Doglegs: disabled pro-wrestling in Tokyo

A new film gets in the ring with Tokyo’s ‘super handicapped’ fight club

Doglegs: disabled pro-wrestling in Tokyo

Courtesy of Heath Cozens

‘Super Handicapped Pro-Wrestling’ may sound like something out of a South Park episode, but for a small group of disabled grapplers in Tokyo it's a very serious business indeed. For over two decades, the Doglegs group has been organising twice-yearly wrestling matches between some truly unlikely fighters: a wheelchair-bound amputee, an alcoholic cross-dresser with cerebral palsy, a blind man with a black belt in judo. But this is no exercise in exploitation: as founder Yukiji Kitajima told the Wall Street Journal last year, it's ‘an act of defiance against how society perceives those with disabilities.’

Doglegs started life in 1991, when a pair of young men with cerebral palsy came to blows after falling for the same woman, a volunteer care worker who responded to their advances by having a nervous breakdown and quitting. Volunteer organiser Yukiji Kitajima was so inspired by the ensuing fight that he decided to launch a dedicated group – and naturally he enlisted one of the original brawlers, ‘Sambo’ Shintaro Yano. Doglegs has since been covered by media ranging from Agence France-Presse to British ‘disability lifestyle magazine’ Able, and it's now set to get its own film.

Expat filmmaker Heath Cozens has spent three years making a documentary on the group, hinging around a duel between Kitajima (who is able bodied, but suffers from clinical depression) and star wrestler ‘Sambo’ Shintaro. Cozens is now raising funds for post-production work on Doglegs, but you can see footage from the film at a fundraising party at Las Chicas on June 2. Just to sweeten the deal, there'll also be live music from inventive Osaka guitarist Expe and his band, plus – and we know this is what you're all really interested in – a live Doglegs match.

June 2, Las Chicas (details here). Tickets available via the Doglegs movie website.

All photos courtesy of Heath Cozens

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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