by Jeff Meszaros
Our around-the-world trip is nearly at an end. First, we took a spin through Asia. Then we hit the grappling styles of Europe. Then we did a tour of the various U.K. wrestling systems. After that, we headed south for a look at Africa and South America, and then back north up through North America, where we left off with trying hockey in Canada.
(Sure, you could make the argument that hockey is not exactly a martial art, or even grappling, but say that to me after some huge guy grabs a fistful of your jersey and starts punching you. I bet it doesn’t feel all that different than laam, the slap-wrestling in Senegal, or tingu, which is basically Bolivian street fighting. As I recall, hockey fights get stopped by referees as soon as someone falls down which is one more thing common to grappling arts, isn’t it? I think so. The prosecution rests, your honour.)
Anyway, we’re not finished yet. There are still a few more grappling arts in the Pacific region of the world that even the heartiest, craziest tough guy might shy away from.
Of course, that’s no problem for you because you’re as cold as ice and twice as cool, right? You bet. You’re like a mix of Rambo and James Bond, with a hint of Captain Jack Sparrow just for fun.
That’s why, all along, you’ve been grappling your pants off, trying out each fighting style we’ve come across. Actually, come to think of it, some of them haven’t had you wearing any pants. Some have used jackets and some haven’t. Some have had you wearing a belt and some not so much. Some have used submission holds on the ground while others have been just throwing. A few have even had kicking, slapping, or even punching thrown in to spice things up.
But you haven’t complained. Of course, I haven’t been listening. I’ve been too busy doing what normal people do when on exotic trips; visiting restaurants, shopping and taking pictures. I’ve actually got some pretty good photos of you doing crazy stuff. I can’t choose which is my favourite, you wearing the Japanese sumo-wrestling diaper? The Mongolian swimsuit, crown and boots look? Or the Turkish oil-wrestling shorts? Ah, memories.
As crazy as this trip has been, you’re not dead and, to my delight, neither is your credit card. So let’s do the final leg of our wild voyage and explore the grappling arts happening in and around the Pacific Ocean.
A long time ago, each island of Hawaii had one tribe and each tribe wanted to control all the islands, so there was a lot of fighting going on kind of like feudal Japan was a long time ago but with clubs instead of samurai swords.
Now, the warriors of Hawaii had Hawaiian martial arts to use in battle. Some involved weapons but others didn’t, because you just never know when you’ll have to defend your island bare-handed. Just like samurai used jiu-jitsu in the unfortunate event that they lost, dropped or broke their sword. So, Hawaiians created the bare-handed art of bone-breaking called Lua.
From what I’ve seen, it’s actually quite a bit like jiu-jitsu. You give it a go and let me know. I’ll go try another Hawaiian tradition; the luau. Call me crazy, but I’ll take a feast over a fight any day. See you in a bit.
Just like Japan has more than one grappling art, so does Hawaii. Believe it or not, you can try another one besides Lua, if bone-breaking isn’t your favorite.
Hawaiian Uma is kind of like arm wrestling but you do it from standing with no table and the idea is to force your opponent’s hand to the ground. Sound simple enough? Go give it a whirl. I’ll stick with the Hawaiian luau, thank you very much. There’s something about roast pork with pineapple that I just can’t resist.
Alright, we’re not done with Hawaii yet. There’s still one more we should talk about and that is Hawaiian Moa. It’s kind of like sumo, with one interesting difference: You only have one leg on the ground. The idea is to drive your opponent out of a circle or make them fall on the ground, or so it seems. Have fun! I’m going to go snorkeling.
Do you know what the national sport of Thailand is? I’ll give you a hint: It involves people kicking and punching each other to the tune of incredibly shrill music. Have any guesses? That’s right, it’s Muay Thai, also known as the art of 8 limbs because fighters all have two fists, two elbows, two knees and two feet. That adds up to eight.
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a second, since when is Muay Thai a grappling art? Isn’t that just kickboxing”? Well, yes and no. True, it’s mostly striking, especially the kicks, but there’s also a lot of grappling involved to bend your opponent over so you can knee them in the face. If you haven’t heard of the Thai “plum” then go watch that fight between Rich Frankin and Anderson Silva. You will see what I mean. They use grappling to set up striking.
Also there are moves used to knock your opponent to the ground. Are they legal in judo? Absolutely not. In fact, there’s very little from Muay Thai that is welcome and legal in other grappling arts. Still, bending someone over and knocking them down is grappling, even if it’s a bit rough.
Did you know that Burma is also called Myanmar? It’s true. And they have a martial art that’s all their own called Bando. It’s kind of like a mix between muay thai and kung fu, except it favors grappling or “close-quarter” combat if you know what I mean.
You know what’s cool? The various elements of it are named after animals. “The boar”, for example is the part where you rush in with elbows and knees. “The bull” is charging in for takedowns. But wait, it gets better. There’s “The cobra” which is attacking vital areas and “The Deer” for short leaps. Interested? I think my favorite is the bit they call “The Viper” which is attacks to the lower vital points, if you know what I mean. Anyway, they also have chokes and joint-locks they call “The Python”, so my advice is to avoid all the stuff they’ve named after snakes. Actually, it all sounds nasty.
Let me know how that works out for you. Oh, before I go, I should add that Bando is also sometimes called “Thaing”, because it just wouldn’t be confusing enough to have a country with two names without their martial art also have two names which are both commonly used. So have fun doing Burmese or Myanmarese bando or thaing.
It turns out there’s another grappling art here to try. This one is called naban and it is native to Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. Again, I realize it’s confusing that this place has two names, but don’t complain to me. If it helps at all, this style is practiced mostly inland by tribes close to the Himalayas. Yes, I mean the mountains.
Essentially, it’s another everything-goes style of grappling where you can do any kind of joint-lock, strike or chokehold you like, in addition to your run-of-the-mill takedowns and throws. Oh, this one is also known as “thaing”, which is also known as bando, so this might be the same thing we already talked about. Like I said, it’s enormously confusing. Really, they should vote or something and all get on the same page. Maybe that’s what they’re fighting about. I can’t tell.
Have you ever tried Filipino Dumog? Neither have I, but one of us is about to try it for the very first time. Hint: It’s you. Actually, there are dozens and dozens of names for the grappling arts of the Philippines, depending on what village you visit, but dumog is the most commonly known thanks to a crazy guy named Paul Vunak who began integrating movements from Dumog into his self-defense system years ago.
What’s it like? Well, you name it, dumog basically has it. There are trips and throws and takedowns, as well as chokes and joint-locks. You’re even allowed to use the environment around you by, for example, jumping out of a tree to tackle your opponent.
Sound like fun? Well, that depends who you ask, I suppose. I, for example, do not think it sounds like fun. Again, I’m more of a “beach and beer” type of person. But, this trip isn’t about me, it’s about you trying out all the grappling arts you can before you suffer some career-ending injury. Hopefully, that won’t happen this time, but you never know.
If you’ve been around martial arts long enough, you’ve heard of silat, also sometimes known as pencak silat. It’s another one of those martial arts that involves doing a bunch of nasty stuff. You can kick and punch, do throws and takedowns, do joint locks and even use weapons. It’s that third bit is why we’re including it on our trip here.
Is it a “grappling art” per se? No, not really, but it does have some grappling techniques integrated into it, and there are many different styles, some of which have some good ideas. One style, for example, involves keeping a very low stance so you don’t fall down if you’re fighting someone on slippery rocks. Another involves high jumps in case you’re in a fight in tall grass. Now, you tell me with a straight face that isn’t cool, because you know it is. At least, I think it is.
What do you think of when I say “Australia”? Do you think of sharks? Beer? Steve Irwin? Well, here’s one more thing you can add to that list: a style of grappling called coreeda. It’s a form of grappling that is based on the movements of the kangaroo. Yes, I’m serious. Because kangaroos get pretty angry sometimes and don’t shy away from throwing down. Also, they are delicious, but that is a topic for another day.
What does coreeda look like? Well, like I said, it looks like people pretending they are kangaroos. But it also looks a bit like sumo crossed with capoeira, which is a bizarre mix, I’ll admit. How do you win? Well, it’s held inside a big circle so I guess you can just push your opponent out of that. Or, you can post up on your tail and kick them in the pouch. Oh, wait a second, you don’t have a tail or a pouch. My bad. I was getting a bit into the kangaroo idea. Speaking of that, I’m off to have some kangaroo for lunch while you do this, whatever it is.
New Guinea Epoo Korio
Remember when you were a kid and you built a sand castle? And then someone would come along and kick it to bits? Remember how angry that made you? Well, then you’re already familiar with epoo korio, which is what people do for fun in Papua New Guinea. I can’t find a video of it, but it sounds like so much fun, let’s go give it a whirl anyway.
In case you want to start an Epoo Korio league in your home town here are the rules of the sport published by the Australian government.
New Zealand Mamau
If we’re going to go as far as Australia to try out kangaroo wrestling, you can bet we’re going to go a bit farther and try out what they have going on in New Zealand. And what is it? They call it mamau and, from the looks of it, it’s exactly like arm wrestling.
Other Island Styles
There are a few other styles I’ve heard about in and around the islands of the Pacific, but I can’t find any trace of them. There’s Tahitian Moana, Tongan Pi’i tauva, Samoan Taupiga and Fijian Veibo.
Do they really exist? Do people still practice them? I’m not sure. Still, we can go to the islands and see if we’ve been sent on a wild goose chase. What’s the worst that will happen? We’ll have to spend a few days on a tropical beach with nothing to do? That’s what I’ve been aiming for this whole trip anyway. And you’ve just gone around the whole world, grappling people in every country. At the very least, you deserve a vacation where you’re not locked in an angry embrace with someone who’s trying to toss you on your head. There’s more to life than grappling, you know.
Other Articles in This Series
This is the final article in our Grappling Around the World Series. Here are the other
- Grappling Styles of Asia
- Grappling Styles of Europe
- Grappling Styles of the United Kingdom
- Grappling Styles of Africa, and North and South America
About the Author: Jeff Meszaros is a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and also has black belts in taekwondo and hapkido as well as a brown belt in judo. He is also a frequent contributor to Grapplearts.com
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