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The Beginning

Combat Wrestling is Japan’s version of Submission Wrestling. Unlike the popular forms of Free-style or Greco-Roman; Combat Wrestling is a hybrid form of wrestling in which a match can end via points or ‘tap out’ due to submission hold. The founding father of Combat Wrestling is Kiguchi Noriaki. A decorated Freestyle wrestler, Kiguchi won the 1969 US Freestyle Wrestling Championship. In the same year, the legendary Kiguchi also had a hotly contested match with American Wrestling icon, Dan Gable in Gable’s hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. It would be one year later in 1970, that Kiguchi first started teaching classes out of his basement before taking his system to the Super Tiger Gym in the 80’s. The Super Tiger gym was founded by Satoru Sayama. Sayama a former professional wrestler and graduate of the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo, was a student of Pro Wrestler and legitimate shooter (Catch Wrestler) Karl Gotch. Sayama established the style of SHOOTO; which at the time was a revolutionary style dubbed as ‘New Martial Arts’. Together, Sayama and Kiguchi would go on to evolve SHOOTO into a Mixed Martial arts promotion pre-dating the UFC.

The 1990’s and the Birth of “No Gi Submission Wrestling”

In the early 90’s, Kiguchi began running tournaments for his brainchild Combat Wrestling. Many Japanese MMA pioneers (Rumina Sato, Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai, Takanori Gomi, Masakazu Imanari and many more) would ‘wet their feet’ in Combat Wrestling tournaments. It was Kiguchi’s revolutionary ruleset and point system that appeals to a wide variety of grappler’s specializing in different arts. Specifically, the absence of Pins in BJJ, the restrictions of chokes in Sambo or Footlocks in Judo enforces the practitioners of these arts to strictly adhere to a specific path of victory for each of these arts; thus stylizing the practitioner. However, in Combat Wrestling practitioners of Sambo, Judo, Catch Wrestling, Wrestling and BJJ could all equally find paths to victory with the point-system and ruleset. An innovator, Kiguchi essentially developed the first form of “No-Gi’ submission wrestling, a sport that has blown up internationally with organizations and tournaments like ADCC, which in modern day is often dubbed

the “Olympics of Grappling”.

From Recession to Renaissance

In the mid 2000’s Combat Wrestling would see a bit of a recession. With the rapid growth of Mixed Martial Arts in Japan, less competitors entered the grappling arena, instead choosing to get their starts directly on the MMA circuit. As a head coach and trainer, Kiguchi’s time also went to helping his students at his renowned ‘Kiguchi Dojo”. The academy housed highly successful

pupils such as Hayato Sakurai, Takanori Gomi, Genki Sudo and Rumina Sato to name a few. In 2014, Combat Wrestling would experience at the beginnings of a renaissance when Kiguchi gave his full approval to take Combat Wrestling to an international level. With Kiguchi’s blessing, the president of the Japanese Combat Wrestling Federation, Masa Yoshizawa and Bulgarian, Ivaylo Ivanov, founder of the International Federation of Combat Wrestling set out to take the sport to the next level. Yoshizawa and Ivanov were both products of the Tokyo based SK Absolute gym, an academy known for its stable of Russian and Japanese grapplers and

fighters. Ivanov first began experimenting with the adaptation of a No Kurtka(Sambo Jacket) ruleset in 2013, and has since rapidly progressed it into a series of national and international tournaments and qualifiers.

Coming to America

In 2014, eager to spread and grow the sport of Combat Wrestling in North America; Yoshiwaza and Ivanov knew just the right person to contact. Through their experience and ties in Sambo, they sought out American Sambo Association (ASA) founder Stephen Koepfer. Known as “Sambo Steve” within the grappling community, Koepfer is well-known as somewhat of an ambassador for Sambo in the United States, assisting for many years in both its development and expansion to a larger following. With Koepfer named the Secretary General for U.S.A. Combat Wrestling(USACW), Combat Wrestling in America now had a strong representative to promote and develop Combat Wrestling in the States. Koepfer along with his team of associates which include USACW President Timothy Kuth, and USACW VP/Treasure Micah Thompson have quickly evolved Combat Wrestling in America in it’s young three years.

Non Profit that supports its Athletes

The USACW is a Non-Profit organization with the objective of creating a national governing body under a true International sport model of transparency. With the help of corporate sponsors like Chamber’s Bank and Fast Lane entertainment assisting in the support and development of the USACW from it’s inception; athletes are supported financially for their competitive pursuits and endeavors. In order to compete at the World Championships, athletes must qualify by competing and placing in the annual National Trials. A rarity in the grappling community, the USACW is one of the only governing bodies in grappling to host a national qualifiers, select and fund it’s athletes.

World Championships

Since its international expansion, the International Federation of Combat Wrestling (FICW) has held annual World Championships. Athletes from their respective countries, participate in a qualifying tournament to determine who will earn the spot to represent their country and team. The first World Championship was held on August 22, 2015 in Varna, Bulgaria and had representatives

from thirteen countries. The second installment of the FICW World Championship was held on October 15th and 16th of 2016 in Tamasi, Hungary. In the second World Championship teams from USA, Japan, Hungary, Canada, Serbia, Romania, Brazil and Bosnia all sent representatives to compete for the title of “World Champion”. The third consecutive FICW World Championship was held in Saitama, Japan on October 21st and 22nd of 2017 with 13 countries represented. 2018 saw  the Worlds come to the United States, hosted by the city of St. Louis.

Written by 2017 Team USA member Michael Palladino