! Especially when your sensei decides you're the one that should come with him to get all of the ice and also the stuff he forgot back at his place (oh man this is going to take hours, what if my division gets called [it will never be called, has never been called]). 

The parade of fighters, now set to a RINGS theme that no longer includes the RINGS rap we have discussed previously, ends with everyone taking off their t-shirts and tossing them into the crowd in a bold step in the right direction. 

BREATH BOUT is a new kind of bout and in its first utterance consists of Masayuki Naruse and Yoshihisa Yamamoto! Yamamoto is so great (the wrestler, not the quantum optics guy at Stanford, but I have nothing against that guy either)! Perhaps you will recall him from all of the other great things he does in RINGS that we haven't talked about yet? Or the time that it took Rickson Grace like twenty minutes to defeat him even though Yamamoto is essentially a pro wrestler who did some judo in high school? Strange in some ways, isn't it, that Rickson Gracie, despite the 400-0 record he claims and even his late father (may peace be upon him) derided as an obvious fabrication, took so long to defeat someone who would finish his career (let us pray it has finished) with a record of 14-25-1? Is this, in some sense, of a piece with how, despite Rickon's no doubt extremely real skills, the combined record of every documented opponent of Rickson Gracie is terrible, and far far worse if you take away Masakatsu Funaki, against whom Rickson demanded special rules limiting hitting (no disrespect intended, I too reject hitting and seek to limit it where it cannot be avoided altogether)? Or that it took him six minutes to overcome a literally half-blind (so very recently blinded) and fully-tiny Yuki Nakai? But to even pose such questions as these in the spirit of free and open inquiry is perhaps unfair to his legend. Is it so hard to believe that Rickson was, as he claims, utterly unaware of the rules in the sambo match he lost to Ron Tripp, despite having competed in sambo more than once, certainly, and so the match shouldn't count as a loss because he was confused a little? What could be more natural than to then just say you didn't lose? And who are we to judge his claims of the ease with which he would dispatch with Fedor Emilianenko, though Rickson had been long-retired, coupled with his refusal to fight either Kazushi Sakuraba or Bas Rutten in his prime for really very large amounts of money? These are questions beyond our scope, and this is a needless digression, other than to note that Yoshihisa Yamamoto lasted twenty minutes (of an essentially unwatchable fight, please do not mistake me: despite the fire-hot crowd's early position re: Yoshihisa Yamamoto with Akira Maeda there beside him, it almost cannot be watched) against Rickson Gracie despite the latter's mastery. Please also recall Yoshihisa Yamamoto's involvement, tangential though it may have been in some ways, in a post-Smashing Machine Mark Kerr's beyond-brutal self-ownage in PRIDE (a gif of which resides here). 

Shotokan karateka and future NJPW Junior Heavyweight champion Masayuki Naruse will be his foe tonight! I don't know much else about him other than that Sanae Kikuta (2001 ADCC 88kg champion, and, I would add, judoist) caught him in a juji-gatame when they had a match on one of those GRABAKA LIVE! shows but there is no shame in that surely. Both fighters are shown warming up backstage and are interviewed in ways that are compellingly edited in keeping with the superior style we have come to associate with all WOWOW undertakings. 
Naruse appears in trunks and pads of a steely blue, Yamamoto in what we will come to celebrate as Tamura-red. At this point in his young life, Yamamoto's face is utterly ravaged by acne in a way that rends the heart. 

As has occurred previously but not consistently, this evening's bouts are presented sans commentaires which, as I have mentioned both previously and consistently, I find to be a high-level technique. This bout has the look and feel of a solid opening contest between Young Lions on a Korakuen Hall NJPW show and as you may well surmise I mean that as praise. Yamamoto flows from a lovely double-underhook suplex into the sort of kesa-gatame that Mikinosuke Kawaishi describes in My Method of Judo as kesa-gatame-kubi-hishigi or scarf-hold-neck-dislocation but don't worry Naruse seems OK. For more on Kawaishi and also waza, why not enjoy Ma Méthode de Judo (the more widely-known French edition, as Kawaishi is the father of French judo, pretty much) in its entirety here, or maybe just look at how great the cover is for a moment:

Style is his method.
These guys are doing great! Lovely (if slightly light) throws, fine attempts at plausible submission holds, what more could we ask of these fellows? Thus far neither has the upper hand at all, as they seem to be approaching the match on the whole as evenly as any ashi-gatame leg-lock sequence has ever been worked (Friedrich Schleiermacher's notion of the hermeneutic circle could be relevant here but probably isn't). The first clear advantage comes when Naruse throws a series of palm strikes to Yamamoto's face and kind of actually right into his eye with such speed and vigour (I would describe the vigour here as . . . ample) that we have our first knockdown of the evening. The needlessly confusing graphics of the previous event are nowhere to be seen, thankfully; "DOWN 1" is all we are shown, and it is a mercy. As Naruse has a couple of rope breaks now, I think that would mean they are tied? I am still not sure that is the way they are scoring it yet, exactly, but it might be. Ah ha, yes it must be! The fifteen-minute time limit expires and the bout is declared a draw, suggesting that I totally understand the scoring now! This is a triumph for me personally and a fine effort by both Naruse and Yamamoto, so good job everybody all around, I think.

AQUA BOUT is where Volkhan (all one word this time, and I like it) finds himself paired with readily-identifiable-Georgian Grom Zaza. From a main event win over Akira Maeda to an Aqua Bout positioned not long after the jerking of the curtain; I cannot explain it. Nor can I explain his lean wolfishness, exactly, but here it stands before us in contrast to the hirsute stoutness of Graza at pretty much the same weight. Zaza is not messing around early, as he goes kata-guruma (shoulder wheel/fireman's carry) to ude-hishigi-juji-gatame immediately and Han seems lucky to escape! The crowd at Ariake Coliseum, again my favourite RINGS venue thus far because of how the voices echo around within its dark confines, is supremely into this from that first attack. When rear-waist-locks are countered into knee-bar attempts, who could fail to join them in their enthusiasm(s)? Han forces a rope escape with an ashi-garami leg entanglement either of yore or of this very day (both are plausible) into a hiza-hishigi knee-crush/calf-slicer and I do not overstate this when I say the crowd is utterly in thrall to the waza displayed. Volk Han's standing step-over armbar into a sankaku-jime/triangle choke attempt? Yes, they enjoy that as well. Zaza, though, this soon-to-be Olympian, possesses a ruggedness that is not easily overcome. Holy smokes he just cuffed Han in the head super hard and that is a knockdown, absolutely it is. When Han sends Zaza reeling with no less mighty a (reverse, spinning) slap minutes later, the crowd is won to his side forever if they had not been previously (they had been, probably). Han follows with a solid shot to the body for another knockdown, so that is two-to-one for everyone's favourite guy Volk Han.

Then the whole point of shoot style pro wrestling occurs when, from the clinch, Volk Han ducks under Grom Zaza's right arm to attempt a standing kata-gatame/shoulder-hold/arm-triangle choke, which the crowd recognizes immediately, only for Zaza to counter with a harai-makikomi/sacrifice hip-sweep that sends them both crashing to the mat and yeah, that's it, that's why this whole thing is the whole thing that it is, end of blog (lol not really though). That Han then escapes into a juji-gatame attempt and from there takes the back is all worthy and true but it was that initial counter throw to the kata-gatame that seems to me the greatest thing. 


You are perhaps familiar with the sumi-gaeshi sacrifice throw that can be executed from a gyaku-ude-garami aka Kimura grip? If you are not, here is Masahiko Kimura himself executing it, and I would like you to know that Volk Han just did one of these, too, and that he did a good job. Lest you think this is the only armlock from which Han can throw, he kind of does so from waki-gatame (armpit-hold) as well, in a manner reminiscent of how Shinya Aoki snapped poor Keith Wisniewski's arm in a way that I have linked to previously and will not again because it really isn't nice to see. Anyway, Han forces Zaza to the mat with it and before you know it he has Grom all tied up in a nice little package of hiza-hishigi and hadaka-jime that some seem to want to call a reverse or inverted S.T.F. and I can understand why (to each tradition its own nomenclature) and really, I am not kidding you in any way when I tell you that if you are such a person as to be reading this blog with any measure of either curiosity or enjoyment this is a match it will please you very much to see especially if it happens to exist on let's just say I don't know maybe Dailymotion why yes it does, please behold it.

Next is FIRE BOUT between Peeter Aerts (all spellings as they appear on-screen) and Adam Watt but I think we can all agree that Volk Han/Grom Zaza is the real fire bout can't we haha! The weird thing about seeing Aerts (and also Satake) here is that this is all pre-K1, right? I know nothing as in nothing about any of this stuff and I am here to learn. I like that, in keeping with his "Dutch Lumberjack" sobriquet-rouge/nom-de-guerre Aerts comes out garbed very much as might become a Dutch lumberjack. 

Adam Watt, for his part, has a red robe with a big Adidas (All Day I Dream About Shootstyle) logo on the back so he is not hurting either. Not yet anway, because I think he is going to get kicked, and quite possibly for real (therein lies the intrigue). They are wearing proper boxing gloves for these three five-minutes rounds but there is no way it goes that long if my understanding of Peeter/Peter Aerts is even remotely accurate. 

As round one ends I am really pretty sure this is real? Certainly nothing has happened to make me think it isn't. If I am being mark-trimmed so be it. I fear only the wrath and judgment of God, not of those whose understanding of which RINGS matches were real surpasses my own. Aerts' elbow KO in the second doesn't look nearly as compelling as anything that preceded it though so I have no idea what is happening and I once again resolve to embrace the mystery.    

And now an AIR BOUT between the at once monstrous yet affable Dick Fly and the way way smaller Mitsuya Nagai even though he himself is up over two-hundred pounds. Nagai, I see, is sticking with the neon trunks (this is of course to his credit); he flies across the ring and misses with a jumpkick to open this side-scrolling bossfight. Oh no, vicious dick kick from Fly/Vrij, like this is a calamity of a dick kick, my word. Nagai is so extremely down right now. I think the windup tells you a lot more about this truly horrendous blow than the actual landing of it (though I am sure that is what bothers Nagai most), here take a look:

In an amazing feat of resolve and determination, Nagai comes out wild once he has collected himself/his gear and the bout is resumed. He is mad with attack! I mean he's getting annihilated with kicks and knees to the everywhere, but he's getting after it. Dick Fly raises his hand to the crowd each time he batters Nagai to the ground, and the crowd is like HYEEAAAHHHH and then Nagai gets up and they are like HWWWOOOOAAAHHH and it is all pretty exciting but also somewhat horrific. The fifth knockdown and as such the TKO at 6:11 is I suppose merciful but I don't feel too good about it. Backstage footage reveals a saddened Nagai, a well-pleased Fry (Vrij). 

A THUNDER BOUT now of Willy (Willie) Williams (I am so happy he is back) and Bitsadze Ameran, who is a very tall Georgian indeed, which is appropriate as Williams is himself pretty tall. In fact these guys are both listed at 200cm here, so 6'7"! I don't know anybody that tall in my daily life! What we are looking at right now is some karate conducted in gi-pants and black belts and, in the case of Williams, dew-rags, but no jackets anywhere. Ameran gets dumped over the top rope in the course of this karate but falls merely to the apron rather than the floor and so remains very much alive in this KARATE ROYAL RUMBLE (that's not what this is). This isn't very good, but a gyaku-kata-gatame of the sort some call the D'arce Choke (after Joe D'Arce) almost happens by accident at one point when Williams drags Ameran to the mat and Ameran moves unwisely but the really very creaky Williams does not seem to entirely know what he has here. What he has as round two begins though is more karate and he shows no hesitation in using it. This is kind of awful? But I like it? As does the crowd, in a light-hearted way? I can't really account for how this remains pretty watchable other than to appeal to the natural lure of karate. These guys, when they are on the ground, though; these guys. Round three sees Ameran on the ground early because of all the karate Willie Williams does to him and that's it, a knockout at 2:07 of the third round. This was bad . . . and yet good. It is my hope that Williams, though 65, will compete for America in the Olympic Karate set to debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, and triumph there.

A UNIVERSE BOUT involving Masaaki Satake is no less sure a site of karate, and I do not really think Bert Kops Jr. is going to have much to say about the amount karate that will be seen in it. Satake is correctly attired in red and black saw-toothed tights; he is perfectly of his age, and my approach to him if I ever rewatch all of the PRIDE shows (this will almost certainly never happen) will be different than it had been ("who is this guy, then?" was largely my approach and my folly). SATAKEEEEEEEE the people rightly declare. Bert Kops Sr. raised no fool, and so his son wisely attempts to finish this contest on the mat early with a juji-gatame but alas, too close to the ropes, as an escape has been found there. I feel that all that truly remains is the inevitability of karate. But no, Kops again secures the takedown. Ah, the classic contest of striker vs. striker! In truth I prefer the classic team of striker and grappler like for instance Sonny Chiba and his little judo buddy Kôjirô Hongo in Karate for Life (空手バカ一代, Karate Baka Ichidai) but we have discussed that before at some length and will not dwell on it now. Round two sees Kops' strategy unchanged: takedown, roll around, try for stuff. And yet Satake resists him. And then karates the shit out of him, first for a knockdown from which Kops recovers only at the referee's count of nine, and then closes up shop with a kick to the damn liver for the knockout at 2:09 of the second round (R2, KO, karate-do).

All that remains then is our ASTRAL BOUT between Akira Maeda, still well and truly the (Wallace) Stevensian central man of this ever-growing Fighting Network, and Hank (Henk) Numan, who says, "Hello, I am Henk Numan, and I want to fight in Japan, and I love all the Japanese people." I wish him well, he seems lovely! Maeda shows the interviewer backstage the extent of his knee brace (it is pretty extensive) and perhaps this is an odd time to mention it again but this has been another one of those shows without commentary and I just can't tell you enough times (lol you might very well disagree) how high-level it makes the whole thing feel. I know little of Henk Numan, in truth, other than his obvious Dutchness, and the fact of his bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1980 in the 95kg division. I will also say this for Numan: he tried a scissor-sweep from the bottom just now, the first one in RINGS so far, and no one can take that away from him, and it would be gross to try.

A fairly even affair here in the opening minutes: Numan looks no worse than fine, and Maeda is having his name yelled a lot; not a lot for him, maybe, but objectively kind of a lot. Numan threatens with a gyaku-ude-garami (Kimura) into a juji-gatame and I am going to back this up to see if what I think just happened actually happened, please stand by; OK yes I am as certain as anyone could ever be in this context that, whilst exerting himself to finish the juji-gatame, Numan audibly broke wind. I actually have no doubts that this is what happened. I have asked my wife to please watch and listen and offer her thoughts and her position is that "There was certainly a muffled honking." Maeda somehow withstands this onslaught (græppling is an intimate enterprise, and we have all been in this predicament at one time or another, I guess, or will be), and not long thereafter sends Numan to the ground with first one body-kick knockdown and then another and then kicks his leg ("out of his leg," R.I.P. Owen Hart) and that's it, a KO from relentless kicking at 5:24 that leaves the crowd reacting as though they are like that was okay . . . I *guess* but it was a flat ending to be honest.

HOWEVER let us not forget the lordly bearing of the Volk Han/Grom Zaza bout that is I am quite sure the best one we have seen in RINGS thus far and that I again encourage you to please enjoy at the link posted above and which indeed I will post again for you now because I feel very, very strongly about its greatness. Thank you for even considering it, if you have, and also for your time!


MAY 4, 1992: "Next Rings card is 5/16 at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo (one week before Onita's card in the same building) headlined by Akira Maeda vs. Hank Neumann (Netherlands), who won the gold medal in judo in the 1980 Olympic games [RINGS bloggist's note: this is incorrect, it was bronze] and in 1991 placed third in the world in judo [Me Again: this absolutely did not happen]. International Kick Boxing Federation world heavyweight champion Peeter Aerts debuts on the show as well."

MAY 11, 1992: "Akira Maeda is said to have signed 11 new fighters from Bulgaria, including two contenders for spots in the 1992 Olympics. Hank Neumann, who headlines the 5/16 show against Maeda, is 36 years old and another protege of Chris Dolman. His third place in the world finish in judo which we listed last week as being from last year was actually from 1979. [Solid correction, nice work.]"

Nothing recapping the show itself! But we just did that together so it's fine.

it is, you know

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