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Shoot wrestling is a combat sport and a general term that describes a range of hybrid fighting systems originating in Japan in the late 1970s, in close association with Japanese professional wrestling. Shoot wrestling has several sub-disciplines eg. Shootfighting, Shooto, Pancrase, RINGS submission fighting and Shoot boxing.
The term “shoot” refers to the real application of techniques, as opposed to a “work”. The shoot wrestling techniques are often applied in shoot-style professional wrestling matches, which feature predetermined outcomes, but with much technique applied in a stiff or full contact manner.
Historically, shoot wrestling has been influenced by many martial arts such as freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, catch wrestling in the beginning and Karate, Muay thai and Judo in the final stages.
Karl Istaz is one of the most important figures in the development of shoot wrestling. Karl Istaz eventually travelled to the American professional wrestling where he found moderate success. It was his tour to Japan though, that set the stage for the birth of shoot wrestling.
Istaz gained legendary status in Japan, earning the name of Kamisama (‘god [of wrestling]’). In the 1970’s he taught catch wrestling based hooking and shooting to the likes of Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Satoru Sayama, Masami Soranaka, and Akira Maeda. Most of these professional wrestlers already had backgrounds in legitimate martial arts. Masami Soranaka had been a student of full contact Karate, kodokan Judo, and Sumo. Yoshiaki Fujiwara was already a Muay Thai fighter and black belt in judo. Satoru Sayama had studied Muay Thai with Toshio Fujiwara and went on to study Sambo with Victor Koga. This would eventually lead to added influences of Karate, Muay thai and Judo to the wrestling style.
One of his students, Antonio Inoki hosted a series of mixed martial arts matches in which he pitted his “strong style professional wrestling” against other martial arts. Inoki would go on to promote these techniques in his professional wrestling promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Later on, many wrestlers became interested in promoting an even more realistic style of professional wrestling and in 1984, Universal Wrestling Federation was formed. The UWF was a professional wrestling organisation, which promoted the strong shoot style/strong style wrestling. This essentially meant that it employed effective and practical martial arts moves, which were applied with force. The organization even hosted some real mixed martial arts matches, where the wrestlers were able to test their shoot wrestling techniques against other styles.
After the breakup of the original Universal Wrestling Federation, shoot wrestling branched into several disciplines. Each of the disciplines were also strongly influenced by other martial arts.
Shoot wrestling branched into several sub disciplines after the breakup of the original Universal Wrestling Federation. The main forms are listed below.