Friday, December 9, 2016


Battle Dimension '93: Tokyo Bay Area Circuit #1
April 24, 1993 in Yokohama, Japan
Bunka Gym drawing 4,760

With the results of KORAKUEN EXPERIMENT '93: ROUND 1 now very much "in" (our findings: it was good), we will soon proceed with all due confidence in our method to KORAKUEN EXPERIMENT '93: ROUND 2, all the while cautious that our encounter with the new and the strange not descend into a mere base scientism blinkered by the iron shades of rationalism, blind (in its arrogance) of the extent to which Theology remains forever Queen of the Sciences, Philosophy her Handmaiden, RINGS a Brooding Duke who has Curried Her Favour. All that lies between us, here, now, and our return to Korakuen (Fire Pro name: Yurakuen [sometimes they don't try that hard]) Hall is a brief foray into the BATTLE DIMENSION, the portal (or RINGSmouth) to which is located this evening somewhere in the bowels of Bunka Gym (Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium [横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan], host to Tokyo 1964 Olympic Volleyball) . . . but for how long will it remain open? Will Mitsuya Nagai make it back before it collapses? Will Bart Vale?

Akira Maeda's knee, as we know, is utterly boned, in the sense that there are bones sticking out of it in all kinds of gross ways (not true) and so it needs surgery (this part is right). He joins our usual WOWOW friends on commentary to introduce a video package that highlights his hospital stay and subsequent rehab. What I would like to show you most of all is that he brought a Super Nintendo, or, at the very least, that one was made available too him (I never had one but they definitely seemed good), and also that later he was made into a mech of some kind:

Oh wait it also has him swimming, and I want to show you that too because it delights me: 

The opening gathering of fighters (they are not shown parading) is always at least somewhat serious but never sombre, except for this time which is totally and completely sombre, and I cannot tell why at all until the ten-bell salute for Ton Von Maurik is completely upon us: R.I.P. Ton Von Maurik, whose bouts against Dolman, Vrij, and Williams (Willie) we all enjoyed together only short weeks ago. I know nothing of his death or too-short life; perhaps Meltzer will prove edifying in this regard, although even he can say only so much before The Great Change. But let us agree for now that there is every likelihood Ton Von Maurik loved and was loved and so let's be at least a little sad.

R.I.P. Ton Von Maurik

But also let us to the BATTLE DIMENSION as it is what Ton Von Maurik would have wanted us to do (certainly had he been booked, and maybe even if he hadn't been) and let us find there Masayuki Naruse and Yoshihisa Yamamoto, two hungry young lions eager for the fight yes Yamamoto take him down and employ your waza yes this is the way. I love the way RINGS sounds: the clicking of the ringside cameras, the audible breathing of the fighters, the quick mat-work thuds, the sharp, short applauses as rope escapes are announced in a hurried tone over the house mic, things on that scale: not the large glories of the pitched moments of RINGS, but the soft rhythms of its quotidian happenings. And what happening could be more RINGS-quotidian than Masayuki Naruse and Yoshihisa Yamamoto? This is a match that would never appear on anyone's list of the great RINGS contests on the boards (the boards no longer truly exist, as we have discussed) but it and its low-key ilk (for it is not alone) form very much the workmanlike core of RINGS' art. I do not want to overstate this bout's humility, though, because just as a thing considered entirely on it own merits and outside the place it holds within the broader RINGS (and indeed divine) economy it is still significantly better than whatever the last match you watched was that wasn't this, and I say that not despite the finish coming on a self-inflicted broken arm from a kani-basami flying crab scissors at 8:48 but, instead, because of it. We think of kani-basami as inherently dangerous for (a non-compliant) uke (just take the fall, uke, and we'll get through this), but this is a kind of kani-basami self-ownage previously unknown to me. You can see it here quite plainly (poor Yamamoto):

if that's not broken, it sure as heck looks like it is
Buzariashvili Ramazi vs. Grom Zaza sounds too Georgian to do anything other than just totally hit the spot completely, but I guess we'll see? Yeah, Grom Zaza almost right away throws with a beauteous kata-guruma/shoulder-wheel/fireman's carry into the scarf-hold-entanglement some knows as kesa-gatame-garami and then, what's more, an ude-hishigi-juji-gatame cross-armlock of near-classic execution and only a rope escape denies this sequence its earned culmination (the symbolic death of ippon). Buzariashvili Ramazi acquits himself well enough with a plausible capture suplex and this will maybe be a contest! Or maybe not, Grom Zaza knees him to the mat and threatens moments later with an axe-kick (an enormously good kind of kick). So far this has been very good but I come to a match such as this (one with Georgians) expecting a certain amount of ura nage and, within that, quite particular needs for arching, and as those needs have yet to be met I am not prepared to say much more. Buzariashvili Ramazi, it would seem, is not himself without knees that can knock a Georgian to the ground, so he does that next. He pursues a step-over-toe-hold, a technique that, in its many varieties, has exploded in its application since the arrival of Volk Han and I get it, why wouldn't you want to try, too. Zaza soon grabs a step-over-armbar that calls to mind at once Minoru Suzuki pulling at A.J. Styles' fingers from that position in their G1 match that quite rightly won Wrestling Observer Match of the Year that time (it must have been 2014, the same summer I saw Styles [and the IWGP belt itself, which was neat] at a small show at the same historic Halifax Forum wherein Leo Burke wrestled for both the AWA and NWA world titles [on different days], a show I might not even have attended had my internet friend Pete not assured me that A.J. Styles was an excellent wrestler and not just the guy who got mad at Mike Tenay about being from a trailer park [though that was also very good]). Zaza does not work the fingers, though, in part I am sure because RINGS does not permit small joint manipulation due to its civility, but also simply because Grom Zaza is a sportsman whereas Minoru Suzuki is the foulest fen-stalking murderer (I say this with not just respect but reverence). Holy smokes Buzariashvili Ramazi slipped behind for the choke! That's it for Grom Zaza at 11:40! A solid match that did not feature the amount of Georgian arching ura nage I had hoped for and so I am forced to turn elsewhere for it, but fortunately I know exactly where to look (Beka Gviniashvili [GEO] vs S. Kurbonov [UZB] -100 Kg Bronze Medal Contest 2016 Grand Prix Tibilisi in gif form).

Serguei Sousserov vs. Todor Todorov intrigues me, mostly because of Todorov's Bulgarian judoism, but also because of Sousserov's youthful promise HOLY SHIT SEOI-NAGE lol yeah Todor Todorov can throw and everyone knows it. He tangles Sousserov up quite grossly before a rope escape returns them to standing technique, at which time Todorov feeds himself into Sousserov's far less convincing throw. Sousserov is a bit of a puzzle, you will perhaps recall, because he has the right background and look and everything to be really good at this but he doesn't quite have the right aspect or ethos or something and it all seems less credible than it should. Extremely credible: Todorov's ippon-seoi-nage that sends both hurtling towards and indeed through the ropes, his slow-motion, punishing ura-nage, and the commitment he exhibits on his rolling juji-gatame entries. Oh dear, that is where my disc fails! I had been a little worried about this one from the beginning to be honest, as the burned part of the disc itself looked somehow odd, and then it wouldn't play at all in the first computer I tried. It worked in another, which has taken us this far, but no farther, I am afraid. I even tried it in my trusty PS2 but there it wouldn't read at all, but it is okay because I decided to play a game of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution and it went really well (cleared the 10th Anniversary Edition straight through in 5:47:71 but lost in the bonus stage [I used the judo guy]{I always use the judo guy}]) so I'm not upset or anything. Let's have a look at the results of the rest of the show:

Todor Todorov beat Sergei Sousserov (11:46) via submission.
Pieter Oele beat Dick Leon-Vrij (6th) via decision.
Bart Vale beat Hans Nyman (8:35) via submission.
Volk Han beat Mitsuya Nagai (16:05) via submission 

Waaaaaait a minute, surely Volk Han vs Mitsuya Nagai has been uploaded by a Russian at some point, let me check . . . yeah okay here it is, why not all enjoy it together? Let's see, Nagai comes out mad with attack in anticipation of the truest spirit of Big Mouth Loud (that would emerge years later) only to be hooked to the mat and nearly ashi-gatame(leg-lock)'d into submission at once as the crowd chants Nagai's name and gasps each instant he is threatened which is every instant because Volk Han is a high king of this. Mitsuya Nagai has been a tremendous young fellow every time any of us have seen him and so it is with a great deal of sympathy that we look on as Han nearly finishes with his strange double heel-hook and then a deeply weird hiza-gatame knee-lock that also involves the splits. When Nagai is able to get his own little leg-lock going only to be pushed down hard into juji-gatame, the crowd is So Worried, and that doesn't really let up even after Nagai makes the ropes, because he is clasping his arm tenderly as he rises, as though the damage has already been done. But then Mitsuya Nagai knocks Volk Han down with an axe-kick and a flurry of palm strikes, and even though absolutely nobody then or now could think Volk Han would not fight on, this is a moment of sheer triumph for Nagai, Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, and also pretty much the human spirit:

my god
If nothing else happens in the rest of this match, like if Nagai and Han just literally stand there and look at each other and chat lightly, this match is a masterpiece. What a moment. I think this might be my favourite single thing to have happened so far in RINGS. Please, please watch from 4min0s to like 4min40s of that match if you do not care to or are unable to watch the whole thing, it is of such beauty. 

With Han up against the ropes, his back to the centre of the ring, and Nagai behind him with a deep waist-lock digging in for ura-nage, it really seems like he Nagai might be able to keep this going for at least a few moments longer, but with the speed of a centipede Volk Han drops down and through for a knee-bar and all at once the spell is broken and we are back from the reverie of unlikely triumph to the reality of constant retreat. Han is all over him in all kinds of ways that seem weird to everyone but Volk Han, who has everything deeply under control. We are ten minutes in when Volk Han looks set to cripple Nagai with a heel hook, and the crowd reaches Maeda-levels of urging. Each of these hopeless rope breaks are beautiful and true. The crowd sighs when Nagai's headlock-choke, which nobody can believe he managed to apply in the first place, slips off, but they sigh at themselves more than at him. It is not that Nagai cannot apply any holds so much as that when he applies them, even when well enough to force a rope break, you see that there is nothing he can apply that is going to do it; there are pre-Christian Germanic-North levels of fatalism in his every movement EXCEPT FOR THE SPINNING HEEL KICK A LOVING TRIBUTE TO HIS FALLEN MENTOR YES DO IT MITSUYA NAGAI but by the time I got to the end of saying that he was already scrambling for the ropes, trapped in a knee-bar of savage cræft and when, not long after, he succumbs to a gyaku-ude-garami/reverse-arm-entanglement/Kimura near the ropes (but not near enough), everybody just breathes out.  

So while it is too bad that we missed a couple of matches (including Bart Vale's!), isn't it nice that we all got to see Volk Han and Mitsuya Nagai? That was a really special one, and I felt moved by it.  


April 26, 1993: "RINGS on 4/24 in Yokohama has Volk Han vs. Mitsuya Nagai, Bart Vail vs. Hans Nyman and Dick Vrij vs. Peter Ura." (RINGS Bloggist's note: I include this only to note variant spellings)

May 3, 1993: "RINGS ran its first major show without Akira Maeda on 4/24 in Yokohama and pretty well packed the Bunka Gym with 4,760 as Volk Han beat Mitsuya Nagai on top. Newcomer Peter Willa was put over Dirk Leon-Vrij, so he'll get a push. I believe Badnews Allen debuts on 4/30 (NOTE: this never happened but imagine if it did; let yourself imagine if it did). Maeda did the television color commentary for this card and said he'd be back in the ring in October and that he'd be going to Europe and the U.S. to work on putting together shows and claimed to have a meeting set up with Don King."

Well now it is going to be hard to get anything else done today except think about what could have been had RINGS been able to fully and truly experience 1976 Montréal Olympic Heavyweight Judo (my first sensei fought in that tournament but did not face him there, I know I have told you this before, I am sorry) Bronze Medalist "Bad News" Allen Coage, and if you are looking for a place to start, consider that the origins of his nom-de-guerre/sobriquet-rouge rest in the posting of draw sheets on the humble walls of local judo tournaments. Are the sheets up? Did they post our division yet? Who did I draw? Bad news: Allen. Unreal. From there, perhaps a few minutes with the January, 1969 Black Belt magazine profile that details concert pianist Jerome Mackey's drive to fund Young Coage's studies in judo at Nihon University, and notes that "Coage is a loner; his close friends are in the art of judo." It also addresses his rivalry with Doug Rogers ("He calls this heavyweight Canadian, an airline pilot, his roughest adversary to date"), whose judo we have discussed in these pages previously, and almost certainly will again at some point, like for example now: Rogers is originally from Truro, Nova Scotia, as well you know, but learned his judo first at the Montreal YMCA (before going on, as so many champions of the era did, to study under Minoru "Frank" Hatashita in Toronto, and later of course, most famously, with the peerless Masahiko Kimura), and was for a time a student of Perry Teale, later the founder of the Nova Scotia Kodokan Black Belt Association, the better-named forerunner (I mean no disrespect but let us be honest with each other) of Judo Nova Scotia. Here is a nice picture of Doug Rogers with the recently departed and much-missed Ken Whitney, Judo Canada Hall of Fame member, key figure in the history of Nova Scotian judo (also he sat on the grading board for my black belt examination and rightly chided me on the execution of one of my strangles, and I emphasize the particular detail he drew my attention to every time I teach it now):

And then I guess we could think about what it would have been like if Doug Rogers, in 2011 at the age of seventy, came to your old sensei's club? What if they did a little piece about it for the local news? Would it look anything like this? And who might that uncharacteristically close-cropped figure in the white judogi palling around with Big Mike in the background over Jackie's right shoulder be?

Might it be the same odd man seen here next to two of the finest students with whom he has ever been blessed, as all listen attentively to tales of Masahiko Kimura and the lore of his waza

Who could say, or know? 

There's just an awful, awful lot to think about right now. But let us focus our thoughts, as well as we are able amidst these many spiraling significances, on the singular figure of "Bad News" Allen Coage, seen below in perhaps not all of his glory, but enough of it to give you I think a feel for what the fullness of that glory may have been, as I thank you once again both for your attention and for your time. 

b. October 22 1943 (New York City)
d. March 6 2007 (Calgary)

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