Since man has realized that combat is an option wrestling has existed in one form or another. It’s humanity’s older sport and martial art. Any fan of modern mixed martial arts understands the efficacy of the old art, but its history is lost to many. This article will clear up how wrestling made it from a form of ancient combat to Madison Square Garden in New York.
Ancient humans and ancient history
Humanity has always been a competitive breed. We’ve competed with other forms of ancient man for the right to exist, local wildlife for territory and most recently each other for space and resources. Before diplomacy and society were created this competition was often in the form of a physical altercation.
With the concept of the straight punch being thousands of years from existence, fights (not unlike today) quickly devolved into skirmishes on the ground. As humanity developed and reason came into being, early began to make a system of ground fighting. This system was further developed and used in times of peace to keep soldiers sharp and entertain the masses.
The earliest evidence of civilized wrestling is found in Mesopotamia, but the most recognizable is a tablet found in a tomb in Egpyt. This stone block contains images detailing wrestling to include many moves and holds used in modern competition.
Many other cultures would have their own form of wrestling, but it isn’t until the Greek Olympiad that the next concrete findings are. As wrestling technique was adapted for war the Greek art of Pankration came into being and was later added to the Olympiad.
This art was brutal and compete. It utilized strikes with the hands, elbows, knees, and shins as well as submission holds, breaks and chokes. In this way, it was very similar to modern mixed martial arts. The matches were however much more brutal and the rules far fewer. People were regularly maimed or died in competition.
Pankration and wrestling would fall from major popularity with the fall of Greece. The tradition would continue in pockets however as the art had spread to Europe. It was soon to be revived in the most unlikely of places.
Flat-hand and the Revival of Wrestling
It wasn’t until the 18th century that wrestling was to make its revival at the hands of a former French soldier and traveling carnival entertainer. Wanting a method to compete often and entertain crowds, he took wrestling and modified it rules so that attacks would be limited to the upper body exclusively. He termed this style “flat-hand.”
Flat-hand would later be repackaged as “Greco-Roman” as it picked up in popularity throughout Europe. All Europeans were in love with the style, however. An English wrestler didn’t appreciate the rigid ruleset and set out with a few others to make it more dynamic. Their solution was to allow competitors to attack the lower body again and add submission holds. Thus, catch-as-catch-can or “catch” wrestling was born.
The Metamorphasis of Wrestling a Change to Pro-Wrestling
As wrestlers traveled from one location to the next challenging locals the sport continued to evolve. Local styles of grappling were melded into what the carnival entertainers brought making a more complete art. American folkstyle simply wouldn’t exist if not for these carnivals, the indigenous people and the immigrant the Irish to name a few.
This is the first of a two part series. If you’re interested in how competitive wrestling made the leap to proto-professional wrestling check out part two. If you want to learn proper wrestling check out http://londonfightfactory.com/wrestling/.