My first article about Yanagi Ryuken was written in 2017 and dealt primarily with his early life, training experience and his infamous (filmed) martial arts bout between himself and a so-called ‘mixed martial artist’ in 2006. My main point was to provide reliable referenced and sourced primary references and to expose and discredit the many ‘racist’ narratives that surround this issue in the West (primarily North America). One point that has to be made clear is that various and numerous Western martial artists issue ‘challenges’ to traditional martial artists in Asia – and rapidly come ‘unstuck’! Although many of these humiliating defeats are ‘filmed’ – they receive little if any coverage in the West and are treated as ‘not existing’. This denial only serves to highlight the highly ignorant Eurocentric bias that exists surrounding this issue. Having said this, it is equally true that in Asia there is little interest in Westerners being beaten in ‘honour’ matches as it happens so often and is expected. There are even cases of much ridiculed Asian Masters wiping the floor with Western opponents – only for the Western martial arts community to ignore this happening and continue on exactly the same trajectory of racist misrepresentation.
These observational facts do not change – or seek to change – the reality surrounding the antics of Yanagi Ryuken. I do not know him, have never met him and neither have I trained with him. Having accessed the Chinese and Japanese-language internet I see that far more details are now available and it is these fact that I wish to address. Firstly, there is much talk in China and Japan that the 2006 fight held in the Hokkaido General Gymnasium (attracting a crowd of around 200 spectators to Sapporo) – a challenge match between 65-year-old Yanagi Ryuken (柳龍拳 – Liu Long Quan) Height 170cm, Weight 77Kg and the 35-year-old Iwakura Tsuyoshi (岩倉豪 – Yan Cang Hao) Height 165cm, Weight 76Kg, a Japanese journalist and political activist trained in Judo, Karate and Brazilian Jujitsu (that occurred on November 26th) was ‘fixed’. Secondly, a complaint was raised as to whether the Hokkaido General Gymnasium was legally permitted to hold such a ‘sporting’ event involving such large amounts of money apparently changing hands (there was talk of 500,000 Yen, 1 million Yen and 5 million Yen as ‘entry fees’ and as potential ‘winnings’ and proposed ‘forfeitures’, etc). To this date, the financial situation is still a matter of debate and exists within murky waters! The legal point was that this so-called ‘challenge match’ – was a ‘fight to the finish’ whereby the physical damage inflicted by one participant over another permitted one of the combatants from continuing – and therefore ‘illegal’ (and could not be ‘legally’ held in the Hokkaido General Gymnasium).
The fight was over in a matter of minutes with the front-teeth of Yanagi Ryuken being knocked-out by the (not to convincing) reverse punches of Iwakura Tsuyoshi. At the time, websites representing Yanagi Ryuken were stating that he had a heart-condition and that this was the cause of the defeat. Today, the official line seems to involve Yanagi Ryuken blaming his defeat on ‘luck’ pure and simple! This appears to be something of a substantial shift in rhetoric – considering that his opponent – Iwakura Tsuyoshi turned-out to be useless on the MMA mat and something of a ‘fraud’ to many who were mistaken into believing he possessed some type of ‘advanced’ martial arts ability! Yanagi Ryuken even stated that iwakura Tsuyoshi possessed excellent potential – which proved to be as useless a prediction as his actual defence in combat! On December 1st, 2006, Yanagi Ryuken ‘retired’ and handed his Dojo business (and martial lineage over to his son – ‘Ryuho’ or ‘Long Bao’ [龍寶]). Following the widespread media attention this fight garnered, Yanagi Ryuken’s style of martial arts was permanently ‘banned’ from using the Hokkaido General Gymnasium. Fuji TV – which had officially filmed the event – was sued for allegedly ‘fixing’ the match and ‘paying’ the two combatants involved to ‘play-out’ a certain scenario (which involved Yanagi Ryuken receiving a substantial amount of money to throw the fight – no pun intended). This Court action was brought against Fuji TV by a Japan’s ethical broadcasting agency (full name ‘Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organisation’ or ‘BPO’) – on the grounds that Fuji TV had encouraged a ‘violent, dangerous and manipulative competition’ disguised as ‘entertainment’. This deficient programming effectively violated the ‘Human Rights’ of those participating in the fight (as well as those watching) – an allegation Fuji TV has had to face a number of times in the past regarding its programme content (which has included allegations of providing ‘fake’ statistics in fabricated ‘opinion polls’). (I cannot find any mention of this fight being referred to the BPO on their Japanese-language website. It could be there but under a different heading). In the meantime, three-years after this ‘fight’ – and the fall-out from it – Yanagi Ryuken ‘cut’ all ties with his longterm teacher – Master Kobayashi Dairyu – in 2009 with no explanation!
A Japanese-Language video uploaded to the ‘China News 360’ Youtube Channel (uploaded 31.8.2012) features ‘Yanagi Ryuken’ (announced as being ’70-years-old’) competing in a stylised ‘Sumo’ match-up against the Japanese MMA Champion ‘Sanae Kikuta’ (菊田早苗)! Incredibly, on this occasion Yanagi Ryuken was originally scheduled to fight Western MMA expert – ‘Wanderlei Silva’ – who had to pull-out due to injury! The fight between Yanagi Ryuken and Sanae Kikuta occurred on September 25th, 2011. Sanae Kikuta won in a matter of seconds following a ‘push-out’. As this was obviously for money, and given the allegations against Fuji TV in 2006, it would seem that both matches were ‘fixed’. Yanagi Ryuken used to make a living ‘sparring’ with other martial artists with ‘no open or closed hand techniques to the face’. This was said to have been the agreement for the 2006 fight – but it seems that Fuji TV may have ‘paid’ Iwakura Tsuyoshi to break this agreed ‘rule’ whilst the cameras were rolling! There must have been a substantial amount involved to convince a young Japanese man to punch an elderly Japanese man in the face – and be ‘filmed’ doing it! This behaviour has condemned Iwakura Tsuyoshi forever in the eyes of the average Japanese person. Sanae Kikuta, on the other hand, treated Yanagi Ryuken with respect and was very controlled and restrained.
Chinese language sources: