Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tom Jenkins + Teddy Roosevelt = Catch Wrestling @ West Point

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s a man by the name of Tom Jenkins was one of the most feared wrestlers in America. Tom Jenkins was the American Heavyweight Catch-As-Catch-Can Tom JenkinsWrestling Champion in 1901,1903, and 1905, with wins over notable wrestlers such as Martin “Farmer” Burns, Frank Gotch, Ernest Roeber and Dan McLoed.

Weighing in at 225 pounds, Jenkins developed his strength and rock hard physique through his many arduous hours working in the American Wire and Steel Mill in Newburg, Ohio. Tom had a damaging style of wrestling where he would rub his calloused hands across the face and body of his unlucky opponent. 

His most notable achievement of his life may have been in 1905 when he was appointed by Theodore Roosevelt to be the Boxing and Wrestling Coach for the United States Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets.

Tom Jenkins - West PointTom taught at West Point from 1905 to 1942. A few of the many cadets that learned under his tutelage were: George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Tom overcame illiteracy while he was in his 30’s, went through most of his life with limited sight in his left eye and was completely blind in his right eye. Despite these adversities, Tom’s work ethic and tenacity helped shape him into an American Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling Champion.

Tom Jenkins died on June 19,1957 at 84 years of age and was buried with honors at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kazushi Sakuraba

Here is a great clip of Kazushi Sakuraba displaying some Catch Wrestling techniques. Sakuraba started his training as an amateur wrestling standout in Japan.  After his amateur career, he wrestled for professional wrestling promotions UWFi, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Kingdom Pro Wrestling.

While with UWFi, he trained under Coach Billy Robinson from whom he received his initial Catch Wrestling instruction. He then went on to compete in MMA for the Pride Fighting Championships. While with Pride, Sukuraba earned the nickname “Gracie Hunter” after defeating Royler, Renzo, Ryan, and Royce Gracie.  His fight with Royce Gracie lasted 90 minutes, the longest in MMA history. While with Pride, Sakuraba defeated other notable BJJ Blackbelts including Vitor Belfort, Allan Goes, and Carlos Newton.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Catch Wrestling 101

Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling is a style of wrestling that followed the immigrants from England and Western Europe to the United States around the time of the American Civil War.  The Lancashire phrase "catch as catch can" generally translates to "catch (a hold) anywhere you can".

Catch wrestling in America was mainly a mixture of English Lancashire wrestling, American “Rough and Tumble” wrestling, Irish Collar-and-Elbow as well as Indian Pehlwani and Iranian Varzesh-e Pahlavani. Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling grew in popularity during the mid to late 19th Century.

Traveling wrestlers from Europe as well as Judo and Jujutsu practitioners from Japan also brought a variety of disciplines to the United States and contributed in their own way to the style of Catch Wrestling. 

Standing Arm Lock Fred Beele  As Catch Wrestling grew in popularity the contests drew large paying crowds.  Unfortunately, promoters became heavily involved in these Professional Wrestling competitions and started to “fix” matches.

By the 1920’s Pro Wrestling was becoming more entertainment as opposed to a legitimate competition. Carnivals sometimes employed Catch Wrestlers to perform in their Athletic Shows taking on all comers. 

Not knowing who they would be facing, these carnival wrestlers would need to be well versed in their ability to submit their opponent if necessary. Fortunately, many old time carnival wrestlers like Dick Cardinal and Billy Wicks are still around today spreading their knowledge of Catch Wrestling. 

Professional wrestlers such as Karl Gotch and Billy Robinson also did their part to keep the art of Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling alive.  These men trained in Lancashire Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling and brought their knowledge to Japan.  They have influenced generations of Japanese grapplers such as Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, and Kazushi Sakuraba as well as MMA Legend Josh Barnett.

Wrestlers Guillotine Amateur Folkstyle and Collegiate wrestling can be considered products of Catch Wrestling.  With the resurgence of interest in Catch Wrestling, many wrestlers competing in MMA are going back to their “roots” and learning some of the crippling holds that were once “legal” to use in early American Wrestling.

Many of our amateur Collegiate and Olympic level wrestlers who have competed and still compete in Mixed Martial Arts have proven that wrestling is a formidable grappling skill. Some of the current Mixed Martial Artists such as Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Matt Lindland, Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Brandon Vera, John Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Gray Maynard, Frankie Edgar, and Jon Jones have extensive backgrounds in amateur wrestling.

Half Nelson Hammer Lock For those interested in learning more about Catch Wrestling you can find resources such as The Sport of Catch Wrestling: The Certified Catch Wrestler Handbook by Jake Shannon, The Life & Legacy of Frank Gotch by Mike Chapman, Milo to Londos by Nat Fleisher, Catch Wrestling by Mark Hewitt, and Hooker by Lou Thesz.

Also, there are a few instructional DVDs; The Sport of Catch-As-Catch-Can Conceptual Syllabus starring Billy Robinson, and W.A.R. Catch Wrestling: Lessons in Catch-As-Catch-Can with Billy Robinson. Most of these resources can be found on the Scientific Wrestling site along with many others not mentioned. is a “one stop” shopping site for those interested in learning about the history as well as techniques of Catch Wrestling.