Friday, October 7, 2011

Bruce Lee fan bring Shooto to America

The early UFC era's unsporting, duel-type fights bred animosity between MMA and many country's political structure. Many states banned MMA, beginning the early struggles and the Dark Ages of MMA in North America.

In the same era, Japanese MMA organization Shooto started MMA with idealized goals. They defined international and regional commissions, and an amateur system which is still very ahead of its time. American promoters such as Jeff Osborne started promoting Shooto stateside, largely because they felt they needed to change the American public view of MMA.

Yorinaga Nakamura was charmed by the trailer for Bruce Lee's Game of Death, when he went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the theatre. Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do said that any and all offense which is effective is encouraged in combat. Therefore, he very much liked the idea of Shooto founder Satoru Sayama, which offered this same structure.

Yorinaga Nakamura

Nakamura joined Sayama's Super Tiger Gym in the pre-Shooting era, and won a championship at 145 pounds. But, Nakamura badly wanted to be Bruce Lee, so like his idol, he went to America. He bulked up to around 200 pounds, so he could deal with larger American foes, and then moved to the United States.

Lee had a heritage in America by this time, through his student Dan Inosanto. Inosanto continued to teach Lee's Jeet Kune Do at his academy in Los Angeles, so Nakamura joined and studied under Inosanto. However, the teacher was also interested in his student's experience with Shooto, as Jeet Kune Do stresses a philosophy of accepting any and all effective martial arts.

One of Nakamura's student was Erik Paulson, who learned many martial arts, including Shooto, where he would go on to become a world champion. His gym, CSW, continues to teach Shooto techniques that many are unaware of.

Erik Paulson talks about his mixture of training experiences.

Paulson is the head trainer of Brock Lesnar and Josh Barnett. So his Shooto, Japanese and English submmision wrestling knowledge remain relevant in elite fighter's skillsets in current MMA.

Trainer Greg Nelson talks about Dan Inosanto, Yorinaga Nakamura and Erik Paulson.

Erik Paulson had student named Greg Nelson, who experienced many martial arts too. Nelson would go on to found The Academy in Minnesota, a gym including Sean Sherk, Nik Lentz, Jacob Volkmann, Cole Konrad and others.

Satoru Sayama's Shooto and Japanese submmision wrestling exported United States by Yorinaga Nakamura has conciously and unconciously impacted many fighters, right through to the contemporary era of MMA.

So, a Japanese child, charmed by Hong Kong martial arts movies was the bridge for Shooto to move to the United States, all reinforced by the Jeet Kune Do (and MMA) mentality to accept any martial arts.

Yorinaga Nakamura is still teaching Jeet Kune Do in the United States, while Dan Inosanto is still interested in adding new skills to his own, which has led to him learning jiu-jitsu under the Machado brothers.

We can find Jeet Kune Do fighters, sometimes even in major MMA organizations. UFC veteran and Bellator welterweight Ben Saunders, for instance, still proclaims himself to be a Jeet Kune Do fighter.

If we judge from Lee's movies, it's a little too far from MMA, so people might be quick to laugh or mock the idea. However, it is Lee's philosophy that helped pave the way for so many new skills and techniques to make their way to America.

Yorinaga "Yori" Nakamura show his Shooto skill.

Big thanks to Jordan Breen (Sherdog) for English editing.