The “Quintet” reputation
Since getting involved in Martial Arts as a teenager I have always maintained an enormous amount of admiration and interest in the grappling arts. I have to confess, however, when it came to viewing, I generally neglected the competition element. I prioritized it lower than, for example, MMA and kickboxing. It was mostly my own fault, I had not kept up with the major players on the grappling circuit and the rules and new terminology often evaded me. I found it a bit difficult to keep up and over time my attention drifted.
Constantly surrounded by martial arts, I could not help but notice how often Quintet came up. Fighters, fans, media members would all rave about the grappling rules event. I was already curious about the organization, it was the legendary Sakuraba’s brainchild after all, and featured a host of highly regarded multi-discipline martial artists. The team format, a 5 vs 5 submission only rules event where the winner stays on was intriguing. The fact that Quintet Fight Night 5 was set at a Lightweight limit, requiring the five grapplers in a team to be under 360kg combined, piqued my interest further. I relish the opportunity to watch lighter weights and this event was chocked full of world class grapplers, veterans and legends. I was determined that the first Quintet of the year, the FN5 Lightweight Tournament in Korakuen Hall, would also be my first Quintet experience.
The Quintet format
A synthesis of Submission Wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Brazilian JuJitsu and other styles, Quintet promotes a 5 vs 5 team competition with viable techniques balanced between the disciplines. The rules are simple and the format entertaining. To win a competitor must score a submission, otherwise the bout is deemed a draw. The time limit is 8 minutes, unless there is a difference of more than 10kg between competitors, in which case bouts are 4 minutes. Winners stay on to face the next competitor, the team with all members eliminated first is defeated. In a situation where both teams are even after 5 matches, the “Shido”, or warning system comes into effect. To prevent stalling Quintet implements a penalty system for inactivity, the team with the least emerges victorious. In a rare case that there are same number of submissions and equal warnings, judges render a decision based on activity and effort to finish. Growing in popularity the team grappling showcase attracts all manner of styles and world class practitioners.
A modern take on a historical tradition
While possessing an unique format in the martial arts world, the roots of Quintet can be traced to an old Judo rule set. Kosen Judo was a 5 vs 5 team based competition that was popular among high schools and colleges in the early 1900s. To win competitors had to score an “Ippon”, a submission or a 30-second pin, there were no points given for positions or passes. Tactics were an essential element in attaining victory, if a lighter or lower level Judoka could force a draw, they helped pave the way for a team win. Quintet could be seen as a homage to the Kosen Judo system.
Quintet Fight Night 5 semi final matches
Brimming with anticipation I waited as competitors were introduced in detail on a wide screen. The instantly recognizable voice of Lenne Hardt, synonymous with martial arts, got the crowd fired up as she called out the competitors. As the teams entered they bowed, showed mutual respect and appreciation, and prepared for action.
Team Wolf vs Team Carpe Diem
As the first of the evenings bouts got underway, Team Wolf contested against Team Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem competitors frequently engaged from a sitting position. As a team noted for their world class guard game this was not unusual, against Team Wolf it was particularly effective, eliminating their chances of big throws or trips to attain dominant positions.
Grant Bogdanove held his own against Carpe Diem ace Masahiro Iwasaki. The Team Wolf youngster defended the deep 1/2 guard and expert leg attacks and was even working for a toe hold of his own as time expired.
2x time Olympic gold medalist in Judo, Masato Uchishiba faced Carpe Diem captain Tomoshige Sera in a contrast of styles. The Olympian was heavy with top pressure but Sera’s guard would not be passed. Shutting down the open guard game of the intimidating BJJ specialist, Uchishiba settled for a draw.
Lighter weight competitors, Carpe Diem’s Masaki Takeura and Seiichiro Ito fought a furious paced technical match. Ito frequently jumped past guard straight into a guillotine choke, and also came close with an extended armbar from guard. Takeura defended perfectly however, and mounted his own offense but neither could clinch the submission.
Team Wolf captain Michihiro Omigawa was reversed by Daisuke Shiraki early and found himself uncharacteristically on his back. Shiraki was more than 10kg heavier, meaning a 4 minute time limit. Omigawa was adept at warding off the attacks and scored a late reversal just as the time ran out.
In a lightning fast battle of technicians, Tomoyuki Hashimoto had a fully locked up triangle choke on Team Wolves JuJitsu expert Shinji Morito but could not seal the deal.
With no submissions scored and both teams having equal number of warnings a decision had to be rendered by judges. Team Wolf had their moments but the consistent of attempts to finish earned Team Carpe Diem a place in the finals.
Team Tokoro Plus α 2nd vs Team Onehundred
Next up were teams headed by MMA veterans as Team Tokoro Plus α 2nd met Team Onehundred. Both teams possessed phenomenal transitional skills with Team Onehundred having the edge the wrestling and Team Tokoro the submission acumen.
Powerhouses Naoyuki Kotani of team Tokoro Plus α 2nd and Team Onehundred’s Kohei Yasumi methodically pressured each other but could not score a submission.
Leglock master Masakazu Imanari grapples to the beat of his own drum and sometimes it costs him. After receiving a penalty for inactivity the team Tokoro Plus α 2nd member went up in gears with series of sequential lower limb attacks, including a toe hold. Opponent Toshiyasu Sagae saw them coming and was prepared. At times swapping leg for leg with the “10th dan of leglocks”, Sagae and Imanari grappled until the time limit.
Daisuke Nakamura passed to 1/2 guard of Kenichi Ito then got down to business doing what he is famous for. Locking a Kimura grip the arm submission hunter switched to a straight armbar for the tap at 0:54. Notching the first submission of the evening he gave Team Tokoro Plus α 2nd a crucial lead.
Remaining on the mat following the victory, Daisuke Nakamura and Shoki Higuchi showcased their contrasting styles. Nakamura was unfazed with sacrificing position for submission but had few chances to work his magic. Higuchi attacked systematically, locked his opponent down, claimed back position and threatened with chokes and a straight armbar. Nakamura only needed a small window of opportunity and did have his moments, Higuchi was able to avoid danger though leading to a draw.
In a spectacular match where both athletes gave everything they had going for a finish, the showdown between team captains Hideo Tokoro and Caol Uno stole match of the night. Uno slickly maneuvered to the back and attempted a neck crank/ bulldog choke. Tokoro found the Kimura grip and countered with a “Sakuraba” roll, switching to the straight armlock. The submission extended, Uno answered with a double roll escape much to the delight of the crowd. Action continued back and forth at a blistering pace leaving fans hungry for more as time expired.
With all of Team Onehundred grapplers eliminated Team Tokoro Plus α 2nd advanced. As the victors celebrated Team Onehundred supported a tearful and distraught Kenichi Ito.
Special Exhibition Match, Kazushi Sakuraba vs Takeshi Sugiura
The Exhibition Match between Kazushi Sakuraba and Judoka turned Pro-Wrestler Takashi Sugiura was more competitive than anticipated. Sakuraba scooped an ankle and took the back as Sugiura rotated to escape. Unable to get the choke Sakuraba progressed to an arm, flipped the Pro Wrestler and extended for the tap.The exhibition rules specified that submissions would not end the match but instead be counted at the end of the 8 minutes. A Ryo Chonan-esque scissor takedown from the MMA legend resulted in a restart and a warning, lower body submissions were banned under the special rules. There would be no other scores as Sugiura handled himself well, muscling the submission master around and displaying good fundamentals. At the 8 minute mark with a 1-0 lead Sakuraba was declared the winner.
Special Match, Haisam “Giraffe” Rida vs Igor “Fatninja” Tanabe
In some fine matchmaking 2 of the grappling worlds hottest competitors, Haisam “Giraffe” Rida and Igor “Fatninja” Tanabe met for the 2nd time this month. Previously clashing in a Gi match Rida fell short by the narrowest of margins, losing by a sweep in overtime. Rida was out for revenge but fell victim to Tanabe’s legendary modern guard game. From his back Tanabe expertly secured an ankle as Rida looked to pass. As the “Giraffe” stood to escape he was swept and caught in an ankle lock, “Fatninja” then turned to his side to apply pressure and the tap came quick. The whole sequence was lightning quick. A consummate student of the game Rida will be back stronger. For Tanabe, his stock just keeps climbing.
Quintet Fight Night 5 Finals
The finals of the tournament were met with much anticipation as 2 Teams of submission experts faced off on the canvas. Team Carpe Diem having the consistency in competition and Team Tokoro Plus α 2nd bringing some unpredictable genius, fans were eager to see who would come out on top.
Competing for the first time, Team Tokoro selected Masanori Kanehara, an all-rounder with an iron will, to lead. Against Masahiro Iwasaki, one of Japans best, Kanehara alternated attack and defense perfectly. Both alternated top and bottom positions but neither would leave an opening.
Not simply all muscle, Naoyuki Kotani is well known for his arsenal of skilled submissions. He had the formidable Carpe Diem number 1, Tomoshige Sera to contend with. Sera was relentless with attacks, guillotines, rear naked chokes, kneebars, leglocks but Kotani’s defense was sharp. After Sera scored a sweep and went for a guard pass Kotani pulled off the seemingly impossible. Wrapping his legs into a triangle mid transition Kotani pulled of the upset, submitting Sera at the 6:00 mark.
Aggressive and powerful, Daisuke Shiraki was a good physical match for Naoyuki Kotani. Both evenly matched veterans collided on the mat in a grueling match that went the distance.
Carpe Diem’s Masaki Takeura gave an excellent account of himself as he traded submissions with Daisuke Nakamura. The fascinating battle went back and forth at a feverish pace until time expired.
With a submission desperately needed, light and nimble ace, Tomoyuki Hashimoto attacked Masakazu Imanari continually. Taking Imanari’s back and locking up a reverse triangle he chained techniques together. Imanari was well schooled in defense as Hashimoto went from arm in guillotine to triangle to armlock. When Imanari did get on the offensive it was with his usual deadly flair, locking the legs quick. As the clock ran out the final match came to a close as a draw.
Team Tokoro Plus α 2nd became the first team to defeat Team Carpe Diem under Quintet rules. Emotions spilled over following the result as competitors embraced.
Impressions of Quintet
Quintet FN5 was immensely enjoyable, every match carved a dialogue and the storyline that emerged was unexpected and spectacular. Every small detail, the order of competition, the competitors style, prowess, speciality, physical strength, psychology and more, all played a part. As individuals they walked their own path, as a team their paths met.
One of the biggest takeaways from Quintet was how emotionally vested the audience were in participants and teams. Competitors carried the weight of their teams on their shoulders and dealt with considerable pressure. Falling behind was a nail in the coffin, participants had to even the score without getting careless. Maintaining a lead was also demanding, staying composed and not slipping up was essential. Closely following the athletes journeys, the fans were on the edge of their seats and the atmosphere was electrifying.
I am firmly on the Quintet bandwagon. Quintet FN5 was fast paced, both in and out of the matches. The production was top notch . Top tier competitors engaged in mesmerizing matches loaded full of blistering exchanges. The team unity and support was touching and the comradely between all the participants refreshing. From the beginning to end I was enthralled and will definitely be back.