Gods of War: Gokor Chivichyan

Courtesy of Gokor Chivichyan

One of the finest grapplers to come out the Caucasus, Gokor Chivichyan grew up in the grappling obsessed former Soviet nation of Armenia to become possibly the most complete grappler in the world.

Born on May 10th of 1963, in Yerevan, Armeina Gokor Chivivhyan was a fighter right away. By the time he could walk he was picking fights with larger children, and was winning. At age 3 he joined a wrestling school and by age 6 Gokor was also training in Sambo. When training, Gokor consistently trained with older boys, and he progressed very quickly.

In 1971 Gokor won the Armenian Junior National Sambo Championship, and then the next year he won the 10-12 year old division while still 9 years of age. At this time Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, and in 1972 Gokor qualified for the Soviet Jr National Sambo Championships.

In 1973 Gokor began training in Judo and he would win the Armenian Junior Judo Championships in that same year. He would then travel to Russia and take second in their Junior Judo Championships, losing the finals match by referee decision. This was Gokor's first loss in competition, and he used it to fuel himself. Gokor returned to Russia the next year to claim gold at both the Judo and Sambo Junior Championships.

For the next five years Gokor would collect gold medals at National, U.S.S.R., European, and International level tournaments. In 1980 Gokor was in consideration for the USSR Olympic Judo team but was passed over for another Judoka who would go on to win a gold medal.

That next year, Gokor's family would defect to the United States and take up residence in Los Angeles. There he began to study under Gene Lebell, one of the United States' first great Judokas. Lebell had won back to back American championships in the 1950's, had won tournaments in Japan, had defeated Milo Savage in a proto-MMA match, and by the time Gokor came to the L.A. had begun working in Professional Wrestling, learning the no-gi grappling art of Catch Wrestling.

Gokor was still a teenager at this point, and just learning English. Training with Lebell was famously tough; he trained in and out of the gi, used a full range of submissions, and in no gi training grabbed skin like it was a gi. He also began training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with the Mahcado brothers around this time as well. In the 1980's Gokor competed in a variety of competitions: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, submission wrestling, and, of course, Judo.

Gokor in Judo Tournaments, Grappling, Sparring

Gokor claims to have taken part in many "No Holds Barred" Fights, but it is unclear if this refers to submission wrestling matches with a minimal of rules or full on Mixed Martial Arts matches and few records of these fights exist. He did claim several bare knuckle fighting titles, but again there are no official records, which isn't uncommon in that period of American proto-MMA, but claims are fuzzy on if these matches took place and against what level of opposition they would have been against.

At this time Gokor's focus was still primarily on Judo. The goal of going to the Olympics and winning gold still burned in Gokor. He pushed very hard for U.S. citizenship so he could represent the United States in his adopted hometown of L.A. at the 1984 Summer Games, but was unable to secure citizenship.

Gokor claims he was traveling between the U.S. and Russia regularly in the early 80's and still competed for the U.S.S.R at some events, and that he qualified for the Soviet team, but they boycotted these games. It is still unclear how he was able to do this as relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in the early 80's were still very tense and travel between them was very controlled. It might have been that Gokor competed under the U.S.S.R. banner simply by function of his citizenship status and not with the blessing of the U.S.S.R. judo team.

In 1987 Gokor won a Judo International World Cup while representing the U.S.S.R., but finally, with the help of the U.S. Judo Federation, Gokor was declared a citizen of the United States. He rushed to collect enough competition points to make the 1988 Olympic team bound for Seoul but there was not enough time.

Global politics and bad luck had taken their toll, Gokor's dream of competing in the Olympics would never be realized. In 1991, Gokor opened his Hayastan Academy in North Hollywood and began teaching grappling, along with striking techniques he had learned during training for NHB fights. Gokor's competitive career was largely over at this point, but he did win the U.S. National Judo Open and took part in a full on MMA fight in the World Fighting Federation. The promoters wanted to match Gokor with Akira Maeda, but when unable to sign him they found an impressive looking Japanese fighter, dubbed him "Mr. Maeda", and put in him in the ring against Gokor. The result was something of a farce as Gokor was clearly a vastly superior fighter and won with ease in under a minute.

But that is just the beginning of Gokor's legacy, as he has gone on to become an even more accomplished coach. In 1997 Gokor was awarded the U.S. Judo Federations "Coach of the Year" award. The Hayastan Academy has is now home to one of the most fearsome Judo teams in the U.S. In 2008 they stormed the first U.S. Nationals that was jointly held by the two competing Judo organizations in the U.S. and Gokor shocked everyone when he borrowed a gi , won his way to the finals in Openweight, and then won gold despite injuring himself.

In addition to becoming a top Judo gym, Hayastan has also become one of the most successful gyms at applying Judo in Mixed Martial Arts competition.

Two of Gokor's star students are Judo and MMA stars Karo Parisyan and Ronda Rousey, both beginning their training under the Armenian while they were still children. Parisyan's high flying, highlight reel throws made him the face of Judo application in the UFC . Rousey would win bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games for Team U.S.A. and then went on to become a sensation in Women's MMA. She became the first UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion and took part in the first women's fight in the UFC.

Gokor also has coached Gegard Mousasi, Manny Gamburyan, Sako Chivitchian, and Extreme Couture head grappling coach Neil Melanson.

A Judo black belt, an experinced Sambo competitor and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under John Machado, experience in Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling as well as Catch Wrestling training all make Gokor one of the most complete and credentialed grapplers on the planet and a more than worthy addition to our Pantheon of modern day Gods of War.


For more on Gokor

His biography from school website and documentary made by his academy. Both get a little vague at key times, but even if there is some fluffing of history here his accomplishments as a coach, and the rave reviews from very respected grapplers who have rolled with Gokor dispel any questioning of his skill or knowledge.

His official Facebook page

Thanks to Zombie Prophet and Jordan Breen of Sherdog for their assistance in the research of this article.

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