“For real sports journalism, the highlight of Pride is Sakuraba’s winning streak. […] 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.”
A fascinating fighter, part catch-wrestler, part showman, part psychologist, Kazushi Sakuraba demonstrates how much of fighting involves expectations. Brazilian Ju-Jitsu dominated the early decades of the UFC due in part to their being there at its birth. The rules of UFC and the emerging expectations of how such fights would be fought plus the inate advantages of the strategy and technology of BJJ led to early dominance by fighters who had this skill. Sakuraba came along, a wild card, and threw a bit of a monkey wrench into what had become a prevalent belief that every UFC fighter had to have BJJ to succeed. Of course, there were a number of UFC fighters who came from a Greco-Roman wrestling tradition, but I think Sakuraba is interesting because of his unpredictability and his showmanship. This ties in to my belief that in many streetfights, there is a very important element of theatre. Savvy streetfighters know that the first punch is extremely important and that fights can be won or lost based on how got the first shot in. The sucker punch can be a very potent weapon. So streetfighters (or straight up criminals) master the art of dissimulation. They smile and put the opponent off-guard. They watch and wait for the opponent to look away. They ask a question, then strike. They strike in the moment of distraction.
The fighters opposing Sakuraba were clearly surprised and perplexed by his unorthodox attacks and hi-jinks. He came to one fight dressed as Super Mario. He did cartwheels. He attacked the feet, ankles, and legs of his opponents.
Wing Chun says “if it works, its Wing Chun.” I take this to mean, we do the unexpected. Back when it originated, many styles were circular, so Wing Chun took the straight line. Other styles were using jumping high kicks. Wing Chun only kicked low. Wing Chun is first and foremost a way of thinking about fighting.
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