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The History of Submission / Catch Wrestling

The art that puts the "catch" in catch wrestling, English Catch as Catch Can is a combination of regional styles of wrestling that emerged around 1870. They drew on many different styles to create a hybrid system composed of influences from the English styles of Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, Cornwall and Devon wrestling, Irish collar-and-elbow wrestling, and the famously brutal Lancashire wrestling, in which just about any throw or submission hold was considered fair game. The globe-spanning British Empire of the 1700's and 1800's also impacted Catch as Catch Can; young wrestlers would join the English Navy and travel the world, bringing home influences from Japanese Judo and Jujutsu grappling, as well as from Indian Pellwani wrestling and Iranian Varzesh-e Palhavani wrestling. English Catch is the most influential catch wrestling and the most widespread, and includes a wide variety of submissions and pins.

Shootfighting: This style started with Olympic wrestler Karl Istaz, who turned to Catch Wrestling after the 1948 Olympics and trained with the famous Billy Riley at the Snake Pit gym in English Catch as Catch Can Wrestling. He then moved to the United States and, while passing through immigration, was given the last name Gotch. After living in the U.S. he moved to Japan and would teach many of their future pro wrestling stars. Several of Gotch's students combined catch wrestling with karate and other striking styles to create a hybrid striking and grappling art that included a wide variety of takedowns, submissions and strikes. It became a form of early in MMA in Japan known as Shootfighting, which was practiced in the Shooto and Pancrase promotions in the 1980's and early 1990's, and both promotions were started by students of Gotch.

Strengths: Catch Wrestling is a strong base for mixed martial arts fighting. Their wrestling base gives them a strong, diverse, and effective takedown acumen, similar to those of freestyle or American folkstyle wrestlers.  Catch wrestlers have learned these takedowns in the context of submission grappling, so they have a much better understanding of how submission attacks play into standing grappling.

Once on the ground, catch wrestlers are very strong top players. They can put down fantastic pressure, using body position, cross-faces , and gravity to make their opponents flat out miserable. They also have excellent pins and control that translate very well to strikes being thrown.  But catch wrestlers are not content to just control an opponent -- where they really shine is in submission offense. Catch wrestlers can be some of the most aggressive grapplers out there and are armed with a wide variety of submissions: joint locks, chokes, neck cranks, leg locks, and slicers. Catch wrestlers also have a high level of technical expertise when it comes to leg locks.

Catch wrestlers use everything at their disposal to attack: good position, leverage, pain infliction, and even a little muscle when needed. Luta Livre legend and instructor Roberto Leitao, who developed the theory of Luta Livre  once summed up their rivalry with Helio Gracie. "Gracie was stubborn," Leitao said, referring to Helio Gracie. "He believed that leverage was enough, but he was wrong."

But that isn't to say there isn't a great deal of technique in what catch wrestlers do, a prime example being the lock flow. When attacking a submission on an experienced grappler, it is very likely the first attempt will not succeed, so catch wrestlers spend a great deal of time practicing flowing between submissions. Catch wrestlers are also excellent at catching submissions in scrambles.



The question is how did Catch Wrestling, the first way the art of Catch wrestling came to Australia were with immigrants that came to Australia after the second world war, and the other way was through the professional wrestler that came to Australia back in the  60’s and 70’, the professional wrestlers back in that era   were all trained in the art of submission wrestling before becoming performers ,remember pro=wrestling was through to be a real contest back then only the insiders new that if was a work so anyone coming in was trained for real competition and after if they were the right person for the pro-wrestling business they would be told the truth and work in the business.

THE AMERICANS: most to all of the American wrestlers have long and successful amateurs wrestling careers in high school and university. When the wrestler moved to a Pro-wrestling camp/school the wrestler was trained in the American Catch wrestling system. The amateur style gave the American Catch Wrestling System great ride control to control positions to apply strong and controlled submissions and pins, and amateur scrambles to escape rides and positional control.

THE BRITISH: The British wrestlers all trained in the English Catch Wrestling system, which is the founding system for American Catch Wrestling system. The British wrestlers did not go through an Amateur wrestling system. The wrestling clubs in Britain privately owned clubs and trained young men in the art of Catch wrestling from a young age. The difference between the American and the British system is in the

AMERICAN SYSTEM with the heavy influence of Amateur wrestling in it, making the style ride and control based to find submissions and pins. The BRITISH SYSTEM without the Amateur base of ride and control is more free flowing, positions are important but it’s about trapping a submission between position and using the submission to find the a control position to submit or pin.



With the Americans and the British wrestlers coming out here in the 60’s and 70’s started to train local young men in wrestling ,in Catch Wrestling to become Pro-wrestlers if they were the right person for the business, and with the influences of both the American and the British styles a hybrid system started to evolve within the Australian wrestlers. In the Late 70’s when Australian TV took local Australian wrestling off TV, the industry in Australia become very small, the American and the British were not coming here anymore so the interest and the willingness to teach Catch wrestling anymore and local wrestlers just start to teaching Pro-wrestling without the real wrestling base of Catch Wrestling, which explains why Pro-wrestling doesn’t look like wrestling today. I was lucky enough to train with some of the old times out here in Australia and for over the last 10 years slowly resurrecting the Aussie Catch Wrestling system.