"SHOOTO" is derived from the Japanese characters, Shu and To, the rough translation is "acquire" and "fight" ,fight means not only a physical confrontation, but also a struggle to overcome and/or to persevere through life.
It was in February of 1984 that Satoru Sayama first established his dojo in Seta, Tokyo called "Tiger Gym".
Later, the gym was moved to another location in Sangenjaya, Tokyo where it became the now legendary "Super Tiger Gym". It was in this venue that the art, philosophy and sport of SHOOTO was started in earnest.
Sensei Sayama was widely known as the high flying and dynamic "Tiger Mask" of professional wrestling fame. He wanted to combine the elements of showmanship and entertainment from his wrestling background along with the competitiveness and intensity of real martial arts competition. He envisioned a venue where only the best and most complete martial artists would succeed in the arena of combat. No one can deny the fact that Sayama had a vision that was ahead of its time, and is still an advanced concept even by today’s Mixed Martial Arts standards. The most fundamental principle used for truly developing SHOOTO into a true sport was the development of the amateur SHOOTO circuit.
While there are many fight organizations all over the world, which include punches, kicks, throws, choke holds, and joint locks_ SHOOTO differentiates itself from all the other mixed martial arts events, with the highly developed Amateur SHOOTO circuit. There are hundreds, even thousands of official Amateur SHOOTO bouts each year in Japan, which helps to develop a talented pool of seasoned competitors who are ready to move up into the professional ranks. Additionally, SHOOTO further establishes a unique identity, with the establishment of a world wide sanctioning body that regulates and standardizes
SHOOTO competition _ this body is called the International SHOOTO Commission (ISC).
Though it has been more than eight years since the management of the
SHOOTO circuit has left Sayama’s hands, this sanctioning and regulatory system carried on by the ISC, and the sports development perpetuated by the existence of the amateur division, shows proof that SHOOTO is the ideal manifestation for development of Martial Arts sports, in the way that Sayama had aimed for.
Actual SHOOTO competition started in 1985. It was simply referred to as "SHOOTING" and only existed as amateur competition until 1989, when the first professional event took place at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, in May of 1989. Those first 4 years gave the sport the time it needed to grow and mature, and for the skill level of the fighters to become that of true professional fighters.
The development process included the organization of eight pre-SHOOTO events. Those events helped to bring the fighters up slowly into professional competition, and it enabled organizers to learn and evolve the rules and regulations for SHOOTO’s professional level.
That all lead to the inaugural pro SHOOTO event in 1989, while amateur competition continued as to foster the next generation of greats that would follow the current professionals that were representing this new and revolutionary sport. In those days, SHOOTO was limited to only fighters who were members of official gyms. This provided a clear distinction from the rest of the Japanese fighting sports world that was overrun with fake fights.
In November 1990, SHOOTO’s fist step towards of globalization was taken, when Sayama’s first and favorite pupil, Yorinaga Nakamura, founded the USA SHOOTO Association at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts, in Los Angels, California.
This allowed for the development of non-Japanese professionals, and the first international fights. It opened the door for the establishment of World Champions in each weight categories from Lightweight to Light Heavyweight. In an effort to further enhance and evolve SHOOTO as a cutting edge fighting sport, an open weight tournament was held as an unofficial SHOOTO bouts in September 1993. The idea was to learn of the weaknesses that were part of SHOOTO competition so that the rules could be modified appropriately.
Shortly thereafter, the first UFC was held in Denver, Colorado in November of the same year. Taking what was seen in that venue, Sayama considered "SHOOTO also needs to assimilate striking attack on the ground, which was prohibited as that time. The next unofficial competition to take place, as a learning exercise, was the beginning of the Vale Tudo Japan series. Rickson Gracie came to that tournament in July 1994, and showed the effectiveness and value of the ground striking tactics when he won the tournament. It was seen as essential that SHOOTO competitors learn to not only execute these skills, but also to learn how to withstand the punishment and develop a quality defense for the attack.
This indoctrination, was the beginning of the merger of SHOOTO and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Ground punches to the head were fully implemented in SHOOTO competition in June of 1995. This played a major role in making professional SHOOTO more technical and more exciting. Single match competitions were on the rise, and Amateur SHOOTO continued to be held throughout. The skill level of the professional SHOOTO fighter began to increase substantially.
When Satoru Sayama officially left the SHOOTO circuit in 1996, his chief pupils began the organizing SHOOTO Commission (presently the International SHOOTO Commission), The Japan SHOOTO Association was also formed to unite the SHOOTO gyms and to establish a clear path for the development of amateur competitors.
The formation of a neutral body of officials, that are separate from the promoters, was initiated under the establishment of these organizations. Likewise, some of SHOOTO’s top stars began to emerge_ such as Rumina Sato, Hayato Sakurai, Enson Inoue. The seats of the arenas for professional shows, that used to be deserted, began to be filled as the sport started to gain the public favor.
Generally, MMA fans are apt to be regard SHOOTO as a single promotion. But in reality, SHOOTO is a particular format of Mixed Martial Arts, and is itself and sport. Currently in Japan, there are several promotions the run SHOOTO events. These include Gutsman Promotions, K'z Factory, Paraestra, Alive, Kakumei and Sustain Co.
"Australia SHOOTO" represented by Larry Papadopoulos began holding Amateur SHOOTO competition in August 1998. The following May the first professional SHOOTO event outside of Japan was held in Lismore, Australia.
That same year, official SHOOTO bouts took place in Hawaii as a part of Super Brawl, run by T. Jay Thompson. This was the first time that official SHOOTO bouts were held by a promotion that was not an official member of the SHOOTO Association. This then became the position for the ISC regarding all SHOOTO events. This opened the door for more international expansion, as SHOOTO made its way to the USA mainland with such promotions as HOOKnSHOOT and the Ironheart Crown (both from the Midwest), Tuff-N-Uff (Nevada), WFF in Canada. And this expansion continues.
In Europe, SHOOTO competitor and World Ranker, Martin de Jong founded "Holland SHOOTO" in December 2000. He began holding professional shows in November 2001. There has been a significant difference between SHOOTO in North America and Europe that being the holding of Amateur SHOOTO events.
In North America, the thriving MMA grass roots movement provides many opportunities for fighters to enter directly into professional competition, thus preventing an amateur circuit (with head gear and no ground strikes) from taking hold. In Holland, kickboxing is very popular and many kinds of amateur competitions take place regularly.
The process of "amateur to professional" has been easily accepted and SHOOTO amateur competitions have been successfully assimilated into the SHOOTO culture in Europe.
The All European Open, the analog of the All Japan Championship, has already taken root as a large-scale tournament. This has lead the way for professional SHOOTO events o take place in Finland as of October of 2002, promoted by Team Scandinavia leader, Marko Leisten. In November 2003, Bushido MMA led by Donatas Simanaitis launched its own professional SHOOTO events in the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania. These have been major steps in the formation of a unified and fully functioning European SHOOTO Association.
In the 2003, there were 140 professional SHOOTO bouts in 17 events through out Japan in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka and Hiroshima. The US featured 9 events with 64 bouts in Indiana, the Chicago land, the St. Louis area, Tennessee, Hawaii, and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Then Europe, Australia and Brazil combined for anther14 events and over 80 fights. All of these took place in eight different countries, on 5 continents _ with 580 different competitors from eighteen different nations. In response to this profound globalization, the International SHOOTO Commission has enacted the formation of regional rankings to recognized national heroes that are not as of yet competing on the world stage.
Regional Championship tournaments have been initiated to crown championships of the Pacific Rim (Japan, Australia, Hawaii, The west coast of North America), Americas (North & South America), and Europe.
As remarkable as 2003 was, it has only lead the way for an already amazing 2004. Professional SHOOTO has taken place in Denmark and Switzerland in Europe, with shows planned for Sweden, Poland, Estonia, Russia, and Ireland.
In North America, SHOOTO has crossed into the Great White North, in WFF in British Colombia. Additionally, efforts are underway to bring SHOOTO to other provinces in Canada where MMA is currently illegal-there is a movement to bring SHOOTO events to Ohio, Florida, and potentially Mexico as well.
All these developments are being overseen and managed by the SHOOTO Americas Commissioner Richard Santoro, and Executive Director Randy Erickson. Now, SHOOTO is not just crossing geographical boundaries_ it is crossing gender boundaries as well.
The recent formation of "G-SHOOTO JAPAN" a promotion consisting exclusively of women’s bouts was announced to officially begin in November of 2004.
There is a cooperative effort in the US being managed by none other than the man who held the first ever all women’s show in the states, Jeff Osborne. His second All-women SHOOTO event is coming this November, and he has lead the way for women in MMA and these relationship with G-SHOOTO will mark a new era for women in the sport and the sport itself.
As is the nature of professional sports, SHOOTO has had its share of top athletes move onto to other fight organizations and promotions, but there are always new talent coming up though the ranks, who keep on enriching sport with new faces, new skills, new attitudes constantly contributing to the most substantial ranking system, which crowns the worlds only true MMA World Champion.
Words from Kazuhiro Sakamoto, the second Lightweight champion and the present representative of Sustain _ SHOOTO’s chief promotion, "What SHOOTO does is to diffuse MMA as a sport removing vice of the Japan MMA world, that to do fake fights for their own business, or even ignore safety, seeking merely to become a topic of conversation. I feel proud that the idea is in course of spreading over the world.
**The State of SHOOTO**
* ISC (International SHOOTO Commission)
Oversees, implements and enforces the rules and regulations of professional SHOOTO events held around the world.
* Japan SHOOTO (Japan SHOOTO Association)
Organizes Amateur SHOOTO competitions in Japan
Professional SHOOTO promotions are; Sustain, K'z Factory, Gutsman Promotion, Paraestra, Alive, Kakumei Promotion, G-SHOOTO Japan (for women).
104 official gyms and/or teams
* SHOOTO Americas
- SHOOTO Brazil - World Fight Center
- USA SHOOTO - HOOKnSHOOT, Ironheart Crown, Tuff-N-Uff
- SHOOTO Hawaii - Linebred, LLC
- WFF - Canada
* Europe SHOOTO
- Holland SHOOTO - Holland
- SHOOTO Switzerland - Switzerland
- Scandinavia SHOOTO - SHOOTO Finland, SHOOTO Sweden, Viking Fight (Denmark), SHOOTO Norway
- BUSHIDO MMA - Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland,Russia (Kaliningrad)
- S.H.O.O.T. - Spain
- Cage Wars - Ireland
* Australia SHOOTO
- Fight Club Productions - Melbourne, Victoria
The history of Shooto
1984-02 Satoru Sayama opens "Tiger Gym" in Seta Tokyo
1985-01 "Super Tiger Gym" presented 8 pre-shooting competitions
1989-05 The first professional Shooto event(no ground-p) in Tokyo Kourakuen Hall
1989-10 Amature Shooto competitions starts
1990-11 USA Shooto founded in LA
1993-09 The first International Shooto Open Tourament in Tokyo
(1993-11 UFC born in Denver)
1994-07 The first Vale Tudo Japan(with Rickson Gracie) presented in Tokyo
1995-06 The first Professional Shooto with ground-p starts
1996 Sayama left Japan Shooto
International Shooto Comission(ISC) founded
Japan Shooto Comission(JSC) founded
1998-08 Australia Shooto(AUS Shooto) founded
1998-10 Shooto Belgium founded
1999-05 Professional Shooto competition in New South Wales Australia
1999-06 Professional Shooto "Super Browl" in Hawaii starts
2000-12 Holland Shooto(NTL Shooto) founded
2001-11 The first Holland Shooto professional competition
2002-10 Finland Shooto presents the first professional competition in Turku
2003 Lithuania and Latvia Shooto founded
2003 Professional Shooto match in Las Vegas, Chicago,St.Lous,Tenessy, Indiana
2003 Brazil Shooto(BRA) founded
2004-01 SHOOTO World Champion Ship Tournament starts
2004 Denmark Shooto and Swiss Shooto
2004 WFF Canada Vancouver starts Shooto
2004 G(girls)-Shooto Japan and G-Shooto USA founded