Catch Wrestling

In this post, we will be focusing on Catch Wrestling, some of the submissions and techniques of Catch wrestling, and answer the question: Is it good for MMA?

Table of Contents

catch wrestling fight

What Is Catch Wrestling?

Catch wrestling (catch-as-catch-can) is a grappling style that uses submission holds and pins. Catch wrestlers wear street clothes, no gi’s or masks like you see in many mixed martial arts fights.

American catch wrestler Karl Gotch once said, “The essence of fighting without fighting.” That is how he described what Catch-Wrestling was all about.

Catch Wrestling History

Catch Wrestling was popular in America and Europe until the 1950s when college wrestling became the dominant grappling style.

In Japan, Catch Wrestling gained a cult following due to its similarities with Jiu-Jitsu, but after Royce Gracie’s domination in UFC 1, it quickly died out.

In 1993, Funaki organized a pro-wrestling style event that included submissions and pins, but it was unique in that they would fight for real. This would inspire the birth of Pancrase – one of the first MMA organizations.

Other grappling styles like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Judo couldn’t compete with catch wrestling and Funaki and Shamrock quickly dominated over Royce Gracie and became one of the most popular organizations in Japan.

Catch Wrestling was also known as “the killer style” because of all the damage it did to its opponents, who often had to be hospitalized after their matches in Pancrase.

There were even accusations that Funaki and Shamrock would deliberately injure their opponents during training, including breaking bones and concussions.

Catch Wrestling’s legend was further enhanced by pro-wrestling, where catch wrestling holds were used as finishers. For example; the Tombstone Piledriver (a move invented by Karl Gotch) is an extremely popular finisher in pro wrestling to this day.

How Does Catch Wrestling Work?

Catch Wrestling is all about submissions and pins. While it does feature some throws and takedowns, they aren’t nearly as important to the Catch wrestler.

It is a style of fighting that was taught by traveling carnivals in Europe and America in the early 20th century and eventually made its way over to Japan where it became the second biggest combat sport in Japan for a while.

Catch Wrestling is an extremely effective style, because it doesn’t rely much on strength or speed and instead focuses much more on technique and knowledge of how to finish holds, whether that be with submissions or pins.

This means that the person who knows the most about Catch-Wrestling will likely be able to dominate the match.

Catch Wrestling isn’t practiced nearly as much in America anymore and is instead mainly practiced in Japan by pro-wrestlers like the Great Muta, Hiroshi Hase, and Yuji Nagata.

Many MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett who were raised in catch wrestling often credit it for their success.

What Makes Catch Wrestling Different?

Unlike other types of wrestling, catch wrestling does not use a points system. Instead, the goal is to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a count of three. This makes catch wrestling a very intense and interactive sport.

In addition, catch wrestlers are allowed to use a variety of submission holds, making the sport particularly versatile. Catch wrestling is also unique in that it does not have weight classes.

This means that wrestlers of all sizes can compete against each other, providing an even playing field.

As a result, catch wrestling is a very exciting and challenging sport that provides fighters with an opportunity to test their skills against opponents of all sizes and styles.

Catch Wrestling Schools

In America, there are currently only a few catch wrestling schools that teach the style. In Chicago, you can find James Blears’ School of Catch Wrestling which has been in business for over 20 years.

Shane Shamrock is an active competitor and teacher of the grappling martial art and does seminars around the world with his former coach “Judo” Gene Lebell.

MMA fighters who trained in catch wrestling include Josh Barnett, Ken Shamrock, and Karl Gotch protégé Masakatsu Funaki – the founder of Pancrase (which later became the UFC’s biggest rival). Funaki actually competed in MMA for years before the UFC was even created.

Catch Wrestling Submissions

Catch-Wrestling, like grappling in general uses a wide variety of submissions. In the early days, Catch wrestlers either came from a boxing or wrestling background and therefore used mostly Boxing or Wrestling type submissions.

However, when it arrived in Japan, many Judo and Jiu-Jitsu fighters soon adapted to match their style and began defeating Catch Wrestlers with superior ground grappling.

Consequently, the Catch Wrestlers in Japan started to focus on submissions that were more unique and common only in Catch Wrestling to increase their chances of winning against Jiu-Jitsu fighters; resulting in many staples of modern submission grappling like the Kimura (which was popularized by Masahiko Kimura’s famous submission of Helio Gracie) and the Rear Naked Choke.

Catch Wrestling Techniques

However, there are some submissions that are unique to Catch Wrestling – including the Sode Guruma Jime (sleeve choke), Okuri Eri Jime (sliding lapel choke), Morote-Jime (two-handed choke), Kata Guruma (shoulder wheel), full Nelson, body scissors, head scissors, figure-four leg lock, half nelson.

Catch Wrestling Rules

Since Catch Wrestling is a martial art and not a sport, different schools and organizations had different binding rules. Some allowed punching, eye-gouging, hair-pulling, or even groin strikes; while others didn’t.

In Pancrase, they always fought without shoes and forbid blows to the head (which is why Ken Shamrock’s early Pancrase fights are so strange since he thought it was a kickboxing organization).

Catch Wrestling Rules Are:

No punches to head

No eye-gouging

Offensively grabbing the ropes results in disqualification.

Defensively, wrestlers are allowed to use the ropes as a defensive measure as long as they do not voluntarily submit or lose consciousness by hanging on said ropes.

Techniques from standing position: Full Nelson, body scissors, head scissors, figure-four leg lock, half nelson.

Techniques from ground position: Side headlock, stranglehold, and levers, crucifix, various neck locks including rear-naked choke, arm-bars.

In modern catch wrestling organizations such as ICWA, all the above rules are still used along with other rules that include pin breaks below knees and a rule stating that any submission hold can be used whenever one wrestler is on top of another (such as in mount position).

Is Catch Wrestling Good for Self-defense?

Since it’s a grappling combat sport, self-defense is not its primary purpose. Catch Wrestling was designed to be used in an organized ring where the goal is to make your opponent give up or tap out against his will.

This can be done either by using pain to break his will (stranglehold, neck locks) or by using submission holds (chokes, armbars, leg locks). Although it could help in a self-defense situation, there are better options out there in order to improve self-defense skills.

Is Catch Wrestling Real or Fake?

The basics of catch wrestling, similar to amateur wrestling and unlike professional wrestling, are real and could help in a real fight, although, as a professional sport that provides entertainment, it’s pretty much fake, like pro wrestling.

Is Catch Wrestling Dead?

Catch wrestling popularity is decreasing, but some organizations are still active today. The rest of them are somewhere between dead and almost dead.

Since the popularity of mixed martial arts, many professional wrestlers have also used catch wrestling as a foundation to learn submission grappling for self-defense purposes or because they wanted to incorporate grappling into their matches better.

Is Catch Wrestling Dangerous?

Catch wrestling could be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Since it was developed for real fights, submissions could be used against you if your opponent knows how to apply them better than you do.

Knowing basic self-defense moves can help to keep yourself safe in such situations. But you should take into consideration that injuries happen during catch wrestling training or fights.

How to Learn Catch Wrestling?

In the beginning, you can start with books and videos just to make sure you’re into it and serious about it. Afterward, you can look for a catch wrestling school from the list mentioned earlier in this post.

There are many catch wrestling, real pro-wrestling, and submission grappling schools around the world. You can easily find a list of them. 

Is Catch Wrestling Effective?

Although catch wrestling is an old art that was developed for a real fight, it’s still effective if used correctly. It teaches how to use techniques by your opponent’s strengths against him.

This can be used in both grappling and striking styles, so this martial art is perfect for MMA fighters who want to have a well-rounded game.

Is Catch Wrestling Good for MMA?

Catch-wrestling submissions can also be applied to MMA. Many MMA fighters have used catch wrestling as a foundation for grappling and submission techniques.

This has been happening since the beginning of mixed martial arts, which proves that it’s an effective martial art either as a stand-alone or as a base.

Is Catch Wrestling a Martial Art?

Catch wrestling is more a combat sport and not a martial art, but it has been used both in MMA fights and in different disciplines such as submission grappling or real pro-wrestling.

Is Catch Wrestling Folkstyle?

Catch wrestling is not Folkstyle wrestling, and neither Greco-Roman nor Freestyle wrestling

Is Catch Wrestling in the Olympics?

No, it is not in the Olympics since it’s a professional and not an amateur sport. Catch wrestling was first introduced as a sport in May 1888 by Dan McLeod and John O’Brien.

Is Catch Wrestling Called Pro Wrestling?

People sometimes call catch wrestling “Pro Wrestling”. This is not accurate since professional wrestling is something else. Although professional wrestlers often use catch wrestling moves in the ring, it’s just acting. It is not real fighting.

Catch Wrestling Gear

Catch wrestling does not use any particular gear. But you could wear wrestling singlets, wrestling shoes, grappling spats, or boxing hand wraps for training.