All Rights Reserved ©2014 -
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COMBAT WRESTLING & USA COMBAT WRESTLING
Combat Wrestling is Japan’s version of Submission Wrestling. Unlike the popular forms
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-
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-
Non Profit that supports its Athletes
The USACW is a Non-
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