Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol 1

1992 Year in Review Continued…

RINGS’ Top 5 Wrestlers in 1992

Mike Lorefice’s List

1. Volk Han [91: #1]. Clearly the most unique, creative, innovative, unconventional, and experimental fighter in the worked shoot stratosphere. Han may not have received much help from his equally inexperienced opposition, but his matches always felt fresh, and to some extend you tuned in to see what crazy new sequences and holds he came up with this month. While none of his matches were the sort of amazing bouts he’d deliver in later years when he had top level opponents, each of his matches felt original and exciting, and most of them overachieved considerably, if anything involving such a tremendous individual talent can be said to be better than it should be. Though we think of him as a submission specialist, Han was much more well rounded than he gets credit for. His striking has been vastly underrated, and he actually incorporated footwork, movement, and feints into his matches better than almost any kickboxer we’ve seen enter the worked world. Han’s matches were always urgent, and even when his opponents weren’t great, he respected the threat coming from them and catered what he was doing to counteract their strengths when they were good enough for that, so we got a very good match against future Olympic wrestler Zaza where he tried to win with his standup, then a few months later, a match against imposing kickboxer Vrij where he did anything he could think of to avoid standup altogether. On the other hand, when his opponent wasn’t good enough for that, such as the Gigant match, Han was able to more than match the Russian champion in a judo oriented match to keep the debuting Gigant within the limited realm of what he knew how to do.

2. Andrei Kopylov [debut: 7/16/92]. Kopylov was a great counterpoint to Han, focusing on displaying the most realistic version of sambo we’ve seen so far. He was able to keep his ground oriented matches intense through developing active, back and forth matwork that had a more noticable attention to detail and normally didn’t get too outlandish. What Kopylov gave up in experience, he made up for by being quicker and better conditioned than in later years, being fresh off his days as a legitimate sambo standout. Kopylov may not have been a sprinter, but he had very quick reflexes on the mat for a man of his size, and was the second most creative roller in the promotion after Han. He displayed an excellent array of legs locks, which he was able to keep viable for lengthy periods through his ability to keep making small adjustments, and had an innate ability to create pro wrestling sequences by chaining counters without straying too far from reality.

3. Mitsuya Nagai [91: #5]. Nagai was rounding into a solid hand, reliably being able to put on an interesting shoot, and fairing pretty well in works, as well. He was well rounded enough that he could win a shoot by exploiting his opponent’s weakness, and while he wasn’t going to carry a work to something good on his own the way Han could, he had enough skill and knowledge to at least be able to play to or off the opponent’s strengths. He was normally fun to watch, displaying an energetic and exhuberant attitude, and a willingness to take risks. Though he may not have been a high percentage fighter, his creativity helped make up for being the smaller man in almost every fight, and his wild misses added entertainment value.

4. Nobuaki Kakuda [91: NR]. This is where things get a little odd because I am mainly rating Kakuda for his shooting, though his fights were also the most difficult to pin down as to what was really going on. Regardless, he was a really strong striker who actually utilized footwork and had tough, hardnosed fights. His stamina wasn’t exceptional, but he started rounds strongly, and made the best use of both the inside leg kick and the body punch, which he could push forward with and throw in combination. This is a guy that lacked the physical gifts, but made up for it with willpower and desire. He certainly suffered from being a novice on the mat, and that made it that much more difficult for him to succeed through standup alone given he was already giving up height and reach to everyone, but I feel his hard work & determination mostly made up for his limitations, and I looked forward to seeing his name on the card.

5. Grom Zaza [91: NR]. The final spot is really difficult because with only 10 shows, you quickly get to the point where no one had enough good matches or even performances to rise above the pack. Though last year’s #2 Willie Peeters didn’t have as good a year as he did in 1991, and never developed into a full time player or star despite always being able to get a rise from the crowd, I feel like he’s a solid candidate, both in terms of actual good fighting and memorable moments of chaos, and was always a reasonable performer, even if he was the most apt to do something unreasonable. Peeters was certainly a passionate character who arguably cared about entertaining the audience more than any other shoot fighter, but did so through wild aggression (and various, sometimes dubious shenanigans), maintaining a high level of intensity and an obvious (sometimes too great) desire for victory. He was always interesting, and was capable of elevating a work or competing in a shoot, but as with Herman Renting, didn’t really build on the potential he displayed last year. Renting was a minor contributor in one really good match against Han, and was mostly interesting the rest of the time, with a well rounded skill set even if inconsistent, getting a little more out of the lesser opposition than most, but usually still not quite enough due to passivity. You also have Maeda, who had 3 of the best matches of the year, but only because of the opponents, and was otherwise a good candidate for a stinker main event. Finally, there’s Kimura, an aggressive fighter who did well in two good shoots due to his experience, variety of takedowns, and strong mat background, but didn’t appear much, failing to impress in his one work (though mostly due to a weak opponent). Ultimately, I went with Grom Zaza because he had the MOTY. He was very well rounded, and was the one guy who didn’t seem to look great just because of Han. While one of his other 2 matches was bad, and the other wasn’t what one could call good, his opponents were both terrible. He actually did a great job against Dolman of making the match on his own, and those five minutes were probably as entertaining a match as against anyone other than Volk Han is capable of having against Dolman. Zaza brought a more credible style, and was one of the very few fighters that had diversity to excel in striking, wrestling, and submission. The Han match really showed his tremendous potential, as he was the only fighter actually able to give Han fits, and really make Han change his style and work super hard for everything he did. Zaza was very explosive, but didn’t have great stamina. He took his matches seriously, and rather than mail it in against Dolman, which would have been reasonable, he applied a ton of pressure and did all the moving to make it into something.

Michael Betz’s List

1. Volk Han: No amount of thinking, debate or pondering is needed, as this is the most obvious choice for RINGS’ 1992 rookie of the year, and only Hiromitsu Kanehara might have a chance of competing with him for the overall honors. Han was simply on a different sphere than the rest of humanity in how to incorporate not only sambo but real fighting movements into a pro wrestling context. Now, Han’s tendencies, much like Kiyoshi Tamura’s, will sometimes pull him into moments of flashy ridiculousness, but that is a small price to pay for the sheer amount of passion and innovation he brings to the table. Han was a pioneer in the league of a Satoru Sayama, in how he completely redefined what was possible in the world of pro wrestling. Sadly, unlike Sayama, whose influence can still be felt today, Han’s contributions feel like they are more and more being lost to the sands of time, as pro wrestling doesn’t seem to have any more room for that submission-heavy leg-lock style.

2. Andrei Kopylov: Before starting this project, I had already seen most of Kopylov’s matches, but for whatever reason he just kind of blended in for me. I had no idea just how incredible of a performer he was and how he helped elevate RINGS by adding a very solid hand to their roster. After all, very few at this point are capable of pulling a good-to-great match out of Akira Maeda, and Kopylov did just that. I would even dare say that he was the more serious and restrained version of Volk Han, which may not have led to some of the breathtaking achievements in entertainment, but that realism was arguably more apropos to what shoot-style was trying to be. Either way, he was an excellent addition and further proof that sambo was the de facto martial art for shoot-style glory.

3. Nobuaki Kakuda: Kakuda is one of my favorites from this era because he was the kind of fighter that would rather die inside of a ring than lose in one. He always seemed to bring the same amount of intensity, regardless if the match was going to be a shoot or a work. The only thing that knocks him down a few points compared to his competition was his lack of grappling experience. Surprisingly, he had good takedown abilities, but his submission skills, both offensively and defensively, were lacking, but the man was a warrior through and through.

4. Mitsuya Nagai: Nagai was the kind of fighter that any company would be happy to have, as his versatility was unquestioned. He wasn’t amazing in any one thing, but solid striking, decent submissions, and most importantly, his willingness to shoot at a moment’s notice made him the type of Swiss Army Knife that Maeda wouldn’t enjoy again until Tsuyoshi Kosaka hit the scene. He was creative and unafraid to take risks which also helped him considerably. Towards the end of 1992, they kept throwing unskilled/inexperienced opponents at him, negating some of his chances to add to the highlight reels, but that was no fault of his own.

5. Akira Maeda: It may seem odd that I’m including Maeda here, especially since we both spend a considerable amount of time ragging on him in these columns, but the fact remains that he had three 4-star matches, and despite his opponent being a big part of those successes, no man can wrestle himself. The thing with Maeda is that he was always capable of putting out a great match if he was motivated but without a strong opponent, he was inclined to let his laziness take over. Perhaps, he should be higher on this list, but when he wasn’t having great matches with the likes of Volk Han, or Andrei Kopylov, he was stinking up the arena against Dick Vrij, or the random Bulgarian-of-the-week, therefore he isn’t getting past the 5th place spot this year.

RINGS 1992 Rookie of the Year

ML: Note: I’m considering a rookie to be someone who debuted after 12/1/91 or only had 1 pro match before 1992

  1. Volk Han

  2. Andrei Kopylov

  3. Nobuaki Kakuda

  4. Grom Zaza

  5. Yoshihisa Yamamoto & Masayuki Naruse. These two practically only fought each other, and while this didn’t bring out the best in either of them, their matches did progressively improve, though both are really only here for their quality shoot against another opponent. Yamamoto may not have been more skilled than Naruse, but he had a lot more to work with. He did a good job of using his size, both by exploiting his reach in standup and by deciding whether to keep the fight in that position or to take control on the ground, stuffing takedown attempts by overhooking and either clinching, dropping down, or disengaging. Naruse was a scrappy and determined fighter who was somewhat able to make up for being very undersized through a fairly well rounded skill set featuring speedy kicks and some surprising submissions. His highlight was scoring a surprising upset submission win in his shoot with the largely dominant, much more experienced Koichiro Kimura.

MB: Strangely, I must completely concur with my esteemed colleague, Mike Lorifice. Of course, it helps that there weren’t many rookies to choose from, and there really isn’t any arguing with Mike’s choices, so I will simply say, “Ditto.”

  1. Volk Han

  2. Andrei Kopylov

  3. Nobuaki Kakuda

  4. Grom Zaza

Best RINGS matches of 1992

ML: 1. 5/16/92: Volk Han vs. Grom Zaza

  1. 4/3/92: Volk Han vs. Akira Maeda

  2. 6/25/92: Volk Han vs. Herman Renting

  3. 3/5/92: Volk Han vs. Gennady Gigant

  4. 7/16/92: Volk Han vs. Andrei Kopylov

MB: 1. 6/25/92: Naoyuki Taira vs. Eric Edelenbos: This may seem like a strange choice to put at the top of the list, but I can’t think of another bout that we witnessed that better encapsulates the pure wild-west spirit that was pre-UFC MMA than this shoot. Not only was it a great contrast in styles, but had plenty of crazy gonzo techniques and tons of entertainment value. You won’t find a better snapshot of early 90s MMA essence than this fight.

  1. 10/29/92: Akira Maeda vs. Volk Han: While my esteemed colleague would disagree with me, I felt that this rubber match between these two was their best outing due to the increased realism compared to the prior two. The first two were plenty entertaining but had moments that were too over-the-top for its own good, whereas this added a nice touch of realism without sacrificing the fun.

  2. 1/25/92: Mitsuya Nagai vs. Koichiro Kimura: While this shoot wasn’t in the same realm of entertainment as several of the works that followed after it, I felt that it was an excellent glimpse into how MMA was conducted by serious professionals, minus any BJJ influence. This was also done before Maeda cracked down on striking while on the ground, so we even got some pre-Pride soccer kicks here. This was the pure distillation of a catch-wrestling influenced style (in S.A.W.) vs. Shootboxing (which also had some submission knowledge in its arsenal). If we don’t accomplish anything else with this series of ongoing columns, I hope that this shines some light on just how advanced proto-MMA was in many ways, at least when you got outside of America.

  3. 10/29/92: Willie Peeters vs. Herman Renting: There are a few choices here that could be interchangeable, but this was just too entertaining for me not to include in this spot. Willie Peeters is a cartoon character come to life, and we are all the better for it.

  4. 4/3/92: Akira Maeda vs. Volk Han: This was just an improved variation of their first match, and one of the last of Maeda’s great matches.

*All of these great moments can be found over in our massive video archives. Just head over to Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA is creating Blogs, Historical Articles, Interviews, Podcasts | Patreon where over 4000 hours of various MMA/Kickboxing/Wrestling/Etc footage awaits you along with first dibs on all of our columns! *

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Super cool fighter card pics… man, what sweet swag… to live in Japan!


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6 months of lurking and out of the shadows DUNK1 strikes! Welcome back.

Kakutogi Road Presents: Sayama’s Corner "The Story of Shooto Vol.27"


*Special Thanks to our resident translator John Krummel for his invaluable assistance! *

Previous Page Translated

Middle Kick:

  1. Stand in the lower-center-of-gravity upright style.

  2. Switch [feet] and step forward with the right foot. The weight of the upper body should be placed on the right side.

  3. While keeping your head stable, tighten/bend you knee and swing your left foot upwards while standing on your toes.

  4. Fixing your aim on the opponent’s left side, thrust your leg to hit with the outside part below your knee [shin?]. Rather than trying to swing with the leg, swing with theturn of the waist (make this sharp).

  1. While turning the left foot from the outside to the inside and pulling-in from above the knee, kick as if to rend.

  2. The foot will naturally return by its pulling power.

  3. Swiftly return to your original position so that you can transition to the next attack.


Point: “The basics of the middle kick is: 1) Correctly stabilize your head; 2) The upper body moves to the right side; 3) The weight should go a little forward; 4) Don’t bend your upper body to the back; 5) Relax like you are hoola-dancing, and kick with a crisp turn (with sharpness) of the hips/waist.”

Previous Page Translated

The middle kick is the basis of all impact style kicks. “Pierce, turn, and pull! Kick with your returning force!” I want you to be diligent in your training until you come to understand these words with your body.

The middle kick, at times can serve as a body blow, and is also effective as a move to keep the opponent from entering into one’s inside.

  1. This is the point below the knee on the outside (where the finger is pointing in the photo). With this point, pierce the opponent’s left flank on the outside and kick while turning and pulling. This is an important point that is common in all aspects with the corkscrew kick.


  1. Where the foot has turned in a corkscrew (spiraling) with the knee as center. The sharper the turn of the waist/hips, the heel faces upwards when swung up. Even in this state the head remains where it was.

  1. Bad example: The kick here is with the inner part of the shin. And fearing being punched, the head is drawn back.


  1. Bad example: The left foot has entered too far, preventing any turning. And moreover the face is looking away.

Points to note:

Look at the head position in the photos. You should note that the angle of the occipital region of the head is almost the same (see photos 1~7).

When kicking, draw the chin in and stabilize the angle of your head. But when doing this don’t make yourself stiff by using too much strength.

In finishing your kick be careful to not arching your upper body backwards. The point is to keep your head where it was.

High Kick:

*What can be said in common about the middle, high, and low kicks is that one kicks while putting the axis on the base of the big toe and the middle toe of the pivoting foot and, at the moment of impact, focusing the power with the intent of standing on the toes.

  1. From the low-center-of-gravity upright style posture, begin the motion of switching [feet].

  2. Keep your gaze steady (unless you are feinting). If you thoughtlessly raise your gaze, the opponent will know you are about to throw a high kick.

  3. The state of swinging your foot up. Bring the outside point below the knee to the center of the opponent’s body.

  1. Don’t kick the high kick in an encroaching manner but kick to produce a stronger impact. For that you need to kick with a “bang!” by turning and pulling more quickly.

  2. Like the middle kick, the foot naturally returns by the pulling power from above the knee.

  3. It is difficult to find your balance after kicking. Keeping your head steady is the key.

  4. Never forget the guard.

[Side bar:]

Point: “The basics is the same as the middle kick, but with the high kick, the emphasis should be on the impact as the knee enters shallowly. Don’t kick in an encroaching manner, but bring the outside point below the knee into the opponent’s center.”

Previous Page Translated

Since it involves a corkscrew kick that directly hits the heat, the high kick if it hits its target perfectly, can result in a KO.

The difference with the middle kick is whether the knee’s entering is deep or shallow. So the movement up to the mid-point is the same between the knee kick, middle kick, and high kick.

As a strategy, you can easily hit the mark if you pretend to aim for the leg or the body and then kick the head. The middle and high kicks that intentionally hit the opponent from above the guard is also effective.

Bad examples:

  1. Here the hips/waist have not been turned inward. He is kicking only with the toes.


  1. Here the head is fleeing and there is not weight placed onto the kick.

  2. Here the foot is too deeply inward but without any turning motion.

The high kick turn:

Unlike the middle kick, the knee does not enter deeply. Adjust the outside point of your leg below the knee to the center of the opponent’s body and then turn the knee immediately before impact. In photo 1 the leg is plunging into the opponent and then in photo 2 the leg is extended by turning. Photo 3 is after impact the leg is extended.

The extended kick unique to the high kick is not something you can throw just by thinking of it. The extended kick can happen only by including in it sharpness in the turning of the hips/waist and leg and pulling power.

To Be Continued…


I’m starting to feel guilty for not voting you up every post with all of the work that you are putting in.


All this time here and I still don’t understand the vote-up system. Does it/did it do anything?


Well, I guess it’s to show who agrees with or likes your comment or posts.

After my 10th vote up I got mailed a coupon for two free sausage links at Denny’s

Well, knowing that maybe I can hold out and eventually trade them all in for a Grand Slam Breakfast.


Happy to say that after about a three month break (due to a move across the country to them thar hills) things are finally situated enough that I’m back at work on the 'ol PWFG/Pancrase history interview book. Got the second Masa Funaki interview 100% edited, and now tearing back into the third Ken Shamrock interview.


Hey today is the 30th anniversary of Shamrock vs Vale!

That was actually an extremely important PWFG card overall IMO.

Let’s bow our heads in a moment of silence for hurricane bart of miami, and reflect on world peace on this, the most holy of days, the day of the immaculate roundhouse.

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Vale would have been a great biker villian in an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.

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Bart Vale, blast from the past. I remember there being a lot of mystique around him due to Black Belt magazine and an MTV piece on him. They made him out to be a bad ass and glorified the heck out of Shoot fighting like it’s the most dangerous martial art on earth. They even went as far as to say a lot of people died participating in it.

Alas, then reality set in. The advent of REAL fighting called UFC/MMA came along and exposed a lot of phonies (Bart being one of them). I didn’t realize he wasn’t a real fighter. He was a pro wrestler. All of his “matches” were scripted. Mystique = gone.

Vale’s real fighting record was abysmal:

Kickboxing record was 0 wins and 2 losses (both losses were by TKO).

MMA record was 1 win and 2 losses.

Total fight record was 5 fights: 4 losses and 1 win.


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the “people have died” was technically true, in that a few japanese “young boys” died in training from unexplained circumstances. And Bart has quite a few more kickboxing fights than that of the pka variety, at least 4 i’m aware of, and his opponents couldn’t have walked and chewed bubblegum at the same time. PKA means no kicks below the waist

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