Shootfighting: A History

Shootfighting is a term sometimes heard in the world of combat sports and martial arts. Like Vale Tudo in Brazil and later MMA in the United States, Shootfighting is a hybrid style that involves several martial arts disciplines organized in a fighting system. As such, it is something that has practical uses and has also been popular for a while as a sport. Basically, it was a simpler version of MMA, focused on submission grappling (mainly wrestling) and Muay Thai.

Before exploring the exciting world of Shootfighting, let’s talk briefly about martial arts and sports. Things like Aikido, Karate, Kung Fu and others are what we consider martial arts. They work by having specific answers for any specific situation. At the other end of the spectrum, we have combat sports like wrestling, boxing and MMA. This is where you have a zero position (think hands up, chin down) and fight in total chaos, trying to use fewer techniques than a martial art, but in a much more realistic way. BJJ is somewhere in the middle of this, while Shootfighting falls directly into the category of combat sports.

What is Shootfighting?

Shootfighting was created in Japan in the 1970s. It happened by accident, because it was not planned. The famous professional wrestler Karl Gotch taught some Japanese fighters a very specific set of wrestling movements that were known as “hook and shoot”. One of the professional wrestlers, Antonio Inoki continued to fight in MMA style matches later in the 1970s, which led people to become interested in his style. The result was like the style nicknamed “shoot wrestling” and the fights were called “shoots”.

He fought for the “Professional Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi”, a Japanese shoot-catch promotion, and was their champion for several years in the 80’s. He was the first grappler to fight for the “Professional Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi”, a Japanese shoot-catch promotion. Back in the United States, he used the term Shootfighting to describe his own hybrid style, which introduced Kenpo and Ju-Jitsu to the original platform of wrestling and Muay Thai.

A number of organizations got involved in Shootfighting in the 1990s, particularly in Japan. You may have heard of Shooto, Shoot Boxing and Pancrase. Pancrase was by far the most famous and the organization that launched stars like Ken Shamrock and Bas Rutten, to name a few. In fact, Ken Shamrock said Shootfight was his style in the early UFCs.

Shootfighting Rules

The rules are fairly simple and straightforward. Competitions last 30 minutes without interruption for professionals and 10 minutes for amateurs. Shootfighting takes place in a wrestling ring. Groin shots are not allowed, but elbows, kicks, knees and headshots are all legal. Punches are only allowed on the body, but open hand slaps are allowed on the head. Bas Rutten really took them to another dimension when he fought at Pancrase. There are no gloves.

At the grapple level, takedowns and throws are all legal, just like hitting an opponent on the ground. If a fighter is caught in a submission hold, he can grab the ring ropes to break the hold. However, in doing so, they concede 1/3 of a reversal. This is important because 5 knockdowns are enough for Shootfighting to lose the fight. Speaking of adding things, catching the ropes 15 times will cost a fighter the fight. A 10 second knockdown (like in boxing) will make you lose a fight immediately, just like hitting a submission. Anything that goes to the end is a draw.

In professional shootfighting tournaments, there is only one heavyweight division (200 lbs and over). In amateur organizations, there are also lighter divisions. There is an International Shoot Fighting Association that sets the rules and regulations.

How can Shootfighting help your BJJ?

Shootfighting is a combat sport that is not as widespread as MMA or BJJ in modern times. However, you can still train and compete in some parts of the world. Although it may seem to be a rudimentary form of MMA, Shootfighting actually has some lessons that are important for people who are training in jiu-jitsu.

The first things to note are the submissions. Compared to the BJJ submarines, they are much more brutal, faster, and seem to contain less complicated details. In that sense, they look more like wrestling submissions. The difference with wrestling is that other grappling arts, such as judo and ju-jitsu, have influenced Shoot’s formation. This means that the submissions are a mixture of the explosive, surprising and painful nature of wrestling submissions, and a more positional configuration than wrestling due to Japanese influences. In other words, the perfect combination to plug in any submission attack hole your BJJ game might have.

The submission categories that you can expect to improve with the help of Shootfighting are for the most part joint locks. There are bent arm locks, wrist locks and leg locks, as well as sudden and unexpected neck cranks. Although there are some interesting strangulations, BJJ has primacy in this department.

Watching the shootfighting bouts will also clearly demonstrate the importance of conditioning and rhythm throughout a match. 30 minutes is a lot of time. Since limitless matches seem to come back to grappling, especially on professional stages, there are some interesting tactical tips to learn how not to gas while watching shootfighting matches.


Shootfighting is an interesting and underestimated fighting sport. It has a lot to teach attackers, grapplers and MMA fighters. Although training can be difficult, there are many matches and instructions available online. They are enough to give you an overview of the sport, as well as teach you some new tricks to try on the mats.