Yoji Anjo vs Rickson Gracie Dojo Storm - Flashback to 1994!
A thought that has undoubtedly crossed any martial arts instructor's mind is "What would I do if I get dojo stormed?"
Dojo storming is defined by the Urban Dictionary as:
Challenging a dojo. It can refer to one or more people who basically like the name suggest storm into a dojo and challenge the people who are there. In the modern age it's becoming more uncommon for these things to happen. Which may be a reason for the sudden prevalence of Mcdojos.
Today I want to talk about one of the most famous dojo storms in the history of martial arts. This story dates back to December of 1994 when Japanese pro-wrestler Yoji Anjo flew to California to challenge the legendary BJJ fighter Rickson Gracie.
For this story to be properly understood, it's important to understand the martial arts climate of Japan in the early 90's. MMA at that time was very young. UFC just started in 1993, Pride FC wouldn't debut until 1997. YouTube wouldn't be a thing for more than a decade. The Japanese had a lot of pride in their fighting styles and pro-wrestling was huge! While the pro-wrestling matches were works, many of the fighters thought they would be effective in MMA (and many where - like Sakuraba).
Of course martial arts had spread worldwide, but in particular, grappling was big in Brazil. The Japanese vs Brazilian fighting rivalry is one that has gone on since the 1930's when Helio Gracie fought Japanese Kodokan Judo fighters in Brazil. Rickson also fought (and won) an MMA event called Vale Tudo Japan in 1994 and was widely viewed as the top Gracie competitor.
One of the pro-wrestling champs, Nobuhiko Takada, publicly challenged the Gracies, and Rickson in particular. Rickson responded that he would not fight him in Japan (as he suspected them of fixing fights). Instead, Rickson proposed that he would fight anybody, but only on his terms.
So in December of 1994, Yoji Anjo, pro-wrestler (and later Pride FC fighter) decided he would be the one to put Rickson in his place. Accompanied by members of the Japanese press, Yoji flew to California to confront Rickson at his LA dojo. Anjo came to LA under the guise of inviting Rickson to fight in Japan (in a fight for the UWF promotion). As Rickson refused to go to Japan, they decided to settle the score right then and there.
This was not to be a fight in the gi, with rules, and a referee. This was a real, no rules match. No gloves, to ref, no time limit, and no money.
Rickson was quoted as telling Yoji "If we fight for money, I’ll stop hitting you when you ask me to. If we fight for honor, I’ll stop hitting you when I feel like it.”
The Japanese press was not allowed to stay inside during the fight. One of Rickson's students did record it but it has not been released.
After the short fight, the press was let back in and the question of who won was obvious.
A few days later, Anjo returned to Rickson's dojo with a gift and a letter of apology:
As an aside to this story, a Gracie vs Anjo rematch was set up for Pride Shockwave 2004 when Anjo took on Ryan Gracie. Ryan won with an armbar in 8 min 33 seconds.
I was attending the Laguna Niguel Racquet Club classes with Mark Eccard and Dave Kama when this was happening. After his first fight in Japan, Rickson came by the club to teach, and also to show video from the fight in Japan to folks who would stick around for it. He showed the Japan fight, with commentary as to his thought processes. Then he showed the video of Anjo in Santa Monica, discussing his thoughts at different phases as it went.
Something that struck me as a sign of a true gentleman and scholar-warrior, was a comment about Anjo, by Rickson. He said, toward the end of the video, that he had a lot of respect for Anjo as a fighter, because he did not tap out; he kept struggling to free himself from the choke, right up to the moment he passed out. After all the hype and bravado displayed by Anjo, combined with the fact they had to rip a banister out to let the fight keep rolling, I would have expected Rickson to have nothing good to say about him. In addition to being a consummate teacher and professional, he showed himself to also be a true warrior, able to respect the positive traits in others even though they had an intuitively negative interaction.
And, FWIW, IIRC… he rode his bike to the studio, barefoot, and in his pajamas. The call from Luis that the guy was already there, with a gaggle of press, annoyed him enough to jet there in a hurry.
If you’re an FBI agent you can watch videos of this guy losing. Kinda weird that people are worshiping a phony.
Just go to youtube and you can find video Rickson telling this story on Joe Rogan Expirience podcast ;)
Rickson and his x took me and out to dinner at Gladstones somewhere near 1996. I remember him discussing this match at dinner. According to him it wasn’t so much that he wanted to send the guy back to Japan with a damaged face , but rather he felt disrespected by the whole circus and he purposely delayed the choke in order to teach Anjo a lesson by administering punishment.
Modernly, most people have no idea how good Rickson really was. He was way ahead of his time on the fitness scale and training regiment. Just compare is body to Royce. Plus he perfected advanced breathing skills, had extreme mental toughness and had many many years of yoga for maximum flexibility. Add all this to a lifetime of Jiu Jutsu and you have a world class athlete.
I was a student at Rickson’s school in 2001 long after this fight occurred. After class one day I was lucky enough to sit and talk with Rickson, and he told me the story of the fight with Anjo. It was pretty much like what Jason said in his comments. Rickson also said that he had chances to choke Anjo out as he kept trying to turn his back to Rickson to avoid a further beating. Instead Rickson kept rolling him face up to hit him, braking his nose and marking his face up. When asked why he didn’t just choke him out right away, Rickson said if he did that, Anjo would just go back to Japan and say he fought Rickson and nothing happened to him, because his face would be unmarked. By breaking his nose and putting some damage to his face, Anjo couldn’t lie, when people saw his face there would be no question he took a beating and lost the fight.