MMA veteran Ken Shamrock opens up about a mixed martial artist getting killed during Pancrase training session

In the early 1990s, the Japanese promotion of Pancrase was pioneering combat sports. This was before the UFC brought mainstream attention to mixed martial arts. Their training methods were notoriously hardcore, even deadly.

MMA legend Ken Shamrock was one of the first American competitors to experience Pancrase’s intense training regimen and gives insight into this formative era of no holds barred competition.

In a recent episode on the JAXXON podcast hosted by UFC icon Rampage Jackson, Ken Shamrock made an appearance. He talked about how hard even the tryout process of the organisation was.

As Shamrock revealed: “I took that training from Japan, even their tryouts. Because they were so brutal in their tryouts… they’ve had a couple guys where they literally killed guys in tryouts in Japan.”

He then continues: “Suzuki kicked a kid in the head and killed him.”

Jackson then asks in disbelief: “For real?”

Shamrock replies: “Yeah, I kid you not.”

Jackson then inquires: “Did he go to jail for that?”

Surprisingly, there were no legal consequences in Japan. Shamrock explains: “No, because in Japan’s its different. They’re in the dojo, they’re training, and it’s part of it, right? I mean you get hit with a shot and you die. I mean who’s at fault, you’re there training.”

Jackson seeks clarification: “Was it like classified as an accident or something?”

Shamrock says: “Yeah and I don’t know all the ins and outs but nothing happened. They gave the family a bunch of money and they had a what you know the funeral, and all that stuff and it went on.”

The gym mentality we now associate with MMA – the comradery, controlled sparring and focus on safety – was completely foreign to old school Pancrase.

While barbaric by today’s standards, there’s no doubt this separation of the weak from the strong produced legitimate contenders. Pancrase played a key role in developing the first generation of well-rounded mixed martial artists. Their willingness to push past normal limits and endure extreme hardship in training paved the way for the growth of MMA into the global phenomenon it is today.