Dr. Stephen Greenfield: Catch Wrestling is a Distinct Wrestling Style

Dr. Greenfield with the successor of Billy Riley, Roy Wood

If I hear “it’s just a ruleset” or “it’s all grappling” – yes it is a form of grappling, as is Judo , BJJ, they all have their distinctive points, techniques, nuances, history and strategy. Yes CACC had a rulset (it is a little more complex than that), but it was not JUST a ruleset. There was and is an art, which was practiced in the Lancashire region that made its way around the world, was taken up by the populations there after the likes of Tom Connors spread it to America – it was passed on and developed by the likes of Farmer Burns, Frank Gotch, etc., in America, Carrol, Charnock, etc., in the UK. Despite the time apart, the art of CACC shown by Jon Strickland from Billy Wicks, and that shown by Roy Wood from Billy Riley are remarkably similar not only on a macro but micro level with individual points on technique being almost word for word the same.

When you read match accounts from early 1900’s for example, and see the Japanese or the continental guys compete, or Cornish, or Westmoreland, Sumo, etc., they didn’t call themselves catch wrestlers or Lancashire wrestlers just because they were competing under that ruleset, just as the likes of Joe Carroll didn’t suddenly call himself a Jujutsu player because he took on Tani under the Japanese rules. They were called Jujutsu or Greco or Cornish wrestlers, whatever art it was they practiced – yes they took part in contests under different rulesets such as Catch, Greco, Cornish, Jujutsu etc., they still declared their ‘base’ art as their identifier – to say something is just a set of rules or say something not codified, etc., really doesn’t seem to sit well with the overwhelming majority of historical evidence. 

Lancashire wrestling, Catch as Catch Can, was a distinct style of wrestling, as were others in the same way Judo was distinct, even Jujutsu with multiple ryu-ha with different philosophies and names for techniques was still identifiable as Jujutsu (although historically other terms such as Yawara, etc., were used). There were arts that contained varieties of movements, that taught in specific ways, with holds, ways of teaching, etc. When matches occurred they were fought under a set of rules or articles of agreement for a particular match (and it didn’t vary as widely as is put out in the mainstream to support their points mostly around weight, falls, handicaps, etc., there is a remarkable similarity generally).

So to say all grappling arts are the same is to denigrate the history and characteristic of each.

Published by Raul Ramirez, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Physician, Catch Wrestler, Kickboxer, Vegan, Progressive

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