Foot Ball, Kingston-upon-Thames, Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 24th, 1846

Foot Ball, Kingston-upon-Thames, Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 24th, 1846

Ten Giant Warriors

Ten Giant Warriors. Wood Carving of Angampora, the Wrestling-Based Traditional Martial Art of Sri Lanka. (Embekka Devalaya Temple, Sri Lanka)

Virtual LIVE Zoom Meeting on Traditional Sport and Games (TSG)

We will be hosting Virtual LIVE Zoom Meeting on Traditional Sport and Games (TSG). As Corona outbreak hugely impacts people social live around the World, we want to show some solidarity within TSG community, continue to collaborate, support each other, share our thoughts as we go through this Corona outbreak. We do understand that in last several weeks/months, everybody around the world has been so worried about their own life, scared and anxious. But we believe that as we go through this Corona outbreak, it is important to stay connected, encourage each other, share our thoughts, and keep TSG spirit alive since we are a STRONG community. During our meeting, we show some solidarity, advocacy, and spirit. As they reflect on their joyful moments in last several years, We will be discussing many personal and professional experience and achievements through TSG , as well discussion many topics and questions such as;
How does the outbreak impact TSG community in their countries?
What does it take to keep TSG spirit alive even though the corona outbreak?
How do they maintain positive energy to keep their community alive?
If any, How do they prepare their future event even though there may be some uncertainty in some part of World?
What are they are going to do differently if they host any TSG event?
Please join us to hear our distinguished panelists from around the World
Adem Kaya, Ast. Prof, Moderator, USA
SA Scott Wendel, President of US TSG, North America)
Hassane Fousseni Nadey, Benin (Africa),
Nawab Furqan Khan, President of TSG Pakistan (Asia)
Ana Claudia Collado, President of TSG, Mexico
Kazimierz Waluch, the Editor of, Poland (Europe)
Topic: World Traditional Sport and Games "Strong" Zoom LIVE Meeting
Time: Apr 14, 2020 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Ruslan C Pashayev - Ranggeln

Dear Friends,
I am happy to present the article on Ranggeln traditional style of wrestling from the 1908 book by Karl Adrian called "Salzburger Volksspiele Aufzüge und Tänze"

Beautiful pic and article in English to follow.
Source: "Picturesque Representations of the Dress and Manners of the Austrians: Illustrated in Fifty Coloured Engravings, with Descriptions". Author: William Alexander, 1814
Enjoy the read.

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Tyrol Wrestler


Devonshire Characters and Strange Events
by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924)
First published in 1908
Pages 514-528


WRESTLING was the favourite sport in former days in Devonshire and Cornwall.

Evelyn, in his Diary, speaks of Westcountrymen in London contesting in London against men of the North, and in all cases the former were the victors. And Ben Jonson, in his Bartholomew Fair, 1614, introduces a Western wrestler, who performed before the Lord Mayor of London.

If we may judge by As You Like It, wrestling in the Elizabethan period was a murderous sport. Charles, the wrestler, plays with an old man's three sons. "The eldest of the three wrestled with Charles—which Charles in a moment threw him, and broke three of his ribs, and there is little hope of life in him, so he served the second, and so the third." When Le Beau laments that Rosalind and Celia had not seen the sport, Touchstone wisely remarks, "Thus men grow wiser every day! It is the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies."

At Marytavy, in the churchyard, is the tombstone of John Hawkins, blacksmith, 1721:—

Here buried were some years before,
His two wives and five children more:
One Thomas named, whose fate was such
To lose his life by wrestling much.
Which may a warning be to all
How they into such pastimes fall.

There is a Cornish ballad of a wrestling match between Will Trefry and "Little Jan" that ends thus:—

Then with a desperate toss
Will showed the flying hoss,
And little Jan fell on the tan,
And never more he spake.
Oh! little Jan, alack!
The ladies say, O woe's the day
O little Jan, alack.

And it concludes with a verse stating that Little Jan was to have been married that day.

Of the "flying hoss" or "flying mare" more presently. The wrestling dress peculiar to the West Country consisted of breeches or trousers and a wrestling jacket, the only part of the dress by which a hold, or as it was technically called a hitch, could be got by the rules of the play. The jacket was short and loose, made of untearable linen stuff, and had short loose sleeves, reaching nearly to the wrist. Wrestlers wore nothing else, except worsted stockings, and in Devonshire shoes, soaked in bullock's blood and baked at a fire, making them hard as iron. Three men were appointed as sticklers to watch the players and act as umpires, and decide, in the case of a fall, whether it was fair back or not. For a fair back both shoulders and one hip must touch the ground at the same time, or both hips and one shoulder. Such a fall was called a Threepoint Fall.

The men having stepped into the ring, shook hands, and then separated, and the play began by trying for a hitch. This led to much dodging.

A player who gave his adversary a fall remained in the ring for the next antagonist, and when he had given two falls he was reckoned as a standard. Supposing there were twenty standards left in, the double play would begin by the sticklers matching them with each other, and ten would then be left for the treble play. The players would then be reduced to five, then to three, and finally the two best would be matched against one another.

The play in Devonshire and Cornwall was different in this, that in the former county there was kicking, but this was not allowed above the knee. In some cases skillibegs were worn in Devon, that is, haybands wound about the calves and shins as a protection. In the Cornish play there is hugging and heaving; in the Devonshire play, kicking and tripping. It might be thus defined: in Cornwall, the shoulders and arms were mainly relied on; in Devonshire, the legs.

A player, having got his hitch, would proceed to very close quarters, and taking his man round the body, not lower than the waist, would throw him over his shoulder, giving him the Flying Mare, and turning him over on his back when falling, give him the Back Fall.

Besides the Flying Mare, there was the Cross-buttock fall in shoulder play, the Back-heave, and others. In the leg play there were the Fore-lock, the Back-lock, Heaving-toe, Back-heel, and others. The Cornish player would, when he had secured his hitch, endeavour to drag his man in for the hug and the fling; whereas the Devonshire man would play for his hitch to keep him off, till he had disabled him.[1]

Sir Thomas Parkyns, about whom more in the sequel, thus describes the cast of the Flying Mare: "Take him by the right hand with your left, your palm being upwards as if you designed only to shake him by the hand in a friendly manner in the beginning, and twist it outwards, and lift it upwards to make way for your head, and put your head under his left armpit, and hold his head stiff backwards, to hold him out of his strength; then put your right arm up to the shoulder between his grainings, and let your hand appear behind, past his breech; but if you suspect they will cavil at that arm, as a breeching, lay your arm across his belly, and lift him up as high as your head, and in either hold, when so high, lean backwards and throw him over your head."

Sir Thomas insists that a good wrestler must be temperate. "Whoever would be a complete wrestler must avoid being overtaken in drink, which very much enervates, or, being in a passion at the sight of his adversary, or having received a fall, in such cases he is bereaved of his senses; not being master of himself is less of his art, but showeth too much play, or none at all, or either pulleth, kicketh, and ventureth beyond all reason and his judgment when himself."

Wrestling matches usually began at Whitsuntide, but were most in practice at the period between the hay and corn harvests, when the cereals were assuming a golden hue, and the orchards were bending under their burden of fruit. There was hardly a village in the West that did not offer a prize and enjoy the time-honoured spectacle of a game of wrestling. The prize was either a silver-plated belt or a gold-laced hat. The wearing of the latter was held to free the wearers from liability to be pressed for the Navy.

The wrestling ground was laid with tan. At Moreton Hampstead the games took place in the Sentry or Sanctuary field. At Sheepstor in the still well-preserved Bull-ring, and the spectators sat on the churchyard wall to watch the sport. At Liskeard, matches took place in the Ploy, or Play-field from Lady Day to Michaelmas.
In the kicking, usual in Devonshire play, the wrestler about to administer a kick had but one foot on the ground, and having an off-hitch was liable to be thrown by a quick player with a trip or a lock. The kick could be prevented by bending the knee so as to bring the heel up to the buttock, and projecting it, when the knee caught the administering player on the leg-bone above the knee with such force as to paralyse it for a while, and it has even been known to break it. This was entitled the stop.

Several of the Devonshire wrestlers became famous beyond the confines of the county; and matches between Devonians and Cornishmen were not uncommon; and the latter do not seem to have been at all afraid of the kick, for by closing on their antagonists for the hug, they could prevent them from kicking with toe or heel, at all events with full force.

Thorne was a man of Widdecombe-on-the-Moor, a man of splendid build and muscular development. He had made his name as a wrestler, when he was induced to join the Life Guards, and in the battle of Waterloo took part in the famous charge against the French cuirassiers; as he was cutting down his tenth victim a shot laid him low, at the age of twenty-three.

Then two young Devonian giants took the lead in the ring, Johnny Jordan and Flower, each six feet high and weighing a trifle over eighteen stone apiece. Jordan was a redoubted kicker, and the bravest wrestlers shrank from challenging him. On one occasion Flower and Jordan were opposed to one another, and after a struggle of seventeen minutes, Flower gave way.

In 1816, Flower was confronted with Polkinghorne, a St. Columb taverner, and the champion of Cornwall. The latter was too much for Flower, and he was thrown amidst enthusiastic cheering and hat-tossing and kerchief-waving of the Cornishmen.


Jackman, another Devonshire man, confronted Polkinghorne next day, and he was cast over the head of the Cornubian, describing the "flying mare." William Wreford, at the age of eighteen, achieved reputation by throwing Jordan over his head with such force that Jordan came down with a "crash similar to that produced by felling an oak tree." But Wreford met his match in a wrestle with "the little Elephant," James Stone. Simultaneously the men grappled each other; and although Wreford had the advantage at the outset, he was hurled into the air, and fell with such violence on his back that for a time he was incapacitated from taking part in a similar contest. Eventually the return match came off at Southmolton, and Stone was again victorious. Nevertheless Wreford remained a prominent figure in the ring, and threw Francis Olver, a Cornishman, although he came out of the contest with several of his ribs crushed by the deadly "hug." But a greater than Wreford and Jordan arose in the person of Abraham Cann. He was born in December, 1794, and was the son of Robert Cann, a farmer and maltster at Colebrook. His father had been a wrestler before him, and Abraham inherited the old man's skill, and learned by his experience, and soon defeated Jordan, Flower, Wreford, Simon Webber, and other redoubtable Devon champions. He was above the middle height as a man, with long legs, and was endowed with surprising strength of limb. He was a kicker. Abraham had a brother James, also a well-known wrestler, but he did not acquire the celebrity of Abraham. In his later years he was an under-gamekeeper, respected for his fearlessness when poachers were to the fore.

There were other mighty men in the ring, as Bawden the Mole-catcher, and Frost, of Aveton Gifford; but these were no match for Cann.

At Totnes, in 1825, Jordan had thrown a fine player, of the name of Huxtable, in one minute, and the liveliest interest was felt in a match that was to be played between him and Abraham Cann, who boasted that he could kick to rags the legs of his antagonist in "vive minutes."

When his turn arrived Cann awaited Jordan in the ring, upright, undaunted, with a smile of conscious superiority on his face. Jordan eyed the tall, athletic, and muscular form of Abraham, and withdrew without trying for a hitch. This caused lively disappointment, and loud cries of anger broke forth. But Jordan felt that he was not in good form at the time. Two days later he was roughly handled by a young Cornishman named Hook, and was too much injured to resume the contest.

On 21 September, 1826, at the Eagle Tavern, City Road, London, Cann contended without shoes for the first prize with James Warren of Redruth, and although the latter made a gallant struggle and Cann was at a disadvantage playing without his proper and accustomed weapons, the indurated boots, Abraham Cann came off the victor.

He now challenged Polkinghorne, the champion of Cornwall. James Polkinghorne was 6 ft. 2 in. high, weighed 320 lb., and had not wrestled for some years, but had carried on business as landlord of the "Red Lion" in St. Columb Major. Cann was but 5 ft. 8 1/2 in. high, and weighed 175 lb. This match was for £200 a side, for the best of three back-falls; and it took place on Tamar Green, Morice Town, Plymouth, on 23 October, 1826, in presence of 17,000 spectators. According to some accounts, Abraham on this occasion was allowed only one shoe. There had been much previous correspondence between the champions; Polkinghorne had postponed meeting Cann as long as was possible.

Finally a meeting was arranged, as said, on the 23rd October, 1826.

"Tamar Green, Devonport, was chosen for this purpose, and the West was alive with speculation when it was known that the backers meant business. On the evening before the contest the town was inundated, and the resources of its hotels and inns were taxed to the utmost. Truculent and redoubtable gladiators flocked to the scene—kickers from Dartmoor, the recruiting-ground of the Devonshire system, and bear-like huggers from the land of Tre, Pol, and Pen—a wonderful company of tried and stalwart experts. Ten thousand persons bought tickets at a premium for seats, and the hills around swarmed with spectators. The excitement was at the highest possible pitch, and overwhelming volumes of cheering relieved the tension as the rivals entered the ring—Polkinghorne in his stockings, and Cann with a monstrous pair of shoes whose toes had been baked into flints. As the men peeled for action such a shout ascended as awed the nerves of all present. Polkinghorne had been discounted as fat and unwieldy, but the Devonians were dismayed to find that, great as was his girth, his arms were longer, and his shoulders immensely powerful. Three stone lighter in weight, Cann displayed a more sinewy form, and his figure was knit for strength, and as statuesquely proportioned. His grip, like Polkinghorne's, was well known. No man had ever shaken it off when once he had clinched; and each enjoyed a reputation for presence of mind and resource in extremity beyond those of other masters of the art. The match was for the best of three back-falls, the men to catch what hold they could; and two experts from each county were selected as sticklers. The feeling was in favour of Cann at the outset, but it receded as the Cornishman impressed the multitude with his muscular superiority. Repeatedly shifting their positions, the combatants sought their favourite ’holts.' As soon as Cann caught his adversary by the collar after a contending display of shifty and evasive form, Polkinghorne released himself by a feint; and, amid 'terrible shouts from the Cornishmen,' he drove his foe to his knees.

"Nothing daunted, the Devonian accepted the Cornish hug, and the efforts of the rivals were superb. Cann depended on his science to save him; but Polkinghorne gathered his head under his arm, and lifting him from the ground, threw him clean over his shoulder, and planted him upon his back. 'The very earth groaned with the uproar that followed; the Cornishmen jumped by hundreds into the ring; there they embraced their champion till he begged to be released; and, amid cheers and execrations, the fall was announced to have complied with the conditions. Bets to the amount of hundreds of pounds were decided by this event.’

"Polkinghorne now went to work with caution, and Cann was conscious that he had an awkward customer to tackle. After heavy kicking and attempted hugging, the Cornishman tried once more to lift his opponent; but Cann caught his opponent's leg in his descent, and threw him to the ground first. In the ensuing rounds both men played for wind. Polkinghorne was the more distressed, his knees quite raw with punishment, and the betting veered in Cann's favour. Then the play changed, and Cann was apparently at the mercy of his foe, when he upset Polkinghorne's balance by a consummate effort, and threw him on his back by sheer strength—the first that the sticklers allowed him. Cann next kicked tremendously; but, although the Cornishman suffered severely, he remained 'dead game,' and twice saved himself by falling on his chest.

"Disputes now disturbed the umpires, and their number was reduced to two. In the eighth round Polkinghorne's strength began to fail, and a dispute was improvised which occasioned another hour's delay. With wind regained and strength revived, the tenth round was contested with absolute fury; and, taking kicking with fine contempt, Polkinghorne gripped Cann with leonine majesty, lifted him from the earthin his arms, turned him over his head, and dashed him to the ground with stunning force. As the Cornishman dropped on his knee the fall was disputed, and the turn was disallowed. Polkinghorne then left the ring amid a mighty clamour, and, by reason of his default, the stakes were awarded to Cann. The victor emerged from the terrific hugs of his opponent with a mass of bruises, which proved that kicking was only one degree more effective than hugging.

"A more unsatisfactory issue could hardly have been conceived, and the rival backers forthwith endeavoured to arrange another encounter. Polkinghorne refused to meet Cann, however, unless he discarded his shoes."

Various devices were attempted to bring them together again, but they failed. Each had a wholesome dread of the other.

But Cann went on as a mighty wrestler. He tried a fall with "Irish Gaffney." It ended in Cann throwing Gaffney over his back and dislocating his left shoulder, besides cutting his shins to pieces with his boots.

His next famous encounter was with Frost, a moorman of Aveton Gifford, and after a most desperate contest, Cann landed him on his back.[2]

There were other mighty men of the ring, such as a blind wrestler mentioned in the ballad of "Dick Simmins." In Cornwall wrestling continues, especially at S. Columb and S. Austell, but in Devon it is extinct: it was thought brutal to hack the shins, and after the hobnailed boot, or boot hardened in blood and at the fire, was discarded, it lost its interest.

Sir Thomas Parkyns has been quoted. He published a curious work entitled The Inn Play, or Cornish Hugg Wrestler, and died in 1741. He was an enthusiast for the noble science—the Cornish, and not the Devonshire mode—and would only take into his service men who were good wrestlers. His coachman was one who had shown him the Flying Mare.

Sir Thomas, by his will, left a guinea to be wrestled for at Bradmore, Nottinghamshire, every Midsummer Day, and had his monument carved for him during his lifetime, representing him in wrestling costume, sculptured in marble by his chaplain, prepared for either the Cornish Hug or the Flying Mare. On one side is a well-limbed figure lying above the scythe of Time, the sun rising and shining on him as a wrestler in the prime of life; on the other side is the same figure stretched in a coffin, with Time triumphant above him brandishing his scythe, and the sun setting. There are Latin verses appended, that may be thus translated:—

Here lies, O Time! the victim of thy hand,
The noblest wrestler on the British strand,
His nervous arm each bold opposer quell'd,
In feats of strength by none but thee excell'd,
Till, springing up, at the last trumpet's call,
He conquers thee, who will have conquer'd all.

At the time of the European war, it sometimes happened that a wrestling match was interrupted in an unpleasant manner to some of the parties by the appearance on the scene of the press-gang. There is a favourite song relative to Dick Simmins, published in Mr. Collier's memoir of Hicks of Bodmin. I will give it here:—

Come Vaither, Mother and Brothers all,
And Zistur too, I pray,
I'll tell ee a power o' the strangest thing's
As happen'd to me at say.
I'll tell ee a parcel o' the strangest things
About the winds and tide,
How by compass us steer'd, and o' naught was afear'd,
An' a thousand things beside.

'Tes true I lived i' ole Plymouth town,
My trade it were ostling,
Dick Simmins and I went to Maker Green
To turn at wrasteling.
The prize o' buckskin breeches a pair,
And ne'er the wuss for wear,
Dick and I us tried two vails apiece,
The blind man got his share.

Bevoor the play was o'er half way,
'Tes true upon my word,
There came a set o' press-gang chaps
Each armed wi' stick and sword.
Dick Simmins swore a dreadful oath
I didn't like to hear,
But when King ca'd blind man a fule,
That—darn't—I couldn't bear.

I went to t' chap wi' upcock'd hat,
"No odds where you may be,
But if thou thinks thyself a man
Come wi'out the ring wi' me."
So he did stand, his sword in hand,
I knocked it from his hand,
Then three or vour gurt toads came up
And knocked me down on t' land.

Along came one of Plymouth town,
Prentice to Uncle Cross,
Wot run away 'bout a bastard child,
A terrible lad he wos.
Said he, "Don't sarve the young man so,
'Tes an onmanly thing;
Pick up the lad, put him on board
That he may sarve the King."

They took me up by neck and heels,
They dra'ed me to the boat,
The master came 'longside of me
Wi', "Send the lubber afloat."
They took me up by neck and heels,
They dra'ed me to the say,
But Providence a-ordered it
I shuldn't be killed that way.

They picked me out, put me aboard
A ship then in the Sound,
The waves and winds did blow and roar,
I thought I shu'd be drown'd.
Then one called " Tack!" another "Ship!"
A third cried "Helm a lee!"
Lor' bless'y, I dun knaw Tack from Ship,
An' Helm to me's Chinee.

The Master ordered I aloft,
'Twas blawin' cruel hard,
And there was three or vour gurt chaps
A grizzlin' in the yard.
When down came mast and down came yard,
Then down came I likewise.
Lor' bless'y! if the church tower vaall'd,
'Twouldn't make half the noise.

Some vaall'd o'erboard, and some on deck,
Some had a thundrin' thump,
The Master ordered all hands up
For pumpin' at the pump.
Us pumped at the pump, my boys,
And no one dared to squeak,
The Master ordered all below
To stop a thunderin' leak.

When us had stoppéd up that leak
A French ship us spied comin',
The Master orders all to fight
And the drummer to be drummin'.
So when the French ship came 'longside,
A broadside us let flee,
Lor' bless'y! what for smoke and vire
Us couldn't smell nor see.
The Master wi' his cocked-up hat
He flourishéd his sword,
Wi' "Come and follow me, brave boys,
I warn't we'll try to board."
I vollowed he thro' thick and thin,
Tho' bless'y I culdn't see'n;
The gurt French chap was on to he
Wi' sword both long" and keen.

I rinn'd up to the Master's help,
I niver rinn'd no vaster,
I zed unto the gurt French chap,
"Now don't ee hurt the Master!"
Then "Wee, wee, wee, parlez vous Frenchee!"
He zed—I reck'n he cuss'd—
But "Darny," sez I, "if that's your game,
I reck'n I must kill ee fust."

The Master jumped 'bout the French ship
And tore down all her colours,
And us jumped 'bout the French ship, too,
A whoppin' them foreign fellers.
As for the chap as Master threat'n'd
I beat that Parley-vous,
From the niddick down his lanky back,
Till he squeaked out "Mortbleu!"

Now here's a lesson to volks ashore,
And sich as ostlers be,
Don't never say Die, and Tain't my trade,
But listen, and mark of me.
There's nobody knaws wot ee can do,
Till tried—now trust me well,
Why—us wos ostlers and ort beside,
Yet kicked the Frenchies to——Torpoint.

Carew gives us an account of the way in which wrestling was conducted in the West of England in the days of Charles I. "The beholders cast or form themselves into a ring, in the empty space whereof the two champions step forth, stripped into their dublets and hosen, and untrussed, that they may so the better command the use of their lymmes; and first, shaking hands, in token of friendship, they fall presently to the effects of anger; for each striveth how to take hold of the other with his best advantage, and to bear his adverse party downe; whereas, whosoever overthroweth his mate, in such sort, as that either his backe, or the one shoulder, and contrary heele do touch the ground, is accounted to give the fall. If he be only endangered, and makes a narrow escape, it is called a foyle."

He then adds: "This pastime also hath his laws, for instance; of taking hold above the girdle—wearing a girdle to take hold by—playing three pulls for trial of the mastery, the fall-giver to be exempted from playing again with the taker, but bound to answer his successor. Silver prizes for this and other activities, were wont to be carried about, by certain circumforanei, or set up at bride-ales, but time or their abuse hath now worn them out of use." Double play was when two who had flung the rest contested at the close for the prize.

If wrestling was declining in Carew's time, it certainly revived in vigour in the reign of Charles II, and continued till the beginning of the nineteenth century, when again it declined, and is now in Devon a thing of the past.

Blackmore has given an excellent description of a Devonshire wrestling match in his early novel of Clara Vaughan.

1. ↑ See W. F. Collier, " Wrestling," in the Cornish Magazine, Vol. I, 1898.
2. ↑ For a full account, most graphically written, and from which I have quoted, see Mr. Whitfeld's Plymouth and Devonport, in War and Peace, Plymouth, 1900; also the Sporting Magazine for 1826-7; the Annual Register, 1826.

A Winter Scene with Two Gentlemen Playing Golf

Hendrick Avercamp (Dutch, 1585 - 1634), A Winter Scene with Two Gentlemen Playing Golf

Iván Sánchez Monroy, Saving the Legacy: The Prehispanic Ballgame


Arturo Iván Sánchez Monroy
Archeologist from the National School of Anthropology and History from Mexico
Member of Mexican Federation of Traditional Sports and Games.

In recent years, the practice of a sport that has its origins more than 3000 years ago has caused interest in several groups of enthusiastic young people in Mexico; it is the ball game, today called Ulama.
Its main characteristic, which is at the same time its greatest attraction, is that it is played by hitting a rubber ball that ranges from 3 to 5 kg and in its most popular version, this hit is made exclusively with the hip (in the other two, people uses the forearm or a mallet) and some records such as ceramic figures found in the area of El Opeño, in the state of Nayarit, show that it was not an exclusive practice of men, but also women played it.

Brenda okadka

The beginnings of the Ulama date back, according to the most recent archaeological studies, to approximately 1650 BC, in the Paso de la Amada region in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There, archaeologists found the remains of what would be the first space built for their practice, the oldest court so far.
Another important discovery about the age of the game is the one made in 1988 in the Manatí region, in the state of Veracruz. There, along with some offerings, rubber balls were found with which the game is carried out, as well as other elements related to it. All this material was dated to 1100 BC, during the preclassic period of Mesoamerica.
The courts in which it was practiced had different shapes, since some have the shape of an "I", others the shape of a joined double "T"; on some occasions they were closed at all four ends while on others one or two of their edges were open. However, the most common pattern in them is the presence of a deck in the lower part, a slope with a variable inclination and height in the middle and another deck in the upper part.

IMG 20151219 154110

It was during the Mayan apogee in the classical period that different figures began to appear on the upper part of the slopes, such as bird heads, which serve as markers and which will continue to be appreciated until the epiclassic period in courts such as that of Xochicalco in the state of Morelos. These markers later gave way to the rings, sculptures that were placed in the middle of the slopes and in their highest part. Many of them were decorated with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures, various symbols and calendar dates, and a few were simply plain.

The largest court that is registered today is the one located in Chichen Itzá, in the state of Yucatán. Its measurements are 120 by 30 meters. In contrast, the smallest field is located in Cantona, in the state of Puebla and measures 14 by 6 meters.
This game is recorded as something more than a simple sport, but as a very important ritual since in the various cultures that inhabited the Mesoamerican region (made up of Mexico and part of Central America) it is part of their mythology.
An example of this is found in the Mayan culture, who developed in the south of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, because according to the Popol Vuh, the main book that tells their myths of origin, the sun and the moon are two brothers Hun Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué, who earned their place in the sky after defeating the gods of the Mayan underworld one by one in various ball game encounters.

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The Aztecs, correctly called Mexica, used it in different ways, either as part of a divinatory ritual dedicated to specific gods or ceremonies, in some occasions for recreational purposes and in some cases, as an alternative to avoid war (in those cases, the governor became one more player, making a greater effort because the game was inclined in favor of his cause), and it is precisely of this culture that we have more records, since the Spanish conquerors kept in their chronicles the record of all the activities they saw when they arrived in the new world, including the ball game.
It is from these writings that a few rules that applied to the game are known, such as the one that mentions that the game ends if any player managed to pass the hoop with the ball.
According to oral tradition, it is also from this culture that its current name comes from, since the Mexica called the game Tlachtli or Ulamaliztli; however, and over the years, this last name was gradually deformed and shortened to give way to the name by which it is known today: Ulama
For the Spanish, the ball game was such a spectacular event that Hernán Cortés took a couple of players from the state of Tlaxcala in 1528 to demonstrate in front of King Charles V and Pope Clement VII. This moment was recorded by the artist Christoph Weiditz, who made an illustration of that presentation annexing his interpretation: “In this way the Indians play with the inflated ball, with their backside, without touching it with their hands, on the ground; they also have a hard leather on the butt, so that it receives the blow of the ball, they also wear a leather glove"
Unfortunately, its spectacularity was not enough to save it from the judgment of the Holy Inquisition, as it was consider a blasphemous exercise that only heretics practiced.


It was thus that after several years of tolerating its practice, it was banned by Fray Fray Juan de Torquemada a few years after the conquest in order to facilitate the work of evangelization of the natives, being destroyed the vast majority of the fields used to play it.
However, and in an effort to preserve it, the game continued to be played secretly from the friars and the Spaniards; its rules changed as well as the places where it was practiced. The large courts were exchanged for areas of land hidden among the planting bushes and it was no longer practiced in the big cities to be played in small towns far away from the conquerors. All this while in New Spain (as Mexico was called during the colonial era) the new religion, customs and traditions made the people forget, step by step, the practices of the past.
There is little information about the game in those centuries, and it was after the independence being consummated on 1821 when some news talked about that in the north of Mexico, more specifically in the region of Sinaloa, a game of pre-Hispanic reminiscences was played and was called Ulama.
It is well into the twentieth century when news of it are heard again, since in the mid-1930s the Mexican government again tried to ban it, this time considering it absorbing and dangerous, this being a low blow that would cause the game to be losing players until in the mid-80s it was close to disappearance due to lack of practitioners, to which the local government created programs that motivated its return to practice among the descendants of those players of yesteryear.
That is why in 2010, the document that declares Ulama as Cultural Patrimony of the State of Sinaloa was created, serving this to promote its practice again, this time in more regions.
Currently Ulama is already played in more than half of the states of Mexico and also in some regions of Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. The number of practitioners increases every day and for most of them, this is a great opportunity to connect with their roots, learn about their history and be part of social groups within their communities and live with other people outside their environment, all this without neglecting that this game It is also an excellent physical activity that encourages sports and healthy coexistence among its practitioners since, being in the process of growth, it also allows new players to have enough time to familiarize themselves with the rules and techniques and obtain a good competitive level.
At the end, and all of them seek a common goal, not only that the game does not disappear, but also to return the greatness and importance that it had more than 500 years ago.

20181117 140034

Mc Kenzie Satterfield A., The assimilation of the marvelous other: Reading Christoph Weiditz’sTrachtenbuch (1529) as an ethnographic document, Department of Art and Art History, College of Visual and Performing Arts, University of South Florida, 2007
De la Garza Mercedes, El juego de pelota según las fuentes escritas, Arqueología Mexicana 44, pp. 50-53, 2000
Whittington E. Michael, The sport of life and death. The mesoamerican ballgame, Ed. Mint Museum of Art, 2002
Sahagún Fray Bernardino, Historia General de las cosas de la Nueva España, Ed. Porrúa, 1956


(To the Editor of the Mirror.)

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Volume 7 Edited by John Timbs, London, 1828 Pages 354-355

Sir in the No. CXCVII. of the MIRROR I was much pleased to see a slight notice taken of the games practised on the Coteswold Hills, especially of Dover's Meeting, of which you seem uncertain whether it is still kept up; I assure you it is, and although it is not countenanced by persons of such rank and consequence as it was some half century ago, it is still a great holiday for all the lads and lasses within 10 or 15 miles of the place, and is attended by great numbers of gentry and people of respectability in the neighbourhood. Being a native of the Coteswold Hills where these games are practised, I feel happy in giving you an account of them, as I have with thousands more spent many a happy hour there. Dover's Hill (so called from a Mr. Robert Dover, who instituted those games about the year 1600) is about half a mile from Chipping Campden, and a mile and a half north of the London and Worcester road, it may very properly be called a second Olympus; on the top of the hill is a beautiful level turf about a mile and a half long from north to south, and half a mile from east to west. In walking across the hill towards the west, you seem to be going over an interminable space bounded only by the horizon, when on a sudden you come to the brink of a very steep precipice, and one of the finest views in the world bursts upon the sight; nearly the whole of the counties of Worcester, Gloucester, Warwick, and Hereford lie spread before you like a carpet, and on a clear day some of the mountains in Wales may be distinctly seen; on the south, Brecon and the Malvern mountains cut a fine figure in this beautiful landscape. Many, a pleasant hour have I spent on Dover's Hill (when a schoolboy in the neighbourhood) it was a favourite amusement of mine to sit on the brink of the precipice, yiewing the beautiful scenery, and counting the spires that shoot up among the trees, even now “When I think on boyhood’s glowing years, How soft how sweet the scene appears; How calm, how cloudless pass'd away, The long, long, summer holiday.” At the southern extremity of the hill is a thick wood, called Weston Park; under the shade of the trees on the borders of this wood the booths are built, and the principal sports are carried on, (on the Thursday and Friday in Whitsun-week) they consist of single-stick, (in Gloucestershire called backsword) wrestling, running, jingling, morris-dancing, and other sports of a minor importance. On Friday the sports conclude with a horse-race for £50. Backsword is looked upon by the cockneys, and those living in counties where it is rarely practised, as a most barbarous and bloodthirsty piece of business; but I think there is no game that shows the courage, hardihood, and manliness of the British character like it : on Dover’s Hill, it is practised in its greatest perfection, I have seen two scientific men play nearly an hour and a half before one could break the other's head, and when it was over, it could not be seen that more than one blow had been struck on either side. Certainly when two novices contend it is thrashing work, and the blows fall heavily, then they are not obliged to enter the ring, but there it is they show their courage. There are generally about twelve couple play at backsword, the prize is a guinea each couple, eighteen shillings goes to the victor and three shillings to the vanquished. The prize for wrestling is a handsome silver cup, and is generally contested be. tween the lads of two rival villages, great numbers of musical gipsies attend, who strike up some lively airs, while the flymphs and swains foot it not exactly on the Tlight fantastic toe. The morris dancers are not like what I saw in the London streets a few days back—country fellows in their dirty working dresses scratching the pavement to pieces, but they are spruce lads sprigged up in their Sunday clothes, with ribbons round their hats and arms, and bells on their legs; they are attended by a jester called the Tom Fool. He carries a large stick with a bladder tied to one end, with which he buffets about and makes room for the dancers; one of the finest looking fellows among them is generally selected to carry a large plum cake with a long sword run through the middle of it, the cake resting on the hilt, on the point of the sword is a large bunch of ribbons with about a dozen streamers flying, of divers colours, a large knife is stuck in the cake, and when the young man who carries it sees a favourite lass or any one that is rather bountiful towards them he treats them with a slice. Jingling is by about eight men entering a large ring all blindfolded but one, who has bells in his hands which he keeps ringing and running about the ring, if he is caught within a certain time by one of the others who is blindfolded, the man that catches him gains the prize, but if he escapes them all till the time is expired, he wins the prize. I believe those sports are partly supported by subscription, and partly by a sum of money that was bequeathed for the purpose. That they are very ancient may be adduced from its being asserted in an old work which I have read, that the immortal Shakespeare was sometimes a spectator of those games (being celebrated about ten miles from the place of his nativity) and that many of the scenes in his comedies were taken from Dover's meeting, especially the wrestling scene in As you like it. I am certain if any of our rigid mirth-destroying moralists, possessing the least sensibility or liberality of feeling towards the youth of both sexes, were to witness the innocent mirth and happy countenances at Dover's meeting, and at our country wakes and revels they would not strive as they do to the utmost of their power to cramp the amusements of the humbler classes, but would regret with every generous mind that the old English pastimes are so much upon the decline. At Dover's meeting there is no bull-baiting, badger-baiting, or any cruel diversion whatever allowed, unless horseracing may be considered so, everythin is conducted with the greatest order and decorum. I am afraid, Mr. Editor, I am encroaching too much, therefore I'll subscribe myself your humble servant, A REAL LOVER OF OLD ENGLISH May 30, 1826. PASTIMES.

Sculpture from Cathedral of Toledo

Wooden stalls in the cathedral of Toledo are decorated with beautiful sculptures that show people and animals. One of these little sculptures shows gymnastic exercises.

Ruslan C Pashayev, Devon Style of Wrestling

Dear Friends,
I am happy to present a 1822 "Sporting Magazine" article about the traditional Devon Style of Wrestling called "Wrestling In The West".
Enjoy the read.

Sources: :"Sporting Magazine Or, Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of the Turf, the Chase and Every Other Diversion Interesting to the Man of Pleasure, Enterprize, and Spirit" Volume 9, 1822, Pages 161-164

Ruslan C Pashayev




Boxer at rest

‘Boxer at Rest’ - a rare Hellenistic bronze sculpture from 330 BC to 50 BC.
The bronze statue of the Pugile delle Terme or Pugile del Quirinale, is a 128 cm high Greek sculpture, attributed to Lisippo or his circle. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Hellenistic bronze sculptures, due to its realism, and the vivid emotions that it displays.
He is an athlete in a moment of rest that powerfully transmits all the effort of the fight; the realism of the scars on the face, the flattened nasal septum and the ears deformed by the blows suffered in who knows how many fights (this man was almost certainly deaf from the trauma suffered) tell the story of the hard life of the Pankration wrestlers. The statue, found at the foot of the Quirinale in 1885, was probably part of the thermal complex of Constantine, was intentionally and carefully taken in and placed on a large capital. Some parts are shiny, a sign of the contact of the hands that for centuries have shown devotion for this Hercules bent by fatigue and suffering, but superhuman, and therefore revered as a God.

New article on Pacu Jawi

Despite the name Pacu Jawi (literally 'bull race' or 'cow race' in Minangkabau), this is not a direct competition between animals. Each rider chooses his two best cows for the "team". Then he puts on a harness (ropes) and stands on a wooden plow connecting them, which has two functions. First of all, it creates a platform, unstable and not very comfortable, for a daredevil participating in the race. Secondly, it prevents animals from separating on the route. Animals are usually bulls between the ages of 2 and 13 whose run in pairs.

Ruslan C Pashayev - Wrestling For The Boar’s Head. 1800’s Hornchurch, Essex, England.

Wrestling For The Boar’s Head. 1800’s Hornchurch, Essex, England.


This article is dedicated to my dear friend, the four-time British Heavyweight Pro Wrestling Champion, Mr. Tony St. Clair.

Dear Friends,
I am happy to share materials from my “English Folk Wrestling Collection” related to the old English Christmas tradition of having an annual knock-out wrestling tournament with the prize of a boar’s head. That Medieval custom survived till the XIX century and was still actively practiced in the village of Hornchurch, Essex till 1869. Unfortunately, the newspaper reports and the memoirs of the witnesses (both these credible evidences will follow the foreword) of those wrestling matches don’t provide details regarding the style of wrestling which was practiced by the local peasants. But most likely it was old English “Hugg Wrastelynge” a folkstyle wrestling of Norse Viking & Norman origin and which was commonly known in Britain as the “Cornish Hug” trial of strength. Below I am giving the “Rules of The Hugg Wrastelynge”.

Pages 501-502.

“The Cornish hug is a tremendous struggle for victory. Both grasp alike, and not much science is required. It only takes place where each conceives himself to be the stronger of the two. It is either right or left. If right, each man has his right hand on the other's loins on the left side, and his left hand on the right shoulder; they stand face to face, and each strives to draw his adversary towards him, and grasp him round the waist, till the hug becomes close, and the weakest man is forced backward - the other falling heavily upon him. This is a very sure and hard fall”. By Sam Sam's Son, October 8, 1827.

There’s a chance that the “Hornchurch Wrestling” could have been less peaceful traditional English “Coler Wrastelynge” with its tripping and brutal shin kicking. The beautiful 1400s watching loft’s wood carving from the St. Alban's Cathedral and Abbey Church at St. Albans in the neighbor Hertfordshire shows such wrestling match between the two local peasants.

Enjoy the read.
Thanks, Ruslan C Pashayev.

© 2020 Ruslan C Pashayev All Rights Reserved.

1842 Hornchurch Winner James Kent

Boars Head 1

English Hug

Boars Head Wrossle

Hornchurch Wrestling

Hugg Wrestlers

Medieval English Wrestling

St Albans and hearts

trophy boars head

Roots of Modern Wrestling



Evolution of the Catch-Hold Wrestling on the Continent.
Folk wrestling styles of Frankish heritage.

By Ruslan C Pashayev

Frankish Wrestling Chart 18062020

There has always been a great deal of discussion about the origins and evolution of the modern internationally recognized wrestling styles such as Graeco-Roman, Freestyle and Pro wrestling. The certainty regarding the historical interrelationship between those wrestling styles (if there was such of course) was never fully established.

My fifteen-year long studies of the Western European Catch-Hold styles of wrestling which resulted in the book “The Story of Catch” helped me to answer the question regarding the interrelationship between modern wrestling styles for myself. Based on the factual historical material which I have collected, documented and thoroughly studied I came to a certain conclusion that all three mentioned above wrestling styles share historical and ethnic background. I trace the origin of modern wrestling to the Frankish folk wrestling traditions. The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes that was originally composed of a mix of groups settled between the Rhine and the Weser Rivers and whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources. Throughout the Middle Ages the wrestling styles of the Franks were mainly practiced by the French, German and Dutch/Flemish people.

The core of the Frankish wrestling customs was that it was a catch-hold style of wrestling and it featured wrestling on the ground. Another important details was that according to the Frankish traditions the use of legs and feet for throwing (hooking and tripping respectively) wasn’t favored and often wasn’t even considered as a “fair wrestling” and instead the “only true wrestling” was fought utilizing the strength of hands, arms, torso, hips, buttocks and back. By any other word the “Lift and Throw” techniques dominated wrestling styles of ancient Franks and the “noble art of tripping” which was a key wrestling skill in let’s say English traditional wrestling styles was neglected. The falls (preferably falls on the back, or even fair back falls) given from the standing position all were quick flying falls.

The strongest men preferred competing in a standing position with only catch-holds above the waist being allowed. They thought that those who do consider themselves to be the strongest in order to throw a man don’t need holds below the waist, hooking, tripping nor they need wrestling on the ground.

But if the Frankish men decided to compete on a “free-for-all” conditions (catch-as-catch-can, or catch-holds of any part of the person’s body being allowed) then back fall (or a fall) wasn’t enough to win the struggle and the victor had to continue the match on the ground until his adversary quits any resistance and verbally confesses his defeat because of being “captured” (restrained in the movement and kept underneath).

Historically, according to the Western European tradition the game of wrestling was always about giving falls – throwing/taking an opponent down off his feet on his back (flying falls), or any part of his body above the knees, meaning that it was a standing wrestling.

That wasn’t an easy goal to accomplish and over the course of time this objection was simplified and the system of substituting one back fall with 3 foils (fall on any part of the body) was introduced in England and to some extent on the Continent.

This definitely put an end to the so-called “disputed falls”, which was a major issue in the standing wrestling contests for a very long time. But this innovation didn’t really fix the whole situation because under the conditions of flying falls being allowed which remained unchanged, wrestling still wasn’t a safe game, due to the nature of those falls which were violent and usually caused multiple injuries and even death.

That led to the evolution of the perception and understanding of the throw/fall itself. At some point in history the principle of ”throwing” on the back was replaced with a more progressive idea of placing on the back, pressing shoulders down, and maintaining this submissive position for certain amount of time. That was achievable only when both wrestlers were down on the ground. That is how the pinning fall was invented.

This revolutionary introduction was the birth of a new Western European tradition of ground wrestling which found its climax in the concept of a pinning fall being the only true real fall. The game is over when it’s over and one of the two is kept immovable flat on his back (controlling).

But even after the popularization of pinfalls the flying falls weren’t abolished and were still widely practiced and even preferred, it was happening first of all because of the strong association between the terms of “wrestling” and “throwing.” For centuries wrestling was thought of as throwing.

With introduction of the ground wrestling another kind of quick fall was invented the rolling fall. For a very long time in the modern styles of wrestling (amateur and pro) all three kinds of back falls (flying, rolling and pinning) were considered legit.

Jacob and Angel

The given chart shows comparative analyses of three Western European catch-hold wrestling styles of the Frankish heritage: Lutte Provencales (France), Ringen (Germany) and Worstelen (Netherlands/Flanders). Each of those extinct wrestling styles existed in two modes:

1) The standing catch-hold above the waist (use of legs and feet for throwing being prohibited)

2) The up and down catch-as-catch-can

The objective in the former style was to give opponent a quick (flying) fall from a standing position with or without attacker falling himself; such fall was either a fair back fall (two shoulders striking the ground simultaneously), or a fall on the back side of the body (including or being limited to buttocks, back, shoulders, neck), or a fall on any part of the adversary’s body except hands, knees and feet.

In the latter style the goal was to overcome opponent on the ground, and submit him into a verbal acknowledgement of his defeat by placing him flat on his back and keeping him “captured” underneath in the restricted immovable position.

In France the Lutte Provencales was still around even in the 1860s until it was completely replaced with the modern French or Graeco-Roman style aka the “flat hand” wrestling (la lutte à main plates), That newborn style was an evolved combination of both Provencal modes of wrestling (Lucho de la centure en aut and Lucho Libro). The Graeco-Roman wrestling was an up and down catch-hold above the waist, use of legs and feet for throwing being not allowed. The objective was to give opponent a fair back fall. Originally all kinds of such falls counted, i.e. flying, rolling and pinning. Now this style of wrestling is one of the two international Olympic wrestling styles.

Meanwhile, in Germany since early 1800s and throughout the whole XIX century the evolved and refined variation of the Bauern-Art Ringen Rangeln (wrestling after the peasants fashion) folk wrestling style was taught at the German Gymnastic Societies (GGS). That style of wrestling was known as a Free Wrestling (Kür-Ringen). The objective in that style was to give opponent a fair back fall. Originally all kinds of such falls counted, i.e. flying, rolling and pinning. GGS or Turners popularized their style of wrestling in England as well as in the North America. Nowadays the evolved version of the GGS style of wrestling is known as Freestyle and is the second of the two international Olympic wrestling styles.

The earliest known immigration of the Flemish textile workers (aka Flemish weavers) to East Lancashire, England goes back to the 1300s. They brought to their new place their traditional rough-and-tumble wrestling style called the Stoeijen which over the time evolved there into the professional Lancashire up and down wrestling/fighting, a combative style which predated Lancashire catch-as-catch-can wrestling. In the XVI-XVII centuries French and German “weaving” Protestants who along with the Flemish fled religious persecutions on the Continent brought their old Frankish catch-hold wrestling customs to East Lancashire and West Yorkshire where they merged with the traditional English catch-hold wrestling style and over the course of centuries this combination evolved there into a new culturally unique style of wrestling the Lancashire Catch-as-catch-can. This style went through the various stages of evolution and gave birth to the modern day pro wrestling (catch) as well as it strongly influenced the current international Freestyle wrestling and different grappling styles.

Pieter van Lint

Homo ludens, Pieter Bruegel

Picturing more than two hundred children playing over eighty different games, Children’s Games (1560) is one of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s most intriguing and least understood paintings.
Encountering Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Children’s Games for the first time is an experience that is both bewildering and enchanting. The painting’s large scale and unusual, encyclopedic composition render it instantly striking. Stretching to a distant horizon, the ocher ground of Children’s Games is studded with over two hundred children playing around eighty different games. The panel is carefully organized. A wide street sweeps from the lower left corner of the painting, encompasses the players in the central square, and extends to a distant vanishing point in the upper right. The dramatic recession of this diagonal lends the painting an asymmetric thrust, which is intersected by a second diagonal running from the beam on the ground in the lower right of the panel to the verdant countryside in the upper left. Despite these compositional structures there is no sense of narrative order to Bruegel’s collection. The game motifs are all of a similar size and events at the center of the picture appear no more charged with importance than those at its edges. This encyclopedic compositional technique is at odds with the painting’s lifelike motifs: the former encouraging the eye to move continuously over the shifting surface of the panel, and the latter prompting it to pause at each cluster of children and study the drama unfolding.
The challenge that Children’s Games presents to modern scholars operates on many levels, from the fundamental task of identifying the individual games depicted to the wider questions of the meaning behind such a panorama. The subject matter of Children’s Games is unprecedented; its only precursors being the tiny images of children playing seasonal games found in the margins of a number of Ghent-Bruges manuscripts. Circumstances surrounding the commissioning and evolution of the painting are unknown; no documents or preparatory sketches have come to light and the first extant reference to Children’s Games dates from the very end of the sixteenth century. Lacking any of the traditional aides to interpretation, scholars have adopted a variety of approaches to the painting in the centuries following its creation. The labelling and classifying of the games has been enthusiastically undertaken by folklorists, ethnographers, and historians of childhood, for whom Children’s Games represents an indispensable source in reconstructing the specifics of early modern game playing. A second approach to the panel has been the thematic interpretations, in which scholars have attempted to situate Children’s Games within series or allegories traditional to art history, examples being the Seasons or the Ages of Man. These attempts have been largely unsuccessful; the painting contains games which were played throughout the year and therefore resists categorization as a representation of a particular season, and no other works by Bruegel survive to support the notion that Children’s Games belonged to a series depicting the Ages of Man. Iconological readings represent a third type of approach. Here scholars seeking to “unlock” the meaning in Bruegel’s games have been drawn to comparable motifs in seventeenth-century Dutch emblems. Combining depictions of games and toys with mottos and texts that moralize about the behavior of young and old alike, Dutch emblem books appear to offer a key to understanding the deeper meaning behind images of play. Individual games found in emblem books such as Jacob Cats’s Silenus Alcibiabes (1618) and Pieter Roemer Visscher’s Sinnepoppen (1614) have been matched with comparable motifs in Children’s Games, with damning results: the boy blowing a bubble in the left foreground has been read as a vanitas symbol of the transience of life, while the games with hoops in the right foreground have been seen as representative of the futility of life’s endeavor. These moralizing iconological readings have now become dominant in the historiography of Children’s Games, despite the obvious methodological flaw in using seventeenth-century emblems to decode a sixteenth-century painting.
Excerpt from Amy Orrock's wonderful article from:

Wrestling in the Salzburg Mountains, Ruslan C Pashayev

Wrestling in the Salzburg Mountains



Special thanks to my dear friends Rosi Hörhager, Günther Heim and Eva-Maria Schweiger.

Foreword by Ruslan C Pashayev

Though practiced in the various parts of the Alpine region (such as South Tyrol, North Tyrol, East Tyrol, Upper Carinthia, Salzburg, in the Bavarian Oberland and in Chiemgau), the Province of Salzburg is considered the home of the traditional wrestling style which is known as Ranggeln. The great arena for this sport is the principal valley of Land Salzburg, the Salzachthal, whose upper part is called Ober Pinzgau and Unter Pinzgau. In that beautiful place wrestling contests have been held for centuries, for in a XIV century chronicle there is a mention of the famous Pinzgau wrestlers. The splendidly muscular and brawny fellows, the peasants from the neighborhood of Zell am See are particularly fond of Ranggeln.

Today I am happy to share my most recent discoveries related to the old rules of the Austrian traditional style of Ranggeln wrestling. The original text of the reference material is in German. According to the presented document historically there were two distinct forms of folk freestyle wrestling (loose wrestling) in Salzburg: Ranggeln (Wrestling) and Stieren (Bulls).

In the former style of wrestling (Ranggeln) the objection was to overcome the opponent twice in the match which consisted of three bouts by throwing him down and keeping him underneath until he admits his defeat verbally by saying “I give up”, then the winner had to let him get up. The decisive final stage of these contests was wrestling par terre/on the ground. Only the fair wrestling grips were allowed, and such brutal acts as “kicking, striking and throttling” were strictly forbidden. That was done for the purpose of not turning wrestling match into the Raufen (all-in wrestling or fighting) match.

And in the latter style (Stieren) the objection was to give opponent a fall on his back from the standing position by throwing him backwards “heels over head” in imitation of the wild bull’s attack. This required enormous strength and skill and was accompanied by the considerable danger for the loser of the match who could suffer the broken legs, arms or even neck. The popular throws in that particular style were: head between legs, lift and throw backwards (the actual Stieren), Kreuzwurf (Fireman’s Lift), Bear-Hug lift and throw (Heaving), and Hufen (throw over the hip or Cross-Buttock).

Dear Friends, Enjoy the read!

Tiroler Volkstypen, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sitten und Kleinindustrie in den Alpen

By Ludwig von Hörmann, 1877, Pages 14-17

“Für weit größeren Ruhm aber gilt es, sich im eigentlichen Robeln oder Rangkeln (von Rank, ranggen, sich strecken, wenden, krümmen) hervorzuthun. Es ist dies ein förmliches Ringen, wobei ein Gegner den andern zu Boden zu werfen und unter sich zu erhalten sucht. Und zwar muß dies dem Betreffenden im dreimaligen Gange wenigstens zweimal ge
lingen, ehe er als Sieger anerkannt wird. Liegt Einer, so fragt der Obenliegende: „Gibst di'?“ Die Antwort ist ent weder: „I' gib mi'“ oder „I' gib mi' nit“. „Nu! Nacher wehrst Di'“, ruft dann der Andere und die Balgerei geht von Neuem los. Sagt aber der Untenliegende: „La' mi' geh'n“, so erklärt er sich damit für besiegt und der Andere muß ihn aufstehen lassen.

Gefährlicher als das eigentliche Rangkeln ist das so genannte Stieren, das besonders in Jochberg und am Hundsstein in Pinzgau am Jakobitag geübt wurde. Man sucht den Gegner an den Armen zu fassen und mit einem kräftigen Schwung über den Kopf zu schleudern, so daß er auf den Rücken zu liegen kommt. Der Andere, der sich bei dieser Procedur niederläßt und meist selbst fällt, springt schnell auf. Ist der Angreifer ein kleiner, aber gedrungener Mann, so springt er dem Gegner mit dem Kopf zwischen die Füße und wirft ihn so über sich. Diese Variation des Robelns, deren Name von der Kampfweise des Stieres genommen ist, ist begreiflicherweise sehr gefährlich, und mancher hat sich hiebei schon Hals und Bein gebrochen.

Das Gleiche gilt vom Hufen oder Hüefen, so genannt von der Hüfte, weil man hiebei den Gegner über die rechte oder linke Hüfte hinauswirft, und zwar mit einer Hand. Man sucht demselben nämlich mittelst des sogenannten Kreuzsprung es mit der einen Hand über's Kreuz unter die Achsel zu kommen. Daher muß der Angegriffene die Arme fest schließen und an die Brust drücken, was oft etwas sagen will; denn der Angreifer faßt oft den Arm des Andern und preßt ihn so mit der Hand, daß er den „Kram“ (Krampf) kriegt. Freilich muß er bei diesem Bestreben, dem Gegner die Arme vom Leibe zu bringen und ihm unter die Achsel zu kommen, selbst auf der Hut sein, daß der so Angegriffene nicht einen günstigen Moment erspäht und dem Andern das Schicksal bereitet, was er ihm zugedacht hat, d. h. ihn „huft“. Es kommt hiebei, wie leicht denkbar, vor züglich auf Kraft an. Sind beide Kämpfer gleich stark, so bricht leicht ein Arm.

Alle diese genannten Arten des Rangkelns gehen übrigens bei einem Ringkampfe ineinander über und kommen bald die eine oder andere, bald alle zur Ausführung. Ehe die Gegner „zusammenschießen“, werden alle nur möglichen „Finten“ und „Faxen“ gemacht. Mancher schleicht wie eine Katze um den beobachtenden Gegner, neckt ihn und ermattet ihn durch Scheinangriffe, bis er end lich mit einem blitzschnellen Sprung ihn faßt, dreht oder hebt und „schmeißt“. Einige haben den Vortheil, daß sie während des Falles obenauf kommen und Sieger werden. Ein Anderer fingirt sogar ein Stolpern, um den Gegner zu täuschen und aus seiner zuwartenden Stellung zu locken, be sonders wenn Letzterer eine schwerwiegende Herkulesgestalt ist, die sich mehr auf Kraft und erdrückendes Gewicht, denn auf Beweglichkeit und Raschheit verlassen muß*).

Die Robler sind nur in Hemd und Hose. Hut und Joppe wird beim Ringspiel weggeworfen. Oft binden sie sich noch Sacktücher unten um die Hose, um dem Gegner weniger Fassung zu geben.”

© 2020 Ruslan C Pashayev All Rights Reserved.




Greek marble relief of a man with a ball on his knee (400 BCE).

Around 800 BCE the Greeks played a game called ‘episkyros’ with some coincidental similarities to US football. The game was played between two teams of usually 12 - 14 players each, with one ball and the rules of the game allowed using hands. There was a white line between the teams and another white line behind each team. Teams would change the ball often until one of the team was forced behind the line at their end. The ball was made of leather pieces sewn together and painted with vivid colors and geometric shapes.

Photo: Greek marble relief of a man with a ball on his knee (400 BCE). Athens Archeological Museum.



Foreword by Ruslan C Pashayev

Dear Friends, few months ago I wrote an article called Lutte Provencales. This article featured several historical French styles of wrestling which predated the French Greco-Roman wrestling, such as Lutte Provencales (Provencal Wrestling) and Lutte Bourguignonne (Burgundian Wrestling). I trace the origin of French folk wrestling to the wrestling traditions of ancient Franks which were represented by two styles: Bras-le-Corps (standing catch hold wrestling above the waist, tripping prohibited) and Corps-a-Corps (up and down freestyle, lutte libre).

Today I am happy to share my most recent finds related to the introduction of Pro Wrestling Championships at Nimes, France. The authors give a detailed account of annual pro wrestling championship tournaments in Nimes, France and trace its origin back to the XIV century.
According to the presented material pro wrestling in the form of public prize wrestling matches was first introduced in Nimes by the consuls of the city in 1351 and regular annual championships were held on the day of Nativity of Virgin (September 8th): “Les exercices du corps, la gymnastique grecque, la lutte, y sont recommandés et encouragés spécialement par les consuls.”

The style of wrestling was referred to as the “ancient Greek wrestling” or “lutte à la manière antique, entre deux adversaires armés du gantelet, ou tout luisants d'huile”. This old tradition of having such contests continued till 1800s, and usually featured wrestling matches between the best men of two neighbor villages. The rules of the Nimes’ pro wrestling which appeared to be a freestyle, or pancratial (lutte libre) required “the back and the head to be placed flat on the ground” or “cherchent à se renverser sur le dos ; on n'est vaincu que si le dos et la tête ont touché contre terre”. Originally in the Middle Ages according to the ‘Antique’ tradition the two wrestling gladiators appeared stark naked (often having their bodies besmeared with an oil) in the ring, later the rules were changed and the loincloth became the only attire of the fighters. In this sport taking opponent down wasn’t enough to win the match, in fact takedown was just a beginning of it and the most of the struggle was going on the ground which basically was rolling for achieving the dominant uppermost position, par-terre wrestling: Quand l'un des deux lutteurs est renversé, tout es poir n'est pas encore perdu ; si sa tête n'a pas touché, tout son village crie : « A pas touca ! a pas touca ! (il n'a pas touché) ! » La lutte continue alors, et la fortune peut changer. Quelquefois il y a doute; alors des deux côtés opposés s'élèvent des cris confus: « A toucal a pas touca! (il a touché, il n'a pas touché ) ! » Des arbitres du choix des deux partis décident le point.”

The text is in French. Enjoy the read. The great interest represents the collection of pro wrestling material of the Archive of the City of Nimes. This information is based strictly on historical documents in French the original clippings of which to follow the text.

Vol 1, 1842

By Jacques Nicolas Hector Rivoire


“…Le lendemain les danses recommencent de fort bonne heure , et on ne les inter rompt que pendant le temps nécessaire aux repas , ou à la délivrance des prix . Ces prix consistent dans les grandes communes :

Pour la lutte , en une tasse d 'argent, une montre d ' argent et quelquefois d 'or .

Pour la course à pied , en une tasse d'argent, ou simplement une écharpe.

Pour le saut, en une paire de boucles d 'argent, ou une écharpe .

Pour la course des chevaux , en une bride. Pour la course dans le sac , ou pour la course des femmes avec un vase plein d 'eau sur la tête , le prix ne se compose que de quelques mouchoirs , et d'un chapeau pour les joutes sur l' eau…”


“L'exercice de la lutte était autorisé à Nimes , dès l'année 1351 , on mettait même beaucoup de soin à cette époque à exciter la jeunesse aux combats et aux jeux gymnastiques . La lutte se faisait en public , un seul jour de l'année , le 8 septembre , jour de la nativité de la Vierge. Les consuls décernaient un prix au vainqueur; en 1351 ,ce fut une pièce d 'étoffe. L 'usage de cet exercice à jour fixe, dut varier , puisque nous voyons qu'en 1373 , la lutte se fit en public , au mois d 'août , le jour de la fête de St-Laurent , et que les consuls donnèrent un mouton pour prix . Quelques années après , le jour de la St-Louis fut choisi pour une lutte solennelle ; l'historien de Nimes ' nous apprend que les consuls accordèrent, en 1399 , une pièce de drap au vainqueur. Il ajoute que l'usage de cet exercice dura longtemps , puisqu'en 1483 , malgré la pauvreté générale , on luttait , à Nimes , au mois d 'août, et l'intervalle d ' un exercice à l'autre n ' était plus que d 'une semaine. On avait toujours choisi les dimanches pendant les mois d 'août et septembre ; les consuls y assistaient chaque fois précédés de deux ménétriers qui jouaient du tympanon et de la flûte. Le prix était habituellement une pièce de drap , et une collation pour les lutteurs ; toutes les dépenses étaient supportées par la ville .

Cet exercice fut encore favorisé pendant un grand nombre d 'années , ainsi que les jeux de l' arbalète et de l'arc. Des jeux dontnous venons de parler , il n 'y a que la lutte qui se soit maintenue dansnos meurs. En arrivant jusqu 'à nous , cet exercice a changé de caractère. Ce n 'est plus aujourd 'hui, et surtout dans la ville de Nimes , une réjouissauce préparée par l'auto rité elle -même, et appliquée gratuitement aux jours de réjouissance publique. L 'esprit du commerce s'en est emparé, et l'on est parvenu à exploiter la curiosité des habitans au profit des entrepreneurs qui prennent la haute direction de ces jeux . Dans la campagne , la lutte a mieux conservé les marques de son ancienne origine ; les fêtes votives s'y passent rarement sans que l'autorité municipale ne décerne un prix à l'athlète qui sort vainqueur du combat. Ce prix se compose ordinairement d'une tasse d'argent, d 'une écharpe ou d 'un caleçon d 'honneur ,. quelquefois même d 'une somme d 'argent”.


Histoire civile, ecclesiastique et litteraire de la ville de Nimes, texte et notes, suivie de dissertations historiques. Volumes 2, 3, 1874

Histoire abrégée de la ville de Nîmes avec la description de ses antiquités. Part 1, By Jean-François-Dieudonné Maucomble, 1767

Nîmes, By Désiré Nisard, 1855
Text also appeared in ‘Dictionnaire de la Conversation et de la Lecture’, Vol 40, 1832

Inventaire-sommaire des Archives communales de Nîmes antérieures à 1790, Volumes 1-2, By Archives communales de Nîmes, Alexandre Lamothe , 1877

© 2020 Ruslan C Pashayev All Rights Reserved.


















Roman mosaic with boxing match

Roman mosaic with boxing match. Athletes wear one of the dangerous variations of the ancient boxing "gloves", the myrmekes, which with their lethal spikes, could cause permanent damage or a fatal outcome; the boxer on the left bleeds from the abdomen, while the one on the right raises his knee to keep his distance.
The use of such offensive "boxing gloves" in some events organized in the imperial age led to the violent and brutal extremeization of Greek boxing competitive competitions. We know little of the changes and technical developments and regulations, which the use of this kind of tool required to comply with the logic of these athletic events; The mosaic is dated to 300-350 AD. and is located in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Trier, Germany.

Annual Ethnosport Competition 2020, Bangladesh

Lake Circus Girls' High School "Annual Ethnosport Competition 2020", Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Game Of Hounds And Jackals, 1814-1805 BC

Game Of Hounds And Jackals, 1814-1805 BC
Period : Middle Kingdom
Dynasty : 12
Reign : Amenemhat IV
Geography : Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Assasif, Birabi, pit tomb CC 25, debis, Canavations / Carter excavation ,1910
Medium: Ebony, Ivory
Discovered By: Howard Carter in the tomb of Reniseneb
Credit Line : Edward S. Harkness Gift 1926
The Egyptian Game is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York

Roman mosaic with scene of Pankration

Roman mosaic with scene of Pankration (total combat sport, a mixture of wrestling and boxing with minimum rules) in the gym, on the sand, dated to 200-220 AD.
The two mature athletes, with powerful and vigorous physique, probably carry out the combat training phase while standing, the one we nowadays refer to as the term sparring, using striking techniques (the use of percussion, such as punches).
The mosaic was found in Salzburg (ancient Iuvavum), in Austria, when the Mozart monument was erected (in modern Mozartplatz). The series of mosaics that formed the floor bore the Latin inscription "hic habitat felicitas, nihil intret mali", "happiness lives here, nothing that is bad enters it", now visible at the Salzburg Museum.

Ancient Indus die

An Ancient Indus die: A cubical die with 1 to 6 dots was found in rubble during excavations at Harappa. Many such dice were also found at Mohenjo-daro. John Marshall writes: "That dicing was a common game at Mohenjo-daro is proved by the number of pieces that have been found. In all cases they are made of pottery and are usually cubical, ranging in size from 1.2 by 1.2 by 1.2 inches to 1.5 by 1.5 by 15 inches. . .. The dice of Mohenjo-daro are not marked in the same way as to-day, i.e. so that the sum of the points on any two opposite sides amounts to seven. Instead of that, 1 is opposite 2, 3 opposite 4, and 5 opposite 6. All the examples found are exceedingly well made with well-defined edges; the points are shallow holes averaging 0.1 inch in diameter. The clay of which they are made is light red in color, well baked, and sometimes coated with a red wash. These dice must have been thrown on a soft surface, such as a piece of cloth, or on dusty ground, for their edges show little sign of wear. It is not yet known whether these objects were used in pairs, but two specimens found in the Dk Area [of Mohenjo-daro], not far from each other, are exactly the same size." (Marshall, Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilization, pp. 551-2) These terra-cotta dice are roughly 2cm cubes, and are dated between 1900-2500 BCE.

Olinda keliya - traditional Sri Lanka game

‘Olinda Keliya’ is a board game also known as Mancala games where a wooden board known as “Olinda Kolombuwa” or “Olinda Poruwa” which has several holes is used. The rules can differ from area to area, but the game is normally played by two players seated on either side of the board. On either side of the poruwa there are usually nine holes in which are placed four beads each. The beads are Olinda seeds that can be found in abundance in villages.
The players have to shift the beads from one hole to the other and collect the seeds found in the hole immediately after an empty one. Ultimately the player who could collect the largest amount of olinda beads becomes the winner of the game.
The ‘Olinda Kolumbuwa’ also showcases the creativity of Sri Lankan traditional wood carvers. These boards are usually made of ebony (kaluwara) wood and beautifully carved. Most of these boards that are with families were designed during the Kandyan period. There is also a large collection of these boards in the Colombo Museum indicating how popular the game must have been in those days. ‘Olinda Keliya’ is also special, since it is mainly played by the women of the house while other traditional games are played mainly by men.
However, the most attractive element of this game is the shiny little red and black seed – Olinda. Crab’s eye is its common English name while the seed is also known as Jequirity, Rosary Pea or Indian licorice. The scientific name is Abrus precatorius. Olinda is a slender creeper that can grow large if the conditions are right. The vine has long, pinnate-leafleted leaves.


Zihgir-a special ring for archery used by the Ottoman Caliphate.

Tahtib - new article on

Tahtib is a sport already known in the time of the pharaohs. More about tahtib:

Sasanian Die

Sasanian Die, Period - Sasanian, Date - ca. 3rd–7th century A.D., Iran, Qasr-i Abu Nasr - Near Shiraz
Cubic dice have been in use in the Near East since the 3rd millennium B.C. with different systems of distributing the points. The numbering of the opposite sides (1-6, 2-5, 3-4) adding up to seven comes into more general use only later, as reflected by this die from Qasr-i Abu Nasr.
The small town and fortress of Qasr-i Abu Nasr is located near Shiraz in southern Iran at a strategic point at the intersection of defensive mountains, available water sources, and along roads entering the Shiraz plain. The site was excavated by archaeologists from The Metropolitan Museum of Art for three seasons from 1932-1935. The town was occupied, at least intermittently, from the Parthian period (3rd century B.C.–3rd century A.D.) to the Muzaffarid period (13th-14th century A.D.). The major occupation, including the extensive fortress, dates to the Late Sasanian period (6th-7th century A.D.).

Sasanian Die Period Sasanian Date ca 3rd7th century AD Geography Iran Qasr i Abu Nasr Near Shiraz 1

The Roman "turricula"

The Roman "turricula"

It is a bronze turret dating back to the 4th century. A.D. (found in Germany in 1985) used to play dice without cheating.
The dice, introduced by the player in the upper part of the structure, randomly rolled between the internal slats exiting the lower part.
The perforated writing reads "Pictos victos, hostis deleta, ludite securi", that is "The Picts have been defeated, the enemy destroyed, play calmly".


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