I love me some martial arts. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you’ll already know that I’ve indulged myself in everything from boxing to kung fu to my current obsession with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo.
I also love researching more esoteric arts, especially when it comes time to write them into a story. A lot of the time I see the same few martial arts represented in fiction, depending very much on what the fad is at the time of writing. With this in mind I wanted to promote an old school, yet extremely effective martial art called Catch Wrestling.
The name comes from Catch as Catch Can and refers to the Catch Wrestlers ability to grab submission holds from any position. These holds (known as “hooks”) are as brutal as anything you’ll find in BJJ or any other submission martial art and, at least in the challenge matches, were applied with bad intentions. Ctacth wrestlers often made their money travelling with circus performers and fighting all comers in the towns the circus was visiting. With plenty of challengers lined up and a high risk of injury Catch Wrestlers used dangerous and painful holds to put people out of the fight quickly.
As a style it’s reminiscent of a cross between modern American Collegiate wrestling and Jiu Jitsu. It has wrestling’s focus on takedowns and ground control with leg locks, arm locks and choke holds thrown into the mix.
Historically a lot of the best wrestlers were Americans, however prominent Catch schools appeared worldwide with fighters coming from England, India and France among many others. If you have a character that needs a unique fighting style it’s easy to use Catch as it’s history includes characters from just about every corner of the earth.
Catch wrestling was a world wide phenomenon, pro wrestling back when it was a real fight*. While Catch borrowed any move it found useful, it’s a martial art with a unique origin having been developed predominantly in the west. It’s enjoying something of a resurgence at the moment, both as its own style and as part of Mixed Martial Arts. The Japanese MMA fighters really took to Catch wrestling as alternative to other submission styles with the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba being some of the first to really challenge Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for dominance in MMA. Josh Barnett won a UFC championship before moving to Japan to use his Catch style to fight in MMA and has been extremely successful (not to mention entertaining). Josh is back in the USA now and looking to compete again in the UFC.
I like Catch wrestling’s aggression and its unique submission style, and I like that as far as fiction is concerned it’s not an overused style for characters to use. If you’d like to read up on Catch and use it in your story then I recommend starting with the Catch Wikipedia link and on reading about Bill Riley, the famed trainer from The Snake Pit in England. If you need more there’s plenty of resources online, however if you’d like to support this site by buying something from Amazon then I can recommend this book:
* just an aside here, pro wrestling’s outcomes may be fake but anyone who thinks that pro wrestlers aren’t tough hasn’t met one. Those guys work very hard at what they do, and most of them are in constant pain while they perform.