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"It didn't look like they were wrestling; it looked like they were fighting. [...] They were shooting for each other's legs, dumping each other on their backs, and wrenching on each other's limbs with submission holds. Everything they did was technical and precise. I thought it was real - and, in many ways, it was real."
Ken Shamrock recalling the first time he watched an UWF tape.

"Pro wrestlers must be strong. [...] They would further develop in the future and would begin, not show-wrestling, but real fights."
Antonio Inoki giving Akira Maeda his first lesson.

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"In fact, pro wrestlers are strong."
Kazushi Sakuraba which he used as a Take That! against a sport magazine which had published a headline reading "Pro wrestlers are weak!" after Takada was beaten by Gracie the same year.

"And naturally the idea, to work it out will be a long hard road like everything else. That it's new to the people. And you won't have no help from the outside world because nobody knows this style of wrestling. So people have to have a little patience, you'll have to produce new and good young Japanese wrestlers, and you have to work it along the same line as you have sumo and judo. Originate here you know where the seed is planted and from here spread it out. Remember when judo was only in Japan the interest was there and the people came to see it just like sumo you know a national sport. And later once it caught hold, sumo is all over the world. So I think the same can be done with professional wrestling shooting-style."

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"In response to this interest in realism, Akira Maeda left NJPW and formed Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF). Sayama, Fujiwara, and Nobuhiko Takada (a student of hooking) quickly followed suit. Although the UWF bouts had predetermined outcomes, making them essentially worked, the techniques applied during the matches were delivered with full force. This became known as "stiff" wrestling. But the UWF did not stop there. Real matches were eventually arranged between certain wrestlers and boxers, moving Japanese pro wrestling still closer to MMA competition. This evolution was not rapid enough for some wrestlers, who were eager to test their skills in full-on MMA warfare. On September 2, 1985, in a match between Maeda and Sayama, Maeda purposefully kicked Sayama in the groin. Sayama abandoned any plan for a predetermined outcome and laid into Maeda with full force. The match became violent, and thousands of spectators got their first glimpse of MMA fighting. It was breathtaking."
— From the book; Brawl: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Mixed Martial Arts Competition.

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"They say man was formed in the image of his creator. So too, the wrestlers of the UWF. Their deity, Kamisama, was neither loving, nor forgiving. He was gruff, brutal and unsparing, a submission master who demanded discipline and daring from all who would train under his tutelage. His name was Karl Gotch and he was the God of Wrestling. In August of 1984, he followed many of his most promising students into the unknown, seeking a new way to present his beloved sport on the professional level. In some ways, of course, it was not an evolution, but a return to the old ways. But regression is not the UWF story. This wasn’t pure catch-as-catch-can wrestling. And it never would be. What would come over the next decade was something unique, a combination of that European grappling, Asian striking arts and the warrior spirit so important in Japanese martial culture. It was both old and new, a beautiful combination of the what once was and what might be in a better future."
Jonathan Snowden

"It makes sense that shootstyle wrestling emerged in 1984, a final desperate plea for a return to the old ways when wrestling was still wrestling. That was the same year Hulk Hogan won the WWF championship in Madison Square Garden, the year Roddy Piper smashed a coconut over Jimmy Snuka’s head in his famous Pit, the year the Road Warriors usurped the old guard represented by Baron Von Rasche and the Crusher. The business was changing—and some thought not for the better. It was also, perhaps not coincidentally, the same year a group of renegades, unhappy with the Americanization of puroresu (and Antonio Inoki’s political maneuvering and bad business deals), left New Japan Pro Wrestling to seek their own path. Led by Akira Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and Tiger Mask, the newly formed UWF spent two years struggling to balance realism with the pure creative zeal fans had begun to associate with professional wrestling. Lack of money and television eventually sent them crawling back to New Japan. But its artistic impact on the sport of professional wrestling is undeniable. The UWF would eventually become famous for creating “shootstyle” a throwback promotion grounded in realistic catch wrestling holds and other legitimate martial arts techniques. Some of the biggest stars of the 1990s were launched into the collective consciousness of hardcore Japanese wrestling fans on these obscure, niche shows. And their idea was not ready to die. Not yet."
Jonathan Snowden

"The matches were innovative and very tightly worked, featuring real submission holds, throws and powerful kicks. There was serious interest in the major metropolitan centers in Japan, but without a television deal, business faltered. The wrestlers, for their part, did all they could to promote the events, breaking all the unwritten rules by not only acknowledging opposing groups in their interviews, but running them down as fakes and phonies: Maeda himself was the most outspoken, mincing no words about traditional pro wrestling offices having worked matches, and insinuating that the UWF was the real thing. Many fans believed it. However, outside of Tokyo where the matches would overflow Korakuen Hall to a scary degree, the first UWF never caught on as more than a cult thing."
Jonathan Snowden from Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling.

"The only way I can describe UWF wrestling is that it’s a culture shock. This is the hardest wrestling style I’ve ever seen. I would guess most readers of this publication, as serious fans, would like UWF shows live better than any other group."
Dave Meltzer in the 1984 Wrestling Observer Yearbook.

"When Shinma was ousted from New Japan in 1983 for numerous financial improprieties, he formed a new promotion in early 1984, called the UWF. After Inoki backed out on a promise to join him, Shinma used Maeda, then 24 and already a major player in New Japan, as his big star. Maeda, through the influence of Karl Gotch, the original coach of all the top stars with the new promotion (Maeda, veterans Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Osamu Kido and future stars Nobuhiko Takada and Kazuo Yamazaki), changed the face of wrestling by popularizing the term shooting, building a wrestling style around suplexes, submissions and kicks. While the first UWF was not a shoot, it looked more realistic, and most of the audience believed it to be the real deal. UWF gained a large cult following in Tokyo becoming the hottest show at Korakuen Hall in 1984-85, particularly when it lured Satoru Sayama out of retirement (which ended up forcing Shinma out of the promotion he formed when Sayama did a he goes or I go power play), but couldn't draw on the road. Maeda would frequently do interviews during this period insulting Inoki, an idea very similar to Paul Heyman's for Shane Douglas on Ric Flair, only with 100 times the impact since everyone knew about it. Amid a major news scandal involving Sayama and financial problems, and a final event which saw a Maeda-Sayama match turn into a real shoot after the two were at odds for control of the group, for a few minutes (the much-smaller Sayama, recognizing he was in trouble, kept trying to kick Maeda in the groin to get disqualified), the promotion folded."
Dave Meltzer

"Without UWFI, without RINGS, without Pancrase, there wouldn’t have been Pride. Pride was built on the back of pro wrestling."
Josh Barnett

"Without UWF, there would be no FMW."
Atsushi Onita

"I feel that training in Shoot Wrestling would be beneficial to any martial artist and that it would greatly enhance the valuable knowledge and skill needed for self-defense. It is in the area of precise submission locking that Shoot Wrestling excels. Shoot Wrestling teaches practitioners to flow from one submission lock to another on the ground. Shoot Wrestlers also learn to move fluently between kicking, punching and throwing ranges into ground submission locking and finishing holds."
Dan Inosanto

"Shoot wrestling combines the best of standup, throws and submissions and a well-rounded type of martial art for a fighter."
Erik Paulson

"It was fascinating, I mean really the precursor to a lot of modern MMA training was how they trained- and that had to do a lot with the way Gotch had trained their conditioning, as well as... there's two sides of their art. The actual shoot-style, and then there was also the conditioning and the work ethic that they put in. And yeah, when the foreign fighters came in, we would come in for a week beforehand, to get acclimatized and everything. We would often bring with us, if it was a- in single fighter, they would just have one person come, and that would usually be a trainer/coach, and they would go in and train around the same time with the Japanese guys, but not with the foreign guys. Or, it would be vice versa depending on who you were matched against. So, we got to see a lot of their training methodology, and see how they practiced, and that was hugely helpful- because at that time, I was based out of Australia. And Australia has a really strong kickboxing culture- but we had zero wrestling. And so, we did great when the fight was on the feet, but as soon as it went to the ground- BJJ had only been in Australia in that time maybe a year or two. And there were only two guys in all of Australia at that time who actually were going to Brazil, and then they weren't really involved with the vale tudo movement or the luta livre or anything like that. It was traditional BJJ. It's great to hear that you were interested and involved back then as well, because back then there was only really two styles of MMA. You had the BJJ guys, and you had these shoot guys- who came out of the three arms that you've correctly identified. That was really it for the guys who had a complete package. Other than that you had guys who did a bit of this, did a bit of that, tried to do it- but those two groups really were the foundation of modern MMA. And it's really been forgotten that the whole shoot side… because they never really kept evolving, developing, and moving forward."
Christopher DeWeaver

"They started to write about Shootwrestling and I saw fights with [Minoru] Suzuki, [Ken] Shamrock and other legends of that time. The combination of punches, kicks and takedowns was completely new to me and it blew me away. I was especially fascinated by the full contact rules, which in Sweden was more or less considered deadly at that time. "
Omar Bouiche

"While in United States mixed martial arts came to be after a careful planification, in Japan the concept of MMA was a squealing child begotten by a tired mother. It was conceived when professional wrestlers like Satoru Sayama and Akira Maeda had enough of the scheming politics of worked pro wrestling and decided to start a shadowy path to a future in which two people could step into a ring and fight for real with all sorts of strikes, chokes and locks allowed. However, children usually look like their parents, and as the crowds of Japan had grown accustomed to pro wrestling, and these pioneers themselves were pro wrestlers before any other denomination, the resultant product resembled pro wrestilng. Shooto, RINGS and Pancrase were fought in squared rings, their fighters usually wore tights and boots or footguards, and their creeds were about spectacle as much as effectivity. People didn't want to see fights where a man simply laid on another; they had porn for that, especially because in Japan there is a form of porn for every concept. No, people wanted to see limbs twisted beyond their rotation angle, throats bellowing agonizing screams and brave little men going through the air in impressive maneuvers."
Reddit user DaShoota

"… The original UWF movement to turn the fantasy of pro wrestling into reality was accomplished this year. The 10-plus year history of the UWF movement is meaningless to talk about which cards and matches were worked and which weren't. Akira Maeda's RINGS, which spawned K-1 along with Pride as derivatives have epoch-making meanings in the history of real fighting. We've seen the truth and it will be carried on to the next millennium. Takada did three jobs at Pride and they were all real fights. Rickson Gracie is a legend from a different world. It was just a different world, nothing more and nothing less. Takada fought Gracie under Gracie's Vale Tudo rules and lost twice. Akira Maeda never had a real match in his fighting life. Masakatsu Funaki had many real matches, maybe too many. Takada was just the man in the middle between the two. The man in the middle position is always tough, but he headlined Tokyo Dome megashows against Rickson. They are like three brothers. The older brother couldn't do it himself. The youngest brother sacrificed his body for the cause. But the pain put on the middle brother was beyond the imagination. Takada became the first superstar pro wrestler to step into the real world. It's all part of the theory of time lag. The general public's permeation and understand of what this is requires years of education. The UWFI fighters in the 90s were all real shooters from the top to the bottom including Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura… On November 29, 1989 at U-Cosmos at the Tokyo Dome show which featured Maeda and Takada, we saw a miracle on the undercard with Yoji Anjoh's shoot match and Minoru Suzuki vs. Maurice Smith. It was the moment pro wrestling stepped into the line of reality combat. It was awesome. It was Satoru Sayama, the first Tiger Mask, who opened the world's very first total fight gym in 1984. It was irony that he claimed his new sport of Shooting as competition and not as pro wrestling. Shooto, which came from that, celebrated its 10th anniversary on 5/29 headlining Rumina Sato vs. Kaoru Uno. It was their first PPV match and they sold out the Yokohama Bunka Gym specifically on the main event theme of "Can rising Prince Uno beat his ex-teacher?" To me, it was really pro wrestling, although the fight itself was real. For real sports journalism, the highlight of Pride is Sakuraba's winning streak. On 7/4, the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu army were all defeated. The heavyweight Carlos Baretto couldn't beat the smaller Ukraine kickboxer Igor Vovchanchin. The top fighter from the Luta Livre camp, Ebenzer Fontes Braga, was tapped out by a UWF pro wrestler with an armbar. It was officially the end of the illusion of Brazilians as being the strongest fighters, that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was not the perfect fighting system and that a pro wrestler proved to be the strongest martial artist of all. But the sad truth about real fighting was in the undercard. On the Pride show, there were four boring matches that went for 25:00 each. A former King of Pancrase wasn't able to win a split decision while a Battlarts pro wrestler got a decision over a well-known Jiu Jitsu expert who beat Renzo Gracie earlier this year."
Tadashi Tanaka

"The main rule is, no one's ever disqualified. The Japanese want to know who really won."
Bart Vale
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