Catch Wrestling is a classical hybrid grappling style that was developed in Britain circa 1870 by J. G. Chambers, then later refined and popularised by the wrestlers of travelling funfairs who developed their own submission holds, or “hooks”, into their wrestling to increase their effectiveness against their opponents. The training of some modern submission wrestlers, professional wrestlers and mixed martial artists is founded in catch wrestling.
The most famous ambassador of catch wrestling today is UFC fighter Josh Barnett. At Metamoris 4, Barnett did what no man had done until then, he submitted BJJ black belt Dean Lister with a choke from side control. Lister hadn’t been finished in the past 17 years. It was a big victory for Catch Wrestling.
So why is Catch Wrestling nowhere near as popular as Jiu-Jitsu?
Catch Wrestler John Strickland, for Catchwrestlingalliance listed the reasons why this is.
1.Nobody seems to know what actual Catch Wrestling is. They seem to think it’s amateur wrestling mixed with other arts. Basically creating a self made system and applying a name that’s not appropriate. (Where there’s a student there was a teacher and you can follow that evidence rather easily. Personally I don’t care who that upsets. This alone killed the comeback before it could even start.)
2. Legit catch practitioners lack an association of checks and balances. (You don’t claim a Blackbelt of any rank in JJ if it’s not true. Those who have are normally called out.)
3. There’s enough legit coaches in the world for this art to spread correctly but many start coaching way too soon and don’t even fully known the system in a competitive sense yet much less of making someone else legit.
4. Without structure there’s random chaos.
5. Having clubs and affiliates is a good thing as long as the top has a minimum of ten years training.
6. Basically as above , Catch is assumed to be ( anyone can be whoever they wish) system and thus allowing anyone to teach coach etc. It’s been a way for frauds to easily enter and idiots to follow. I was an idiot but with factual evidence found legit coaching.
7. There were far too few old timers ( experts) left when the style regained popularity. Those handful of people can’t replace thousands of Blackbelt like in JJ.
8. JJ got the early start with the Vale Tudo.
9. Ive seen some today claim Hulk Hogan as a catch guy. I’m serious and that’s sad. It’s like saying you took a class in biology and are now a doctor.
10. The early figures in the modern era turned out to be fakes and liars. Just call it submission grappling and that’s fine but their lying gave the style a very bad image. In fact I’m skeptical on most claims today. Legit coaches will produce legit players who should fairly easily walk through the scammers.
And if this hurts feelings I don’t care.
In this interesting video, a British Catch Wrestler shares his thoughts about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He had never trained in the Gi before…
I’ve been training in Catch Wrestling for some years, due to the lack of training opportunities, and a bit of fortuitous good fortune I have now started training in BJJ as well.
This is my thoughts on the difference.
If you are interested in learning more about Catch Wrestling, specifically as it pertains to competition grappling, you should check out Neil Melanson. If you haven’t heard of Neil Melanson you’ve probably heard of the various champions he’s coached (Blackzilians team and Extreme Couture)
Neil learned his skills from the Hayastan Grappling system, developed by Gokor Chivechyan and Gene LeBell. He is considered one of the foremost experts on Catch Wrestling. For more information about Neil’s impressive grappling style, pick up his DVD set in which he covers some of his coveted techniques.