by Jeff Meszaros
While you’ve been wrestling up a storm I’ve been beside you the whole way to cheer you on and run up your credit card bill at expensive restaurants. Also, I’ve done a bit of research in each country to see what you’re getting into. It’s been quite a trip so far, I must say.
First, we swept across Asia and you tried judo, sumo and Mongolian wrestling plus a ton of others. ‘
I liked the time you got dirt thrown on you in India. Turkish oil wrestling was crazy too. I had no idea they would stick their hands in your pants like that. Wow!
Then, we traveled all around Europe and you tried out Russian sambo, plus a bunch others in Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland among other places. A lot of it looked just like judo and some looked like wrestling, but a few were different.
I liked the one in Austria where everyone was wearing business casual work clothes. It looked like a fight at Staples. We ended up with you trying glima in Iceland and, thankfully, you survived all of the monster throws. So our journey can continue.
Now we’re going to try out all of the grappling arts in the UK Is that still part of Europe? I know they had that Brexit thing, but they’re still part of Europe right? No? I’m not sure. Ireland is still part of Europe? Well, It doesn’t matter…
We’re going to visit all of them to see what they do for fun. And by “fun”, I mean “grappling” of course. For you, anyway. I’m going to stick to visiting the local restaurants and, sometimes, looking into what you are foolishly about to do.
Speaking of that, the U.K. is a hot pocket of grappling and has been for thousands and thousands of years. From the little research I’ve done, some of these arts might not exist anymore but that’s no problem. If we can’t see them by flying there in your private jet, we’ll use a mixture of hypnotism, LSD and sensory deprivation tanks to travel back through time. Suffice to say, don’t try this at home kids. Time travel is for experts only.
Come to think of it, a lot of these grappling arts are dangerous too, so this whole trip is fraught with peril, but that’s what makes it exciting, right? Yes, sir. Now, to the plane!
First, let’s take a trip to England and try out Lancashire wrestling. No surprise, it comes from Lancashire, a county in England where, apparently, everyone is a bad-ass. So much so, when Romans came to town with greco-roman wrestling, the people in this area of England said it was too tame for them.
The Romans, on the other hand, thought these people were nuts who were way, way too violent and no fun to wrestle with whatsoever.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote by a person who saw it and, to put things lightly, was taken aback.
“A Lancashire wrestling match is an ugly sight: the fierce animal passions of the men which mark the struggles of maddened bulls, or wild beasts, the savage yelling of their partisans, the wrangling, and finally the clog business which settles all disputes and knotty points, are simply appalling.”
Now, with that in mind, would you like to give it a go? Wait a second! Actually, never mind as I don’t think this style of wrestling even exists anymore. I suppose that’s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that it has evolved into something even more violent.
But before we get to that, it’s time for me to take a well-earned break. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go check out the world gravy wrestling championships which, though a wild coincidence, are happening right here in Lancashire too…
Catch wrestling is what Lancashire wrestling turned into when local tough guys began having grappling matches in carnivals. You know that thing where you throw a ball and try and knock over some bottles to win a prize? It’s like that, but instead of bottles, it’s some huge muscular guy and instead of a prize, you win money, and you have to make the guy give up. Sound easy? It’s not, especially considering that this is the guy’s job.
Imagine everything awful you can do to a person, done very violently. Basically, that’s a good idea of what catch wrestling is. Actually, the full name of it is “Catch as catch can” which is fun to say and gives you a good idea of what this is about. Namely, they grab submissions from anywhere and everywhere. And the idea of slowly applying pressure?
That’s not what’s going on here. Just like jiu-jitsu is sometimes called “the gentle art”, a great many people call catch-wrestling “the violent art” and for good reason. It’s violent.
What are the rules? As far as I know, the only thing that is frowned upon is deliberately breaking the bones of your opponent. If it happens by accident, well, that’s no problem. But try to avoid doing it on purpose.
Also, unlike other kinds of wrestling, pinning your opponent doesn’t mean you’ve won. You still have to make them cry “uncle” so you can expect some nasty submission holds to be coming your way. I hear they do one called the crotch-ripper. Ouch!
So, want to give this a try? Like I said, catch wrestling is very, very nasty so if you want to skip this one, I won’t call you a sissy. Still, we’re traveling the world so you can try all the different grappling arts, yes? I suppose, so good luck! Don’t forget to shout “uncle” if you get caught in something awful.
Alright, so how are you feeling after that? Do you need to go see a chiropractor? Or do you need an intravenous bag of morphine? No? Fantastic! I’m glad you are crippled. I should mention, of course, that we’ve still got quite a bit ahead of us before we wrap up.
This time, we’re trying Cumberland wrestling. In Cumberland. This one was made when some Vikings came by and people took a shine to their style of sportive grappling, much more so than those crazy people from Lancashire, anyway.
If you liked doing glima in Iceland, you’ll dig this. The rules are pretty similar. You start chest-to-chest with your arms around one another and then the referee gives to the command to get ready and begin. Then you try to trip or throw your opponent to the ground. It’s the best two out of three, as far as I can see.
The good news is, first, that people still do this so you don’t need to go back in time to try it. Also, it’s just the throwing. You don’t have to worry about continuing on the floor while someone tries to twist off your head.
From Cornwall, this style of wrestling is very much like gouren which we did in France. Except there, people wore belts but no jackets and here people wear jackets but don’t wear belts. You’d think that you’d wear either a jacket AND a belt or neither, but I’m no fashion expert.
Again, there’s no ground grappling at all with this one. Still, it looks a lot like judo. They must know how much this looks like judo. Surely, they’ve seen it on TV. Maybe they’re too busy wrestling to watch TV. Now, I’m off to get a corn dog. I assume that’s the local cuisine.
Hey, do you like being kicked? No? Yeah, me neither. But here’s the thing. In Devon, another part of England, people used to wrestle while wearing these really hard shoes and they’d kick each other. Sometimes, people would even get kicked to death. Isn’t that crazy?
You know what’s even crazier? These days shin-kicking, as it’s now called, is still wildly popular. In fact, it’s part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games which happen just down the road in Gloucestershire.
Don’t worry. People don’t get kicked to death anymore but they still wear hard shoes and kick each other in the shins until someone falls down. Maybe it’s the straw they stuff down the front of their pants that stops them from dying. They also wear crazy white coats that give them something to grab onto and make them look like really angry scientists.
Scottish Backhold Wrestling
This one is a lot like Cumberland wrestling. In fact, it’s exactly the same. Except for a few things. First, it’s the best of five instead of three. Second, it’s in Scotland, which is not part of England according to the movie Braveheart. Third, people are wearing kilts.
Don’t worry. Everyone is also wearing something under their kilts. No one wants to see a flying bagpipe if you know what I mean.
Irish Collar-and-Elbow Wrestling
You know, it’s funny. We keep going to countries that have grappling arts that are suspiciously similar to judo. All this time, I’ve been assuming that they have been second-hand copies, but I’ve just realized something. Judo was invented in 1882. However, a lot of these arts pre-date that by quite a bit.
Take this one, for example. At first glance, you’d swear that Irish Collar-and-Elbow wresting is a blatant rip-off of judo. It’s two people, barefoot, wearing coats (if they want) both trying to throw each other. There are even pins and submission holds. That’s all the evidence you need to prove plagiarism, right?
But wait just a second. Get this: Irish wrestling dates back to the 17th century. Or perhaps even earlier. That gives it a two-century head start on judo, if not way more. Interesting, don’t you think? I think so.
What does that mean? Well, maybe judo is just a rip-off of Irish wrestling, or Cornish wrestling, or one of those other judo-esque grappling arts we saw in Europe. Or, you could make the argument that similar sports evolved independently of one another. I guess that’s possible since the human skeleton and gravity are the same everywhere you go, right? At least, that’s been true everywhere I’ve been so far.
Now that I’ve dropped that thought-bomb on you, I’m going to try out another fine Irish tradition that dates back a long time. Drinking! Also, I hear the Irish Rovers are in town. I’ve loved those guys since I was a kid.
So, here we are, wrapping up another part of our round-the-world adventure. Are you okay? I have to admit, I was a bit worried for you in Lancashire. Those guys are nuts.
Anyway, if you’re up for it, in the next few articles in this series let’s zip down to Africa and then over to South America. The grappling there is pretty crazy, I hear. Plus, the restaurants have to be better, right?
Other Articles in This Series
This is the third of 5 articles in our Grappling Around the World Series. Here are the other articles in the series…
- Grappling Styles of Asia
- Grappling Styles of Europe
- Grappling Styles of Africa, and North and South America
- Grappling Styles of the Pacific
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
P.S. Are you interested in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? If so one of the best things you can do is to download our free beginner’s guide – A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – by clicking here.
It’ll give you a big picture and a thorough introduction to the whole art so you’ll understand what’s going on when you hit the ground in a fight.
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