It was back in 1956 (the 31st year of Showa) when Mr. Shozo Sasahara, the President of Japan Wrestling Federation, won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
Since then, a long time of 46 years has already passed and at the same time, fewer and fewer people remember his splendid wrestling. Therefore, I, as his good company, wold like to describe his wrestling style, his wrestling spirit and techniques in detail here. Sasahara did very perfect wrestling so that no one rivaled with him in those days. His perfect wrestling was supported by his very hard daily practices and training. People around him always were struck with awe and respect by his very hard and severe practice.
Sasahara was born in 1929 ( the 4th year of Showa). He was a physically weaker boy than other children. When he was a high school student in Yamagata Commercial High School, he joined Kendo Club and devoted his high school life in Kendo. But he was just one of ordinary Kendo athletes. After he finished the high school, he learned English and began to work for the American Occupation Force as their interpreter. Later, Sasahara followed an advice from Mr. Kunio Samjo, one of his seniors, and he entered Chuo University, where he joined Wrestling Club.
Wrestlers at Chuo Univ. trained the new comer in a very severely and hard manner. The training was so tough and hard that Sasahara cried and shouted gSeniors, all of you are infringing on my human right.hh Later he took a position as the captain of the wrestling club at Chuo Univ. However, wrestling people regarded him as one of ordinary wrestlers.
Sasahara may have been one of ordinary college wrestlers, but in fact he was unique and different from other wrestlers, especially in career thinking. In those days, few wrestlers continued wrestling after they graduated from their colleges. They put an importance on employment rather than on wrestling career.
Sasahara was different from them. He did not get an employment after he finished the University. Instead, he established two goals: one goal was set on the first place in the then Word Wrestling Championship in Tokyo held in May of 1954 and another goal on the gold medal in the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
As he had wished, he became a representative Japanese wrestler and attended in the World Wrestling Championship in Tokyo. In spite of his first attendance in the Championship, he successfully beat strong and skilled wrestlers from other countries, and then he won the championship. This victory made his name public and people in Japan and other countries came to know him by name as the top wrestler in the world. But, the worth of Sasahara as a wrester was revealed after this victory.
Sasahara, after becoming a gold medallist in the 1954 World Championship held in Tokyo, he became severer and severer in his daily wrestling practice. He made his daily practice much more challenging to him. He became more taciturn than before and did not talk at all while practicing wrestling. He also did not show any carelessness while practicing wrestling. He concentrated all his nerves on wrestling practice, showing his unparalleled practicing attitude. He looked as if he had been a stern training monk who pursued something
important.Le me talk you about how Sasahara practiced in those days.
When a sparring period started, Sasahara stood firm on the mat to receive a sparring request from Chuo Univ. wrestlers, and sparred with a Chuo Univ. wrestler one after another. In any situation, Sasahara did not become careless, not allowing his opponents even 1 point until the daily practice finished.
Sasaharafs wrestling principle came from Sun-tzufs Art of War, which says gHe who knows himself and knows his enemy wins without danger.h Sasahara would seek, collect, and analyze any wrestling-related information and knowledge to get ahead of other wrestlers.
He always thought of his daily sparring as actual matches. This was his motto.
Such wrestling practice showed his wrestling principle.
When Sasahara did wrestling practice, he would spar with strong and skilled wresters in any weight categories. For example, wrestlers Sasahara sparred with included Mr. Kaneko, Mr. Motohashi, Mr. Ikeda, Mr. Katsuramoto, Mr. Seki and Mr. Nakagawa between Feather Class and Heavy Class. They were all top wrestlers in those days.
Sasahara often sparred with a skilled wrestler more than one hour each.
While Sasahara was practicing, no one on the mat chatted with each other.Every wrestler around Sasahara was fully attracted by Sasaharafs wrestling, and every movement of his wrestling so that if he had failed to stand firm and put his knee on the mat, every wrestler would have made a stir about that.
Sasahara did not talk or utter even single word while practicing, which made him look overwhelmingly strong wrester.
The world champion wrester, Sasahara sparred with many wrestlers ranked internationally as the top wrestlers. Such wrestlers included Mr. Motohashi of Chuo Univ., Mr. Kasahar, Mr. Yata and Mr. Abe of Meiji Univ., Mr. Okura of Waseda Univ., and Kokubo Brothers of Kieo Univ. They burned their fighting spirits when sparring with Sasahara but all of them did not beat him even in a moment. These sparring partners all became champions after Sasahara retired as an active wrestler.
By the way, Mr. Kasahara, who were in the same weight category as Sasaharafs and did not compete with Sasahara in his sparring, increased his weight into the Light Weight Category to join the Olympic Games in Melbourne and won the silver medal in the other category. This shows what a stronger wrestler Sasahara was in those days.
Since when he became a world champion wrestler, he did not lose any matches for following three years until the Melbourne Olympic Games. What is more, he allowed every his opponent to get few points. In the Melbourne Olympic Games, he did not get affected by great obligatory pressure and too much expectation for victory Japanese nation put on him, and he won the gold medal as he had been predestined to do so. Foreign press evaluated him as gThe Swiss Clockh, praising his careless-free and very skilled and accurate wrestling. It was the first time that gJapanese-made clockh had performed better than Swiss clock in accuracy.
While Sasahara practiced with Chuo Univ. wrestlers, they had a feeling that they became stronger wrestlers than before, only because they practiced with Sasahara in the same club, even only because they breathed the same airs as Sasahara did. In fact, they were able to feel the international wrestling level by training with Sasahara, the worldfs top wrestler.
Besides, they were able to develop some confidence to wrestle against and beat foreign wrestlers. The existence of Sasahara, and the practice with him promoted the improvement of wrestling skills of other wrestlers and brought the Japanese Wrestling World a chance to prosper, which was followed by the best performances in Tokyo Olympic Games that Japanese wrestlers showed ever.
Now, I would like to describe some of gmiracleh Sasaharafs wrestling techniques which I came to understand. Sasahara had a left-postures when wrestling on standing position.
Normally, a left-posture wrestler put his left leg a little bit forward and start wrestling, using the left leg as center of both defense and offence. But Sasaharafs left-posture was different from the normal left-posture. Sasahara had a left-posture and ,at the same time, he put his right leg a little bit forwarder than the normal left-posture position. Thus, his own left-posture made it easy for him to shift his weight from the left leg to the right one for the purpose of tackling the both legs of an opponent. Besides, this special posture made it easy for him to get overwhelmingly closer and closer to the opponent.
Sasaharafs method of grappling an opponent was well-calculated. He grappled the opponent and he made the opponent grapple him in order to start tackling the opponent with ease and effectively. The opponent, therefore, was forced to move in a way as Sasahara had desired and lose his balance. Every form of Sasaharafs tackle had its own principle and was different from conventional methods of tackling---hitting or jumping into an opponent to tackle the opponent. According to Sasaharafs tackling method, he made an opponent lose his balance and stand him unstably in order to tackle the both legs of the opponent. Since when Sasahara developed his tackling method, no one has successfully mastered the same tackling technique. Few wrestlers have been able to understand the principle of his unique tackling.
Let me explain more about his tackling methods:
It may be a little difficult to understand, but if you are a wrestler who have ever tried to solve what the principle of tackling is like, you may be able to get the picture of his tackling principle. When Sasahara, held his left-posture, he put his right leg a little bit forward.
He also stretched out and put his right hand on the forehead of his opponent, trying to make him move against the pressure. At the same time, he stretched out and put his left hand on the right shoulder of the opponent as if he was using his left arm as a prop supporting the opponent in order to put his weight a little on the opponent. At the moment the opponent held Sasaharafs right hand, he released his left hand from the opponent, held the opponentfs arms, kicked the mat with his right foot ,and then tackled the opponentfs unprotected legs.
This is the principle by which Sasahara successfully tackled the opponentfs legs holding his arms. By the above technique, the opponent lost the control of his weight and arms with his left leg unmoved and his right leg forwarded.
The weight of the opponent was shifted backward and the balance of the opponent was lost. By Sasaharafs technique, the opponent the most imbalanced posture.
Sasahara had an absolute confidence in defense. In fact, Sasahara did not fall down even if he had his left leg tackled by any opponent. So, he did not need to escape from the opponent who tackled him. Or rather, he made a unique defense, inviting the opponent to tackle his left leg.
He had excellent and unrivaled pinning techniques. His leg split technique frightened all other wrestlers in other countries. In pinning work, Sasahara always used his leg split technique as the center of his pinning technique combination. He employed many other pinning techniques including hands-controlling and nelson in order to employ the leg split technique against the opponent. He would used a great variety of leverage-applied pinning techniques in waves to beat his opponent. With excellent pinning techniques, Sasahara would beat every wrestlers. When Sasahara sparred or fought with any opponent, he gave his best and beat the opponent with all his power.
Let me introduce an interesting and famous story about Sasaharafs superior ability.
In the Melbourne Olympic Games, Sasahara had a match with Mr. Rawdelic, an strong American wrestler. The American wrestler received a chain of severe offence from Sasahara during the match, was forced to say to Sasahara, gPlease stop it. Ifm not gonna counter you any moreh
Sasahara was a wrestler with small-sized physique and a little rigid body.
When he and his opponent did ground work, he always kept a very stable posture and made a theoretically orthodox and secure defense against the opponent.
After Sasahara retired as an active wrestler, his wrestling principle and philosophy was handed down to his junior wrestlers at Chuo Univ. They included Mr. Takashi Kaneko, Mr. Tadashi Asai, Mr. Tamiji Sato and Mr. Osatake Watanabe. Under the Sasaharafs philosophy, Cjuo Univ. wrestlers dominated the then wrestling competitions.
Sasahara was not a person who wanted actively any social positions, but his wrestling career brought him to the position as the Vice Chairperson of International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, as the Chairperson of Japan Wrestling Federation and as the Vice President of Japan Olympic Committee. He also received the Medal with a Purple Ribbon.
Sasahara is now over 70 years old. He still does as very hard wrestling practice as he did when he was young. His wrestling practice attitude is as careless-free as before. He has maintained the top level of pinning techniques. On Fridays Sasahara goes to his farming cottage in Nagano Prefecture to do farm work on weekends.
The late, Mr. Ichiro Hatta, ex-President of Japan Wrestling Federation once said, gMusashi Miyamoto, the splendid swordsman, must have been a fighter like Sasaharah.
Mr. Hatta talked not about Musashi referring to Sasahara, but about Sasahara referring to Musashi.