Folk Wrestling and
non-Folk Wrestling

I should admit: I don’t know what “ folk wrestling ” is, because I have very hard time to find out what is “non-folk wrestling”.

While Wikipedia article makes difference between “folk wrestling” and “ethnic combat no longer considered folk wrestling” based on the rules formalization and non-ethnic participation, I’m looking from a different perspective: is style core elements and rules grow up from informal unregulated who-is-stronger quest, or they are result of deliberate design.

I know only one “non-folk wrestling” style – Greek-Roman Olympic Wrestling (witch at different times and places was also named “French”, “Circus”, and “Classic”). All other styles mentioned on this site are “folk wrestling”.

Well, if only one style is “non-folk” let see what makes it different.

All styles of grappling / wrestling can be divided to number of categories (with some simplification; names listed as examples and mostly for the styles that not referenced elsewhere on this site):

1. By use of clothing:

 Jacket wrestling: outer ware worn and can or should be grabbed             - Judo , Breton wrestling, Icelandic Glima, Georgian Chidaoba,             Kuresh, etc.

  Belt wrestling : special belt worn and can or should be grabbed –              Sumo , Russian belt wrestling, etc.

 No-clothing wrestling: no clothing permitted to be grabbed –             Olympic Greek-Roman wrestling, Olympic Freestyle wrestling,             etc.

2. By fighting positions:

 In standing only (touching the ground by anything, but feet – is             loosing the fight): Sumo , Georgian Chidaoba, Turkish wrestling,             etc.

 In standing and ground till submission: Judo (including BJJ ),             Olympic Greek-Roman wrestling, Olympic Freestyle Wrestling,             etc.

3. By permitted hold:

 Upper body only: Georgian Chidaoba, Icelandic Glima, Olympic             Greek-Roman wrestling, etc.

 Lower body holds permitted (free-style): Judo , Turkish wrestling,             Freestyle Wrestling, etc.

Among all those combinations the Olympic Greek-Roman wrestling is standing apart as the only standing-and-ground submission style with holds limited to upper body only. This is the result of explicit deliberate wrestling style design to emphasize moral sport values witch happened in mid-19th century France in the process of establishing modern sport movement (and has nothing to do with actual accent Hellenic wrestling style ).

Non-Japanese jacket and belt wrestling styles contributed a lot to technical and tactical arsenal of the modern Judo . With global domination of Olympic Judo many jacket folk wrestling fights looks like ethnically modified Judo since many participants will practice some style of sport Judo as their primary style anyway.

As for Judo itself – as it came out of traditional Japanese jujutsu , with modernization by Dr. Kano that added universal humanitarian values, and been second most practiced sport in the World (you can’t beat soccer!), it is a true Folk Martial Art of the Planet Earth.


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