Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wrestling for beginners

In a comment, Will says:

"So tell me about wrestling. AFAIK only teenagers and very young men do it. Is that just muscle soreness, or actual bruises? Since rugby exists, I have to ask."

Thanks for asking!I realized that several of the people who read my blog may have virtually no idea what I'm talking about when I talk about wrestling. (By the way, I suspect that I would LOVE rugby if we played it over here.)

First, I must make absolutely, totally, completely, incontrovertably, and inescapably clear (feel free to insert any other adverbs along those lines, if you'd like) that the wrestling I enjoy has no connection whatsoever to oversized, juiced-up, sparkly spandex-wearing, long-haired bad actors putting on a show. I refuse to have anything to do with the WWF, the WWE, or any other abominable organization with an acronymn beginning in "WW." (The time I got asked to try out a pro group is a story for another time -- a time far, far away, probably.) Although some real wrestlers do end up going into that as an occupation in show business, it is not real wrestling.

Wrestling is distinguished from grappling in that there are no "submission" moves. You can't choke an opponent out, and you can't work limbs against the joint. There are a variety of rules to force you to control your opponent rather than injure him. It doesn't mean that wrestling never hurts, or that people never get hurt, but it keeps it a lot safer, especially on a high school and college level.

With that out of the way, there are three different styles of wrestling practiced in the U.S. The style used in high school and college is called folkstyle. It is really practiced nowhere else in the world, and not much by anyone out of college (there's your teens and young men, Will). The focus of folkstyle is on control -- controlling your opponent with the ultimate intent of pinning him. The rules and scoring are designed to emphasize constant aggression by both men, with a minimum of potential injury. You will probably never meet a person in better physical shape than a competitive NCAA division I wrestler from a top school.

There are also two styles of international wrestling (they appear in the Olympics) that are fairly common in the U.S. The focus of these two styles is on exposing your opponent's back to the mat (with the best way of doing it being to pin him, of course.) The first of these is freestyle. In freestyle, you can attack your opponent in virtually in way you can imagine, involving grappling (no real striking, of course). You can throw him, trip him, grab his legs or feet -- do whatever it takes to bring him to the mat. When two freestyle wrestlers are on their feet, it looks an awful lot like folkstyle -- basically, the same attacks are used, although the scoring is different. The most common attacks are leg takedowns -- grabbing one or both of the opponent's legs to bring him to the mat. It's fast-moving and very tactical, with an emphasis on speed and agility.

The final style (although the least popular here in the U.S.) is Greco-Roman wrestling. This is my favorite, though I train a little in all of the styles. In Greco-Roman, you can only grab your opponent above the waist. This means no leg attacks, and no leg defenses. Otherwise, the scoring is very similar to freestyle. This restriction means that you see the most big throws in Greco-Roman wrestling -- this is the land of the big back arch suplexes. (Suplex, incidentally, is pronounced Su-play, for those whose only exposure to wrestling comes from that mindnumbing "sports entertainment.") Greco (as it is called for short) tends to focus on power and strategy, finding small advantages and pushing them. Thus, it suits itself well to my physique and mentality.

Now for some tidbits of trivia. In the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), men with a background in wrestling (particularly NCAA folkstyle, I gather) ended up winning more bouts in the early years than the practicioners of any other martial art (including Jiu-Jitsu, Kung-fu, Muy-Thai, and American kickboxing.) Of course, with the real development of shoot-fighting, an integrated fighting style that has borrowed from several of the others, all of the original fighting styles have slowly been eclipsed. My thinking is that there are two main reasons for the early dominance of wrestlers. First, wrestling emphasizes control rather than injury. But if you can control your opponent, you can eventually subdue him. Joints are weak, and chokes are easy, if your opponent is under your control. Second, wrestling involves conditioning like no other sport I've ever played (and I've played just about all the major ones). A wrestling match is the longest, most intense six or seven minutes of a person's life. When I messed around with grappling, kickboxing, and boxing, they were all way easier in terms of whole body fitness -- nowhere near as demanding. The wrestlers were often still going strong when everyone else was ready to collapse. This is one of the reasons why I stick with wrestling. I only have a limited amount of time to exercise, and this is the most intense workout I've ever found. On my college team, we had several guys who came and went from the Marines officer's program. Physically speaking, our college wrestling practices were harder than just about anything they faced in bootcamp or OCS. I took a kid in our church to wrestling practice for the first time last week. He is an avid athlete, easily capable of running for miles and doing sprints until any sane person would drop. He plays basketball, and plays football very seriously, hoping to pick up a college scholarship in a few years. After one of the easiest wrestling practices I've ever seen, he staggered out, sick to his stomach, and saying that it was the hardest workout he'd ever done. And he can't wait to go back this week.

As far as youth and aching goes, it is usually young guys that do this. Not exclusively, though. My training partner for last year's Empire State Games (he placed second in his weight, and I placed 6th in mine) was in his mid thirties. He retired, but more because of nagging back and neck injuries than anything else. Another man retired at those games -- at the age of 62. My college wrestling coaches, in their fifties, still occasionally competed at tournaments in the master's age bracket (sometimes against men twenty years younger) and won handily (of course, they were both olympians in their youth).

When I come home from a tough wrestling practice, I'll be winded and exhausted in every possible cardiovascular way. My muscles will be burned out, sometimes to the point that it's hard to lift a drink to my mouth. My arms and ribs will have bruises and marks all over them. Minor bumbs and contusions aren't at all rare around my face and head. When you're going hard with another person who weighs what you do and is going just as hard, you get banged up. Part of the game. But for all that, I've never been seriously injured -- no broken bones or bad dislocations (I hurt myself worse fishing, actually) -- and likely never will be. Part of that is just knowing your environment and who is around you. But a bigger part of it is just good body awareness and knowing how to protect yourself. You can eliminate almost all arm and shoulder injuries just by keeping your elbows clamped to your sides (and in Greco, that's a good way to avoid 60% of the takedowns, too.) You can elminate almost all knee and leg injuries by never locking your knees, and keeping them pointed in the direction of motion. And you can cut almost all the others by knowing when to fight a move, and when to just go with it.

And the end result of all that banging and and slamming and wheezing? Well, I never get winded on a few flights of stairs. I can eat whatever I want in whatever quantities I want without really gaining weight. I can still fit into the jeans I wore at 16 (even though I've put on 20 pounds without growing an inch, they went in the right places). The kids who know me do what I tell them without any trouble. And that college kid at the Empire State Games who just saw a quiet, skinny guy in glasses got quite a surprise.

From a church perspective, it puts me in contact with the community and gives me opportunity to witness. From my personal perspective, it keeps me in shape, and it can be just plain fun.

This is already terribly long, but I'll insert it anyhow; this just in, it looks like my alma mater, Pensacola Christian College, just won third at the NCWA national tournament; they won the southeast conference, and the head coach, Jim Hazewinkel, was named coach of the year for the southeast. Woohoo! Go Eagles wrestling.


At 6:51 PM, Blogger gfhkjfgk said...

I was googling coach haze when i stumbled across your blog. your name sounds so familiar. what years did you wrestle? my name is duane i managed for haze from 95 -99. wish i could put a face, but those were years long gone now. good to hear you are still wrestling. keep up your service for the Lord.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker