Monday, September 25, 2017


IGF NEW Opening Series
May 4, 2017 in 後楽園ホール Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan
Drawing 1,435

SEASON OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULNESS CLOSE BOSOM FRIEND OF THE MATURING SUN CONSPIRING WITH HIM HOW TO LOAD AND BLESS WITH FRUIT VINES THAT ROUND THE THATCH-EAVES RUN TO BEND WITH APPLES THE MOSS'D COTTAGE-TREES AND FILL ALL FRUIT WITH RIPENESS TO THE CORE TO SWELL THE GOURD AND PLUMP THE HAZEL SHELLS WITH A SWEET KERNEL TO SET BUDDING MORE AND STILL MORE LATER FLOWERS FOR THE BEES HOW WAS YOUR SUMMER EVERYBODY MINE WAS GREAT WELCOME TO AUTUMN and if you will indulge me in this our first TK Scissorsing of the post-RINGS era may I please share with you something Dave Meltzer recounted on last night's Wrestling Observer Radio which is purportedly "subscribers only" but we are all of us here (Dave himself too) tape traders of the soul are we not and so here it is as he offered final thoughts on having gone to a Bellator show Friday night as we ask ourselves yet again and not for the last time (should we be spared) WHAT DID DAVE MELTZER SAY

"[A]aaaand I'm trying to think if there's any other . . . notes . . . nothin' really . . . I . . . uhm . . . I guess the one thing is, is Akira Maeda was there to talk business, uhm, he wants to start somethin' in Japan, and, y'know, use Bellator fighters, Bellator supply some talent, so Maeda looks like he's gettin' back in the fight game, so I talked to Maeda for a while, I haven't talked to him in like twenty-five years. So, uhm, anyway, he uhm [inaudible] we were more talking pro wrestling. Obviously, y'know, if you know his version of what pro wrestling is he's very disappointed in the direction of Japanese pro wrestling even though it's making a comeback, just feeling that uhm Japanese wrestling could have gone its own way, and he just said, y'know, we were taking it its own way, this was, y'know, RINGS and UWF and his stuff, UWFi and, y'know, the original UWF and it's all gone and now it's like American pro wrestling. That's his take on everything. So. Uhm. And just the MMA scene's dead there and he's trying to revive it. And, y'know, that's the deal." 

There are several things to address here and first among these is the dark fact that in response to my twitter question "dave is maeda there and if so will you tell him I love him" he said nothing to me and, I worry, nothing to Maeda about me, so it was a complete waste of eight seconds to have even asked (except that two of my friends "liked" it and it is important to spread joy). Also it seems wild to me that this is the last thing he wanted to say about going to the Bellator instead of the first, revealing that, despite the extent to which I admire his work, Dave Meltzer and I are in at least this one regard, and possibly several other ones too, really quite different people (he is certainly much heavier [I mean no disrespect; he is admirably lean at his size]). He didn't talk about Akira Maeda until he and Bryan were into the fifty-eighth minute of their show! I don't even have a podcast and I am already talking about Akira Maeda at the very beginning of it. Oh hey on the subject of podcasts I should definitely tell you that there is one now in the field of shoot-style called Fighting Network FRIENDS (you will never guess who suggested this demonstrably sikk title), and look at the extraordinarily high-taste-level graphics they (Andy and Bren, of twitter) have come up with for it: 

I should remind you too, dear readers, of how there is in addition to this present blog you are reading right now (and I thank you once more for doing so) also very much our friend Dan's Kick. Submission. Suplex. exploration of the second wave of UWF; my old pals Jonathan and Lee's Hybrid Shoot inquiry into the ways of Pancrase; and I should note too that most recently young (I assume; I am old) Kelley's Kingdom of Shoot has appeared on the scene (as Sartre, in L'existentialisme est un humanisme, suggests we all do) to address Kingdom. Together I am pretty sure we will in time cræft The Anatomy of Shoot-Style Criticism in our every word and, indeed, deed. I think it's neat that we're all enjoying these old matches!  

To return though to Dave, and to Maeda, and how Dave failed to relay my message to him, it is interesting that Dave says that Maeda is looking to get back into MMA, because he has of course persisted with RINGS: The Outsider for really many years now, has he not? But that is a happening that is happening in extraordinarily low-key fashion and I am not here to pick nits; we know what Dave means. But the really interesting thing here is Maeda's of-course-totally-right-thing about the lost direction in Japanese pro wrestling, a massive missed opportunity (æsthetically) to further what we have come to call, in the spirit of Tadashi Tanaka's unreal letters of the mid-to-late-90s, The Long UWF (please remember Tanaka never ever called it this so if this is a bad idea [definitely] the blame is mine and mine alone and none is due to Tanaka, whose missives were, and remain, as poesy to me). No matter what one makes of contemporary NJPW (I like it very well though some parts of it drive me nuts!), or the resurgent AJPW (I hear it has been good!), or the continued low-level fineness of DDT and BJPW (I have seen barely any of either but I wish them well since we are all just people trying to be happy!), and I am sure other ones that I don't know about at all other than in an "OTHER JAPAN NOTES" sense, I think it is fair to say that the ethos of contemporary puro or hey why not let's just go ahead and say プロレス (something I did this summer was learn the kana, which you can do in a weekend and I am telling you it is extraordinarily worthwhile if you are a person who is interested in Japanese things enough to be the person you are right now doing this thing that you are doing right now with what little time we are given; the kanji are a vastly greater project but they have been neat to learn so far) ANYWAY the whole deal of contemporary Japanese professional wrestling is that it pretty much presupposes that the UWF, long or short, never really happened. It's weird! The only person who persists in anything resembling it is, in a dark twist, Antonio Inoki, the defiance of whom gave rise to Maeda's UWFism to begin with (you will perhaps recall). The skein of both shoot and strong style are forever tangled, are they not my friends, and we have been talking about that at least a little ever since our first time together nearly a year ago when, for better or worse, in the course of introducing this our shared endeavour broadly, it was written that:

"To the extent to which it occurs at the point of intersection between legitimate grappling and the aesthetic, shoot style pro wrestling is literally crucial (this is obvious). If, in keeping with Shinsuke Nakamura's recent yet yore-wise suggestion that strong style (and, by extension, probably also Romanticism) is best understood as real techniques plus real emotion, what shoot style offers—indeed, insists upon—is a realer technique in the hopes of a realer emotion and a style stronger still. What is the history of shoot style if not the spontaneous overflow of strong style feelings until strong style is itself incapable of bounding them? What becomes of that excess? Akira Maeda kicking unsuspecting people in the eye for real, initially. And from thence the several iterations of this style we call shoot: UWF, UWFi, Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, Pancrase, Kingdom, Fighting Network RINGS, BattlARTS, U-Style, in several instances Pride FC; who can say where it ends (it ends pretty much there). Whenever and wherever strong style, though worthy, is deemed insufficiently strong, and yet no one wants to actually fight for real, shoot style emerges, to be supplanted in time, perhaps inevitably so, by shooting proper. Shoot style—a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but an ephemeron—cannot and perhaps must not last. Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, within whose burning bosom we devise our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly [. . .]"

And it went on like that, forgive me, and while you are doing so please also forgive me for quoting from an earlier blogging, I beg you, but it is wild that Keats (and the same Keats!) made its way into that one too, isn't it? I had totally forgotten. 

But yeah Inoki, right? Things have gotten weird lately though, even for him. In recent Observers, it is written that: 

September 11, 2017: "Antonio Inoki’s Ism promotion will have its second show on 10/21 at Sumo Hall. Inoki closed down the old IGF promotion and fired everyone working there, including Simon Inoki, who has since started his own promotion as well. It’s expected to be the Inoki brainchild of some real matches, some pro wrestling matches worked to look real, and some pro wrestling matches using fighting stars of the past who were big names in Japan during the fighting heyday. This format nowadays is Inoki’s vision of pro wrestling, but doesn’t really appeal to hardly anyone now, as if you want real, you have MMA, and if you want pro wrestling, you want exciting matches. Perhaps former fighters doing it badly is okay once in a while if you’ve got the right guys and right stories, but not an entire promotion of it. But they are also opening it up and looking at adding a Lucha Libre element with four to six wrestlers from Crash, as well as debuting younger wrestlers."  

September 25, 2017: "Antonio Inoki announced a Peter Aerts vs. Scott Norton main event for his 10/21 Inoki Ism show at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. That’s an awfully big building to book for that weird product mix of the former kickboxing legend vs. New Japan’s top foreigner from another era. Inoki talked about stepping down as a public figure and hinted that this may be his last show in this position. Inoki made a lot of mainstream news this past week, including the New York Times, for going to North Korea. He held a press conference to promote the show on 9/14. He said that Don Frye, Stan Hansen, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Tiger Jeet Singh would be appearing at the show. There will also be a four-man Karl Gotch Cup tournament with first round matches of Shinichi Suzukawa vs. Diego Anzaki and Ryuta Sakurai vs. Yasshi"

All is in flux! In genuinely promising fashion, it sounds like, and yet change is hard.  

These several things and moments and feelings I have described above have caused me to wish to share with you the best match I have seen from either the IGF (Inoki Genome Federation) or its super short-lived heir NEW (Next Exciting Wrestling), which is one I have in truth been meaning to tell you about since I began the long summer break but now here we are, finally, to enjoy together YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA vs. SHINYA AOKI from earlier this very year and indeed from May 4, 2017 in 後楽園ホール Korakuen Hall. It can be seen in its sikk entirety streaming from a Russian site so I guess tuck your e-pants into your e-socks and enjoy it here.

What need we even say by way of introduction? Yoshiaki Fujiwara we have discussed previously in these pages, like when he had that match against Maeda that had the finish cut off of and then it wasn't until Maeda's (first) retirement where they replayed the finish of literally all of Maeda's RINGS matches that we actually saw the finish (I think it was a leglock!) but it is probably worth noting that, unlike then, Fujiwara is fifty-eight years old at the time of this IGF appearance UPDATE: Dan in kindness and charity notes that Fujiwara is in fact SIXTY-EIGHT; please forgive me and also please consider how amazing this is. Shinya Aoki is known to all, an indifferent collegiate judoka of considerable katame-waza (grappling technique; to say ne-waza would refer specifically to ground techniques, and as you know much of the fun of Shinya Aoki is his flyingness) who parlayed that strength into a fine run of SHOOTO where he snapped a guy's arm with an absurdly gross standing waki-gatame that while not illegal is plainly unethical, and then he became a fellow who wore interesting tights and employed esoteric ne-waza (often of 10th-Planet JJ provenance) in high-profile bouts you have likely all enjoyed. The only thing I would add to any of this relates to TOM's complete rejection of Aoki on the grounds that he was a cop: I am not suggesting that Aoki should not be rejected utterly if that is what in anyone's heart, but I read recently from someone who had read (in translation) the PRIDE FC Secret Files book, and apparently Aoki was never actually a police officer but instead sat a test for the academy once and either didn't pass it or chose not to go or something (I am not going to check). Please note this is offered only as a point of clarification on cop-status and I am not advocating forgiving Shinya Aoki any of his transgressions up to and including having wanted to be a cop, however fleetingly or incompletely. THIS IS NOT AOKI-APOLOGISM AND I BEG YOU NOT TO RECEIVE IT AS SUCH. This was new information to me recently and so I thought perhaps it might be to you as well? But perhaps this was already better known than I knew. 

AND WITH THAT WE BEGIN and the pre-match video that readies us for Shinya Aoki does so by showing any number of kansetsu (bone-locking) and shime (strangulation) techniques as the announcer plainly utters "kakutogi" just to let us know that we have all made the right choice with our evening. "BAKA SURVIVOR" is as ever his theme, which I had totally forgotten about, and all of a sudden I am thinking about Takanori Gomi's old entrances to "Scary" by Mad Capsule Markets, which was definitely the best entrance of that era, I would tell you if you asked me. Yoshiaki Fujiwara, a man of taste and learning (to say nothing of discernment) enters to Walkürenritt or Ritt der Walküren. The play-by-play person says kansetsu-waza, just like I did a moment ago, so we are on the same page, the is good. After what I choose to describe as an encounter in the corner, Aoki takes Fujiwara to the mat in the middle of the ring with a low kibisu-gaeshi heel-trip but in the time it has taken me to tell you that that happened, Fujiwara has attacked with an ude-hishigi-juji-gatame that forced a rolling escape to the far side (Aoki did not turn in, but went the other way. The other way). I am really impressed with how many times the commentator has said kansetsu-waza! I appreciate that he is doing that. Aoki juji-gatames his way out of a radically severe pretzeling from kesa-gatame but Fujiwara has been there before like a million times so it is ok, he escapes. TREACHERY as Aoki's proffered hand becomes a takedown attempt (how dare he) but don't worry, it is not successful, nor is his standing gyaku-ude-garami. Ah ha, dueling ashi-kansetsu! They would each like a leg-lock! Enough of that though as Aoki looks for gyaku-ude-garami from the more conventional position of "on the ground" but hey that grip is to be found in as many places as you care to look for it, I get it. I don't know if I have mentioned yet that Yoshiaki Fujiwara is fifty-eight years old (UPDATE: sixty-eight, thanks to Dan once more) and that, because he is Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and started looking fifty when he was about twenty-six, looks about eighty here? And yet everything that is happening here looks real and great? 

HEAD BUTT(O) TO THE SHOULDER after Fujiwara returns from a brief powder on the outside and now he visits upon Aoki the gentle brutality of kesa-gatame until Aoki escapes with a shrimp (ebi) and bridge in totally the same way I was showing our white belts just last night (summer judo was absolutely great, thanks, and the fall is going well!). Fujiwara needs the ropes to get out of trouble and it occurs to me now for the first time that they are not doing anything with regards to points for rope breaks, I don't think, and I cannot say that I miss it; everything is just going really well. Fujiwara lures Aoki into what looks like is going to be a lock-up but instead head butts him again man I love this guy. Aoki's hadaka-jime is rolled out of and into Fujiwara's ude-gatame and they trade a series of NEVER MIND ANY OF THAT IT IS THE FUJIWARA ARMBAR OF WAKI-GATAME but no, Aoki makes the ropes, belay that. Aoki floats from kami-shiho-gatame (around the head and neck) to mune-gatame (about the chest), all the while looking for juji-gatame UNTIL HE ISN'T and sneaks into kata-gatame, the shoulder hold one might equally name "arm triangle" or "head-and-arm choke." Referee Ryogaku Wada (we know him! remember?) peers in as closely as he is able but Fujiwara does not yield before time expires in this our fifteen-minute time-limit draw! Fujiwara is bloodied lightly about the nose and mouth, we see as Aoki comes up easy from atop him. It all looked very much like this:

HERE IS THE THING I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS AND IT IS SUBTLE AND YOU CAN TELL FROM THE WAY I AM TALKING RIGHT NOW HOW SUBTLE IT IS but not only is kata-gatame just an inherently noble waza of the highest order (which it extremely is) but let us reflect for a moment, if you will indulge me, on the most well-established counter to that technique and I can nearly promise this will be worth it ok ok here we go: what is so tried-and-true an escape from kata-gatame that you might go so far as to refer to it as BASIC ESCAPE in the Ippon Books Masterclass series volume on Osaekomiy you penned whilst your were 1981 World Champion (Maastricht) Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki:  

That's all pretty small (forgive me) but you will note that after you have done the unusual (though usual when escaping kata-gatame) and turned hard away from the osaekomi rather than turning into it, Kashiwazaki notes in step "e" that "[i]t is possible to grasp your opponent's arm as you roll out and move straight into waki-gatame.




When Aoki slips into kata-gatame as time winds down, it isn't just whether or not Fujiwara can last; it's that if he (basically) escapes (with the basic escape), it's right into the Fujiwara armbar that has already sent Aoki scurrying to the ropes not long before because of how Fujiwara could defeat and in all probably at some point already has defeated the devil himself with that hold. I LOVE THIS FINISH. Lest you think I am overthinking this, I am 100% sure I know less about ne-waza than either of these guys, so if this escape is implicit in the hold when I see it, I mean, these fellows are no less on top of the implications here than I am, and arguably slightly more. Or maybe it's all just an extremely fortuitous and also sikk happenstance but that is how art works sometimes.

And so there it is, my favourite bout of the IGF era that is I guess now behind us? I'm as surprised as you are that that is so; I thought everything was probably ok. But I guess we never know, do we, no matter how thoroughly we subscribe to the Observer, or how diligently we keep up with Observer Radio whilst we do our chores. I feel like there is a lot to reflect on right now. 

In closing, my friends, I thank you as ever and always for your attention to these matters and for your time, and I again plead that if anyone has footage of the Februrary 2016 IGF show where Shinya Aoki was stretchered-out after a near-fatal s p a c e t o r n a d o o g a w a please, please make this footage known. But mostly I want to say again my best to you.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


2001 World Title Series
Absolute Class Tournament Grand Final
February 15, 2002 in Yokohama, Japan
横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan 
(Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium)

"'TO EXIST BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH' DOES NOT MEAN SIMPLY TO LIVE AND DIE. The attitude the student must seek is a vow to embody reality, without purposefully 'seeking death' or 'devaluing one's own life,' as these are anachronistic and romantic military notions. Basho (1644-94), the most famous haiku poet, is admired as the founder of that attitude. During his life he traveled extensively throughout Japan. As he lay on his deathbed, at an old countryside inn during one of his travels, a student asked him to compose a final verse. Basho replied that every verse he composed during his lifetime could be considered a final verse, so it was not necessary to compose one at that particular time." 

AS BEST WE KNOW VERY FEW OF US ARE ON OUR DEATH BEDS AT PRESENT AND FEWER STILL AMONG US ARE BASHŌ and so while none of this obtains directly (or does it, my friends [no]), I offer the above all the same as impoverished explanation by way of deeply imperfect analogy for why I do not wish to approach this the final entry of the RINGSbox portion of TK Scissors: A Blog of RINGS (as it was initially conceived, there were to be no other portions; this has since changed) really any differently than any other despite the great gravity of this our shared achievement (having watched a box of shows; and discussed them). I should note that the other day I went through my now pretty old copy of Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashō, Buson, & Issa (my favourite is Issa! to me he is a homely mope-Romantic a little like Larkin!) thinking that somewhere in there Robert Hass must have told that anecdote above about Bashō refusing a formal death poem, that must have been where I had read it, and only after I had flipped through a couple of times did I remember no, I read about that in Kyuzo Mifune's esoteric Canon of Judo, which comes in and out of print in the west but is rightly esteemed by all, and which we have totally seen before in these pages, have we not. "When answers to your philosophical questions arise spontaneously in the outcome of a competition, you will understand that judo is not simply a means to engage in warfare. It is truly sublime to understand even the smallest truth while you are grappling, as there is an infinite variety of human thoughts and movements." This book is so wild, and I was in no way ready for it when I first encountered it; it has taken me long years to truly dig it, if that is what I now do (who can say). "There is no regret in winning or losing," Mifune explains. "Competitions are an opportunity to express expertise and knowledge on both sides. One can look at oneself critically, without burdening one's mind with thoughts on life or fear of death. This is similar to the attitude of Basho as he faced death--there is no regret." If you can believe it, he goes on: "[I]f your will lacks intention and sincerity, you have reason to regret. To establish victory your intention must be clear and resolute, based on reason, without cowardice or evil intent. Therefore the loser will learn his weaknesses, and pursue his studies further, while the victor will surely advance further to mastery of judo's mysteries." Once you have convinced yourself of these truths, Mifune concludes this section ("Competition in Judo," which comes right after "Reason in Harmony with Nature") thus: "Acquire a swift and agile mind and body through diligent training. This will improve your use of energy, increase your insight into reason, and deepen your understanding of mankind." One might reasonably argue that with all this Mifune I actually have made a big deal about this being the final RINGS show despite my stated intention to the contrary but I would counter that really all I have done is to continue to quote the Mifune we have been quoting all along, and I am just getting some extra in because I have it open to an especially good part right now. Is that so wrong

ANYWAY even though Bashō didn't make a big thing about composing a formal death poem, here is the one that he wrote last, which totally makes it is death poem (it has been received as such); you often see it like this:

Sick on my journey, 
        only my dreams will wander 
        these desolate moors

But Robert Hass has it like this:

       Sick on a journey,
my dreams wander
       the withered fields

But who knows, translations are weird

FINAL RINGS seems pretty final for it to say on a graphic, doesn't it (does it mean the tournament final? or is it declaring its true lastness?) and as if to not overwhelm us beyond consolation by this fact, those words flash but briefly across the screen and are soon replaced by a "1991" graphic before we are shown Mitsuya Nagai, long since mistreated and gone (my god, how I have missed him), shoot-style juji-gatame Herman Renting (I have missed him less) at ASTRAL STEP 2nd: AQUA HEAT in Osaka; now it is 1992, as Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Masayuki Naruse fight to a draw at either MEGA-BATTLE 4th: KOHRIN in Tokyo or MEGA-BATTLE 6th: HAYATE in Osaka (it could have been either but I cannot properly tell, forgive me); 1993 is nowhere to be seen here and instead we move to 1994 and young Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's kneeing of Nobuhiro Tsurumaki at RINGS 1994 IN YOKOHAMA (if they are showing prominent débuts the Yamamoto match must be from Tokyo, not Osaka); still in 1994 we have Wataru Sakata's juji-gatame upon and indeed over Minoru Tanaka (not a début, and I am at sea once again); 1995 is deemed unworthy but not so 1996, for that is the year of Kiyoshi Tamura's enRINGSening and his triumph over Dick Vrij before a near-rapturous Tokyo Bay NK Hall crowd (how they loved him that day; but where is he now; has he proven faithless [I don't mean this]); then on to 1998, and Kenichi Yamamoto stopped by Valentijn Overeem, and Hiromitsu Kanehara ashi-gatame'd by Mikhail Ilioukhine (I have no idea why they are showing these) and I think Yasuhito Namekawa knocking out Troy Ittensohn (not for real, don't worry); that was a lot of 1998, wasn't it, and so no time for 1999, but instead 2000, which of course brought with it Andrei Kopilov's rolling hiza-juji knee-bar dismantlements of men thousands of years less ancient, the ascendance of Hiromitsu Kanehara, and apparently nothing else they would care to show until 2002, at which point a voice intones AND NOW FROM HERE THESE LEGENDARY FIGHTERS CREATE A NEW GLORIOUS HISTORY.

What an odd selection of fighters and moments (to say nothing of textures) in those clips! I liked it very much but it was strange. And no Akira Maeda to be seen! You can list a dozen other people you would expect to see in a ten-year RINGS retrospective highlight but that's the one who is most notable in his absence, I think we would all totally agree instantly, right? And the way they are framed it, I thought at first maybe this was supposed to be like a final retrospective, but now I am thrown by new-glorious-future talk; when this aired, did everybody know this was the last one? Or did it only become clear when there proved to be no further ones? Certainly WOWOW EXCITE MATCH's Kenichi Takayanagi sounds more sombre than is his custom and he says Maeda Akira an unusual amount of times as he introduces Gong Kakutogi's Hideyuki Kumakubo to us once more (onegaishimasu; [onegaishimasu]). Also they are standing in a weird place instead of sitting at their desk and I am slightly uncomfortable with everything that is happening.

We are shown young boys in track suits getting loose in the ring before the show because even when everything changes not much changes and then we see the ever-elfin 宇野薫 Uno Kaoru jumping rope! That's right, even Caol Uno was in RINGS! I would position this as a Genki-Sudo-level RINGSurprise but not a a Sanae Kikuta level one; that was, to me, an occurrence with which I struggle still to come to terms. 

We are just about set for the opening bout to commence but before it does I would like to note the recent emergence of two notable blogs that address either (and perhaps inevitably both) shoot-style and kakutogi in ways that might very well prove of interest to you, the loyal TK Scissors reader (again I thank you): i) Jonathan and Lee, my old friends since forever, have decided to address themselves to the early history of Pancrase at (there is an @hybridshoot twitter account also), and ii) my newer friend Dan (newer but no less cherished, please do not mistake me; what a gift a new friend is) for his part attends to UWF Newborn at and I do not know if I have ever mentioned that the title of his Fujiwara Armbar græppzblög d'antan made clear to me the necessity of "TK Scissors" as the name for my own? Well it's true! Would I have stumbled upon waza-blog-entitling without his example? I submit that I would not have, probably, no, and this our meagre undertaking would have been meagerer still. I do earnestly invite you to explore both these endeavours, should their prospect intrigue you even slightly, which, again, given who you must be to be here at all, I mean it's pretty much got to, right?

ONE MORE ITEM BEFORE WE BEGIN THIS IS BREAKING NEWS AND IT IS MAJOR THE MAIL CAME A LITTLE WHILE AGO AND WITH IT MY GONG KAKUTOGI FINAL ISSUE (unless I am mistaken and it has not in fact ceased publication which is totally possible) AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL AND LOOKS JUST LIKE THIS (I am unable to photograph my own copy at the moment, forgive me):

AND SO THE ADMIRABLY ODD TAKUMI YANO who was billed at times as "The Oriental Mystery" (these are not my words, I swear to you) faces Hidehiko Matsumoto the martial artist, not to be confused with Hidehiko "Sleepy" Matsumoto (松本英彦) (October 12, 1926, Okayama - February 29, 2000, Tokyo) who was a jazz saxophonist and bandleader who sounded like this, and looked, for at least one glorious moment in his long and seemingly rich life, like this:

Also look at the cover to his 1969 Festival of Enka collaboration with Yoshio Kimura:

I do not know who is pictured in that striking photograph but I do know that it is not Yoshio Kimura, who looked way more like this:

Which is yet another very strong look and were it not for referee Ryogaku Wada tethering us to kakutogi through his instructions to the athletes before him we may well have wandered ceaselessly in jazzrealms, never to return (thanks as always, Ryogaku Wada). Yano begins by doing his odd stances and then spinningly back-fists Matsumoto down in such a way that the match probably should have been stopped but, instead, Matsumoto was allowed to continue under penalty of lost pointo after he kind of hopped out over the bottom rope to the floor; I have definitely not seen that happen before! It is the only portion of either the first or second round to escape the unyielding clippery that takes us to the third at once. Yano continues to employ weird stances and notions and floppings and pursuits and in the end wins a pointo hantei on the strength of Matsumoto's lost point described slightly above.

Yoshinobu Ota appears here as simply Yoshinobu to face the RODEO STYLE of Naoyuki Kotani and he only gets to face it for 1:21 because that is how long it took Kotani to finish with the naked strangle of 裸絞 hadaka-jime, declared here sleeper holdo, desu by Kenichi Takayanagi because culture and language flow in ways that fascinate endlessly. Masatatsu Yano and Hiroyuki Ito are next, but we see only the third round of what one must assume has been a close-fought contest, in that it ends in a split decision in Yano's favour. No less clipped, or not much less so, is Hirotaka Yokoi's unanimous decision over Katsuhisa Fujii. We get all of Yasuhito Namekawa and Sam Nest, and the first round is a total delight in its many attempts at ude-garami and juji-gatame (Namekawa) and a hadaka-jime (Nest) so close to a finish (of Namekawa) that a rope escape (which are totally back!) was very much needed (by Namekawa). And a juji-gatame so close (for Namekawa!) that it to requires a rope escape (from Nest!)! That round was wild. The second round falls off this pace only slightly, really, and ends at 4:53 on Nest's very nice rolling entry to hadaka jime to the immense pleasure of his RINGS Australia second Christopher Haseman (we will see him again soon enough). 

So here is one of the strangest things in all of RINGS and, before it even happens, totally one of my favourite: 

Koshaka/Uno! Why on earth! And yet here it is. Although Caoru/Kaoru/Caol Uno will be known exceedingly well to many of you let us say by way of introduction to those who have not been so blessed that Caol Uno is a beautiful græppler and, though he fought all over, irreducibly a man of SHOOTO ever since his début loss (in which there can be no shame) to the great (the great) Hayato Sakurai at Shooto: Let's Get Lost. His 1999 Shooto Tenth Anniversary match against Rumina Sato is one of the better ones (matches) ever. He is wonderful. He is also tiny, which makes a match against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka a terrible idea! Except this is a five-minute exhibition match so it should all be fine. Kohsaka, for his part, is praying a lot, even for him:

I believe there are to be three escapes permitted and three knockdowns in this gloveless exhibition? Also the weights, while terrible, are not as bad as they could have been: 72kg to 97.9kg, and while I do not wish to trivialize that difference, Kohsaka has competed heavier, and Uno lighter. Seconds in I think this is very possibly a work! In fact I feel quite sure of it! And yet I cannot be certain. How unexpected and yet how fitting that something like this should occur in our final show! The pace of the waza here is extraordinary, more Kohsaka working at Uno's pace than Uno slowed to the heavier Kohsaka's. That TK scissors occur in the earliest moments cannot be doubted, nor can it be contained. This is amazing and I am overwhelmed as Kohsaka 払巻込 harai-makikomis his way out of a standing back-take and, in the ne-waza sequence that follows, TK scissors once more. Uno secures an ashi-gatame (leg hold) near enough the ropes that Kohsaka escapes, and winces a little as the hold is released, convincing me that this is shoot-style for sure. The variety of TK's takedowns argues the same: flying scissors, sutemi-waza (sacrifice techniques) from gyaku-ude-garami (reverse arm entanglements), and ah ok there's an Uno rope escape after a hiza-juji knee-bar, too, so we're even. The ne-waza throughout, my word. The end comes far too quickly in this almost unbelievably high-level shoot-style exhibition draw and poem.

The 横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan pretty much can't believe any of this either. Uno bows deeply to Akira Maeda and then to the crowd in all four directions before Kohsaka speaks to shouts of Kohsakaaaaaaa (the correct shout). I have learned several basic Japanese phrases through audio instructional but alas Kohsaka speaks none of them here and so I am of no use to you in this. He does say RINGS a lot more than usual, that much I can tell you, so yes this is definitely being presented as for sure the final show, not just in the WOWOW presentation after the fact but to the live crowd as well; there does not seem to be any ambiguity about it. The crowd roars as Kohsaka's brief address reaches its end and I am totally having feelings of the swirling petals, falling leaves kind.

We can be pretty sure the next bout (there should be no further bouts) between no less stalwart a pair than Andrei Kopilov and Volk Han is a special match to be (shoot-style) contested by old RINGS rules, and we can say this because of the graphic that appears before it: 

Moments after the bell, Andrei Kopilov sits atop Volk Han in just such a way that it uncannily recalls an image of Russian judo great Tamerlan Tmenov sitting atop a young Fedor Emelianenko that I have tried to find before for our purposes here but it seems to be absolutely nowhere anymore; the one place that seems to have it by name returns a "404" now as though to demonstrate once and for all that the future has in key ways not worked out. This pinning predicament (I had that first as "pining" predicament, which it might also have been) does not last long, for BY OLD RINGS RULE rope escapes flow freely. Ah, yes, there, for the last time, is Volk Han's standing gyaku-ude-garami reverse arm entanglement that he executes with such vigour that my dry old shoulders ache half a world and thousands of days away. VOLK HAN HAS COUNTERED A KATA-ASHI-HISHIGI LEG-LOCK ATTEMPT WITH UDE-HISHIGI-JUJI-GATAME AND THAT IS A RINGSBOX WRAP ON BOTH THE NOBLE ANDREI KOPILOV AND OUR DEAR FRIEND Магомедха́н Аманула́евич Гамзатха́нов and this is hard.

Will Hiromitsu Kanehara and Mikhail Ilioukhine take to fight in the delightfully unexpected (by me!) shoot-style mode of Kohsaka/Uno and Han/Kopilov already? Could our hearts take it if they did? At the end of the first round I feel as though they are fighting for real but also I am (barely) self-aware enough (not really) to realize I am probably even more easily manipulated (or "worked") than normal due to a heightened state of feelings right now. In the end, this (probably-real?) match between the stout (in all senses) Ilioukhine and the stouter-still (same thing, all the senses) Kanehara ends as a deserved draw, desu. Ilioukhine hit a pretty tidy 内股 uchi-mata in the third, though! Kanehara is his usual self throughout and afterwards, which is a comfort; the man is an utter rock of smiling strangely.

AND SO ALL THAT REMAINS IS OUR ABSOLUTO-KYU TOURNAMENT GRAND FINAL ITSELF; it is, as the greatest ring announcer ever reminds us, very much our main evento.

National anthems are observed with sufficient but not excessive ceremony; the heavy-kyu title Fedor has already won rests atop Volk Han's shoulder. The bell is sounded and Christopher Haseman rushes in and is punched at once and is down nearly instantly, I think maybe four seconds in? He recovers well enough after Ryogaku Wada's count, and to his heart's great credit rushes in again, this time actually taking Fedor down and then in the ensuing scramble throwing with a low-key ura-nage. Great job for real, Christopher Haseman! Haseman is down a point for having been knocked down, and he loses another on a rope escape from a mae-hadaka-jime front choke, and then when he is knocked down again from punching that looked awfully hard that is it, there are no more points to be given; this is mercy. It is meet and right, is it not, that RINGS ends its final show by crowning as its double-champion (both heavy- and absoluto-kyu) the greatest heavyweight mixed fighter to have ever fought mixedly, then or now; it is meeter and righter still that this should occur at the end of a card that featured, to our joyful surprise, pure kakutogi alongside the shoot-style that has so long intrigued us.     

As WOWOW EXCITE MATCH's Kenichi Takayanagi and Gong Kakutogi's Hideyuki Kumakubo speak in soft tones of what has been, a young man exits behind them bearing an ASTRAL STEP 1st: SPIRIT-U poster because this has all been dream, and you are dreaming:


AND SO AT LAST THE RINGSBOX IS TRULY BEHIND US if you can even believe it (it seems we must concede this much); but TK Scissors, though initially conceived as quite singularly A Blog of RINGS, continues on as though instructed by the referee's call of よし yoshi (which is made when the players have mistakenly stopped and the referee can't tell why and s/he is like ok let's still judo everybody, yoshiand will apply itself (should we be spared) in all earnestness to what we have come to understand (in deference to the great Tadashi Tanaka, whose work I am at once elaborating and probably misreading in what Harold Bloom describes as the revisionary ratio of Tessera in The Anxiety of Influence [I have never read the whole thing {or maybe any of it, I can't remember}]) as "The Long UWF" with, I hope, the workmanlike tenacity leavened by fancy and (should we be so blessed) art that defines both the waza from which we take our title and the noble 四段 yondan for whom that waza is itself named. "The Way is in training. One must continue to train," Musashi wrote in the Earth Book portion of The Book of Five Rings (RINGS) whilst a cave-hermit in 霊巌洞 Reigandō (literally "Spirit Rock Cave" [that cave-name is a bit of a letdown sure but it would be weird to not listen just because of that]). Finally, for now, let me again thank in all sincerity my many friends who have so generously helped with and encouraged this project from its humble beginning to its no less humble end (being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [one of the worst kinds]) and also again I would thank all who have read any of these several-hundred-thousand words on a subject that is, let us speak frankly, maybe odd? And yet, to the extent to which so much of what we have explored here together occurs at the exact intersection between græppling and the æsthetic, it is literally crucial. And so here we have been.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


2001 World Title Series
Absolute Class Tournament: Semi-Finals
December 21, 2001 in Yokohama, Japan
横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan 
(Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium)

NOT ONLY IS GENKI SUDO DEMONSTRABLY PRESENT IN RINGS TO THE CONTINUED AND COMPLETE SHOCK OF EVERYONE BUT WHAT'S MORE HE IS INDEED THE FEATURED RINGSist IN THE OPENING SOFT-VOICED VIDEO THAT HERALDS THIS WOWOW PRESENTATION OF THE 2001 WORLD TITLE SERIES ABSOLUTE CLASS TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINALS and no less striking that that, in my view, is the realization that, for the fourth time in five shows (and the fifth was a noble but minor 後楽園ホール Kōrakuen Hōru, a venue which RINGS has generally treated differently than others), the main event is a Hiromitsu Kanehara match! I hope that despite the ongoing and perpetual poverty of my art I have been able to put into these pages at least a hint of what lies in my heart on the subject of Hiromitsu Kanehara; and if I have, you will recognize at once that I am in no way bemoaning six months of Kanehara firmly positioned at the top of the card. But it kind of crept up on me! Between this, and the absence of footage of Kiyoshi Tamura in the high-level opening graphics these last shows, and the fact that Tamura's first PRIDE match (his long-form bludgeoning at the blue-gloved hands of a physically [and chemically] prime Wanderlei Silva) comes only days after the final RINGS show early next year (by which I mean 2002) strongly suggests that Tamura was totally gone at this point, doesn't it? Again, we are flying blind here in the truest sense of the term (in that we do not have Observers yet), but this would seem to very much be the case. And so Hiromitsu Kanehara! Good for him, I say. And just now I have read on his wikipedia page that one of his noms-de-guerre or sobriquets rouge is "RINGS Saigo no Ace" or "RINGS' Last Ace" which, had I seen that earlier, could have helped me. But it is still edifying! 

AND SO WE BEGIN as we are welcomed to 横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan (Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium) not for the first time (but very nearly for the last) by no-less-beloved (by me) a figure than WOWOW EXCITE MATCH's Kenichi Takayanagi and joining him as ever and always is Gong Kakutogi's Hideyuki Kumakubo. Our really very clipped opening UNIVERSAL BOUT elides the first round entirely, and shows us only the close-fought second in Hidetaka Monma's decision win over Kyosuke Sasaki, who is of U-FILE, and Kiyoshi Tamura is nowhere to be seen, so yeah he is just gone, man. Our second match, a bout no less Universal, sees Naoyuki Kotani (RODEO STYLE, his blue trunks boldly declare [one's thoughts turn to the tremendous Kazuhiro Nakamura's that once read TAKE TO FIGHT JUDO STYLE {see him against Kosei Inoue in his true judo days here}]) defeat Takahito Iida by the hallowed waza of 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame in just over three minutes. The undercard is really ticking along as we move to not a Universal Bout but one no less Official (I do not understand these designations but embrace the mystery of them) between Stephen Gillinder and shoot-boxing's Tatsuya Maeda, who wears black and red flaming tights and enters to "You Give Love A Bad Name." I am with him. And he is the victor! After boxing Gillinder up in a fashion that seems to me quite technical (please recall I know nothing of hitting and its ways), Maeda finishes with a fairly vicious 裸絞 hadaka-jime naked strangle that totally began as a crushing of the lower face: chains of love got a hold on he; when passion's a prison, he can't break free; ippon.   

And now Genki Sudo enters like this, and fires off a confetti canon:


What you can't tell from those images, but what you probably can tell with your heart if you will allow yourself to truly feel, is that Genki Sudo has a spinning light on the top of his helmet. Also the music he enters to is completely panic-inducing techno of upsetting pace and persistence. This is a very intense experience! Kenichi Yamamoto has selected a much more sedate, boxingesque entrance of wearing an excellent hooded robe whilst his second carries a title belt high (it is possibly the UFC Japan tournament title he won some time ago? I can't think what else it could be) and "Ante Up" is quite rightly played while those things happen. The first round is spirited but largely unremarkable aside from just Genki Sudo's strange and wonderful energy and also his fleeting attempt at a "rubber guard" in the tradition of (imagine please a sigh that lasts the rest of my life and yours) Eddie Bravo. The Yokohama crowd enjoyed Genki Sudo's entrance very much but does seem to have loved that first round maybe? Both fighters swing and miss wildly with spinning back-fists early in the second round as though they were Masayukis Naruse (that's the plural). Sudo comes reasonably close with an ashi-sankaku-garami (leg-triangle-entanglement, known to some as omoplata) but cannot finish it (we worked on the rolling variation of that technique at judo just today); it does cause a lot of wiggling, though, that culminates in the more staid 裸絞 hadaka-jime for the finish at 1:46 of the second round. Yamamoto presents Sudo with what I am now sure is the UFC Japan Middleweight belt he won at UFC 23, an event we discussed in some detail earlier as it was the site of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's match against Pedro Rizzo (it did not go so great). 

I had totally forgotten for at least a minute there that we are still very much in the 2001 WORLD TITLE SERIES ABSOLUTE CLASS TOURNAMENT and indeed its SEMI-FINALS before Christopher Haseman caught Egidijus Valavicius in juji-gatame after spending kind of a while in a fairly gnar kubi-hishigi neck-crank from mune-gatame (chest hold/side control). That took just over three minutes and was quite convincing! Haseman has really had a lot of good matches. And here now in the other tournament semi-final we have Lee Hasdell against RINGS Heavy-kyu Champion Fedor Emelianenko (you can tell he is the champion because he has the title belt slung over his ensweatshirted shoulder). Fedor is smaller than Lee Hasdell, and that probably shouldn't surprise me, but it kind of does! All the same, Fedor flings him to the mat immediately. Hasdell does well enough in newaza to enjoy a moment or two on top, but they stand soon enough thereafter, and Fedor punches him so hard in the face. Hasdell is not knocked out or anything but has this look about him like what on earth was that as he is set-up for first juji-gatame and then a quick, jerking gyaku-ude-garami reverse-arm-entanglement/double-wrist-lock/figure-four/Kimura and although Hasdell is able to break the hold with a rope escape (I guess they're just back!) it is pretty clear that his shoulder is in a bad way from the hold. The next time they're down (Fedor just, like, dumped him), Fedor hits him awfully hard in the body and then grabs a mae-hadaka-jime front choke for the win at 4:10. AND SO OUR WORLD TITLE SERIES ABSOLUTE TOURNAMENT GRAND FINAL IS SET and it shall be contested between Fedor Emelianenko and Christopher Haseman. Fedor, we should note, is totally loved at this point, people crowding at the rails.

OH GOOD IT IS TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA and his moment of 黙想 mokuso before he enters the ring affords us a welcome opportunity to get a good look at his excellent TK hoodie:
Unfortunately my disc is skipping around more than a little right now so I am unable to show in detail how pretty much as soon as future World Wushu Championships gold medalist Bazigit Atajev so much as touches Kohsaka's face it does that thing where all of the blood in it comes out at once; this has happened with such frequency through TK's long RINGS (and elsewhere) career that we have come to not really worry about it and instead greet it like an old friend (oh hey, all of TK's blood; I hope you are keeping well) but it is nevertheless understandable that the referee would like the doctor to have a look at it for a second maybe. When we resume, Kohsaka has Atajev down in an instant, and has no trouble getting to strong positions (mune-gatametate-shiho-gatame, uki-gatame, really any number of fine gatame) and using those positions for a fair amount of punching (I cannot support this) and several attempts at ude-kansetsu (arm-bone-locking [I forever support this]). That's the first round! In the second, Atajev does well resisting an early takedown, and TK bleeds profusely again as Atajev comes out on top only to be TK Scissored into an ashi-garami (leg-entanglement) as I am reminded that the foremost technical insight afforded by this RINGSbox as we near its totality and can begin to speak in such ways is that TK Scissors is itself an ashi-garami and you had better believe I am going to teach them in concert the next time it seems appropriate to teach either!  A yellow card is charged but I know not for what or to whom and I dare not go back and see because I don't know if I'm going to be able to get back to where I need to be given the scourge of disc-skipping that I am getting scourged by right now. Ah okay, it must have been to TK, because the judges' decision falls in Atajev's favour, and I think that is totally plausible if TK had a point deducted. In the post-fight locker-room interview we can see that Kohsaka's hair is starting to thin noticeably (or else how could we notice it). He's thirty-one now. This is when it begins.   

WAIT A MINUTE WAIT A MINUTE OK THIS JUST OCCURRED TO ME HEAR ME OUT so when you play ファイヤープロレスリングA/Fire Pro Wrestling A, released 3/21/01, Kiyoshi Tamura (or rather "Iron Arm Takashi Minemura") is included in the RINGS ("ECLIPSE") roster, but when you play  ファイナルファイヤープロレスリング~夢の団体運営/Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Yume no Dantai Unei!/Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Organization of Dreams/Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Dream Organization Management, released 6/19/02, Tamura is nowhere to be seen in RINGS ("GONGS") but is found instead under Freelance Japan and you have to sign him to RINGS (or to Pancrase or perhaps U.F.O. should you choose to run a wild counterfactual). Of course when you play ファイプロ・リターンズ/Fire Pro Wrestling R (9/15/05) he is merely listed as a Græppler alongside other former men of RINGS as all has fallen to ruin but my point here is that Fire Pro evidence of Kiyoshi Tamura's pre-RINGS-demise RINGS-exit has been available to me for ages and still I had not put it all together; what a fool I have been. How does all of this sit with Hiromitsu Kanehara, RINGS Saigo no Ace?

I guess pretty well! His opponent here is Paul Cahoon, about whom I know little aside from that long years after this he would lose a decision to my beloved Kazuhiro Nakamura at World Victory Road Sengoku 5. Woah look how serious Kanehara looks just before he's about to enter the arena; this is very much unlike what we are used to seeing of and from him:

You have chills, don't you; chills because of Hiromitsu Kanehara. His music is so good and I still don't know what it is, search though I might. Maybe I could use one of those programs for your phone that divines, through black witchery, what the titles of songs are? This would probably work (assuming I have not merely dreamt of the existence of such things) but realistically I will never do it. OH NO in the middle of an otherwise fairly uneventful opening round, Hiromitsu Kanehara has been radically 裏投 ura nage'd in the mode of the German suplexo but as we have seen in previous instances (all of them against Matt Hughes), Kanehara does not seem to be bothered too much when that happens? At least not during the match, while he is still warm and things don't really hurt that much, but maybe when he gets home and out of the shower it will be awful, I don't know (maybe he will shower at the gym first, actually; there are many variables). I would like to personally thank Hiromitsu Kanehara for once again sweeping someone over with hikikomi/sumi-gaeshi from a gyaku-ude-garami grip in the manner of Masahiko Kimura, which allows us to gaze upon this lovely gif once more:

Although we have attended to Kimura's demonstration of this waza very nearly each time anyone has done anything even remotely resembling it in any of the matches from any of the hundred-or-so shows we have RINGSblogged (more that, since we are on disc 127, and while there have been a number of two-disc shows, that number is probably only like a dozen) over the ten years (RINGS time) we have traversed these last eight months (time as it passes in the primary world), I think it is maybe this newfound prominence of Hiromitsu Kanehara that has allowed us to have it with us, this Kimura gif, nearly every time out of late! This is a really good match, and has such neat parts as Kanehara throwing a kick towards the head of this much taller fellow (all fellows are taller), Kanehara nearly finishing a juji-gatame in which the angle of Paul Cahoon's arm as indicated by the overhead camera convinced me it was broken (it was not; it was, instead, turned), and Kanehara getting into a near-ideal position to attempt the somehow-forgotten (not by me!) Akira Kikuchi's step-over yoko-sankaku-jime to gyaku-ude-garami side triangle choke to reverse arm entanglement (I still teach it!). Kanehara takes the split decision, and addresses briefly the 横浜文化体育館 Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan crowd, which receives him warmly. 

AS WELL THEY SHOULD FOR HE IS THEIR LAST ACE IF YOU CAN EVEN BELIEVE THAT IT TOOK ME THIS LONG TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER but such is the dark fen of the mind in which we loom and lurk until the Wrestling Observer Newsletter archives are brought up to date in the fullness of time and in accordance with the schedule that has been set. In closing, I would like to note that today is the day of Dave Meltzer's father Herbert's passing, and our thoughts are with him in this difficult time. Dave spoke lovingly of his father on Wrestling Observer Radio last night, and described his father's devotion to family, his love of travel, and the pride he felt in the work he had done developing the Fortran programming language. Rest in peace, Herbert Meltzer; condolences to Dave Meltzer and his family.

Thank you all once again for your time and for your attention to these matters. Let us reconvene as soon as we are able so to do.