Tony Cecchine & Matt Furey: Catch Wrestling's Newest Crisis of Confidence

I admit, I am just a guy with a passion for Catch-As-Catch-Can wrestling that has tried to put food on the table for my family by sharing my research.

I've tried to learn first hand from anyone and everyone that has claimed some connection to catch-as-catch-can. In this, I have been very fortunate.

As such, one of the most common questions I receive is "What is your opinion of so-and-so (insert name of self-proclaimed Catch Wrestling guru here)" so I thought this topic might make for some good blog fodder (also I can point people to this blog instead of repeating myself again).

Well there are two names that have done much to publicize Catch Wrestling in the last decade, for better and for worse: Matt Furey and Tony Cecchine. From my research, it is my opinion (and the opinion of a substantial number of other qualified individuals) that both Furey and Cecchine have inflated or been somewhat deceptive regarding their Catch-As-Catch-Can background.

While I completely respect that Furey is a verifiable division II NCAA collegiate-style wrestling champion and a world's champion in Shuai Jiao, his level of understanding of CACC is not very deep in the opinion of many catch wrestling experts, most notably Karl Gotch (please see the scans of the actual letter Karl asked me to post at the bottom of this page). Since Furey used Gotch in his ad copy, plus the fact that Furey has not competed in submission grappling or catch wrestling rules competition, it makes Gotch's dismissal all the more compelling.

I remember seeing a Matt Furey advertisement in a martial arts magazine promoting Karl Gotch's conditioning methods in 2000 or 2001. I had long had an interest in Catch-As-Catch-Can so I looked into it. It was good stuff, Karl was legendary so I was happy to see CACC getting the attention it so deeply deserved.

Soon thereafter Furey began promoting a $600 or $700 (!) videotape set where he promised to teach the secrets of the nearly forgotten art of Catch Wrestling. Keep in mind, at this time Furey had not yet earned his reputation across mixed martial art internet forums as "The King of Over-Promise and Under-Deliver" but still, it was simply way too much money. I figured I'd wait until someone sold their copy on Ebay.

When I finally got a hold of his material, it was a very mixed bag. I think that the Neck Crank video he put out is really good. The Farmer Burn's material, however is horribly over priced with little usable material, and a lot of filler of Matt "proving" his skills on what appears to be newcomers to grappling. There is some good material on there but I personally wouldn't spend $597 on the material when there is better, less expensive material by proven submission grapplers out there.

Turned-off by Furey's over-the-top "pie-in-the-sky" ad copy and outrageous prices, I began to look elsewhere. A cursory internet search turned up Tony Cecchine's name. He somehow had an endorsement from Lou Thesz so I bought his DVD course from Paul Viele and paid ~$250 for a lifetime membership to Chicago-based Cecchine's ICWA. When Cecchine stopped feeling like working on the ICWA, he offered no refund to the numerous people that just a few months earlier, had paid him this sum.

I personally knew Cecchine for the better part of a year and even was personally chosen by him to run the West Coast chapter of his ICWA. When I began the in-depth research for my first volume of the Authoritative Encyclopedia of Scientific Wrestling I naturally began to ask questions about Cecchine's claimed background and accomplishments.

These were the questions I raised years ago (and while I still have not received satisfactory answers, I have received physical threats and smears). I merely asked for evidence:

1) Of Cecchine's claim to be a Golden Gloves boxing champ (Made on a videotape by Furey while introducing Cecchine at a clinic. Shane Tucker has publically confirmed that Tony made this claim to him as well.)
2) That Cecchine actually trained with Stanley Radwan (I've never claimed Radwan didn't exist, that is a "strawman")
3) That Radwan actually knew CACC hooks
4) Can anyone explain the apparent change in Cecchine's knowledge from the infamous "Gotch tape" to LAOH?

Remember:

"The scientific principle of the null hypothesis--that a claim is untrue unless proved otherwise--runs counter to our natural tendency to accept as true what we can comprehend quickly." (from Scientific American)

When I very politely and cordially asked for actual evidence of his claims (because I was writing my books for posterity and didn't want to "re-write" history in any way) I was booted from his online forum without warning. Members of Cecchine's inner circle then began a campaign of ad hominem and ad baculum smearing attacks. Later it was verified by the then ICWA Vice-resident that Cecchine had multiple "anonymous" usernames on MMA forums that he used to praise himself in the 'third-person'.

When this happened it only piqued my curiosity further and I became more and more determined to get to the bottom of things. Later, I was shown a tape that Cecchine had sent to Karl Gotch that proved without a doubt that as recently as the mid-nineties he had not trained in CACC. I did feel like a fool for having not only believing Cecchine's claims without asking for proof, but even worse, for endorsing him.

The strange thing was, when I started to ask questions, I found many, many others that had had similar problems and noticed strange things about his claims. Many of these people were once close to him and distanced themselves far from Cecchine once they began to independently figuring things out.

Glenn Ortiz is one person that has made public the problems he experienced with Cecchine so I can mention him by name. He is a MMA fighter and was one-time Grappler's Quest Champion. He had many many problems with the ethics of Cecchine and publically said so.

Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator Joe Rogan and 2003 ADCC champion Eddie Bravo also publically chastised Cecchine on a legendary MMA.TV thread for perpetuating a scam, never providing any solid evidence of his gradiose claims, and never competing anywhere.

Joe Rogan Has a Solid Reputation For Exposing Evidence of Scams/Frauds (seen here recently confronting Carlos Mencia)
Joe Rogan Has a Solid Reputation For Exposing Evidence of Scams/Frauds (seen here recently confronting Carlos Mencia)

Billy Wicks is another. He is a retired sheriff and Catch-As-Catch-Can wrestler (who learned hooks directly from Farmer Burns' student Henry Kohlen) that thinks nothing of Cecchine and has publically stated so. Cecchine once latched onto him for legitimacy but Mr. Wicks severed ties due to ethical lapses.

Please read the hand written letter below from Mr. Wicks saying that he feels that both he and Lou Thesz were duped by "Super-Hooker" (as he sarcastically calls him) Cecchine.

Click here to see 'Letter from Billy Wicks'

What motivates someone to inflate or make up unverifiable credentials; money, ego? Is it possible that Mr. Thesz made a mistake about Cecchine (as both Wicks, myself, and countless others have admitted to)?

One interesting tid-bit that I uncovered during my investigation is that Matt Furey and Tony Cecchine were business partners early on. Furey brought Cecchine in on a business deal that Furey had established with Lou Thesz. Furey told me on the phone (the only time I have ever spoken to him personally) that Thesz had an idea to capitalize on the grappling seminar market by barn-storming across the country as "The Three Hookers". To Mr. Furey's credit, he told me that he felt uncomfortable accepting the "Hooker" without competing as a catch wrestler.

Despite the unverifiable credentials and his poor ethics, I do think that several of the Cecchine "LAOH" tapes are decent. Cecchine certainly does draw heavily from CACC (I am guessing from watching Fujiwara & Hidataka Aso tapes and from the little bit that both Billy Wicks and Lou Thesz showed him).

Another interesting piece of information is that Thesz' longtime protege, a man named Mark Fleming, is a friend of mine. He ran Lou's wrestling school for years and wrestled in Japan for something like 17 different tours. Lou was the best man at his wedding as well. Mark said Lou never once mentioned Cecchine to him, ever, and catch wrestling was one of the topics they often spoke of.

I do believe that Furey is mostly interested in marketing himself and his products and does know a few legit catch principles and holds from his brief time with Karl Gotch. I know Karl personally and talked to him nearly every week for years. Unfortunately, Gotch personally does not think very well of Furey*.

If you really want to promote REAL catch wrestling, forget about the personalities involved. Find some place to wrestle. I started my club in Venice Beach on the grass with 3 guys. As the guys came on board we all pitched in to pay for some space in a small boxing gym, we'd meet Saturdays and some weeknights.

What will not promote Catch Wrestling effectively are fabricated histories, lack of gameness, "keyboard warrior" flame wars on internet forums, and any other "cult of personality" nonsense, all done at the expense of real Catch Wrestling done on the mat. I understand that sometimes people get caught up in lies or exaggeration, and for those who come clean there is forgiveness, even redemption! (As a matter of fact, the fastest way to make this disappear is to come clean and work together, in my opinion. Even Cecchine and Furey.)

Remember, there are a TON of instructionals out there to learn from. There are clinics to attend and seminars to provide the hands-on fine tuning you need. Then just get back there and wrestle and share what you know with the other guys.

If you wait for other people to do it for you, it will never happen. That is how Scientific Wrestling came about. I am just a guy that likes this sport and is trying to do everything I can to bring it respect (by supporting honest competitive catch-as-catch-can men, hosting seminars with men like Billy Robinson, Fujiwara, Dick Cardinal, Josh Barnett, etc.).

If you want to do catch wrestling, then wrestle best two of three falls and try to submit or pin your opponent. Just be careful, get liability release waivers and some cheap liability insurance. It can be done.

Bottomline, just wrestle... (and have fun!). Do that and the future of Catch Wrestling will look bright!

Meanwhile, here are some excellent useful links for detecting dishonesty and debunking unverified claims:

Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit

The Field Guide to Critical Thinking

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."
- Winston Churchill

I also highly recommend the article to anyone new to the martial arts. It is called "Are You In A Martial Arts Cult?"

***************************************************************
Tampa, 18th July '05

Dear Jake,

Thanks for sending me that copy of the fat man Matt Furey's website. As you know I don't have a computer and I don't know how to use it, but as I can see he employs it for a con game to steal from some poor guys that love the sport. He hung around me for about 5 months not over two years as he states.

He writes, "What's Old is New -- What's New is Old" well he uses this to put his hand in the poor guys pocket and grab the money. I found him out when he talked me into making a tape I had about conditioning commercial, I had made the tape as proof, because after my double hip replacement I could not do many of those things anymore and a picture is worth a thousand words.

I told him to never use my name again with anything he ever did. The man is a disgrace to wrestling and has no honor at all, he can walk under a snakes belly wearing a top hat.

To give you an idea what real pro-wrestling is lets take boxing as an example, even as an Olympic Champ when you turn pro you have to start all over again because it's completely different. Here in the U.S.A they had the best in the world, men like Strangler Lewis, Toots Mondt, John Pesek, etc. would take the life out of anyone that challenged them. Wrestling is opposite of what people think it is, it is not strength but knowledge, balance, and timing, leverage and where to place the fulcrum, that's what it takes to make it to the top in the noble art of wrestling.

Also, the most difficult sport is wrestling because contrary to other combat sports you have to learn to attack and defend from 3 different positions; standing-up, on all fours and underneath. It takes know how to do that, and your best hold is condition, even the best automobile won't run without gas, oil, and water. People now go for excitement and to something that is easy to understand, that's why football, base-ball and basketball are drawing the big crowds, plus they are team sport, they change their players in and out.

Wrestling in the amateurs should never be less than 12 minutes a match, then you can see the best man. I wrote you all this to show you that how can a fat slob like Furey, that doesn't know his elbow from his rear end, tell and show these poor boys that he charges an arm and a leg and a finger thrown in? Wrestling is a workman's sport, you need no expensive equipment and can practice it anywhere, and here is this greedy, fat no good misfit charging them all this money for nothing. I never took one cent from a boy to show him how to wrestle, all I asked for is guts. I can make you strong, fast, agile and train you for endurance and reflex, but guts you get when you are born.

I hope that we can find a way to stop this misfit from fleecing those poor guys, thanks again for letting me know. Yours, Karl

*Scans of the Actual Letter From Karl Gotch
Click here to read:

Click here to see 'Letter from Karl', part 1

Click here to see 'Letter from Karl', part 2

***************************************************************

"To Whom It May Concern,

If someone claims to have been trained by Karl Gotch, the first thing you need to know is that Karl would not show anyone techniques until they could "pay" him with the exercises. Karl wanted effort... and the truth is he rarely got it.

I met Gotch in the fall of 1993. I spent about eight hours a day with him everyday six-seven days a week until I left Tampa for good in mid-1995. After my initial fight in Japan in March of 94, I came back and had to leave Tampa briefly because of illness around early May of that year. I returned to Tampa about 8 weeks later to resume training until May of 95. Karl's wife died soon after.

I kept in touch with Karl weekly on the phone and continued to visit until his passing last year. Talking to a wrestling great did not mean that he trained you. Talking about wrestling on the phone does not constitute training time. Training for any kind of wrestling takes years to develop world class skill.

Training is working with sparring partners under the watchful eye of an expert who can correct your mistakes and show you the right way to do things. It takes years to learn the skills before you could be qualified to pass to them on to the next generation.

No one that respected Gotch or the sport of catch wrestling would dare to presume that a couple of months in the presence of a legend would qualify them to teach as his representative. To truly honor the man, the student would take years perfecting the skills he learned by drilling AND COMPETING before he would try to do is mentor justice.

The only people that Karl legitimately spent time teaching and conditioning for Catch Wrestling were the Japanese fighters like Fujiwara, Suzuki, Funaki and the rest of the young boys attached to the old UWFI. They are the only ones who could say that Karl consistently spent time on the mat with them.

No one that he talked to or went to a gym with him a time or two, myself included was given his blessing to instruct or write book about catch except for Fujiwara. HE HAD NO LIVE IN STUDENTS in the 15 years I knew him.

There was no such thing as "Gotch wrestling". For Karl, the throws, suplexes, controls and the ground game were just wrestling. Karl always hoped that pure Catch would come around again in his lifetime.

I believe from our conversations that he had hoped PANCRASE would have evolved into a forum for that. But as the American NHB scene evolved the Japanese product moved more toward the striking side of things to be competitive instead of developing the great grappling product that it already had.

He always spoke highly of the old UWFi match between Suzuki and Funaki. It is my opinion that this was the kind of product he respected and felt the world would want to see. But what do I know.

The name of Gotch, when it came to wrestling and conditioning was synonymous with excellence. An exacting standard, rarely met, and if you really did know the man, you would know how much he hated pretenders. And a pretender you would be if you thought that a few months training qualified you to speak for a legend or use his name without his consent.

At least, have the balls to make your own way, without having Gotch's name emblazoned on everything you do.

Signed, The Guy Busting His A** in the Conditioning for Combat Sports DVD"

***************************************************************