A foot lock by any other name….

31 Dec

Around late 1993 or early 1994 I was working out in a New York city boxing gym when out of the corner of my eye I saw something a bit strange. The place had several boxing rings, including a professional wrestling ring and it was common to see guys getting ready for their wrestling shows in that corner. However, the two guys that caught my eye on that day were doing something different.

To make a long story short, they were Japanese and were part of a group trying to bring “stiff style” to the US. Apparently the US audiences never learned to appreciate this style, and the promotion never quite took off. But these guys were in that boxing gym about 4 months.

Japanese “stiff style” wrestling, while “fake” (i.e worked), was the direct predecessor to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Japan and in fact a lot of those wrestlers became MMA fighters. You had pseudo MMA leagues like RINGS and Pancrase and you had Japan’s first legit MMA organization SHOOTO.

The Japanese style, particularly back in the 1990’s, featured a lot of foot and leg locks. This was a result both of the popularity of Russian Sambo in Japan in general and the influence of Karl Gotch and “catch wrestling” in Japanese pro wrestling in particular. It’s why Ken Shamrock uttered his infamous “I’m a brawler and a leg locker” line. Japanese grappling was not Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, especially when it came to foot locks.

After getting to know those “stiff style” wrestlers I picked up a few techniques, it was my first real submission training (if you don’t count learning one arm lock when I was a little kid doing Judo!). At the time I didn’t know the “politics” or much of this stuff so when I ended up trying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes later on when I put on a foot lock I wasn’t prepared for the back lash. I actually got kicked out of one school for trying a foot lock!

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised the other night when our new Jiu Jitsu instructor put a leg lock on one of the guys during rolling. I’ve always liked them, always thought they were effective, and never got why they were “dirty”? It’s ok to break your elbow or use your clothing to choke you but if I lock your leg I’m a bastard? Really?



One Response to “A foot lock by any other name….”

  1. Alexandre September 19, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    Hi, I’m really enjoying your blog despite the fact I’ve never trained TCMA. But I gotta say something about brazilian jiu-jitsu, wich I don’t practice, but know something about it’s history. You see, about the foot lock, it was never “forbidden”. There were two “clans” in Rio de Janeiro that learned Judo (Kano Jujutsu, see where the “jiu-jitsu” came from?), the Gracie and the Fadda. The Gracies were the most famous, because they where from the richest part of the city, and Rio was Brazil’s capital and so many politicians, artists and famous people practiced. The Faddas, on the other hand, were from the poorest part of the city, and because of that they were not famous.
    The Gracies used to challenge dojos, kwoons and gyms they knew were weak, but famous, to create the legend. They ARE good, indeed, but their marketing is as good as well, and one day they had a challenge with the Faddas. The Faddas won the matches using footlocks and for many years anyone who used footlocks on tournaments were called “shoemakers” or “suburbans”.

    I hope I was of some help, and forgive for my English.

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