The Historical Significance of Catch-can Wrestling in Lancashire

Catch-can wrestling refers to a basic wrestling style that allows all tactics and holds in ground and upright wrestling. The rules forbid actions injuring an opponent such as kicking, strangling, hitting, and gouging. The main objective is to compel the opponent such that both shoulders touch the ground. This was popularly known as the Lancashire style of wrestling in England. It gained popularity as the Catch-can wrestling form in Great Britain and the United States. However, after slight modifications, it was introduced into the Olympics and International competition in the name of Freestyle wrestling.

How it Started

Earlier there was no television, computers, video games and other distractions for the ironworkers and mines. Some tough local guys would wrestle after a hard day’s work for recreation. Often these men fought for small bets or just for fun.

Catch-can wresting is the father of American Folkstyle wrestling, and now the Olympic Freestyle Wrestling is the ancestor of modern professional wrestling. Catch-As-Catch-Can was initially called “catch me if you can.” This originated hundreds of years ago in Lancashire, England and was refined during the British Empire. The British Navy exposed young men to many grappling forms during their duty and brought these techniques to England, thereby adding more to the already expanding Catch Wrestling arsenal.

Catch-can Wrestling match

Conditioning was a significant weapon for a catch wrestler, and this would take hours to win a game. The early match rules were determined by the players and these rules changed with each city. Generally, there were no time limits. It required the winner to have the best of 3 falls. Locks and holds were allowed to be exerted on the body anywhere, and the brutal throws were considered legal in Catch Wrestling in the Lancashire style.

No points were given for any position in Catch Wrestling. Thus, the only way to win a match was to pin or submit to your opponent using fast and aggressive hooks.  Yelling enough, Taping out or rolling to ones back was regarded as defeat signs. Generally, chokes were not allowed unless the match was an ‘all in’ or ‘no holds barred’ contest. The term ‘no holds barred’ described the method of wrestling prevalent in the tournaments of Catch Wrestling during the late 19th century. This was the time no wrestling holds were disqualified from the competition, despite how dangerous it may be. By the 19th century,  the North Americans came up with a rough and brutal style of fighting known as ‘gouging or brawling.’ This form allowed strangling, grappling, head butting, limb twisting, biting, kicking, and eye gouging as legal moves.  These were the two styles that merged and gave birth to the North American Catch-Can Wrestling that is the most lethal of the fighting art forms.

As in all other sports and styles, Catch-Can Wrestling also underwent several changes too. Fortunately, after many years, the coaches and competitors have made their way to recognize Catch Wrestling. Today, the sport is finally getting its deserved respect and is using its own style to capture the mainstream audiences.