For a brief period of time, Kazushi Sakuraba was the boogeyman hiding underneath the beds of the Gracie family. Coming from a background in Japanese professional wrestling he shocked the world by taking wins over Royler, Royce, Renzo and Ryan while putting up one of the toughest records combat sports have ever seen. it took 8 years and enough Nandrolone to break the laboratory scale for Royce Gracie to finally get revenge over Sakuraba, but should we be surprised he was so dominant over the Gracie clan?
Before UFC 1 and the Gracie challenge, a rivalry was brewing in the streets of Rio between the Gracie and Naja academies. The rivalry has a history packed full of conflict in and out of the ring and the Luta Livre gym proved to be a formidable challenge to the Gracie Academy. As time passed on Gracie Jiu-Jitsu outgrew it’s rival and went on to dominate with success in mixed martial arts and submission grappling, evolving over time by learning from Judo, sambo and freestyle wrestling. The gentle art has become a necessity for every fighter who wants to be successful today but maybe it’s time to look back and take a less gentle approach. Luta Livre and the strong style of Japanese wrestling that Sakuraba came from have a common ancestor in Catch Wrestling. Catch wrestling has become lost in the history of professional wrestling and with the exception of Josh Barnett and Judo Gene LeBell telling stories of Karl Gotch you won’t find many who will openly promote it. With a wide array of brutal submissions and powerful takedowns, history might have given us the blueprint to contend with modern-day Jui Jitsu.
I’m not suggesting we throw away all we’ve learned but as legends like Sakuraba age out of the sport, we should try to dig up as much knowledge as we can before it’s too late. From what I’ve been able to research on my own I’ve been able to find some amazing techniques, including a spine crank and Kimura variation that everyone should have in their arsenal. it’s not hard to imagine that with a little time and some collective effort that a lot can be unearthed. Catch wrestling would have a great benefit for those without an amateur wrestling background, especially in the UK. Catch can be a great base for beginners and also compensate for some of the holes within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Sometimes it can be easier to smash through a wall rather than go around it and catch wrestling isn’t afraid to utilise power to get the job done.