Prepare To Fall In Love With Ganryu-Jima’s Japanese Moat Fights

Japan has been the best place for freak-show fights and overwhelming weirdness in the world of MMA for a long time. A new organization, Ganryu-Jima, is bringing that to a new level. Affectionately known as Moat Fights, Ganryu-Jima is putting on their third event this weekend, so let’s take a look at what makes it so special by highlighting the craziest moments from their first two shows.

What is Ganryu-Jima?

The true origin story of Ganryu-Jima is lost to shoddy press conference translations, but my version is as follows: Japan wanted to Make Sumo Great Again. They devised a plan and a new sport that would emphasize the pushing skills of sumo, but realized that if people don’t watch normal sumo, there had to be some extra sizzle. Enter MMA with its face-punching and knockouts.

What Are The Rules?

Moat Fighting is a weird blend of sumo wrestling and MMA, and as such, the rules are weird. A fight starts standing, and from what I can tell, any standing strike is allowed, so knockouts and TKOs are completely in play. If a fight goes to the ground, any grappling must happen very quickly, otherwise the ref will stand the fighters up. Think of it like a shot clock, and either a submission must be applied or ground and pound must be kept up or the fight is back on the feet.

The real interesting aspect of the rules ties into the fighting area. Moat Fights are contested on a circular mat without ropes or fencing to contain the combatants. Since there’s no way to stop the fighters from going over the edge, that is one of the key tactics. Any time a fighter leaves the Battle Circle counts as a Moating, whether they are forced out by their opponent or through their own incompetence. Three Moatings during a single round results in a Technical Moat Out, ending the fight. At Ganryu-Jima 2, a warning track was added, and all legal Moatings have to begin from inside the track, and it must be one fluid push to get a fighter out of the Battle Circle. Any excessive time on the warning track cancels a Moating. Now that we know how to Moat Fight, let’s take a look at some of the highlights from Ganryu-Jima 1 and 2.

Ganryu-Jima 1 Highlights

Ganryu-Jima entered the world in February last year and brought several fun moments. It was a one-night tournament plus a few feature bouts, and every contest saw classic style versus style matchups like the first UFC events, except things like Sumo vs American Football (contested by a Mongolian and Japanese guy, respectively).

Boxing vs Shaolin Kung Fu
Kazuhisa Watanabe vs Guo Cheng

This should have been an interesting fight, as two stand-up specialists duke it out. What it turned into was Kazuhisa Watanabe just manhandling a kung fu guy and throwing him out of the Battle Circle repeatedly.

Taijiquan vs Karate
Yamagishi Masashi vs Abiko Yutaro

This is Peak Moat Fights. While it sounds mysterious and intriguing, Taijiquan is just another name for Tai Chi, you know, the least dangerous-looking martial art. This guy proved the inability for Tai Chi to damage an opponent by flailing his arms, running and leaping face-first at his opponent. Yutaro socked Masashi right in the face and won with a six-second knockout.

Ganryu-Jima 2 Highlights

We were all very lucky combat sports boys and girls, as Moat Fights returned in 2015 with Ganryu-Jima 2 in July. There was an interesting update to the Battle Circle, as the platform was elevated to create a more Moaty feeling. In addition, for the main card, fog machines pumped into the enclosure, creating a FRIGGIN SMOKE MOAT.

Pro Wrestling vs Savate
Hiroyuki Oka vs Alan Baudot

Oka is a Young Lion for New Japan Pro Wrestling and he walked out proudly waving a towel with an anime character on it. Baudot is a large French guy that likes to kick people in the face. This is one of my favorite Moat Fights across both events since it features a good mix of attempted Moatings and regular MMA.

Oka tries to use his wrestling to professionally shove Baudot out of the Battle Circle, but Alan is intent on knocking out the Young Lion. Most of Oka’s attempted shots resulted in him eating knees from Baudot, but he still got some legal Moatings. In the second round, Oka finally got the third legal Moating for a Moat Out TKO, but he took a huge knee from Baudot on the last double leg. Oka got split open, but he wouldn’t dare get blood on his anime lady towel.

Ki Attacks vs Yakuza
Takeshi Watanabe vs Hiroshi Nakajima

I saw Nakajima listed as a “sumo” wrestler, but there’s no way that’s true. His face tattoo says more “Yakuza street thug” than anything else. On the other side of the Battle Circle, Watanabe is one of those no-touch ki attack guys. He is also at least 60 years old, which is why he got the nickname Moat Grandpa (Or sometimes Japanese Colin Mochrie).

Watanabe clearly didn’t have time to build up his ki energy, as Nakajima knocked his block off in like 10 seconds. Don’t judge too harshly, Watanabe clearly wanted to die in the moat as a sacrifice to the Moat God, and Nakajima was happy to oblige.

Ganryu-Jima 3 goes down on Friday at something like 6PM Tokyo time, which means 3 in the damn AM in America Town. The card boasts practitioners of Long Fist Praying Mantis kung fu, Okinawan karate, and Silat, plus Senegalese, Mongolian, Sumo, Zulu, and Mongolian style wrestling. I am pretty pumped!