Global Training Report Archives 1997-2016

 

 

 

 

Global Training Report 

Presents

X-One Shooto Gym

Fujisawa, Japan

By Roberto Pedreira

      Is it better to specialize or to generalize? Better to concentrate on one thing and be great at it and mediocre at everything else--or better to try to be versatile and consequently good at everything but great at nothing?

      You don't have to go to these extremes. You can try to do more of one, less of another. But the problem is one of degree. Your resources are finite. Time and energy spent on one thing can't be spent on another. No one can do everything. 

      So what should you do?

      Dan Inosanto tells us not to box with a boxer. By implication, we'd better not wrestle with a wrestler, swap shins, knees and elbows with a Thai, play the ground game with a Brazilian, or engage in a stick fight with Eric "Top Dog" Knauss. They are better than we are at what they do. Also by implication, we are better than they are at one or more things that they don't specialize in, and that's what we should do (or try to). That's the theory. In reality, some guys are better than you are at everything. Even if they aren't, it still might be a problem imposing your game on them and avoiding theirs. In that case, you will need to be lucky. 

      The shooto guys have chosen option B, which is to be all-around. Their training incorporates both ground and stand up in equal measure. Their ground game is a mix of wrestling, sambo, judo, and a bit of jiu-jitsu without the quimono (or 道着 [dougi], as the Japanese call it). For stand up, they like Muay Thai, although they have modified it to fit into the mixed context better. 

     Roberto Pedreira visited the X-One (pronounced "cross one") Shooto Gym in Fujisawa to see how Shooto Fighting is trained there.  As usual, he had to participate in the training to understand it. Like being stung by a bee, it's one of those things you have to experience to appreciate.

      The gym is small, as the pictures show, and especially in view of the fact that 120 men, 35 women, and 8 kids train there. X-One makes up for that by being open most of the time. Especially in the striking arts, all you need is one guy who knows how to hold the pads, and you can get an excellent workout. Even without such a guy, the bags aren't going anywhere and during the non-class hours, they are always available.

      The gym is open from 4:00 to 10:00 Monday through Friday, from 4:00 to 10:00 Saturday, and from 1:00 to 5:00 on Sunday. Kickboxing training classes are held on Monday and Wednesday from 7:30 to 9:00. No-gi submission classes are held on Tuesday and Thursday, and a jiu-jitsu class on Friday, all also from 7:30 to 9:00. All other days and times the gym is open for free training.. 

      A typical class in any of the styles taught emphasizes technique and repetition. Little or no time is spent warming-up. The guys do that on their own before the class. Similarly, and possibly because the gym is so small, there is no sparring during the class. The guys who want to spar, or roll, or both, do it after the class. Most of them stay. Another way to look at it is that the workout/training session, including both positions and rolling, but excluding warming up, lasts 2 1/2 hours. That's enough for most people. 

      Only one pair at a time can spar, but that seems to be ok. Everyone will get a chance to do as much as they want to, and as we know observation can be a great teacher too. 

      What is unusual, and good, about the way these shooto guys spar is that the rules constantly vary. They get used to fighting under a wide variety of conditions. They also pick their own sparring partners and decide how long they are going to go and under what rules. The time limits are usually 3-5 minutes. The rules can be almost anything, including:

With or without gi.....

With or without striking.....

With or without punches to the head.....

With or without kicks to the head....

Starting from standing or starting from the knees.....

Submission only or mixing submission with striking.....

And any other combination that anyone wants to specify.

Kick Boxing

      The kickboxing classes are taught by Mr. Furiya. The class is a more structured version of free training. Every drill is done in pairs, with one guy holding, after which they switch. Both guys learn how to hold correctly, which is an essential and overlooked skill and valuable in promoting the sixth sense of correctly anticipating when and where attacks will come. (It is primarily the lack of this sense that wipes out otherwise well conditioned beginners so quickly.) The basic combinations are taught and practiced over and over: jab-cross, cross-hook, hook-cross, uppercut-hook. String these basic two punch combos together into sets of three or more punches, and you have covered about 99% of boxing's attacks, minus body punches.   

      The kicking segment follows and is basic, which is good. Basics are what work best, most of the time (fancy tricks only work when you and your opponent are both very good, and even then, they tend to require either deception or impeccable timing.)

      Mr. Furiya has a low opinion of most Japanese fighter's clinch technique (the same comment was made by Stephane Nikiema). In fact, you can't really call what they do technique. They tend to just grab and hang on, and don't effectively off-balance, exhaust, and injure their opponent, unlike the Thais, who do all three supremely well. Mr. Furiya learned his clinch skills in Thailand, which he visited five times over the last ten years. "There are twenty clinch techniques", he told me, and he is the only one in Japan who knows them all (the only Japanese, that is).

Submission Wrestling

      The submission wrestling class is taught by Tomoaki "Shonan" Hayama, who is a licensed class B shooter, certified by the Japanese Shooto Commission. There is a picture on the wall of "Shonan" with Rickson, who met Shonan at the Japan Vale Tudo 95 event, where Rickson reigned supreme over everyone bold enough to enter the ring with him. Shonan also fought in that event, against Australia's tough Alex Cook, but lady luck wasn't in Shonan's corner that night. 

      A typical class starts with a few minutes of ukemi and then gets right into the techniques. Shonan fits about 9-10 techniques into the first 60-70 or so minutes, and the rest of the class is "uchikomi", or rather the shooto version of judo uchikomi. In judo, uchikomi is limited to a few throws, and only the set up (the tsukuri, with or without the kuzushi) is done, and invariably 20 repetitions of four sets (four different throws usually). In the shooto uchikomi you do any take down or any throw you want, do as many different techniques, as many times, as you want, and actually take-down or throw the guy too, if you want. This seemed like an excellent drill that it wouldn't hurt more jiu-jitsu fighters to do more often.

      After the class formally finished, most of the the guys stayed for the next hour, this one devoted solely to sparring (as described above).

 

Jiu-Jitsu      

      The jiu-jitsu instructor is Mr. Tachiyama. I found it rather disorienting seeing a jiu-jiutsu class being taught by someone with a white belt, especially since one of the students had a blue belt. I assumed he was a guest instructor visiting from an affiliated academy, but no, he was just one of the regular students who had been given the belt by someone from a different organization after winning a championship in the white belt division. Since Mr. Tachiyama only had a white belt himself, he couldn't promote someone to blue. There was also a guy with a black belt, who was also just a regular student. The whole situation seemed unusual but no one seemed to mind. We have to respect Mr. Tachiyama and the X-One gym for their scrupulousness about the belts. The temptation in many places would be to wear a black belt earned in some other art, such as karate or judo, and let the students come to the erroneous conclusion that the belt was for jiu-jitsu. 

      The shooto guys have the right idea about belts. For a competition, you want to fight in the right division. That's what a belt is for. In the gym, dojo, or academy, it is relatively trivial what color your belt is (although many guys find it highly motivating trying to live up to the expectations other people have of them by virtue of their belt.) And as we know, it wasn't that long ago that Helio and the other members of the Federacão de Jiu-jitsu invented the jiu-jitsu belt system that we now have (see Corpo Quatro for details.) Before that, everyone wore white belts except the instructors and mestres, whose belts were blue, not black.

     The blue belt demonstrated several legitimate jiu-jitsu techniques, a little advanced for the students in the class, it seemed to me. He learned these from videos, Mr. Tachiyama explained later. Mr Tachiyama took over and taught some techniques that were also pretty advanced for white belts, but they were for the most part correctly done. A new member had just joined that same day and was taught techniques that seemed to me pretty advanced for a beginner. However the fact that I'm used to something else doesn't mean the way they were doing it was wrong. 

      Unlike the kickboxing and submission classes, the jiu-jitsu class started with 20 minutes of warming up, followed by 50 minutes of positions interspersed with considerable amounts of laying around and shooting the breeze--pretty much like in Rio in fact. Then the rolling, which was still going on one hour later when I left. During that time I saw some good jiu-jitsu, but with a shooto twist to it. The black belt (a ni-dan in judo) taped the blue belt with a kata jime (shoulder choke) after getting sweeped several times. The black belt then got choked out by a white belt (hadaka jime/mata leao/rear naked). Mr. Tachiyama also rolled with everyone and seemed to have a fairly easy time of it. 

      Someone with the right background can probably learn a lot from the right videos. I assumed that Mr. Tachiyama's background, judging from his ears, was in wrestling or judo. How long had he been learning jiu-jitsu? One year, he said. Before that? Shooto. Of course a background in shooto doesn't preclude an even earlier background in wrestling and judo. Many of the guys at the X-One gym seemed to have a background in one or the other, or both. Mr. Shonan, the submission wrestling coach, trained at the Fujisawa judo club when he was younger. I saw many well executed double-legs there, many whizzers, sit-outs, arm-drags, duck-unders, shucks, hip-heists, and other strange sounding wrestling techniques. And where had he learned his jiu-jitsu, I asked? From purple belt Cristiano Alves Kaminishi, he said. Roberto Pedreira has rolled with Cristiano hundreds of time over the past four years and can attest to his formidable skills. Mr. Tachiyama had a capable teacher. Here's a picture (below) of Cristriano rolling with Ricco Rodriguez.

 

Cristiano rolling with Ricco at Dojo Jiu-Jitsu, Rio de Janeiro, 1999.

      Basically, their jiu-jitsu is the same as the jiu-jitsu everyone does, but, as I suggested previously, with a shooto slant. The differences seem to be in the firmness of the foundation and in the tightness of the game. Both emanate from one thing, which is the attention to minute details and repetition of key movements that characterize the Brazilian jiu-jitsu curriculum. This is reasonable considering that the Brazilians are focusing on reigning supreme at one kind of game, while the shooto guys are trying to be more all-around. Obviously they can't be as good at each individual game if they are  devoting a lot of their training to other games. By the same token, if we don't work on our stand-up games (striking, tackling, and throwing), we won't be able to play our game at all, no matter how good we are at it. Our opponent, obviously, knowing that we are better at it than he is, doesn't want to let us do it if he can possibly avoid it. He wants us to play his kind of game.

      In a sense, it is a gamble whichever way you choose to go. What is best for you to do depends entirely on who your opponent is and what he can do better than you. So unless you know in advance who all of your opponents are going to be and how well they do what they do, whether you should specialize or generalize is essentially a matter of your preferences and opportunities.   

  

(c) 2001, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

Revised October 31, 2009.

Revised June 8, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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