Global Training Report
X-One Shooto Gym
By Roberto Pedreira
Is it better to specialize
or to generalize? Better to concentrate on one thing and be great at it
and mediocre at everything else--or better to try to be versatile and
consequently good at everything but great at nothing?
You don't have to go to
these extremes. You can try to do more of one, less of another. But the
problem is one of degree. Your resources are finite. Time and energy spent
on one thing can't be spent on another. No one can do everything.
So what should you do?
Dan Inosanto tells us not
to box with a boxer. By implication, we'd better not wrestle with a
wrestler, swap shins, knees and elbows with a Thai, play the ground game
with a Brazilian, or engage in a stick fight with Eric "Top Dog" Knauss.
They are better than we are at what they do. Also by implication, we are
better than they are at one or more things that they don't specialize in,
and that's what we should do (or try to). That's the theory. In reality,
some guys are better than you are at everything. Even if they aren't, it
still might be a problem imposing your game on them and avoiding theirs.
In that case, you will need to be lucky.
The shooto guys have
chosen option B, which is to be all-around. Their training incorporates
both ground and stand up in equal measure. Their ground game is a mix of
wrestling, sambo, judo, and a bit of jiu-jitsu without the quimono (or 道着 [dougi],
as the Japanese call it). For stand up, they like Muay Thai, although they
have modified it to fit into the mixed context better.
Roberto Pedreira visited the
X-One (pronounced "cross one") Shooto Gym in Fujisawa to see how Shooto
Fighting is trained there. As usual, he had to participate in the
training to understand it. Like being stung by a bee, it's one of those
things you have to experience to appreciate.
The gym is small, as the
pictures show, and especially in view of the fact that 120 men, 35 women,
and 8 kids train there. X-One makes up for that by being open most of the
time. Especially in the striking arts, all you need is one guy who knows
how to hold the pads, and you can get an excellent workout. Even without
such a guy, the bags aren't going anywhere and during the non-class hours,
they are always available.
The gym is open from 4:00
to 10:00 Monday through Friday, from 4:00 to 10:00 Saturday, and from 1:00
to 5:00 on Sunday. Kickboxing training classes are held on Monday and
Wednesday from 7:30 to 9:00. No-gi submission classes are held on Tuesday
and Thursday, and a jiu-jitsu class on Friday, all also from 7:30 to 9:00.
All other days and times the gym is open for free training..
A typical class in any of
the styles taught emphasizes technique and repetition. Little or no time
is spent warming-up. The guys do that on their own before the class.
Similarly, and possibly because the gym is so small, there is no sparring
during the class. The guys who want to spar, or roll, or both, do it after
the class. Most of them stay. Another way to look at it is that the
workout/training session, including both positions and rolling, but
excluding warming up, lasts 2 1/2 hours. That's enough for most
Only one pair at a time
can spar, but that seems to be ok. Everyone will get a chance to do as
much as they want to, and as we know observation can be a great teacher
What is unusual, and good,
about the way these shooto guys spar is that the rules constantly vary.
They get used to fighting under a wide variety of conditions. They also
pick their own sparring partners and decide how long they are going to go
and under what rules. The time limits are usually 3-5 minutes. The rules
can be almost anything, including:
without punches to the head.....
without kicks to the head....
from standing or starting from the knees.....
only or mixing submission with striking.....
And any other combination that anyone wants to specify.
The kickboxing classes are
taught by Mr. Furiya. The class is a more
structured version of free training. Every drill is done in pairs, with
one guy holding, after which they switch. Both guys learn how to hold
correctly, which is an essential and overlooked skill and valuable in
promoting the sixth sense of correctly anticipating when and where attacks
will come. (It is primarily the lack of this sense that wipes out
otherwise well conditioned beginners so quickly.) The basic combinations
are taught and practiced over and over: jab-cross, cross-hook, hook-cross,
uppercut-hook. String these basic two punch combos together into sets of
three or more punches, and you have covered about 99% of boxing's attacks,
minus body punches.
The kicking segment
follows and is basic, which is good. Basics are what work best, most of
the time (fancy tricks only work when you and your opponent are both very
good, and even then, they tend to require either deception or impeccable
Mr. Furiya has a low
opinion of most Japanese fighter's clinch technique (the same comment was
made by Stephane Nikiema).
In fact, you can't really call what they do technique. They tend to just
grab and hang on, and don't effectively off-balance, exhaust, and injure
their opponent, unlike the Thais, who do all three supremely well. Mr.
Furiya learned his clinch skills in Thailand, which he visited five times
over the last ten years. "There are twenty clinch techniques", he told me,
and he is the only one in Japan who knows them all (the only Japanese,
The submission wrestling
class is taught by Tomoaki "Shonan" Hayama, who is a licensed class B
shooter, certified by the Japanese Shooto Commission. There is a picture
on the wall of "Shonan" with Rickson, who met Shonan at the Japan Vale
Tudo 95 event, where Rickson reigned supreme over everyone bold enough to
enter the ring with him. Shonan also fought in that event, against
Australia's tough Alex Cook, but lady luck wasn't in Shonan's corner that
A typical class starts
with a few minutes of ukemi and then gets
right into the techniques. Shonan fits about 9-10 techniques into the
first 60-70 or so minutes, and the rest of the class is "uchikomi", or
rather the shooto version of judo uchikomi. In judo, uchikomi is limited
to a few throws, and only the set up (the tsukuri, with or without
the kuzushi) is done, and invariably 20 repetitions of four sets
(four different throws usually). In the shooto uchikomi you do any take
down or any throw you want, do as many different techniques, as many
times, as you want, and actually take-down or throw the guy too, if you
want. This seemed like an excellent drill that it wouldn't hurt more
jiu-jitsu fighters to do more often.
After the class formally
finished, most of the the guys stayed for the next hour, this one devoted
solely to sparring (as described above).
The jiu-jitsu instructor
is Mr. Tachiyama. I found it rather disorienting seeing a jiu-jiutsu class
being taught by someone with a white belt, especially since one of the
students had a blue belt. I assumed he was a guest instructor visiting
from an affiliated academy, but no, he was just one of the regular
students who had been given the belt by someone from a different
organization after winning a championship in the white belt division.
Since Mr. Tachiyama only had a white belt himself, he couldn't promote
someone to blue. There was also a guy with a black belt, who was also just
a regular student. The whole situation seemed unusual but no one seemed to
mind. We have to respect Mr. Tachiyama and the X-One gym for their
scrupulousness about the belts. The temptation in many places would be to
wear a black belt earned in some other art, such as karate or judo, and
let the students come to the erroneous conclusion that the belt was for
The shooto guys have the
right idea about belts. For a competition, you want to fight in the right
division. That's what a belt is for. In the gym, dojo, or academy, it is
relatively trivial what color your belt is (although many guys find it
highly motivating trying to live up to the expectations other people have
of them by virtue of their belt.) And as we know, it wasn't that long ago
that Helio and the other members of the Federacão de
Jiu-jitsu invented the jiu-jitsu belt system that we now have (see Corpo
Quatro for details.) Before that, everyone wore white belts except the
instructors and mestres, whose belts were blue, not black.
The blue belt demonstrated
several legitimate jiu-jitsu techniques, a little advanced for the
students in the class, it seemed to me. He learned these from videos, Mr.
Tachiyama explained later. Mr Tachiyama took over and taught some
techniques that were also pretty advanced for white belts, but they were
for the most part correctly done. A new member had just joined that same
day and was taught techniques that seemed to me pretty advanced for a
beginner. However the fact that I'm used to something else doesn't mean
the way they were doing it was wrong.
Unlike the kickboxing and
submission classes, the jiu-jitsu class started with 20 minutes of warming
up, followed by 50 minutes of positions interspersed with considerable
amounts of laying around and shooting the breeze--pretty much like in Rio
in fact. Then the rolling, which was still going on one hour later when I
left. During that time I saw some good jiu-jitsu, but with a shooto twist
to it. The black belt (a ni-dan in judo) taped the blue belt with a kata
jime (shoulder choke) after getting sweeped several times. The black belt
then got choked out by a white belt (hadaka jime/mata leao/rear naked).
Mr. Tachiyama also rolled with everyone and seemed to have a fairly easy
time of it.
Someone with the right
background can probably learn a lot from the right videos. I assumed that
Mr. Tachiyama's background, judging from his ears, was in wrestling or
judo. How long had he been learning jiu-jitsu? One year, he said. Before
that? Shooto. Of course a background in shooto doesn't preclude an even
earlier background in wrestling and judo. Many of the guys at the X-One
gym seemed to have a background in one or the other, or both. Mr. Shonan,
the submission wrestling coach, trained at the Fujisawa
judo club when he was younger. I saw many well executed double-legs
there, many whizzers, sit-outs, arm-drags, duck-unders, shucks,
hip-heists, and other strange sounding wrestling techniques. And where had
he learned his jiu-jitsu, I asked? From purple belt Cristiano Alves
said. Roberto Pedreira has rolled with Cristiano hundreds of time
over the past four years and can attest to his formidable skills. Mr.
Tachiyama had a capable teacher. Here's a picture (below) of Cristriano rolling
with Ricco Rodriguez.
Cristiano rolling with Ricco at Dojo Jiu-Jitsu, Rio de
Basically, their jiu-jitsu
is the same as the jiu-jitsu everyone does, but, as I suggested
previously, with a shooto slant. The differences seem to be in the
firmness of the foundation and in the tightness of the game. Both emanate
from one thing, which is the attention to minute details and repetition of
key movements that characterize the Brazilian jiu-jitsu curriculum. This
is reasonable considering that the Brazilians are focusing on reigning
supreme at one kind of game, while the shooto guys are trying to be more
all-around. Obviously they can't be as good at each individual game if
they are devoting a lot of their training to other games. By the
same token, if we don't work on our stand-up games (striking, tackling,
and throwing), we won't be able to play our game at all, no matter how
good we are at it. Our opponent, obviously, knowing that we are better at
it than he is, doesn't want to let us do it if he can possibly avoid it.
He wants us to play his kind of game.
In a sense, it is a gamble
whichever way you choose to go. What is best for you to do depends
entirely on who your opponent is and what he can do better than you. So
unless you know in advance who all of your opponents are going to be and
how well they do what they do, whether you should specialize or generalize
is essentially a matter of your preferences and
(c) 2001, Roberto Pedreira. All rights
Revised October 31, 2009.
Revised June 8, 2015.