On Wrestling

While unpacking I’ve come across my USJA JuJitsu guide, my USJA Senior point book, and the USJI 2010 rules. Oh the 2010 rules… 2010 was a tragic year for judo – it officially banned the shot. You may still be able to grab the legs in certain circumstances, but shooting is explicitly out. With the IOC considering banning Greco I sometimes wonder what the future will hold. Greco dates back to 1848, a year near-and-dear to any Wisconsinite. That’s a bit older than Judo (1882).

Wrestling seems to be congealing. Hopefully every country will always have its own style of folk wrestling. It’s living history. Even if you don’t compete under the rules of schwingen, it’s still a thing of beauty to behold. The history of wrestling is the history of man. It is in fact the history of pre-man. 4000-year-old Egyptian reliefs show double-leg takedowns and hip tosses as we know them today. We know the Babylonians wrestled. Wrestling is the only sport mentioned in the Bible. It is written in the bones of the dead, it is in the cultures that thrive with no modern contact. No matter what your source of truth for historical information is, it includes wrestling.

I’m going to waver. I’m sorry if that bothers those of you looking for semantics. On one hand, yes, I do mean wrestling to be “Freestyle wrestling” as it appears in the Olympic program, but I also mean wrestling to be the contest between two individuals for sport independent of a rule set. Judo is wrestling. BJJ is wrestling. Sambo is wrestling. Greco is wrestling. Two kids resolving their differences by throw and pin instead of by fist and tooth is wrestling.

The world gets smaller with each passing year. I suppose it was inevitable that we would one day see all the styles of folk wrestling unite under the guise of wrestling as the last super power defined it. It is a change I both lament and welcome. With unification comes the security that there is one true rule set and you stand to gain the knowledge of all of the collective styles which have combined. With unification comes the risk of losing techniques which do not thrive in the environment of the rule set. When was the last time you saw a judoka land a heel-hook? Collar and elbow gives way to Catch. Catch to freestyle. Judo to BJJ. BJJ to something new itself. Mind you, the techniques aren’t new, again, 4000 years ago the same throws and pins were known.

I like to read about the history of wrestling. Not like these ten guys were the Olympic medalists from America. That’s the kind of pointless bullshit that makes me hate the judo grading system – it shouldn’t matter if I know who won the 1988 Olympics (Mike Swain got a bronze and Kevin Asano got a silver). What does matter is knowing where the sport/art came from, why the rules have evolved as they have, and where the sport is going.

I can’t really say for sure where wrestling is going. What I can say is that the history is already being lost. When doing some research for this (yes, I read some of my books and Google some stuff while I write) I found that if you believe FILA apparently George Washington was a catch-as-catch-can wrestler. Now, we know this is a lie. Catch didn’t exist yet. It was collar-and-elbow. In fact, we know of at least a half dozen US presidents who did collar-and-elbow. Oh, and Roosevelt had judo coaches. TR is kind of a big deal when it comes to the history of American judo. He was an ikkyu – he also boxed. I’d never heard of him wrestling other than that, but I suppose I don’t have the vast resources of FILA. Side note – they say about a half dozen, list six, and then end with etc. which leads me to believe there are far more than six, especially because they didn’t list Taft (a known collar-and-elbow man) and that collar-and-elbow was at one point taught at West Point… Still, to pick and chose what we call wrestling is simply semantics, and I already have made some egregious crimes against semantics within this post.

So that’s the past and the present. I’d guess that in twelve years time there will be judo and wrestling as the only two grappling-style events in the Olympics. I believe it would follow that Greco would become one of those old styles that people read about in books as colleges drop it in favor of putting more money into freestyle as it would remain an Olympic sport. Then again, judo has been an Olympic sport but it’s relatively rare to see a university over here have a solid judo program or offer scholarships for it, so with a bit of luck Greco will keep kicking as an NCAA sport.

Now, if only jacket fighting could pick up its shit and follow suit. Wrestling is a wide and diverse form of living history – judo and all of its offshoots are still relatively identical. There is good case to re-unite all that is judo under the banner of judo. I like the terms jacket wrestling or jacket fighting to encompass all that we do in the gi. I shall plan a post about it.


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