Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling is the father of American Folkstyle Wrestling and Olympic Freestyle Wrestling. It is also considered the ancestor of modern Professional Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts competitions.
In old Lancashire English “Catch-as-Catch-can” was translated to “catch anything you can” – meaning “any submissions hold”.
Over the centuries, from the 1490’s to the 1900’s the techniques were developed and refined.
Through the British Navy, young men were exposed to many forms of grappling around the world. They brought these techniques back to England, adding them to the already expanding and dangerous arsenal of Catch Wrestling submissions.
Its dominance in matches against other wrestling styles gained world-wide notoriety around the mid 1800’s. During the same time it found its way to North America.
In the late 1800’s and early to mid 1900’s as part of local carnivals, catch wrestlers would take on all challengers as part of the “athletic show” where locals could stand a chance to win cash if they could pin or submit the carnivals wrestler.
The catch wrestler had to prepare for the worst case scenario with the unknown opponent stepping into the ring on a regular basis, so the need for quick and aggressive submissions were a necessity. Submission wins were preferred so there would be no chance for a challenger to argue if the match was stopped prematurely. Often a challenger would argue with a referee over weather or not he was pinned, but a submission was always clear and decisive.
Conditioning was also a major weapon for a catch wrestler, who would sometimes have to wrestle for several hours before winning a match.
The rules of the early matches were determined by the players themselves and would usually change from city to city (just like MMA matches do from various promoters), negotiations could take forever. Often times there were no time limits at all, with the winner having the best of 3 falls. Holds and locks could be taken anywhere on the body and brutal throws were completely legal in the Lancashire style of catch wrestling.
There are no points for position in catch wrestling, the only ways to win a match are to pin or submit your opponent using one of the many fast and aggressive hooks (or submissions). Taping out, yelling “enough” or rolling to ones back were considered a sign of defeat. Generally chokes were not permitted unless the match was agreed upon as being an ”all in” contest or “no holds barred”.
The term no holds barred was originally used to describe the wrestling method prevalent in catch wrestling tournaments during the late 19th century wherein no wrestling holds were banned from the competition, regardless of how dangerous they might be.
In the late 19th century, catch wrestling made its way to North America and spread like wild fire. The North Americans already had a brutal rough and tumble style of fighting often referred to as “brawling” or “gouging”, where grappling, strangling, limb twisting, head butting, punching, kicking, biting and even eye gouging were legal.
Somehow as touring catch wrestlers passed through competing against the American brawlers the two styles merged giving birth to the more aggressive “North American Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling,” one of the most lethal fighting arts the world has ever known.
The Old School Catch Wrestling Association is dedicated to preserve the traditional art and concepts of Catch As Catch Can Wrestling as taught by Coach Billy Robinson.
The Organization is led by Head Coach John Potenza, one of only 7 people ever promoted to Assistant Coach by Billy Robinson, as well as Coach Sandra Potenza and assistant coaches John Potenza Jr and Anthony Potenza, who have all trained directly with Coach Billy Robinson.
The goal of the Organization is to spread the art of Catch Wrestling worldwide with the intent to build a solid, reputable Catch Wrestling community that can bring catch wrestling back into the mainstream again.