Is Catch Wrestling A Legit Grappling Art?

Is catch wrestling legit?

If you are involved in the world of grappling you might have heard someone mention catch wrestling. After all, even people in the BJJ community are starting to incorporate catch wrestling into their game. It is a grappling art that certainly seems to be picking up steam at the moment.  But is the hype justified? Is catch wrestling a legit grappling art?

Catch wrestling is certainly a legit grappling art. In fact, it is the parent grappling art to many of the wrestling styles we practice today including folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. Unlike these styles, however, catch wrestling has a large number of submissions as well.

Not only is catch wrestling legit wrestling style, but it is also a very round well rounded grappling art in general. Not only does it have the takedowns and pins of wrestling, but it also incorporates submissions. To win in a classic catch as catch can match you either have to pin or submit your opponent.

A Brief History Of Catch Wrestling

Though it’s hard to pinpoint when catch wrestling truly began, most would agree that it was popularized and brought to the world by John Graham Chambers around 1871. Of course, there were people practicing catch wrestling before this. That said, it is hard to truly know when it started because it is a hybrid grappling art that has evolved over the years.

It was mostly influenced by other English, Irish, and even Indian wrestling styles. Catch wrestlers were mostly made up of rough and tough blue-collar workers. People would host wrestling challenges after work at the pubs or worksites of coal mines and logging camps in England.

There was already some wrestling going on in England at the time such as Lancashire wrestling and Irish collar and elbow wrestling. However, the English navy would also bring back techniques they would learn from traveling around the world. Catch wrestling become popular amongst this crowd quickly.

It was a rough and brutal grappling art where pretty substantial injuries were not uncommon. The goal of catch wrestling was simple, either submit or pin your opponent. Catch wrestling was then further popularized in the Americas through carnivals and festivals.

People would win money or prizes if they could beat one of the carnival wrestlers. After many of the contestants would debate getting properly pinned, these wrestlers started to rely much more on submissions. Because of this catch wrestlers became experts at quickly submitting their opponents.

Catch Wrestling As A Sport

After this, many people were trying to bring catch wrestling into the sports world. Catch wrestling was even part of the Olympics at one time. However, it was far too brutal for most of the world to accept. So they modified the rules, added points, and took out the submissions. This helped give birth to both freestyle and folkstyle wrestling.

That said, there are still some places that you can find catch wrestling practiced as a sport. Unfortunately, however, this is very hard to come by. Most likely there is not going to be any catch wrestling schools or competitions where you live. If there are consider yourself lucky.

Thankfully, however, catch wrestling is starting to grow in popularity again. I think this is partially due to the growth of no-gi submission grappling. Today you have catch wrestlers such as Josh Barnett winning major grappling tournaments using catch wrestling.

Also with the popularity of leg locks, many people are starting to turn to other styles to learn certain techniques. Heel hooks and neck cranks have been part of catch wrestling techniques since it started.

Why Catch Wrestling Is A Legit And Well Rounded Grappling Art

One of the things that is great about catch wrestling is that it is very well-rounded. Though some may argue that it does not have quite the same level of groundwork as BJJ, you can’t say it has any major holes. Well, I guess the one area of weakness is fighting off of your back.

Playing guard is not something you will find in catch wrestling as you would in BJJ. This is due to the nature of the catch wrestling ruleset. Since you do not want to get pinned, you never want to go to your back. Outside of grappling off of your back, however, catch wrestling is a very legit and well-rounded grappling art.

In many ways, it is the middle ground between BJJ and sport wrestling. Both BJJ players and wrestlers could learn a lot about grappling from catch wrestling. For example, if a BJJ player was to learn catch wrestling, they would learn the stand-up skills of wrestlers. This would make it much easier for them to deal with high-level wrestlers when competing.

On the other hand, catch wrestling has something that folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco roman wrestling lack. That is of course a good submission game. If wrestlers learned how to deal with submissions from an early age they would be more equipped to deal with BJJ players.

Catch Wrestling Has Legit Submissions

Like BJJ, catch wrestling has a good amount of submissions. In fact, many submissions found in BJJ were part of catch wrestling before BJJ came to be. Of course, I’m sure that many ancient arts had some of these same submissions before catch wrestling was a thing as well.

For the most part, however,  catch wrestling nowadays typically has a different approach to submissions than BJJ. One thing you will hear very commonly in BJJ is position before submission. Catch wrestling on the other hand is much more aggressive. You are to catch a limb and go for the submission quickly. Hints the name catch as catch can.

Though chokes are part of the history of catch wrestling, they are not as commonly practiced in catch wrestling today. That is not to say that many catch wrestlers are not up to date when it comes to strangleholds.

But what is more common in catch wrestling are submissions such as neck cranks, joint locks, heel hooks, and other leg locks. Many of these submissions are not only effective but are very painful.

That said, if you try some of these submissions in BJJ class then you might lose some friends. Many of the submissions found in catch wrestling are also not allowed in many BJJ competitions.

How To Learn Catch As Catch Can Wrestling

The biggest problem with catch wrestling is not how effective it is as a grappling art. Instead, the main problem is the ability to find a good gym with qualified instructors. Unlike BJJ, there is not a catch wrestling gym around every corner of our cities.

Even many major US cities lack even one qualified catch wrestling gym. This does not however mean you cannot learn catch wrestling techniques at all. There are thankfully some great instructional and online classes for catch wrestling.

Of course, this cannot replace learning firsthand from an experienced catch wrestler but it is likely your only choice. Here are some good online resources and instructionals if you want to learn legit catch wrestling.

Probably the best resource online to learn catch wrestling is  It contains a ton of instructionals on catch wrestling. This would be my go-to resource if you really want to dive into catch wrestling. 

The Catch Wrestling Formula By Neil Melanson

Neil Melanson is one of the best teachers of catch wrestling in the world. He is the head coach of the Blackzillians and has coached some of the greatest grapplers and MMA fighters in the world. This would include Randy Couture, Dominic Cruz, and Michael Chandler.

This instructional is great for all different kinds of grapplers and even MMA fighters. What Neil Teaches can help you have an advantage over your BJJ training partners. This is because he didn’t learn grappling from BJJ fighters. So he teaches some techniques that will catch your BJJ classmates off guard. No pun intended.

Check Out The Current Price Here! 

Catch Wrestling Submissions By Jake Shannon

Jake Shannon is a great Catch wrestling teacher and is also the founder of This instructional is a great way of getting started in learning some of the most effective catch wrestling submissions. He goes over many of the best and most effective catch wrestling submissions including toe holds, neck cranks, cradle chokes, leg locks, and much more.

Check It Out Here! 

Catch Wrestling Takedowns By Jake Shannon

Last but not least is Catch Wrestling Takedowns. When it comes to catch wrestling, many grapplers want to learn the brutal submissions, and for good reason. However, catch wrestling also has amazing takedowns as well. Whether your goal is to learn catch wrestling or simply become an all-around better grappler, this instructional is amazing.

In Summary

Yes, catch wrestling is a legit and well-rounded grappling art. Just about every grappler could learn something from catch wrestling. Of course, since catch wrestling has influenced so much of what we know today, you probably already have learned something without even knowing it.

That said if you want to learn how to incorporate catch wrestling into your game, check your area to see if there is a catch wrestling instructor near you. Most likely there won’t be, but that does not mean you can’t learn some techniques. The next best option is to check out some of the online catch wrestling resources and instructionals.

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