Pehlwans and MMA – Lessons from Inoki vs Akrum

While doing some research on the wrestling history of South Asia. I suddenly remembered a conversation with my uncle that I had a few years back. I had just started out grappling and was telling him about it and he asked me, “Do you know the Inoki lock?” I said I did not. He showed me a lock using his fingers, I don’t remember what it was, it’s not important but what I do remember is him telling me that a Japanese man named Inoki came to Pakistan and defeated a top Pehlwan (wrestler) and that this lock, which was the most dangerous lock in the world, is now known as the Inoki lock and that all of Pakistan had heard of it after this battle that Inoki had with Akrum Pehlwan.

I have mentioned a few times before that I am very much a proponent of supporting our ancient martial tradition and that we have a perfect breeding ground and history for establishing mixed martial arts in this country because of our wrestling traditions. I do not see it to be too difficult to bring back the glories of the local Akhara and join hands and extend it to today’s new complete warrior, the MMA athlete.

I don’t think I have convinced everyone, or possibly anyone of the potential Pakistan has in the sport of MMA because of it’s Pehlwani history. Kushti? A martial art? A Pehlwan, the best fighter in the world? What kind of thinking is that?

Well apparently about 30 years ago, Pakistani’s and much of the world DID consider the Pehlwans and other wrestlers as some of the most dangerous men on the planet. WWF is still very popular in Pakistan as it is elsewhere and people still believe these men as well heavy weight boxers to be the best fighters in the world. For those in the know, the best fighter in the world is the top heavy weight MMA fighter but that doesn’t mean the worlds top boxers and wrestlers are obsolete. No way. They just need to learn a few new skill sets to add to the ones they have mastered.

Back to the point. 30 years ago Pakistani’s considered the Pehlwans of Pakistan to be some of the best fighters in the world. Around the same time a man named Antonio Inoki was going around challenging the worlds top martial artists and combat athletes. In June of 1976 Inoki fought against Muhammad Ali and although the match was declared a draw Muhammad Ali went to the hospital due to the number of leg kicks he received from Inoki who pretty much stayed on the ground scooting on his butt the entire fight.

After the Ali fight, The Bholu Brothers, Pakistan’s top wrestlers arranged organized Akrum Pehlwan whom they claimed to be the best fighter in the world to fight against Inoki.

The fight lasted three rounds and ended with Inoki breaking Akrum Pehlwans arm using what is known commonly in MMA as a Kimura or bent arm lock, known also as a chicken wing because of the angle the arm is at as it is twisted behind the opponents back. Unfortunately, Akrum Pehlwan was not well versed in submission defense although he was versed enough to defend some of Inoki’s earlier tries. Pakistani’s were upset with the loss of their country’s wrestler but gave due respect to Inoki’s skill set. Inoki would later return to Pakistan this time fighting in Lahore against another Pakistani Pehlwan named Jhara. I will save that for a later post.

The point? One of the worlds first and most prominent Mixed Martial Arts matches, that which pitted style vs. style to find the best fighter happened in PAKISTAN and it happened long before the UFC ever came about. Also, Pakistani’s viewed their traditional art as an effective fighting system against other martial artists. Nowadays most Pakistani’s would tell you that a Pehlwan would get destroyed by the local McDojo master, although chances are that that is till far from the truth . The Pehlwan would win 9 times out of 10.

Why do I think that? Because a traditional Pehlwan trains one of the most grueling physical regimes on the planet with hundreds of pushups and squats per day, if not thousands some days. He wrestles full force against resisting opponents everyday and practices techniques that are used in live active scenarios and have been proven to work. The local McDojo master (A McDojo refers to a dojo where money and not quality of training is the name of the game) however spends most of his time getting certifications for himself ,doing belt testing for money from his students, practicing forms and katas and training unproven techniques on his hesitant students who are going 5% power in unrealistic situations. It is an unfortunate situation but after almost two years of research I feel the Pakistani martial arts community has been cheated. This does not mean all the top masters in Pakistan are like this, by no means. Some are very qualified individuals with a sincere desire to teach an effective art and philosophy to their students and some are merely teachers who have not had the opportunity to get up to date with the latest in training methods and their lack of knowledge is through no fault of their own and is indicative of the poor standard of most everything in Pakistan right now. I just want to make that clear. I am not trying to insult anyone.

In the end, Pakistani’s felt that Pehlwans were world class fighters and much of the new generation has forgotten this. I think it is time we look to our past as a means to bring ourselves into the present and to excel in the future.




  • <cite class="fn">Raja Sony palwan</cite>

    Take a look at the heavyweight wrestler and streetfight champion of Azad Kashmir Pakistan raja Sony palwan aka shak khan- the beast from the east.he is the brutal and and there are plenty of his fight footage on YouTube.awesome fighter.the best fighter from Pakistan!!!!

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