Osamu Matsunami - Snakepit Wigan
Osamu Matsunami

Could you tell us a little about yourself (age, where are you from , gym location etc)?

I am Osamu Matsunami, I was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1971 and grew up there. Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for more than 1’000 years before Tokyo was founded.
So Kyoto is a very historical city with many temples, shrines, Japanese gardens, and many other cultural heritages. I opened my catch wrestling gym in this city in December 2006, and it was named Riley’s Gym Kyoto by Roy Wood when he visited it in the spring of 2007.

How did you become interested in Lancashire catch as catch can?

In the 1970s – ’80s, when I was a child, pro-wrestling was a huge sport in Japan. I was a fan of the legend, Antonio Inoki. He learned from Karl Gotch and wrestled Billy Robinson, both of whom Billy Riley coached at The Snake Pit in Wigan. So Lancashire catch, Billy Riley’s Gym were well-known names among pro-wrestling fans then. No Japanese journalist had ever been to Wigan to report, though. Roy came to Japan in 1990 to coach young pro-wrestlers. I read some articles about his teaching and interviews in magazines saying that catch-as-catch-can was dying out in Wigan. I got interested in learning it, and flew to Wigan in May 1993 when I was 21.

How long did you train with Roy in Wigan, and what aspects did you enjoy the most?

My first vist to Wigan in May 1993 was a 10-day trip. Fortunately I was able to meet Roy, and he and his family gave me a warm welcome although I was an unexpected visitor.After that, I visited Wigan regularly to learn catch-as-catch-can from Roy until 2003. I stayed 4-6months each time .In the gym, there were not many senior wrestlers in ’93 – 95. We started with a circuit training to warm up, and then we just wrestled until Roy said “OK.” It was hard, but I enjoyed training with just a few wrestlers, being watched by Roy all the time. I lived in a pub near the gym and Roy came for a drink a couple of times a week. He would talk about wrestling while drinking. There, he taught me what was wrong with what I did in the sparring. He put down his beer glass, stood up, grabbed my wrist and started coaching me in the pub.

Also, I was often with him when he had to drive to far places on business. Again, in the car he started to talk about my sparring. Roy used to teach kids wrestling at the school near the gym in the afternoon. I was with him there too. I learned a lot not only at the gym, but also outside the gym. I enjoyed every moment I spent in Wigan. I was lucky to have such experience and that is all thanks to Roy and his family and all the people who supported me while I was in Wigan.

How long did you train with Billy Robinson in Japan and what aspects of his training did you enjoy the most?

As soon as I heard the news that a former UWF wrestler, Yuko Miyato opened a catch gym in Tokyo, and hired Billy Robinson as the head coach, I moved there and started to learn catch-as-catch-can from Billy. It was the early summer of 1999, and lived there until October 2001. By then, my English had improved a lot. I could speak best English in the gym, and I was like his interpreter in his wrestling class. I was amazed by his encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling. He always made me think ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ Just doing the move correctly isn’t good enough. You have to know how the move works, what was wrong with what you did. Because everybody’s reaction is different, everybody has different length of arms and legs, height, weight, body strength, you have to understand how your moves work in order to adjust those differences.I loved learning the theory of wrestling. He always told me to “learn how to learn” wrestling.

Tell us a little about your gym and students ( do they enter competitions etc.)

Since I started my own gym, I have taught ‘pure catch as catch can’ wrestling to many students. Some of them took part in MMA and grappling competitions. It is okay with me that they enter competitions of other sport since we currently do not have pure catch competitions in Japan.

However, only pure catch is practiced at Riley Gym Kyoto. As MMA and other combat sports are becoming less popular in Japan, no wrestlers from my gym have entered competitions in the last few years. Unlike MMA grappling or Jujitsu, there are very few gyms (perhaps only Miyato’s and mine in Japan) that teach Lancashire catch. So I sometimes have visitors from cities very far from Kyoto.

I hope to hold pure catch competitions in Japan in the future.

What do you think is the most important thing in practicing catch?

I think that how good wrestler you are depends on how hard you have practiced and how much you have wrestled. Practice, practice and more practice believing that you are always improving. Today I think at the most gyms, they do some drills first, and have some rounds of 3-5 minute sparring.But I like the old style of training – ‘Just wrestle.’Wrestlers should just wrestle in front of the coach. When the wrestlers do something wrong, the coach corrects it and have them practice the proper move several times until they get it, and then carry on the sparring. I believe this is the best way to learn catch – Wrestle a lot, and drill the moves you did wrong in the sparring.