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British Martial Arts – Lancashire Wrestling, Cornish Wrestling, Catch Wrestling

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Mixed Martial Arts and the Ground Game History

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Lancashire Wrestling

An extremely violent form of mixed martial arts and wrestling in which only the deliberate breaking of bones is prohibited, Lancashire wrestling is considered to be the founding art of catch wrestling and both professional and amateur wrestling. The style probably evolved out of matches that took place during the 350-year Roman occupation of Britain; the Romans felt the men of

Only victory matters

Matches were always on a winner-takes-all basis and any money was given to the overall champion. Matches would typically start with players standing about 1 1/2 ft (0.5 m) apart, facing each other, hands straight out and elbows bent in a typical wrestling posture. From here short grips, take-downs, and tussles were employed. Once on the floor, the grapplers constantly moved around trying to apply a hold, a lock, or a choke, with waist holds and throws common.

There were no rounds and no breaks and the fight would typically continue until one of the fighters submitted known as submission fighting. Given that matches could last for long periods of time, training for Lancashire wrestling placed an emphasis on physical fitness and conditioning.

Cornish Wrestling

Similar to judo martial arts, the object of Cornish wrestling is to throw an opponent flat onto his back. The sport achieved its greatest popularity in Cornwall, England, where, in the local dialect, the art is known as “wrasslin.”

The Cornish Wrestling Association was formed in 1923 to standardize the sport’s rules, which state that the grabbing or breaking of fingers is forbidden and that players are not allowed to grab their opponent’s legs, or indeed any part of the body below the waist. A pure, four-pin throw—in which the player throws his opponent much like judo martial arts so that both shoulder blades and buttocks hit the ground at the same time—is the classic winning technique.

Cornish wrestling bouts can still be seen in the south of England—and in some European countries— demonstrated at local fairs. The most well-known display of the sport takes place every year at the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show. A feature of the system is that players often swear an oath before the match begins, usually in the Cornish dialect.

Catch Wrestling

Catch wrestling is derived from the Lancashire term “catch as catch can,” meaning to “hold” an opponent, which was a forbidden rule in the Greco-Roman form of wrestling popular during the Roman occupation of Britain. Catch players typically win a match through submission or a pin down, and matches are usually determined by who wins two out of three bouts.

Notable practitioners

Catch wrestling has enjoyed much popularity in the western world, with Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Teddy Roosevelt all notable former catch wrestlers.

Although the original form of the art does not involve any strikes or kicks, it is believed to have been a major influence on today’s mixed martial arts movements. The mixed wrestling matches staged during the 20th century (particularly in the 1920s) spurred much legend, with the cross-cultural clashes between Japanese judo players and American wrestlers catching the public’s imagination. The art also had a significant influence on the evolution of international mixed martial arts competitions.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Pete Buzzsaw Holland Says:

    Along with the many British Wrestling styles (dont forget devonshire and Norfolk wrestling) there are many armed combat styles that are British, one being English Country Backswording. This is a traditional form of English stick fighting which derives from the use of the English Backsword. These armed combat style date back to well before the Romans came to Britain. For more information or to get involved please go to the home of Traditional English Martial Arts a style of fighting which has become known as TE-MA.

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