|Country of origin||Japan|
|Famous practitioners||Karl Gotch, Kazushi Sakuraba, Volk Han|
Shoot wrestling is a combat sport that has its origins in Japan's professional wrestling circuit of the 1970s. Professional wrestlers of that era attempted to use more realistic or even "full contact" moves in their matches to increase their excitement. The name "shoot wrestling" comes from the professional wrestling term "shoot", which refers to any unscripted occurrence within a scripted wrestling event. Prior to the emergence of the current sport of shoot wrestling, the term was commonly used in the professional wrestling business, particularly in the United Kingdom, as a synonym for the sport of catch wrestling. Shoot wrestling can be used to describe a range of hybrid fighting systems such as shootfighting, shooto, pankration, the RINGS style of submission fighting, and shoot boxing.
Historically, shoot wrestling has been influenced by many martial arts such as freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling and catch wrestling, then sambo, karate, Muay Thai and judo in the sport's final stages.
Karl Gotch is one of the most important figures in the development of shoot wrestling. Karl Gotch would begin his journey into wrestling in the German and North American professional wrestling circuits, where Gotch found moderate success. It was, however, in his tours of Japan, where the early formations of shoot wrestling took place. Gotch was a student of the "Snake Pit" gym, run by the renowned catch wrestler Billy Riley of Wigan. The gym was the centre of learning submission wrestling as practiced in the mining town of Wigan, popularly known as catch-as-catch-can wrestling. It was here that Karl Gotch honed his catch wrestling skills. Karl Gotch also travelled to India to practice the wrestling form of Pehlwani; later on he would propagate the exercises using the "Hindu mace" (large clubs) and would go on to incorporate the Indian system of exercises using push-ups, neck exercises, yogic breathing exercises and "Hindu squats" for conditioning. Gotch attained legendary status in Japan, earning the name of Kamisama ('god of wrestling'). In the 1970s 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 the added influences of karate, Muay Thai and judo to the wrestling style.
One of Gotch's students, Antonio Inoki, hosted a series of mixed martial arts matches in which he pitted his "strong style professional wrestling" against other martial arts in an attempt to show that professional wrestling and shoot wrestling were the strongest fighting disciplines. Inoki would go on to teach these fighting techniques to a new generation of wrestlers in the dojo of his professional wrestling promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Later on, many wrestlers became interested in promoting this more realistic style of professional wrestling and in 1984, the Universal Wrestling Federation was formed. The UWF was a professional wrestling organisation that promoted the shoot and strong styles of wrestling. While predetermined, the UWF featured effective and practical martial arts moves, which were applied with force. The organization would even host some legitimate mixed martial arts fights, where the UWF wrestlers were able to test their shoot wrestling techniques against fighters with other martial art 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 and revivals are listed below.
- Yoshiaki Fujiwara's students Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki founded Pancrase, a mixed martial arts promotion.
- "Tiger Mask" Satoru Sayama founded Shooto, which added Muay Thai, Sambo and Judo to the shoot wrestling arsenal.
- Kickboxer Caesar Takeshi founded Shoot boxing, a Stand-up fighting league allowing standing submissions and throws.
- Akira Maeda founded Fighting Network Rings, a defunct organization which emphasised submissions.
- Another Yoshiaki Fujiwara student, Bart Vale, developed Shootfighting.
- World-renowned gyms like the Lion's Den, Takada Dojo, and the Shamrock Martial Arts Academy propagate the shoot wrestling-based style of martial arts.
- Dutch kickboxer and MMA legend Bas Rutten trained with shoot wrestler Masakatsu Funaki.
- Junior National Korean Tae Kwon Do champion Masa Kin Jim has trained in shoot wrestling. During a brief tour of Japan promoting Korean Martial Arts, Masa Kin Jim became fascinated with the shoot wrestling martial art style. In 1998, he would go on to open one of the first shoot wrestling academies in South Korea.
- In 2002, shoot and pro wrestling superstars Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Minoru Suzuki squared off in a shoot wrestling match-up in the Pancrase mixed martial arts promotion. Suzuki won via submission with a rear-naked-choke at 1:48 of the first round.
- In 2004, shoot wrestling received official sport status in western Canada and was eligible for licensing. The first of many matches were held open to the public to build a foundation of awareness for the new sport.
- Pure Dynamite by Tom Billington & Alison Coleman, page 7, Dynamite Kid Co 2001 edition
- Catch: The Hold Not Taken (DVD). 2005.
- Scientific Wrestling.
- Website of the film 'Catch - the hold not taken', which looks at the history of shoot wrestling
- Chan, Sam. The Japanese Pro-Wrestling: Reality Based Martial Art Connection. bjj.org. URL last accessed January 7, 2006.