Shooto is a combat sport and mixed martial arts organization that is governed by the Shooto Association and the International Shooto Commission. Shooto was originally formed in 1985, as an organization and as a particular fighting system derived from shoot wrestling. Practitioners are referred to as shooters, similarly to practitioners of shoot wrestling. Shooto rules have evolved such that their events are now true mixed martial arts competitions.
The word shooto is an English transliteration of 修斗, an ateji derived from the English word "shoot". The word shooto contains meaning to practice or train in, and which is just used for its pronunciation, as its literal meaning is a spoon or ladle.
Shooto weight classes are different from those of the United States Association of Boxing Commissions, which are used by most MMA promotions.
In 2019 Shooto entered into a partnership with ONE Championship. Under the terms of the partnership, Shooto champions will have the opportunity to sign a contract with ONE, while their amateur champions will be given an opportunity to train at Evolve MMA for a year.


Shooto was established as a "New Martial arts" in 1985 by Satoru Sayama, a Japanese professional wrestler trained in shoot wrestling, who wished to create a sport that revolved around a realistic and effective fighting system. After its establishment, New Martial arts was renamed "Shooting" which came from Shoot, a term of professional wrestling meaning "Serious match", but this changed to "Shooto" to avoid confusion with Shooting sports. Compared with the other professional wrestling organizations of the time, such as the New Japan Pro Wrestling and the Universal Wrestling Federation, Shooto was aimed at having no predetermined results. The first amateur event was held in 1986 and the first professional event in 1989.
The Shooto organization hosted the Vale Tudo Japan tournament in the summer of 1994. Previously to this tournament, Shooto did not feature punches to the face in a ground position, but after seeing effective usage of punching by foreign participants, Sayama decided to incorporate these striking techniques into shooto. In April 1996, World Shooto, the Shooto Association and the International Shooto Commission were formed. This marked the end of Shooto as a single organization, and turned it into a combat sport with governing bodies. Since establishment of ISC, the champions of Shooto are called "World Champion". Vale Tudo Japan events were held annually from 1994 to 1999. In May 2009, it was announced that Vale Tudo Japan would return for the first time in ten years on October 30, 2009.
Shooto was brought to America in the late 1980s by top student of Satoru Sayama, Yorinaga Nakamura. He began teaching Shooto at the Inosanto Academy in 1991, and is the instructor of Erik Paulson, Ron Balicki, Dan Inosanto, Larry Hartsell, and many others.
Shooto South America, also known as ShootoBazil is managed by founder of Nova União mixed martial arts academy, André Pederneiras. Its first event was held in Rio de Janeiro in May 2002
There has been an ongoing effort, spearheaded by Rich Santoro, to promote Shooto competition into the United States and Canada. He was officially named the Director of the International Shooto Commission - SHOOTO Americas division in 2001. He has worked with both U.S. event promoters and state officials to spread the Shooto brand of competition throughout North America. As of 2006 Shooto has taken place in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Nevada, Hawaii, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Promoters of Shooto events in North America have been HOOKnSHOOT, The Ironheart Crown, Midwest Fighting, Tennessee Shooto, RSF Shooto Challenge, TUFF-N-UFF, World Freestyle Fighting, SHOOTO Hawaii and Mannidog Productions.
Previous to 2009, Shooto's rules included a knockdown rule giving knocked down fighters an eight-count to recover as well as allowing strikes to the back of the head. Shooto had argued that the potential for a knocked out fighter to receive unnecessary damage while on the ground necessitated the rule, but with Shooto being one of the lone organizations still having the rule, consideration of the potential for injury allowing a knocked down fighter time to recover thus allowing additional blows, and with the original vision of Shooto's founder being a synthesis of striking, throwing and submitting - the rule change was instituted in mid-2008. The disallowment of strikes to the back of the head was done for similar medical reasons.
The long-running Japanese league Shooto and sister organization Vale Tudo Japan live-streamed its first shows on UFC Fight Pass in 2016. Vale Tudo Japan bouts are contested in a cage instead of Shooto's traditional ring,
Broadcast schedules for both promotions were announced April 20, 2016 during a press conference in Tokyo.
Shooto made its Fight Pass debut Saturday, April 23, with “Fight & Mosh” live from Maihama Amphitheater in Urayasu, Japan. Two world titles were on the line, Masaaki Sugawara made his first defense of the 125-pound belt against Hiromasa Ogikubo, plus Koshi Matsumoto and Yuki Kawana vied for the vacant 155-pound mantle.
Shooto followed that up with events on July 17 and Nov. 12, both took place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo as well as VTJ in Osaka” June 19 at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, and “VTJ 9th” on Sept. 19 which saw the organization return to its birthplace of Chiba prefecture.

Techniques and strategies

The aim in a shooto match is to defeat the opponent by a knockout or a submission, but fights can also end in a referee stoppage or by a judge decision. Legal techniques include general grappling, chokeholds, joint locks, kicks, knee strikes, punches, takedowns and throws. Illegal techniques include biting, elbow strikes, eye-gouging, forearm strikes, hair pulling, headbutting, kicking or kneeing the head of a downed opponent, small joint manipulation, strikes to the groin or throat and since September 1, 2008, strikes to the back of the head.

Fighter classes

Shooto fighters are categorized into four Classes.
Fighters start out as Class-D or Class-C fighters and enter amateur competitions that Shooto hosts together with the help of local gyms all over Japan. Class-D Shooto does not allow knee strikes to the face or striking on the ground. Class-C Shooto does not allow striking on the ground, but knee strikes to the head are allowed. There are regional championship and once a year the All-Japan amateur championships. Then a fighter can get a Class-B pro license, these fights are 2x5 minute long and use the same rules as Class-A fights. Shooto holds yearly rookie tournaments in each weight class.
When a fighter has gathered enough wins and experience in Class-B he will get awarded with a Class-A license, as a sign that he's part of the elite professional fighters.

Shooto events

Shooto organize most of their events in Japan, although it has organized some amateur tournaments in China..
Domestically, it broadcasts its events over AbemaTV and Samurai TV. Internationally, it has broadcast over the UFC Fight Pass in the past, and a number of their events are part of the UFC Fight Library. Recently, they have put up their events on YouTube.

Current Shooto world champions

Current Shooto Pacific Rim champions

Current Shooto Brazil champions