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The Legend and the McDojo: The Story Behind the Kiai Master Beatdown


Kiai Master Ryuken Yanagi gets beat up by BJJ practitioner and MMA fighter Tsuyoshi Iwakura

Have you ever seen the video of that Kiai Master on youtube? He is aikido practitioner Ryuken Yanagi, who was 65 years old at the time. His opponent is BJJ practitioner and MMA fighter Tsuyoshi Iwakura, who was 35. They fought on Nov. 26, 2006 at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center in Sapporo.

Yanagi promoted himself as having 200 wins and no losses in "no holds barred fights." He claimed he could beat Rickson Gracie, wanted to fight in Pride, and that his qigong could clean your aura, and heal rheumatism and tenosynovitis.

In the early 90's, Iwakura trained at the Midori Boxing Gym with fighters like Satoshi Iida, who went on to become WBA super flyweight champion. Like the early UFCs showed during this time, people were eager to learn what skills were actually useful for actual fighting, so Iwakura, in his mid-20's, decided to challenge aikido legend Gozo Shioda, who was more than 70 years old at the time.

Iwakura thought his boxing would be enough to defeat the traditional martial artist. But when he tried to punch Shioda, he was thrown. The elderly aikido master had used his forward momentum against him. Iwakura pop out his left shoulder. That made Iwakura begrudgingly accept that there are useful fighting skills in traditional martial arts.

Enter Yosuke Yamaki.

Yamaki is a columnist for a gossip mag Tantei File, an online tabloid dedicated to celebrity rumors, crime subculture and so on. Yamaki started his feature, "Holy Land," in July 2004, and featured himself in amusing fight-related situations. He started by having fights with readers, and then graduated to having bouts with real fighters. He rolled with Shinya Aoki and Masakazu Imanari. He fought Pancrase regular Hikaru Sato in a park, with both wearing full cosplay costumes. In June 2007, he grappled female pro-wrestler "Bullfight Sora" Atsuko Emoto at the first edition of DEEP-X, and was submitted via armbar.

In October 2006, Yamaki wrote an article about Yanagi, titled "The Old Martial Artist Who Makes Rickson Run." In it, Yanagi spoke about his 200-0 fight record, and said that he wanted to prove his skills in Pride. He said that he would do a no rules fight any time, and that he would give one million yen (just over $10,000 USD) to anyone who could defeat him. However, any opponent had to pay 500,000 yen in order for the chance to fight him.

Yanagi wouldn't accept the novice Yamaki as his opponent. However, as it happens, Yamaki's trained for his "battles" under none other than Tsuyoshi Iwakura, who he then persuaded Yanagi to take on as an opponent.

Iwakura's chance for revenge on aikido was paid for by Tantei File. Over 500 people came out to the northern city of Sapporo, Yanagi's home turf, to watch him get destroyed. After the fight, Yanagi promoted himself as having a "99 percent win rate."

That is the end of the story, but it still asks us a question: does aikido have usefulness in MMA? There's a lot of McDojo-type "martial arts" in the world. You need to carefully watch and decide what's useful and what's not.

Yu Shiori, a former Shooto rookie champion in 2004, is maybe the only notable fighter who has a full aikido background. In an interview in 2007, he said that in his four MMA fights to that point, he had only used an aikido move once. However, there are many fighters who mix elements of aikido into MMA, even major organizations' champions. Lyoto Machida, the UFC's light heavyweight champion, has some aikido footwork in his game, which his father and trainer Yoshizo previously discussed in Gong Kakutogi magazine.

Hiromu Yoshitaka, a former Shoot Boxing champion, has trained the striking of Shooto world champions Takashi Nakakura and Akitoshi Hokazono and Deep champion Seichi Ikemoto. Yoshitaka has said he's disappointed by fake traditional martial artists who don't spar, instead relying on demonstrations with strict rules, forcing opponents to attack a certain and unrealistic way.

Yoshitaka isn't a guy who thinks traditional martial arts aren't useful; he actually teaches his students many elements of traditional martial arts. In the past, he had reached out to the martial arts community in hopes of putting together a no rules kumite with different styles. He thought an event like this could be like research for him as a trainer, and help him to find new ways and techniques to teach. However, none of the traditional martial artists would participate in his kumite though some claimed in a magazine that they would beat Yoshitaka.


Aikido legend Gozo Shioda gives a demonstration.

Big thanks to Jordan Breen for English and editing.

Quotation All About Japan "Emperor of underground martial arts become invade overground"

5 comments:

  1. I also noticed that Yanagi Ryu, recently in 2015 or so competed in an "ultimate sumo" tournament on Japanese TV too... he's almost 70 but lost... The tournament had a bunch of different people, both actors, and real martial artists, K1 fighters, mma fighters, and prowrestlers, competing in sumo, including Bob Sapp, Fedor, Vader, Nakanishi, Minowaman, Tamura, etc.... You can find it on youtube...

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  2. I also noticed that Yanagi Ryu, recently in 2015 or so competed in an "ultimate sumo" tournament on Japanese TV too... he's almost 70 but lost... The tournament had a bunch of different people, both actors, and real martial artists, K1 fighters, mma fighters, and prowrestlers, competing in sumo, including Bob Sapp, Fedor, Vader, Nakanishi, Minowaman, Tamura, etc.... You can find it on youtube...

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  3. Aikido and qigong are two totally different martial arts. Aikido is an actual martial art where qi gong is a load of bs.

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  4. "Iwakura thought his boxing would be enough to defeat the traditional martial artist. But when he tried to punch Shioda, he was thrown. The elderly aikido master had used his forward momentum against him"

    Mh. i would really love to see that fight and discover how the hell any competent boxer who wasn't a complete amateur could be "thrown using his momentum against him"

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