Monday, March 19, 2018


Fighting Extension IV
June 21, 1997 in Tokyo, Japan
有明コロシアム Ariake Koroshiamu
(Ariake Coliseum) 
Drawing 9,188

AT ONCE A VOICE AROSE AMONG THE BLEAK TWIGS OVERHEAD IN FULL-HEARTED EVENSONG OF JOY ILLIMITED AN AGED THRUSH FRAIL GAUNT AND SMALL IN BLAST-BERUFFLED PLUME HAD CHOSEN THUS TO FLING HIS SOUL UPON THE GROWING GLOOM of us having no more RINGS shows to consider together as fellows in fellowship but can you believe that the full-hearted evensong that lies before us now with happy good-night air is one no less sikk than RINGS 6/21/97 which is to say DISC 73 which functioned for precisely none of the original RINGSboxists (my best to you all eternally) but whose ecstatic carolings are known to us now through the cleverness yes but far more importantly the generous spirit of Young Kelley aka @DenimAssemblage whose plumage may or may not be blast-beruffled I don't but it is true of so many of us that it may well be WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THIS RINGS SHOW I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHERE IT FITS IN REALLY. But thank you once again, Kelley, for this great gift; I offer all that meagerly follows as tribute to your kindness. And here is the show itself; why would you do otherwise than partake of it. 

You know what though let us pause for a moment first and listen to something together maybe? I think it's pretty remarkable and if you're reading this the odds that you will find it of at least passing interest are pretty good so I say let's do it. A little while ago I was listening to old Wrestling Observer Radios and Bryan & Vinny Shows, searching for ones where they talked about Pride FC or RINGS or really anything on the subject of what we have come to mistakenly know through interpretative errors and misguided thoughts entirely of my own as Tadashi Tanaka's "Long UWF" (he never said any such thing) and I would remind you before we go any further down this road that only God can judge me (I suppose anyone else can too though). But it was really fun to do! I mean, there was way less of it than you'd maybe expect, but I think this is because the old shows are not necessarily tagged as well as they might be in the archive, maybe? And there are like nine-thousand shows (that is a "shoot" number) so it's not easy to just, like, leaf through them, as it were. The Bryan and Vinny ones were really very merry, I must say, and I enjoyed those most of all. HOWEVER the most interesting part was definitely Big Dave Meltzer's answer to a mailbag question (mine never get through, nor, much more disturbingly, do Tosh's) on the subject of the Americ(kkk)an mixed martial arts enthusiast's simultaneous loathing of professional wrestling and love(ing) of Pride FC (paradox . . . or dialectic?). I post here both the question, asked by Bryan Alvarez (who I identify pretty hard with as a small-to-medium-sized martial arts instructor living in a coastal city whose interests in events occurring along the work/shoot spectrum persist inescapably) back before his voice or the way it is recorded (probably both) changed significantly, like he totally used to sound like a muppet and now he sounds good, but anyway here he reads the question and then Dave answers at length; hear what comfortable words our Meltz sayeth:


It is probably only polite to at least bullet-point this in case you are unable to listen to this until later or maybe you just feel the need for read I don't know but here are the areas addressed and some of the points made:

  • Pride FC was supposed to be the next generation of UWFi, a vehicle for Nobuhiko Takada, (our dear dear dearest boy) Hiromitsu Kanehara (who is our precious boy), and Kazushi Sakuraba. If they'd had their way, Takada vs. Rickson Gracie would have been a worked fight, but Rickson Gracie, who I remind you was exceedingly gracious at the seminar I was very kindly invited to attend, did not care to do that.   
  • The first Pride shows had both works and shoots but *and this is crucial* it is a mistake to understand these to have actually been different things (for more please re-read Tadashi Tanaka's greatest Observer letter ever, the foundational text of many if not all of my terrible ideas on this matter).
  • This leads to Dave recounting a tale of mid-1997 RINGS (we are in mid-1997 RINGS right now!), where there was for sure a mix of worked and shoot matches, and Dave would understandably try to figure out which ones were which. This leads to "someone there" saying to Dave, "You're a mark."
  • Dave is like but why.
  • The guy is like "well, when you really understand the business, you'll realize it doesn't matter, because it's all the same anyway."
  • And Dave is like woah.
  • Tangential but also not really: Pride's draws were Takada, Sakuraba, Hidehiko Yoshida, and Naoya Ogawa when they could get him, never guys like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Fedor Emelianenko.
  • And then he says about six more minutes of good and worthy things but I am no transcriptionist. 
You really might want to give it a listen I think! Or maybe I listen to so much HerbMeltzAudioNetwork material that I really have no idea what's good or bad on it anymore; that possibility is distinct.  

BUT ON TO THE FIGHTING NETWORKS RINGS THEMSELVES SHALLN'T WE and oh wow(wow) WOWOW (wow) is I guess showing Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield after this? Stay tuned everybody for boxing! One wonders if commentary for that bout will be handled by WOWOW EXCITE MATCH's Kenichi Takayanagi, who of course guides us through this our present Fighting Extension alongside Gong Kakutogi's Hideyuki Kumakubo and also one other fellow who we have seen before but whose name I don't think we have managed to catch yet (we haven't super tried). Hey it's the RINGS OFFICIAL RANKING: 10. Mikhail Ilioukhine 9. Masayuki Naruse 8. Hans Nijman 7. Mitsuya Nagai 6. Yoshihisa Yamamoto 5. Bitsadze Tariel 4. Akira Maeda 3. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka 2. Kiyoshi Tamura 1. Volk Han and man oh man that is quite a crew isn't it! No wonder we so much like to watch this sort of thing together!

Our opening bout sees Watura Sakata, eternal young lion, encounter the remarkably obviously Kyokushin (極真) karateka Yuri Bekichev, whose very keikogi pants (he wears no shirt, no jacket [but a long black belt]) say K Y O K U S H I N down one leg And Also Have A Throwing Star On Them. You can tell at once that this match is a work but you can also tell that Bekichev is kicking Wataru Sakata way too hard for a work which, if you follow me, totally ensures that this is a work. I am reminded here of something I may well have told you several times (forgive me) over during the course of our treasured time together and that is that a great judo pal of mine trained Kyokushin for a while and described it as a rec centre room full of like otherwordly-hard dads just blasting each other with unprotected head-kicks like it was regular. I have so much respect for karate. And not just the unreasonable kinds: I think they're all great! I think Shotokan is wonderful and I admire Gichin Funakoshi a great deal! Pine waves; pine waves. My best to all of karate as it prepares for its Olympic début at Tokyo 2020; may it make known it's true spirit there. TOBI-SANKAKU-JIME YEAH THAT'S RIGHT 飛び三角絞 THE FLYING TRIANGLE CHOKE and it is a submission win for Wataru Sakata at 3:54 and one wonders if Yuri Bekichev's ear on the knee-side of the choke (if you follow) will be devastatingly cauliflowered (or gyoza'd) from this waza as one of my pals' was when he was assailed by this very technique at I believe the Atlantic Canadian Judo Championships in probably 2007? Some of the details have faded but it was a good trip I can tell you that much for sure. In the end they are announcing it as a victory by yoko-sankaku-jime or "side" triangle choke . . . and I can see why!

Next we have Lee Hasdell (seconded by the great Maurice Smith) and Masayuki Naruse (seconded by the great Tsuyoshi Kohsaka [Alliance Cornering!]) and these guys are not at all the same size are they. I cannot read the kanji tattooed on Lee Hasdell chest but I would like to be able to and I am working towards that goal (through the twin arts of "haiku translation" and also "writing my judo notes in terrible Japanese"); in time, yes, I will know Lee Hasdell's chest and all the tales it tells. Recently a judo pal had a hat with kanji on it and I was like hey what does your hat say and he said "ne waza!" which is What The Lady Told Him and I was like hmmm well I am still unbelievably bad at this but I know the ones for ne waza (寝技) and these are not those! I looked it up though (this is still hard for me to do but it is getting easier) and it meant "persistent" so you could do a lot worse, we agreed. Let me tell you, please, what it is I am most enjoying about this ne-waza-heavy pretend match (I am pretty sure [I am still "a mark" in this way I suppose or am I in fact a scholar which is a different *kind* of mark) between Lee Hasdell and Masayuki Naruse: it is the serenity of it all as the crowd is still, the commentary muted, the mat a calming soft blue hue. Akira Maeda sits at ringside as peacefully as his nature will permit which is to say that at this moment he is kicking no one in the eye through treachery. 




Although we have together enjoyed, have we not, both textures and moments of great energy and ample vigour (so to speak) throughout our long exploration of this our cherished Fighting Network, it is the low-key feel of these quotidian mid-card bouts that I have missed most in their absence, I think. A nifty north/south hadaka jime 裸絞, announced as a shoulder neck lock(u), ends this worthy contest in Masayuki Naruse's favour at 12:58.  

Ok ok real quick don't think about it just say the first name to come into your head when I say Masayuki Naruse ok Masayuki Naruse, JUST SAY, GO: it was totally Mitsuya Nagai, wasn't it! I know right? Well it has taken him but twenty seconds to best Dutch kickboxer (that's a good kind of them for sure) André "Man Art" Mannart (a nom de guerre or sobriquet rouge we have only now bestowed upon him but I think this is going to take, I really do) by heel holdo! heel holdo desu! in what I swear to you was a shoot. Mannart is super good-natured about his loss and seems like a fine guy to me. And Mitsuya Nagai, it's like, if you don't know my feelings about Mitsuya Nagai by now, you will never never never know them; no; you won't; ooh; ooh woah. Akira Maeda is so proud!

You may recall (you also may not which is also totally fine) that the thing that pained me most about the failure of disc 73 (or perhaps we failed it, I don't know) was that I believed it to contain the further græppling instructionalz of Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and specifically the most august waza of 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame which is to say my favourite guy teaching my favourite technique. However it turns out that this excellent primer, containing fundamentals of application, escapes, and grip breaks (so crucial) is instead ably taught by young Masayuki Naruse. I could not tell you how many beginner lessons on juji-gatame it has been my privilege to teach over the many years I have been blessed by a position of judo instructorship but I believe that it has been a lot and I also believe that the one Masayuki Naruse offers here is lovely! Topics include:
  • saying both "judo" and "ne waza" (I too emphasize these points in my teaching)
  • ensuring the elbow is secured well past the hips
  • positioning the thumb upwards to align that which needs be aligned (I usually put this in terms of cracking lobster but this is a regional reference that might not be more broadly applicable [would probably be good in 日本 though])
  • squeezing one's knees together (nothing could be more crucial)
  • attacking the wrist as a simple break of uke's sub-optimal "s-grip" defense 
  • rolling hard-in and stacking to defend sensibly
  • rolling backwards to defend somewhat desperately (do not attempt with dry old shoulders) 
  • tobi-juji-gatame, the flying armbar, correctly presented as not a big deal, we can all do this if we work together carefully ps never do this in randori please
Well that was great! And since we mentioned the prospect of TKinstructionalz( a moment ago, why not enjoy a whole folder of them? Also before we move on I would ask you to consider the degree of hardness with which two spectators seated on either side of Kenichi Takayanagi in this shot gaze into the camera and indeed our souls:

Our next bout is a vale-tudo rules contest betwixt Yuri Korchikin and Ricardo Morais, a literal ogre of yore-day myth and fable. If my memory serves me, I believe every bout announced as "vale-tudo" has indeed been a shoot and I expect nothing otherwise here, nor do the nine-thousand-or-so people of 有明コロシアム Ariake Koroshiamu who are abuzz as these two poor humans meet in the centre of the RING(s) for final instructions from referee Yuji Shimada; holy moly Ricardo Morais is big:

He is listed here as 205 cm and 123.5 kg so that's just a hair under 6'9" and just a smidgen  over 272 lbs. If this helps you, he is a centimetre taller than Teddy Riner, but 7.5 kg lighter; that is the order of his magnitude. Ricardo Morais, unlike Teddy, I don't think could pass WADA drug testing, nor could any of his descendants for probably like three generations, probably, but that is utterly irrelevant to the monstrosity that looms before the comparatively wee and yet objectively quite large Yuri Korchikin (185 cm 105 kg / 6" 230 lbs). Maeda Akira is announced as I believe the lone judge for this bout, perhaps? I think that is what just happened but I am not at all certain, forgive me yet again. I am reminded by this announcement, though, both that i) the RINGS ring announcer is my all-time favourite ring announcer by a lot, and ii) Akira Maeda is loooooooooooved and not just be me or my weird friends (though that is also true [what's up guys]). 

Ricardo Morais is chomping at the BIT in his eagerness to debase himself through barbarism and who can blame him. The opening exchange, in which Morais ducks in for an ungreat takedown attempt only to be ineffectually flying-guillotined by Korchikin before Morais can seize Korchikin's hand behind his back and assail him with like a standing (or tachi-waza) variation of ファイヤープロレスリング Fire Pro Wrestling's "cruel mounted punches," would seem completely over-the-top in a worked match and yet here it unfolds before us, as real as you or me. When the two become entangled in the ropes, Morais throwing punches I would not enjoy to be hit with into Korchikin's turtle (or kame [or かめ {or 亀}]) defense, the two are stopped and restarted in the same position in the centre of the ring -- I mention this to you because Maeda, red-jacketed and fat, enters the ring to help with this reordering and the crowd goes wild for it. Akira Maeda's presence is overwhelming. 

Yuri Korchikin is hanging in there, though, and one cannot help but wonder what horrors he has seen elsewhere in his life that allow this to be cool for him. Morais has him flattened out from behind, which is a terrible place to be (and super uncomfortable even without hitting, if tori uses his hips correctly) but Korchikin buys himself more time than you might think by trapping both Morais' meaty hocks beneath him. They stand, but remain in largely the same position, if you follow, and Morais drives Korchikin into the corner, still standing. He is yellow carded! But why? Oh, I see: Morais has one hand very much grasping the top rope (it is black) whilst face-hitting from behind with the other, and Akira Maeda is there to literally point it out. 

Five minutes have passed, we are told, as Morais attempts another takedown poorly, but after a minute or two of standing he manages to just, like, push him over. Morais makes no attempt to pass, but his hitting seems good (for hitting [which is always bad]) and Korchikin goes feet-on-hips and pushes away to create a scramble. And there is the bell! We have a draw! Korchikin clearly got the worst of that whole deal, but was never close to being finished by the much larger manbeast and so his performance here is a credit to him. 

We remain in the dark realm of vale tudo (or so it is claimed; and yes it totally is [it is not a work, I mean]) for a contest (for real) between Alexander Fedorov who I believe was a Detroit Red Wing and well regarded jiujiteiro Adilson Lima who I believe lost brutally to Igor Vovchanchyn twice in the same night after being transported to a hell dimension where that is even possible. This Fedorov, about whom "combat sambo" is definitely said, is an immediate favourite of the sporting people here assembled once he walks across the ring to not only shake Lima's hand but embrace him warmly; Lima accepts this unexpected kindness with a gracious air. And now they are fighting, Fedorov's pendulous gut pouring out atop the vivid purple tights that, in their folly, seek to contain it. And holy shit he just hit the illest little yoko-otoshi [横落] / lateral drop, look at how happy his corner friends are:

The elation shared here amongst Nikolai Zouev, Mitsuya Nagai, and their other friend in the nice sweatshirt takes me back to the days of packing all our pals into little cars and driving around to all the tournaments and being so into everybody's matches and just having such a spirited time of fellowship it takes me back there so hard man this is what it is about. The crowd agrees! Lima is a very skilled guy though and it is not long before he finely executes a "butterfly" sweep of the most basic kind and those who know me well will understand before I even say it that to describe the waza here employed as basic is not to diminish but rather to exalt Lima's performance of it. Might we do better to say "fundamental" than "basic"? Might we recall that one of the funniest things on East Bound and Down before it became unbearably cruel was the fake-audiobook excerpt that said "fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless"? There are indeed so many things that we might do, that we might be. 

As we ponder them, Lima advances inexorably to tate-shiho-gatame (縦四方固), announced here, quite reasonably, as mounto though I do not favour the term myself. Good for him -- he's doing great! He seems to have half a mind (or maybe more; I mustn't presume) to sneak in an ude-garami 腕緘 of precisely the kind some say not to try from tate-shiho-gatame lest you be swept (which can totally happen, sure) but sometimes it's just there for you and you would be a fool not to take it. Yes okay that is totally what Lima is after and I say go for it. Perhaps he will use the same grip but extend to ude-hishigi-ude-gatame 腕挫腕固 with maybe a little slicer just the teensiest little slicer right under the triceps just to check in with the triceps and see what it is up to this fine evening of June 1997? There has been a small amount of punching but thankfully little. Ah! Just as Lima postured up to begin to punch anew, as his efforts towards the bone-locking of kansetsu-waza had proved fruitless (let us here credit the wiles of our new friend Fedorov), the towel came flying in from the corner. TOWEL! GIVE UP, DESU! is Kenichi Takayanagi's extremely correct and artful call. That's a TKO at 10:10 and as an enemy of ground-hitting I would put the finish of this ***3/4 match at no worse than like ***1/4 but I would understand how others, in their savagery and contempt for life, might see it all as a DUD but also then I would use this space to denounce you. 

Yoshihisa Yamamoto! Maurice Smith! This is a great idea! I was thinking about Maurice Smith as recently as yesterday as TOM and I addressed the many moments of near-peerless glory that marked Hidehiko Yoshida (吉田 秀彦)'s mixed-fight post-judoing . . . though can his way of judo be said to have ever ceased? Was it not but a year ago that an unreal-fat Yoshida at the age of 47 tore up the 第67回  全日本実業柔道団体対抗大会(2017/6/3-4)1日目 男子第3部 決勝戦 67th All-Japan Business Judo Group Counter Competition (2017/6 / 3-4) Day 1 Men’s Part 3 Final Fight with an osoto gari  大外刈 of distinction representing the Park 24 team? Oh wait it totally was:

There are several other Yoshida gifs (and photographs!) you might well enjoy at the almost-venerable let's play judo tumblr but among them you will not actually find the one that I am thinking of right now which is the one where he defeats Maurice Smith (a stout foe, ever and always) with a crushing kesa-gatame 袈裟固 (held as though by a Buddhist's surplice!), which I hope you have seen before but maybe you haven't so let's: 

That is how you waza, I am sure we can all agree! Would you believe (and you may well struggle to, and that's okay) that it has always bothered me that everywhere you might look for such things, this submission win is listed as a submission win by neck crank (kubi-hishigi) despite the fact THE FACT that Maurice Smith said his neck was fine but he had to tap due to the compression of his chest and inability to draw breath? Which is to say that he tapped to kesa-gatame? BUT NOBODY TALKS ABOUT THIS it is really just me. On a related note: I am DLing 109gb of all of the Prides because I have almost all of them on discs in my basement but not all, and all of a sudden it really felt like I should have all. All of a sudden!

BUT TO RETURN TO THE MATTER BEFORE US I see that Maurice Smith is wearing boxing gloves whilst Yoshihisa Yamamoto is not and so my assumption is that what we have here is shoot-style? I haven't watched any RINGS in a while, and not much wrestling at all really (my NJPW World subscription lapsed but I have every intention of renewing, please do not worry), but I really had forgotten how hard these guys would kick each other when they weren't even fighting for real. On twitter today I saw a compilation video of Katsuyori Shibata (whom all rightly admire and wish well) doing his finishing kick after he has engrogged uke with hadaka-jime or suleeper holdo and while the whole point of the video was how hard he kicked guys, I've got to say, compared to RINGSguys, he didn't kick many of those guys all that hard at all. I am as sad as any of you (probably) about how hurt Shibata got in that Okada match but let's be frank here. Hey on the subject of hadaka-jime, still fresh: Yoshihisa Yamamoto just finished with the "short" version of it (a longstanding friend of the club shared some great details with me recently!) after doing a great job of flattening Maurice Smith out by pushing down with his hips. I am pretty sure that match was a work and I am equally sure that it was an excellent display of waza

KIYOSHI TAMURA AND NIKOLAI ZOUEV IS A MAIN EVENT IN ANY BUILDING IN THE WORLD no of course not but it is among the mainest events possible to anyone drinking green tea in a deer-mug whilst currently sitting on my couch. Tamura's music is so sikk. It certainly does put one in the right flame of mind, doesn't it; yes; yes. Once again Tamura has tied his t-shirt off to the side lest it droop out too much at the front and hide his elegant waist and let me tell you again that I support this boldly effeminate move wholeheartedly:  

Have you ever tucked a t-shirt in at the back, like, just at the back, because other wise it would droop out at the front too much rather than sit across just so? I am talking about when you are wearing it under an open shirt or trackjacket or unzipped hoodie. I know I have! But I have never once tied it off to the side; I feel like it might be easier now to find that courage. I don't know. I will tell you if it happens, though.

Zouev rolls all over looking for ashi-kansetsu as Tamura floats in and out of positions with hyper-real fluidity (both praise and diss) in the definitely-for-sure shoot-style bout that I was enjoying a great deal even before Tamura's rolling juji-gatame against Nikolai Zouev's turtle of kame defense (the kanji for turtle, I remind you, looks like a little turtle, sort of: 亀). The 有明コロシアム Ariake Koroshiamu crowd loves it! And Zouev's escape from it! This crowd should come out to judo later this week because we're probably going to do that exact roll! They will be like huwaaaaaaaayyyyyyy as we get our reps in!  

As we near the four-minute mark, Tamura is the first to seek refuge in the rope-eaves because of how he is leg-locked ah but it is no more than twenty seconds later that what has been sauce for the goose if proven very much sauce for the gander. Zouev throws with a fine tai-otoshi 體落 (body drop) which may have started life as a harai-goshi 払腰 but that is how it goes sometimes in these Fighting Network streets. Tamura rope-escapes soon thereafter, wisely fleeing ude-hishigi-juji-gatame 腕挫十字固, and actually just as I relay this news to you he has done so once more, this time with his legs all tangled up, too. Zouev is streaking out ahead in terms of the little-yellow-box tally. 

Tamura's approach now is to kick Zouev about the knee many times over as though he were a (his) future (our past) Cro Cop and Zouev a (his) future (our past) Yoshida and whilst this is a work these kicks are awful, awful acts. Was it not Frank Shamrock who said Tamura's kicks were harder than Bas Ruten's? I believe it was. We are ten minutes in as the rope-breaks draw even THERE IS NO TIME TO TALK ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN HOW NIKOLAI ZOUEV JUST WON WITH A HUIZINGA ROLL:


HOLY MOLY WHAT A FINISH not that it was the first Huizinga roll to have been seen in RINGS nor would it prove to be the last but what can I say to you other than that I treasure each; I treasure each.

That show was a lot of fun! Thanks once again to Kelley for sharing this with us in the wizardry of his internetting but also in the deeper magicks of fellowship! I am thinking about maybe watching some old judo tapes and writing about them here, I don't know! I'll figure it out! Thank you once again for your attention and for your time! I hope to speak with you again on matters very much like this if I am spared! I hope we all are for at least a while more! Good night!