GENERAL HISTORY OF GRAPPLING
The art of grappling as a sport and method of defense goes further back in time than any other existing records of empty hand combat. It can be traced back as
far as 3400 BC with the Egyptians. These recorded images of grappling can be seen on the tomb walls of Beni-Hasan Egypt and also in the tomb of Vizier
Ptahhotpe in Saqqara. Some of the exact techniques used in today's many grappling styles are on these walls. These paintings date back as far as 2300 BC.
Grappling was also described in bible stories. Prophets & Angels wrestled with beasts. Genesis 32 describes that Jacob was left alone to wrestle beasts or man
until the breaking of the day.
Although grappling was done all over the world, the first "famous" styles were introduced to the Greek Olympic Games in 704 BC. Grappling had come to the
Roman Empire through the Etruscans and had slowly evolved. Roman wrestling influenced the rather static Greek form and used military tactics such as upright
takedowns. The old Greek style was much like Brazilian Jiu-Jujitsu today, which spends most of the match on the ground. The word Roman in Greco-Roman
wrestling, however is a mistranslation of greek word "romi" referring to "valor & strength".
Other ancient forms of European wrestling can be found in the British Isles dating back as far as 1829 BC. Wrestling forms called "Strong Arm Fighting" became
famous, and even used specific grappling uniforms with thick collared jackets and waistbands. Other grappling styles in ancient Europe were GLIMA from the
Norse and SCHWINGEN from Switzerland. There is also mention of grappling matches among the Scots and Irish.
India had an ancient form of grappling from around 11 AD. Indian wrestling is known as Pahalwani or Mallavidya. Some Indians also practice a lesser known
grappling art called Vajra-Musti.
Grappling, simply beginning as a self defense art, then progressing to a battlefield art, then to sport, probably developed independently in many places around the
globe. With time, different styles came in contact with each other, mixed and matched techniques and spread all over the world. For those who study grappling, it
can be truthfully said that even though thousands of techniques exist, there is a finite amount of ways to manipulate the human body. Therefore, at some point, all
grappling is related.
BRIEF OVERVIEWS OF WORLD GRAPPLING STYLES
Originally was known as "sumai", meaning struggle. Sumo began around 20 B.C. Sumai used most of the modern sumo
techniques, plus a variety of strikes. Before the 16th century almost all wrestling was practiced for battle, even though there were
strength contests performed in public by Sumo warriors. Rules, ranks, and a ring now make sumo into a sport. The water
ceremony, the bowing, the costumes, and pageantry are all reminders of the ancient military traditions and are still recognized
today in competition. Today, the victor is the one who forces his opponent out of the ring or forces his opponent to touch the floor
with any body part above the knee. The techniques they employ range from slapping (tsuppari), sweeps (ketaguri), and a variety of
sacrifice throws (utchari).
The earliest mention of a sportive fight was a style called Chikura Kurabe. Most early combative forms resembled modern
Sumo and wrestling. Some other ancient Japanese grappling styles were Tekoi and Kumi-Uchi. Kumi-Uchi was a battlefield
type of Sumo. Another ancient form of Jujutsu was centered around the manipulation of joints and the immobilization of the
limbs. It was called Yawara. About 875-880 A.D. one of the sons of Emperor Siewa met a Chinese man who taught him a
few fighting techniques. From these techniques and principles, Teijun Fujiwara developed a fighting art he called Aiki-Jutsu.
Teijun Fujiwara taught these techniques exclusively to the royal Minamoto family where it remained a secret style until the
early 1100's. They both worked together to develop their families fighting techniques by dissecting cadavers and studying
the working of the muscles and bones.
Many Ju-Jitsu styles were developed by warrior groups over the centuries. Most were associated with weaponry, but all
had grappling involved. The grappling ranged from manipulation of the joints, to wrestling on the ground, to stand-up
grappling. Many Ju-Jitsu styles used the strategy of yielding (Ju) to an opponent's strength or speed in order to unbalance
him and throw him to the ground. The secrets of Ju-Jitsu involved understanding the dynamics of your opponents motion
and force, as well and understanding the physiology of his body. Attacking him at his weakest point, whether of his motion,
or his body, helped a weaker opponent defeat a stronger one. Ju-Jitsu is the fastest growing martial art in the world. It is
however, growing fastest in it's sportive version, which may or may not prove to be harmful to the actual combat art.
In 1882 Kano Jigoro founded a new type of Jujutsu that he called Judo. Kano was a Jujutsu master who had studied
several styles of Jujutsu in his lifetime, and took many of the "less deadly" forms of Jujutsu techniques, changed the
approach to training, and changed the entire philosophy surrounding his art. Kano emphasized the physical fitness
aspects of the art and altered the techniques to make them appealing to the general public. The sporting aspect of the
art was also suggested. Kano arranged KATA, (prearranged forms) for the self defense techniques in order to ensure
safety and enjoyment in learning, but retained SHIAI (contest) to test timing and technique in a semi-combat situation.
Kano also invented the ranking system that consisted of KYU ranks (trainees) and DAN ranks (graded). Before Kano
the ranking system was non-existent. Kano also targeted government and military officials as his primary student
population. By doing this the popularity of his Judo spread quickly. In 1889, Kano had sent Yamashita Yoshiaki to the
U.S. to live and instruct Judo at Harvard University and at the Annapolis Academy. This had greatly enhanced the
popularity of Judo with the new American audience. After an illustrious career, Kano died while travelling at sea in
1938. Today Judo is practiced all over the world and is a sport in the Olympics.
In 1876 Tanomo Saigo, a Daito-Ryu Aikijutsu master, received a new student into his tradition named Takeda Sokaku
(1860 - 1943). Sokaku had studied Aikijujutsu with his grandfather and other arts from his father. In 1880 at the Nikko
Toshogu Shrine, Tanomo passed on all his knowledge including the secret teachings to Sokaku, and from that day
forward, Takeda Sokaku would be headmaster of Daito-Ryu. For almost 20 years Tekada Sokaku wandered from
dojo to dojo, challenging every known martial arts master, and he was never defeated. He took time in his travels to
instruct others, often staying with the student for a period of time before moving on. One of those students was
Ueshiba Morihei. Morihei met Takeda while he lived in Hokkaido. He was introduced to Takeda by Yoshida Kotaro.
For the next 7 years he studied Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu with Takeda. In 1922 at the age of 39 he was granted, along with
20 other students, the teaching license called KYOJU DAIRI. In 1936 Ueshiba opened his first school in Tokyo. He
finally chose the name Aikido for his new version of Daito-Ryu in 1942. It was also in that year that Ueshiba moved to
Iwama in the Ibaragi Prefecture where he built a dojo and became a farmer. One reason for this change in lifestyle
was his involvement in the Omoto Kyo Shinto sect led by Deguchi Onisaburo. Several other forms of Aikido have
developed today. Two are very influential. Those are the Tomiki school and the Yoshinkai. The Tomiki school was
founded by one of the top students of Ueshiba; Tomiki Kenji. The Yoshinkai form was developed by Shioda Gozo,
another of Ueshiba's top students. Shioda's form strives to retain the original Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu methods. Aikido
contains a significant amount of standing grappling and joint manipulations.
Yong-Sool Choi was adopted and changed his name to Tatujutu Yoshida. In his youth he was enrolled in a
Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jutsu (pronounced Dae-Dong-Ryu Hap-Ki-Sool in Korean) dojo with Sokaku Takeda where he trained
for 20+ years. During WWII Yoshida returned home to Korea and changed his name back to Yong-Sool Choi. Choi
established himself as a well respected martial arts instructor. He called his art Yoo Sool (Korean pronunciation of
Ju-Jutsu). Choi changed the art name from Yoo Sool to Yoo Kwon Sool, to represent the fact that besides joint
locks and throwing techniques, he was also practicing strikes and kicks. After the end of the Korean war, Choi
opened his own private school at his house and began to teach a few students. Some of those private students
went on to found their own martial art styles. These include; Hwang-Kee (Tang-Soo-Do), In-Hyuk Suh (Kuk Sool
Won), Dr. Joo-Bang Lee (Hwa Rang Do), and Han-Jae Ji (Hapkido). One of them, Han-Jae Ji began his martial arts
training in Yoo Sool with Choi in 1949 at the age of 13. He trained with Choi until 1956. Han mixed in methods of
meditation, the Taek-Kyun kicking techniques, and the weapons techniques learned from Taoist monks to
formulate his own style of martial art, for which he chose the name "Hapkido." Hapkido is now a widely practiced
self defense form which involves a significant amount of grappling.
V.A.Spiridonov, an officer of the old Russian Army, studied combat wrestling. After WWI he began to study
European versions of Japanese Jujutsu. He eventually began teaching Jujitsu in Russia. Since the 1920s,
Spiridonov's system "SAM" became to spread among USSR policemen and military. A judo practitioner, Vasilii
Sergeevich Oshchepkov began working out at Spiridonov's school. On the base of judo he developed a new
system of hand-to-hand combat for army. He called this system "free-style wrestling. This combines with
several other grappling and striking arts became Sambo - "SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya" or "Self-defense
without weapon". Officially old Russia said Sambo was born on October 16, 1938. They also said that Sambo
"was created on the base of elements from national kinds of wrestling - georgian, tadjik, kazakh, uzbek, kirghiz
- and best elements from other kinds of wrestling". Old Russia did not want to admit its close relation to
Japanese Jujitsu. But today that tie is acknowledged.
The Vikings and other Norse practiced a grappling art called glima. Often this grappling art was demonstrated in
matches at festivals. Glima grapplers wore special belts in order to get a grip on each other. Glima used tripping,
lifting, and throwing to bring the opponent to the ground. Eight basic tricks have survived to today. Glima techniques
went with the Vikings to Iceland and the sport is the national sport of Iceland today. There are heroic stories of
Glima matches that are almost 1000 years old, some even between men and women. It is unknown if Glima was
used in a combative form, but as in most grappling arts, combat was likely its origin.
Shootfighting is a mixed martial art, which contains many grappling techniques. It's stand up fighting is
from muay thai, it's clinches and takedowns are from Judo, Wrestling, Sambo and Ju-Jutsu. Brazilian
Jiu-Jitsu, among other styles, have during the recent years shown the importance of good working skills
in grappling. Shootfighting was created when a wrestler, Karl Gotch, was teaching the wrestling style of
"shooting" to a group of Japanese elite fighters. Two of the fighters, Masami Soronaka and Yoshiaki
Fujiwara created what was called UWF or "hard style" wrestling in Japan. Bart Vale took the style to the
America. He was the first champion who was not Japanese. Bart was also the person who came up with
the term Shootfighting for this art.
For centuries the Mongolians have been known for their legendary grappling skills. Their skills and techniques have been passed on
to kung fu practitioners in China as well as to wrestlers and sambo practitioners in Russia. BOKE, the Mongolian word for wrestling,
was born in the 11th century. There is an Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia style. The Naadam festival held during the second
week of every July is a sportive festival that features Boke, among other sports. Bbayrildax is another name for Mongolian
wrestling. Most often it takes place outdoors, though sometimes, during the winter, tournaments are held indoors. There are no
weight classes or time limits in a match. The objective of the match is to get your opponent to touch his back, knee or elbow to the
ground. In the Inner Mongolian version, any body part other than the feet touching the ground signals defeat. Both versions use a
variety of throws, trips and lifts to throw the opponent. The Inner Mongolians may not touch their opponent's legs with their hands,
whereas, in Mongolia, grabbing your opponent's legs is completely legal.
The word Pankration is a Greek word which means "all powerful". The Pankrateon was a sporting event in the ancient
Greek Olympic games and was first introduced in the games of 648 BC during the 33rd Olympiad. Greeks believed that the
pankration was founded by the great hero of Attica, Theseus, who combined wrestling and boxing together in order to
defeat the fierce Minotaur in the labyrinth. It is thought that the legendary Hercules was actually a Pankrationist. The
Pankrateon had two forms: Kato pankration, in which the contest continued after the opponents fell to the ground and
involved ground wrestling, and Ano pankration, in which the opponents had to remain standing. The rules of the sport were
simple, no biting or eye gouging and victory was secured through knockout, submission or death. Pankrationists
extremely proficient at all elements of their sport including ground fighting and submission holds to standing fighting with
strikes. Many of the holds, throws and striking techniques can be seen on the pottery, statues and drawings of those
times. Today there are several organizations which practice what they think is the best reconstruction of Greek
Pankration, and it is an international sporting event.
Shui Chao, the oldest style of kung fu is one of the 54 different styles of Chinese wrestling. Its history is
believed to go back as far as 2000 B.C. It is believed that more than 2000 years before the Ch'in dynasty
(221 B.C.), Shuai-chiao, then known as Chiao-ti, was first used as a battlefield art. During the Ching Dynasty
(1644-1911), the Emperor of China sponsored many Shuai-chiao tournaments. Shuai-chiao's earliest
recorded use was by the Yellow Emperor of China, 2697 B.C. against the rebel enemy Chih-yiu and his army.
They used horned helmets and gored their opponents while using a primitive form of grappling. This early
recorded period was first called Chiao-ti (butting with horns). Throughout the centuries, the hands and arms
replaced the horns while the techniques increased and improved. The original Chinese Martial Art, a combat
wrestling system called Chiao-li (Contesting of strength), was systematized during the Chou Dynasty
MIDDLE ASIAN GRAPPLING
Almost annually since 1640 hordes of Turkey's finest grappling athletes have gathered in Erdine Turkey for the Kirkpinar, the championship of Turkish oil
wrestling. The grapplers oil their bodies, which make them very difficult to grasp. Sometimes in order to secure leverage for a throw, a wrestler is
permitted to thrust his hand into his opponent's leather trousers. There are no draws and the match continues until one grappler wins. Many forms of
Asian wrestling use belts as a means to grip the opponent and lift and throw him (such as in sumo). There was usually no ground fighting, except in the
far east. Competitions took place in a special yard, smoothed for wrestling. Names for most Middle-Asia kinds of wrestling originate from the Turkish
word "kurash", such as Uzbek kurash, tatarian kuresh, kazakh kures, and azerbaidjan gurassu. Techniques and rules are very similar to each other. The
fight is finished when opponent is thrown to the ground.
Buryats have their own kind of wrestling - buhe barildaan ("wrestling of strong men"). And, Tuvinians have kyuresh, karakyuresh, lamakyuresh etc.
In 668 B.C; the 23rd (ancient) Olympic Games, wrestling started as an official contest. At that time there were two styles of no-strike wrestling:
Orthia pale(Upright and Proper Wrestling) - This type of wrestling simply threw the opponent to the ground. Three falls constituted a loss for that opponent,
and the winner was called the "triakter". The match continued without stops until one man emerged victorious.
Kato pale(Ground Wrestling) - winning this
Competition depended on one competitor submitting or acknowledging defeat. Defeat was indicated by raising one's right hand with the index finger
pointed. The wrestlers were anointed with olive oil then dusted with powder to make them easier to grasp. The competition took place in the "keroma",
or beeswax, a muddy and sticky arena, originally, but soon migrated to a smoothed outdoor ring.
One of the most legendary wrestlers, Milo of Kroton, wore the victor's crown at Olympia six times. Milo won the boys' wrestling contest in 540 BCE.
He returned eight years later to win the first of five consecutive wrestling titles. At the 67th Olympiad in 512 BCE, Milo, in his early forties competed still
Here, he finally lost, not by technical defeat, but by exhaustion.
Kalari Payat is the grappling art of India. Each one of the Kalari Payat techniques is a complete finishing tactic, which enables the person to get into the
enemy and put him under control. Although it has developed over the centuries, there are techniques that very much resemble Pankration, and it is thought
that pankration may be one of its root styles. The art has it's origin with the training of soldiers, Buddhist monks as well as noblemen who had to learn the
art, because there were frequent raids on the Kings and Princes' of Kerala (South India) by neighboring war lords. Kalari Payat was developed a few
thousand years ago in the state of Kerala in India, which was introduced in Malaysia by the Mahaguru Ustaz Haji Hamzah Haji Abu, who is the founder of the
International Dynamic Self Defense Kalari Payat (FIDSDK). Kalari Payat, had it's origin in Kerala State, South -West of India. This is why there is a
suggestion that the soldiers of Alexander the Great may have brought pankration to western India and influenced the local grappling arts.
The first style of catch wrestling was Lancashire, Cornish/Devonshire and Cumberland/Westmoreland
catch, which came from England. Catch Wrestling, which really became famous in the US, was a
conglomeration of many wrestling and grappling styles from Greco-Roman wrestling to Turkish wrestling.
As knowledge of the various grappling holds spread, they were integrated into a competitive style, and this
began the era of American catch-as-catch-can, later just called Catch Wrestling. In the mid to late 1800's,
wrestlers like Martin "Farmer" Burns, emerged. He was sort of the father of American catch wrestling and
although no one knows the names of those who taught him, Karl Gotch says that "Farmer Burns had many
teachers from all over the world." The wrestlers who called themselves Professional Wrestlers (quite
unlike the Professional Wrestling of today which is choreographed for entertainment), were known as
Hookers and Rippers. Karl Gotch described it quite well when he said, "Think of fishing. When you have a
fish on the end of a hook, he wiggles and squirms and can't get free. You've hooked him. That's where the
term comes from. You hook a guy when you have a submission hold on him and he can't do anything to
wiggle free. It has nothing to do with catch wrestling or shoot wrestling or whatever these guys are calling
what they do. Any submission hold applied from any style of wrestling is a hook. And once you've hooked
the guy, you've got to give him the sting" Catch Wrestling is one of the roots of Japanese wrestling.
Japanese forms of grappling started around 500 B.C. According to the Kojiki (Record of Ancient
Matters, a book of legends from the year 712, which is the oldest extant example of Japanese
writing), Takemikazuchi defeats Takeminakata in a grappling match on the shores of Izumo
(today's Shimane Prefecture) for the control over the Izumo territory. The Emperor (an all
emperors) claim lineage from this famous grappler. According to the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of
Japan, a book from the year 720), Emperor Suinin (r. 29BC - AD70) is said to have made a special
request for Nomi-no Sukunem to fight Taima-no Kehaya. The two grappled until Sukune finally
does kicks to Kehaya's ribs, and Kehaya is mortally wounded. Sukune, the winner, has been
immortalized ever since as the "father of sumo." But Japanese Wrestling, although using
techniques from Jujitsu and Sumo, developed as a result of other influences also.
The most important dates in the development of Japanese Wrestling (today knows as Puroresu and
Pancrase) are listed below. ( Remember, this style is different from classical Ju-Jitsu or Sumo)
1883 Sorakichi Matsuda, a rikishi, goes to the United States and becomes the first Japanese pro-wrestler. Shokichi
Hamada, known as Sangokuyama in sumo, also leaves for the U.S. to become a pro-wrestler.
01/14/1884 At Irving Hall in New York, Matsuda has his first match as a catch-as-catch-can style wrestler, losing two
out of three falls to Edwin Bibby only in 32 seconds in the first fall and 2'19" in the second fall.
06/01/1887 Hamada brings 20 American wrestlers for the cards in Tokyo. It is sold out only on the first day just
because it is something people have never seen. The first attempt of pro-wrestling in Japan fails.
1928 Taro Miyake, who has become a wrestler in the U.S., comes back to Japan and tours with three other
wrestlers. However, pro-wrestling fails to sell tickets in Japan.
1929 Hikoo Shoji, who has been to the U.S. with Ad Santel, comes back to Japan and announces the entrance of the
Japanese judo into the US. In exchange, the amateur wrestling starts in Japan with a help of Ichiro Yada.
1932 Shoji wrestles for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
1939 Shoji, Kiyoshi Kato, and other judokas found the Japan Pro-Wrestling Alliance. They promote in the places such as the
reclaimed lands. The promotion is unsuccessful, however.
1951 Rikidozan joins with pro-judokas Masahiko Kimura, Toshio Yamaguchi, and Koukichi Endo in announcing their desire
to become professional wrestlers. They begin training at the Shriner's Club.
1953 Rikidozan founds Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance. He has actually founded the Japan Pro Wrestling Promotion
a short time earlier but this was the official ceremony establishing Japan's first full time pro-wrestling
organization. Shinsaku Nitta was chosen as the president of the Promotion, and Tadamasa Sakai as the chairman
of the Alliance.
1959 A puroresu gym/dojo "Puroresu Center" opens in Naniwa-cho, Tokyo.
1993 Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, and other wrestlers who left Fujiwaragumi form Pancrase and have their first card
at Tokyo Bay NK Hall.
1994 Wayne Shamrock becomes the first King of Pancrase, defeating Funaki in semi-final and Manabu Yamada in final.
Gracie Jujutsu was founded by Helio Gracie of Brazil. Carlos Gracie, his brother had met the leader of a Japanese
resettlement colony named Maeda Esai (a.k.a. Count Koma). Maeda taught Helio Gracie the art of Jujutsu and
eventually taught four of the Gracie brothers. In 1925 Carlos and his brothers opened the first Jujutsu dojo in Brazil.
Helio stood out the most of the brothers and developed the original techniques into what is now called Gracie
Jujutsu. Helio got involved in this martial art at the age of 16 when he began substitute teaching for his brother
Carlos. Helio went a step further than his teachers by introducing techniques that required less strength than the
Japanese style. Led by him, the brothers were driven by a constant determination to find effective ways to deal with
the very possible aspect of a real fight. Daring to break away from the traditional Japanese style, they began
experimenting, modifying and perfecting simple techniques that would be effective regardless of stature. That is
how the Gracie family developed this style of Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie organization is now headquartered in California,
and has worldwide schools. Importantly, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (which was actually spread by more families than the
Gracies) has influenced Mixed Martial Arts. Mixed Martial Arts are combinations of several styles. Brazilian
Jiu-Jitsu provides the basis for most of the ground fighting in MMA. There are competitions all over the world now
in grappling. Because of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we have seen an actual evolution of the self defense arts in our lifetime.