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My Christmas with Karl...

Jake - April 26, 2006
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My Christmas with Karl...

I don't really like to talk too much about myself but if you are reading this, you probably know that I live, eat, and breathe wrestling. I've tried to experience it all, from folkstyle to the "sports entertainment".

I wanted to just share with you how cool it has been to spend a few days with my friend Karl Gotch while here in Tampa over the holidays. At 81 years-young, believe me, Karl can still cripple you...
In the past year and a half, I've talked to Karl on the phone a few times every week, picking his brain about this and that about grappling. But this was the first time I was going to actually spend time face to face with the man.

I pulled up in my rented Chevy Geriatric (the name I gave to my less-than cool rental car) to his apartment and rang the door bell. Karl answered wearing his exercise jump suit and a big smile.

He greeted me with a heartfelt "Jacob!" and ushered me inside. He poured me a glass of red wine, handed me a cigar and invited me outside to his patio to smoke where we talked wrestling for a good hour and a half.

Toward the end of our cigars and wine, and after a few laughs, Karl looked at me very seriously.

"Jesus," he said. "Look at your neck. You look like one of the guys that were at the concentration camp with me during World War II. You got these big muscles everywhere but your neck looks like a God Damn pipe-cleaner! You come all this way here from California, you got to let this old man show you a thing or two!"

To be honest, after smoking a huge cigar and drinking a glass of wine on an empty stomach the last thing I felt like doing was one of Karl's brutal workouts. Luckily I had already been doing many of the exercises shown on his Conditioning For Combat Sports DVD independently.

Now, I have been grappling in one form or another since I was 4 years old but I have always had trouble developing my neck ever since I had radiation and chemo-therapy on my neck when I was 16 years old. In fact, my neck broke back in 1992 during a challenge submission match with a collegiate wrestler that outweighed me by nearly 50 lbs (thank god my judo coach, former Senior Nationals Champ Bernd Busch, was a stellar chiropractor).

Well faster than you could say "Great Gama" Karl had me twirling his Indian Gada and Clubs (no easy feat since each weighs 10 kilos each)! Afterwards it was inside to work on some Hindu push-ups and half-moon push-ups.

I think he was surprised when I fell into a wrestler's bridge from standing. However, I was even more surprised when he was able to coach me into kicking over from the wrestler's bridge. That was something I was never able to do before he gave me a few hints. He said, "Well you are plenty agile, we just really need to work on that neck!"

He had me doing a head-stand, moving my head forward and back, laterally and in circles next!

After a few more exercises Karl was kind enough to show me a few toe-holds, the crooked leg-scissor, some thumb hooks, take-downs, etc. It was some pretty slick stuff!

The next day, Karl is going to run me through the Gotch-Bible. I'll tell you more about it then...

...the second day with Karl was fun. We went to a steakhouse and had some prime rib. We both eyed each other everytime the more "big-boned" clients were seated around us. They sure could benefit from a good fifteen minutes of jumper squats.

Anyway, we finished up and talked some more about history. He was particularly interested in talking about about the DVD I had sent him called Catch: The Hold Not Taken. While he enjoyed the footage and the fine directing, he felt that his one criticism was that proper respect was not given to the American Catch-As-Catch-Can style.

"America had the best catch men in the world, everyone knew that. Maybe now, some of the old-timers tell you this and that, but believe me, I have nothing to gain saying this. I am just an old man and I probably won't make any friends, but I was always that way."

"I remember Old Man Riley came over to the United States to wrestle once. Well, they must have tore him a new asshole because he back to Wigan before he left! He never ever talked about it after he came back."

"Back then you took a ship to America, not an airplane. It took about 8 or 9 days there and about 8 or 9 back. He was back on that ship to Wigan as soon as he landed."

"Of course that is because America had all the best catch men. Men like Frank Wolf, Fred Grubmeier, John Pesek, Ad Santel, Toots Mondt, and the grandaddy of them all, Strangler Lewis."

"Watching that there film, I couldn't believe the American amateur Dan Gable didn't even know the history of his own sport!"

"Lancashire-style came to America. Everybody from around the world brought a little from each of their countries to form the American Catch-As-Catch-Can style. The American style was unbeatable by anyone on the planet."

"Well back then, the Americans, when they went to Europe, they all went to Paris. Not London, not Prague, not Frankfurt. The Americans all wanted to go to the City of Lights."

"This is why the French had such great Catch-As-Catch-Can wrestling at the time. When FILA first started, they had three styles, freestyle, greco, and amateur catch-as-catch-can."

"Robert Arneaut (sp?) had a good school. He had a student, a guy named Leduc, who was good too. Although he had been mouthing off that he had taught old Ben Sherman a lesson."

"Well he never did, and when Ben showed up at his gym looking to wrestle, well he left before Benny could even lace up his boots. He left so quick that he left his street clothes behind!"

"What also was amazing was that there was hardly any mention of Riley's pistol man, Joe Robinson."

"Old Joe Robby took a liking to me and showed me the ropes. He was the best one there, not Riley. Riley was a business man. Now Riley could wrestle but he was by no means the best one there."

"There was also no mention of the man who taught Riley, the Irishman Pops Charnock. He was a real tough bastard...."

Karl and I talked for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed another cigar.

I spent Xmas day with family eating and being merry. The day after Xmas I had an extra few hours so I head to Karl's.

Well this time when I knocked, all I heard was a stern "Come in". There is was sitting at his desk with a deck of cards. I knew I was in for Gotch's Bible.

Here's how you do it, shuffle a full deck (Jokers included) of cards. Everytime you deal a black card, you have to do double the amount of the face value. This means, you get a black 8, you do 16. You get a black Ace, you do 22 squats. Spades are regular hindu squats, Clubs are jump squats.

Everytime you get a red card, you do push-ups. This time you do the actual value of the face card. You get a red 8, you do 8. You get a red Ace, you do 11 push-ups. Diamonds are regular hindu push-ups, Hearts are 1/2 Moon push-ups (don't know what these are? Get Karl's Conditioning For Combat Sports DVD, dumkoff! (as he called me several times))

Well when I finished I could do no more. My legs simply would not go. I was huffing and puffing harder that I ever have on a treadmill. Ask anyone that knows me, I am in shape. Well this kicked my ass.

"I used to do this twice in a row", Karl said, meaning would go through the deck once, then start all over. Now wonder he was such a terror on the mat. He ALWAYS has gas in the tank.

In part one of "My Xmas With Karl" I told you that at 81 years old, Karl can still cripple you. It's true, I can't walk a flight of stairs today...

Well at least I know my New Year's resolution; read Gotch's Bible back-to-back twice in a row, heheh.