Lessons In Catch Wrestling

Lessons In Catch Wrestling

Greg Hall
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I've always had an interest in the Martial Arts from my home country of England and the western Martial Arts in general. Anyway one day I was doing a web search for proper old school Catch Wrestling and I searched on the Bolton Wrestling Academy and found a man named Tommy Heyes who it said taught catch.

I got his number and asked for privates but he said I need a couple of others to practice. So after all was arranged I finally arrived one Sunday morning to start a journey on learning authentic catch wrestling that I am still loving and hope to continue well into the future.

We started off with Tommy giving us a little lecture on the history of what Catch used to be like and what some of the guys used to be like. He gave me some top print-outs that he had researched of some of the real old Catch wrestling lads, pre-Riley's gym; Burgy Ben and the like, real interesting and thought provoking stuff. He told me of his wrestling with Billy Robinson and when Karl Istasz turned up at the gym who is now known as Karl Gotch. He showed me his mis-shapen collar bone that he said happened while wrestling Billy Robinson.

We got changed and got on the mat now one great thing about Tommy is he doesn't just show you the technique, he shows it to you then wrestles you and gets it on and then breaks it down again, then we practice. He started with how to stand and the different stances you can take up with the strength and weaknesses of each and which country prefers which style: The Iranians, the Americans, The Mongolians, the Turks etc.

We then did a warm up drill of fighting for the inside position to gain control of the tie up. After control tie up Tommy shown us a little about set up, pulling and pushing to get the leg to move to the position you want it to come to the do the single leg. We practiced how to level change, shoot in, and a few finishes. Tommy has a grip like a vice. Over the weeks we have been going really deep into the catch and the differences between Catch and Freestyle.

Tommy has a great way to teach and I am really improving my skills. Recently he shown me a famous Old School submission the Grovit which is murderous pain we did it both standing and on the downed man. He has taught me the theory of what he calls secondary finishes and use of the shunt when your first shot has failed. For all the moves we work tommy has examples of when he has seen this in top competitions.

The way the old fights were set up is very interesting. One wrestler would challenge another and argue about the rules then finally agree on them, say, three pins. Most of them couldn't read or write so it was down to the local paper. The media man would write the contract up, and sometimes the amount of money they were fighting for was equivalent to premier football wages.

If one guy was injured during a bout he would lose his falls so if he was 2 falls up and couldn't carry on he would lose the falls and the money. In their local towns they would considered like pop stars traveling 'round like gunslingers taking on all comers. When you consider how many young lads died down the pits you can see how physically and mentally strong they were. Not very sympathetic to their fellow workers, coversations often went like this, "I have hurt my leg". "Well, you have you got another one, get down there lad".

When we wrestle it's to the pin with no points for back control etc, also the guard is obsolete because under these rules your are still on your back. Although I have knowledge of BJJ and the guard, etc. recently me and my guys have been wrestling old style catch rules.

*You can visit Greg online at G-Tek Martial Arts.