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Erik Paulson Combat Submission Wrestling


Combat Submission Wrestling


Erik Paulson (born 1966) is an American Mixed Martial Artist raised in Minnesota and currently residing in California. He is the first American to win the World Light-Heavy Weight Shooto Title in Japan - a title he defended for 5 years. Starting with Judo in 1974, Paulson has trained in many disciplines including Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali/Eskrima, Catch Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, studying first with Rorion Gracie in his garage in 1989. He has studied with 40 different teachers over his 30 years of training including Greg Nelson, Yorinaga Nakamura, Larry Hartsell, and the legendary Dan Inosanto, who claims Erik is one of the world's most dynamic grappler's. He currently runs the CSW Training Center in Fullerton, California where he trains MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett, Ken Shamrock, and Sean Sherk.

Erik recently received his Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Rigan Machado. Erik is the founder of Combat Submission Wrestling, and STX Kickboxing.

For the last twenty-two years, Erik Paulson has studied the art of grappling. Having gained worldwide fame competing in many pay-per-view, no-holds-barred tournaments, he is now undefeated in Japan where he is the World Light-Heavyweight Shoot Wrestling Champion.

Erik’s system, CSW (Combat Submission Wrestling), blends grappling techniques and concepts from Judo, Freestyle Wrestling and Greco-Roman Wrestling with techniques and submissions from Shoot Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo and Catch-As-Catch-Can, as well as striking from Boxing, Muay Thai & French Savate. Erik is famous for his unbelievable repertoire of submission holds and is recognized as a virtual encyclopedia of leg locks. Using many skill & attribute drills each art offers different elements to the CSW system.

Combat Submission Wrestling

Interview with Erik Paulson

Eric Paulson has a long resume of disciplines that include judo, kickboxing, muay Thai, jiu-jitsu just to name of few, and has competed in such events as the Shooto, World Combat Championship and Extreme Fighting. He knows his was around the fight world and has offered his expertise to fighting greats as Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock and to this day continues to guide and train fighters to the next level by offering seminars, instructional DVD’s and books. In Eric’s pro debut in the MMA he traveled to Japan and battled out a victory over Kazuhiro Kusayanagi to become the first American to take the title and belt out of Japan. With all his knowledge and accolades Eric offers a brief look into his life as a fighter, a trainer and gives Boxing Insider his views on Ken Shamrock most recent bout and future.

How long have you been in the arts and what disciplines have you studied?

Erik Paulson I started in 1974 and my first discipline was Judo, then I went to Taekwondo and sport Karate and I competed in that for about thirteen years. I was an Olympic hopeful to fight in the 1988 Seoul Olympics but I had a motor cycle accident and because of that they told me I would never be able to kick again so that was when I went into Muay Thai. I also boxed as an amateur when I was in eighth grade and that same year I started gymnastics and I competed a lot in the mid-west in tournaments. In 1989 I started Shoot wrestling, I was doing Jiu-jitsu and Shooto at the same time, I trained in Japan in submission wrestling before it was even big in America.

What was running through your mind when you were making the entrance for your first pro bout in the MMA?

Erik Paulson Well, it was in Japan in 1992 and for this fight I trained four months solid, we trained our butts off. I was ripped and strong for that fight, there was nobody at that time that could have beaten me. When I walked out for this fight I was thinking this is it, this is what I train for, this is what it all boils down too. All the training that I have done my whole life is about to blow out for this one match that was what I was thinking. To me I felt like I was going to war, I felt like I was going to war to kill someone and I didn’t know if I was coming back. It was all mental, I programmed in my mind that the guy I was fighting raped my sister, so I had nothing but sheer aggression and I wasn’t going to quit for anything.

You were the first American to take the title out of Japan when you defeated Kenji Kawaguchi, give us your thoughts on that accomplishment.

Erik Paulson Well, they didn’t want a blonde hair blued eyed American taking away the Japanese title, if one was going to take it they wanted it to be a dark haired guy that looked Japanese. But I did what I had to do and it felt good. I fought hard.

Can you give the readers a little insight on your seminars?

Erik Paulson I teach a lot of the newest training methods, I make sure everyone has a good understanding of the basics and the fundamentals. We work on new games and tricks and how to create your own game. I do a lot of stuff on takedowns, transitions from striking to ground, clinching to hitting, long range fighting, ground submissions, takedowns from the knees, sweeps from the guard, ways to turn over a guy from the quarter position and striking on the ground. I also do a lot of information on nutrition, core training, how to make a good training schedule and just basically how to train right.

How has it been working with Ken Shamrock, and looking back on his loss to Rich Franklin what exactly went wrong in that bout?

Erik Paulson I think he slipped, training with Ken is great, Ken is a great athlete and he is very disciplined. He takes his work very seriously, when he trains he just wants you to push him, and when he spars wrestles or fights he wants you to throw down with him, he doesn’t expect you to hit him and run he wants you to stand and throw. That’s his mentality he is old school. I was trying to get him to be more elusive and evasive on his feet, his tie-ups and clinch working and striking is still really good, his takedowns and ground work is still very good. We did have that, he just slipped, he went in there and I don’t think his head was into it. He was going through a move, I just think he took the fight to lightly. He said Rich didn’t really have anything that intimidated him or scared him and he wasn’t afraid of him, and that is usually when you lose when you think like that. If you think like that that is when the guy usually catches you. I also thought that he waited to long and allowed Rich to play his game. His objective was to chop Rich’s ankle a few times and punch him a little bit get his hands down and kick him in the head. When Rich caught him it dazed him a little so out of no where Ken threw this high kick, and he slipped and fell and Rich just jumped on him. I just truly think his head wasn’t completely in the fight, I think he had a lot on his plate. The Ken I trained for Kimo was different from the one I trained for Rich, I think it had a lot to do with the time, we had two months for this and we kind of crammed a little bit.

If you were in Ken’s position at this time, what would you do?

Erik Paulson I’d fight again. Never end with a loss like that, no way. He needs to fight an older guy, let the new young guys fight the young guys. But you know what, Ken will fight anybody he doesn’t care, put whoever you want in front of Ken and he will fight them. He wanted to fight Tank but Tank wouldn’t do it, it would be cool to see those two go at it. He needs to fight one or two more times and then decide what he wants to do with his career. He will be training a great group of guys and possibly be doing some stuff on TV. He’s got a great look and is still in great shape.

What advice would you give to an up and coming fighter?

Erik Paulson Train your butt off, you got to be at practice, you can’t miss it there is no excuses. If your coach says you got practice show up and don’t complain, you condition yourself as hard as you can. If you get beaten down it is all a part of practice, you want to get beaten down in practice and not in the fight.

Any future projects you are working on that you can tell us about?

Erik Paulson I’m working with a team of guys now; I am going to start weeding out some of them in the next month or so. I’ve got some B-C class guys no A class guys yet but we are working on that. I’m also working on some new books, some training DVD’s and I’m trying to write for some magazines as much as I possibly can.

Is there anything you would like to add or say in closing?

Erik Paulson I think that the level of the newer generation of guys is getting better faster because of the amount of information out there. Today is the information age and these guys can access their information through DVD’s and watching all these events. Ring time and competition is going to make these guys better, and I think the most important thing is that everybody is friendly and doesn’t form an attitude and everyone helps each other. We are all in this whole thing together. The guys who talk know little, the guys who don’t talk know a lot, be the one talked about not the one talking.






Erik Paulson Combat Submission Wrestling


Erik Paulson






When Erik Paulson was just a little guy, he used to tell his wrestling fanatic brother, "If you're a good puncher and kicker, nobody can take you down."

One day, Paulson's brother answered with a challenge: "You want to bet? A wrestler will always beat a karate guy"

So Paulson and his brother went at it -- on several occasions. " I could hit him a few times, but he could always get lucky and take me down, " Paulson remembers. "Later I started to realize that that he kept on getting lucky. I'd hit him, but I'd end up on my back. Then he'd get me in a side straddle or side headlock. From that time on, I knew in the back of my mind that wrestling was the thing I liked most."

Cut to the Present...

If you saw last year's World Combat Championship, that one-shot no-holds-barred event martial artists are still talking about, you probably remember Paulson. He the grappling expert who ended up fighting in the striking division. He did all right, too, until opponent James Warring entwined his mitts in Paulson's ponytail and refused to let go for nearly the duration of the fight. Man, that's gotta hurt!

Well, that was just one page out of Paulson's pugilistic portfolio. Since then he's made history by defeating Japan's reigning light-heavyweight shootwrestling champion, Kenji Kawaguchi. Paulson became the first American to take the title and the belt out of Japan. In case you are wondering: No, he did not prune his locks for that competition, because hair-pulling was not allowed.

Only 30 years old, Paulson already has an impressive martial arts resume that includes judo, boxing, taekwondo, muay Thai, and jeet kune do. He got most of his takedown skills from shootwrestling, which he started learning in 1989. Yorinaga Nakamura, an instructor from Japan, provided Paulson's introduction to the multifaceted art and has continued to guide at the Inosanto Academy, where both men teach.

Paulson also absorbed a lot of grappling truths from Larry Hartsell, a former student of Bruce Lee. "He did a few grappling seminars for me," Paulson says. "Larry helped change my mind about everything."

Paulson, who moved to Los Angeles in 1989, also took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Yet there was something about shootwrestling that held his fancy. "I was doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I loved it, but Yori showed me all the other options I had," he says. "I went home and tried some of the stuff on my buddy, who was a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I made him tap with the ankle locks, and he was surprised as I was. So I stuck with it."

Paulson claims that shootwrestling's effectiveness stems from the way it gears its grappling toward taking a kickboxer down and its kickboxing toward keeping a grappler off. "Combined, they are a pretty good mixture" he says.

Because of this unique mixture of realistic combat arts, Paulson has been able to refine his grappling techniques. That means they're reliable moves for the training hall, the ring or the street.

Erik Paulson

Erik Paulson Beginnings by Erik Paulson

I first became aware of Shooto (Shoot Wrestling) in 1989, when Yori Nakamura, the founder of USA Shooto, did his first seminar at the Inosanto Academy at Marina Del Rey, California. Up to that time, there had been a clear delineation between the striking and grappling arts. You either punched or kicked somebody or you took them to the ground and grappled − there was really no cross-training mixing striking, throwing and ground. About the closest anyone had come to that was Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Yori, who had come from Japan where he had learned the art from Satoru Sayama and then went on to teach it in the Shooto dojos of Japan. Nakamura (accompanied by wife Hiromi) eventually moved to America to learn JKD from Dan Inosanto, and to meet Brandon Lee, Shannon Lee, and the rest of Bruce Lee’s family. Upon arriving to begin his study, Dan Inosanto asked Nakamura if he had learned any of the Japanese fighting arts. Nakamura then demonstrated a torrent of integrated punches, knees, kicks, throws and submissions that was unlike any blend the JKD master had seen before. In only took Inosanto a few days to share this new form of fighting with JKD grappling expert Larry Hartsell, who agreed that it was a noteworthy advancement of the combat sports. Nakamura soon began teaching America’s first Shooto class at the Inosanto Academy.

My personal martial arts journey began with judo in 1974 in Minnesota, which I studied for two years and competed in regularly. However, I soon had my eyes opened to the realities of streetfighting when I was jumped, tried to use judo to subdue him, and got my hair pulled (the story of my life), my head stuffed into a snow bank, my ears boxed, and my eyes punched in. At that point, I decided that I needed something else and made my way down to the local karate school. At around this same time I saw my first Bruce Lee movie and thought to myself “I need to learn that.” Through reading in magazines I found out that Bruce Lee taught a style called Jeet Kune Do that was great for street fighting (an aspect that was later emphasized by Paul Vunak). Inspired by Bruce Lee, I decided to learn stand-up striking. From judo I then began studying taekwondo sport karate (which would last for 13 years!). Wanting to learn how to better use my hands in a real fight, I began taking boxing in 1978 and competed in Golden Gloves in Anoka, Minnesota. In 1981, I met Rick Faye, who was an instructor under Dan Inosanto. Faye just happened to be teaching at my karate school on Saturdays. Faye taught a mixture of weapons, trapping, boxing, Thai boxing, interception and destruction. Then he would take the fight to the mat and teach ground fighting (striking and grappling). When I asked him what this well-rounded art was, he told me that it was JKD, kali, and muay Thai and that is was based on the art of Bruce Lee. Until that time I had never met anyone who taught the art of the man who had inspired me to learn martial arts − Bruce Lee. I immediately got Faye’s phone number, quit the karate school, and began studying JKD.

After graduating from high school in 1984, I decided to move to California to try to break into the television and movie industry and to be close to the center of JKD − the Inosanto Academy. Ending up in Palm Springs, I worked as a bouncer and bartender for five years and got work as model and commercial actor. During this time I continued my martial arts odyssey training in boxing, taekwondo, and JKD in Redlands under Dennis Blue, Tim Tackett, and Burt Poe. In 1989 I took a chance and moved to the City of Angels. Being from Minnesota, the Land of a 10,000 Lakes, it only seemed natural that I move close to the water − so I ended up Manhattan Beach, where I finally started following my dreams and broke into feature films, getting work in “Baywatch,” “Spygames,” “The Abyss,” “American Ninja,” “Bloodsport,” et cetera. At this same time, however, I had another much more important goal − to use my martial arts skills to actually fight in international full contact matches. I had no idea that I would eventually become the first American to win the World Shooto title, hold it for six years, and then retire undefeated in title defenses, with two Shooto world belts.

Once I was in Los Angeles, my first three stops were to sign up for classes at the Jet Center and the Inosanto Academy − run by two of my great idols, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and Dan Inosanto − and Rorion Gracie’s garage. I began classes at the Jet Center and Rorion’s garage in 1988, before I had actually moved, and then continued in both in 1989 when I was an official “Angelino,” which was when I joined the Inosanto Academy. In 1989 I took a seminar with Yori Nakamura in Shooto and was hooked! I loved the combination of striking and grappling. I knew I needed the groundwork of Gracie jiu-jitsu because of its positional control, but I also wanted to combine it with the wide-open attacks and dynamic intensity of shootwrestling. During this time I also had boxing coaches, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling training from Rico Chiapperelli, and continued taekwondo and gymnastics for kicks and flexibility and to help my movie stunt work.

I 1992 I decided to “get real” with my martial arts training and fight for real. I was asked to fight a five-round fight with three minutes per round − the highest level of professional Shooto! I had thought it would only be a three round fight for my first match but I was “thrown to the wolves” so to speak. My opponent was Shooto’s top ground fighter, Kazuhiro Kusanagi. To everyone’s surprise I beat him with his own submission − the reverse triangle, which I actually learned from watching tapes of him! From that point on I defeated four world champions before being given a chance to fight for the Shooto light heavyweight belt − two years after my last victory! Finally, when given the opportunity, I defeated Kenji Kawaguchi, by reverse figure-four toe-hold from the knee-bar, for the title. I became the first American to ever fight and win in Shooto, and to take their belt away from them. I would hold the title for five years and defended it against Suda (pounding him into submission via TKO referee stoppage), after he publicly challenged me for the belt in the media. My final Shooto win was against Ronald “Machine Gun” Juhn, in Superbrawl 2000, after which I voluntarily retired the two Shooto title belts I had won.

People often tell me that my style is unlike anything they have ever seen − and that is because my martial arts journey has been unlike any others. I break up what I teach into three parts: striking, clinching, and groundwork. Each of these three parts are used in varying degrees in submission fighting, submission wrestling, and self-defense (with and without a weapon). The two terms I have coined for my methods are “Combat Cross-training” and “Martial Athletics.”

I have had over 40 different coaches, teachers and guides, over a span of more than 30 years, who have contributed to my knowledge base and influenced my fighting philosophy and teaching style. Some people can influence you with one second of their time, and others will influence you with a lifetime of interaction. But only your mind, body, and spirit can help you determine the difference between an instructor, a coach, a teacher, a guide, or a guru.