Catch Wrestling


Catch wrestling is a popular style of wrestling with origins in a variety of styles, most notably those of Lancashire, England, collar-and-elbow, and "catch-as-catch-can" (which is the immediate source of its name). Making the leap from recreational pastime to spectator sport, it is the ancestor of modern professional wrestling and mixed martial arts competitons.

Folk wrestling has a long pedigree in the United States, famous practitioners of such folk wrestling have included US Presidents George Washington (collar and elbow), Abraham Lincoln (catch-as-catch-can), and Teddy Roosevelt. The immediate source for these styles was British Cornish and Lancashire.

Catch wrestling became immensely popular across both sides of the Atlantic, especially in the carnivals in the United states of America during the late 19th and early 20th century. The carnival's wrestlers would challenge the locals as part of the carnival's "athletic show" and the locals would have their chance to win a cash reward if they could defeat the carnival's strongman by a pin or a submission.




This eventually led to the carnival's wrestlers preparing for the worst kind of unarmed assault and aiming to end the wrestling match with any tough local quickly and decisively (i.e. via submission). A hook was a technical submission which could end a match within seconds. As carnival wrestlers travelled they would meet with a variety of people, learning and using techniques from various folk wrestling disciplines, many of which were accessible due to a huge influx of immigrants in the United States during this era.

Catch wrestling contests also became immensely popular in Europe involving the likes of the Indian Champion Great Gama, Swiss champion John Lemm, Americans Frank Gotch, Ad Santel, Ed Lewis and Benjamin Roller, Mitsuyo Maeda from Japan and Estonian Georg Hackenschmidt. Travelling wrestlers and European tournaments brought together a variety of folk wrestling disiplines including the Indian variety of Pehlwani, Judo and Ju-Jitsu from Japan, Irish collar and elbow wrestling, etcetera. Each of these disiplines contributed to the development of catch wrestling in their own way.

Today Catch Wrestling is regarded as one the most effective martial training practice. Whether seeking a means to self defense, developing a professional fighting career, or just looking to stay in shape... there is no path as proficient then that of Catch Wrestling.