Name of sport (game)
Name in native language
Place of practice (continent, state, nation)
Coreeda is a modern interpretation of what can be the oldest sport in the world. The Aboriginal fight was recorded 30,000 years ago on the walls of the cave at Mount Grenfell Historic Site, near Cobar.
Coreeda is not only a sport but also a spiritual message. Australia's heritage dates back to ancient times and is often said to have the oldest living culture on our planet. This is just as true for the native martial arts as in the case of songs and forms of dance, or even the stories and generally the folklore of this Continent. Coreeda is a traditional Australian martial art. It combines Aboriginal dance with a unique wrestling fight. Training includes combat without and with the use of weapons.
The document Dreaming (WEH Stanner, "The Dreaming" in TAG Hungerford (ed.), Australian Signpost, 1956, W.E.H Stanner, The Australian Aboriginal Dreaming as an Ideological System, 1963) contained a legend about the creation of Coreeda, in Ngiyampaa Nation of Western New South Wales. The Lizard man, called Beereun, was told by a huge snake (troubled by the cruelty of people) that he would watch the Red Kangaroos, thanks to which he would be able to learn how to fight without a weapon. He then transferred these fighting techniques to his clan and began the tradition of wrestling tournaments as an important ceremony for maintaining peace between tribes. As a result, the Ngiyampaa people lived in peace and prosperity (Dickson, Gavin, "From the Dreaming to the Dreamers" Sid Hart Publishers, 2010, p. 79). Based on the remains of rock art in places such as Mt Grenfell near Cobar in Western NSW (New South Wales), it is estimated that the first Coreeda tournament took place over 10,000 years ago, making Coreeda one of the oldest documented Folk Wrestling styles in the world.
Aborigines have been practicing wrestling from the beginning of their existence on the Australian Continent, which, according to current scientific estimates, took place over 70,000 years ago. This is confirmed by various presentations in art that appear throughout the country, some of them even more than 10,000 years old, usually have an abstract form and are mostly interpreted by contemporary scholars as dance performances. At Mt Grenfell, about 40 km from Cobar in the Western NSW state, there are beautiful presentations of ritual ceremonies made with ochre on the rock walls by the ancestors of Ngiyaampa over 30,000 years ago, and many characters look as if they were in the posture at the beginning of the fight.
One of the earliest European testimonies of Australian wrestling comes from 1802, when Baudin's French expedition stationed in Tasmania. An old sailor named Jean Maurouard challenged the Palawan man to the wrestling match, which he won. Another French expedition, under the command of Louis Freycinet, witnessed some fighting near the Port of Sydney in 1819. There are no English reports of tribal Aboriginal battles, because the British penal colony was in a state of war against the local people of Daruk, and they were not invited to the ceremonies during which wrestling fights took place.
In the old days, wrestling served various purposes:
- As a way to train young warriors in unarmed combat in order to prepare for tribal fights.
- As a form of public entertainment.
- As a ritual, show and competition conducted in a peaceful way during large tribal meetings.
As with many martial arts, young men and women were able to fight aggression and anger constructively. Then such rivalry served to maintain peace between tribes without bloodshed and death.
In Australia's various cultural areas were different rules for wrestling, and some of the names of sports come from colonial times:
- Tur-der-er-rin – Kulin people from South Victoria,
- Partembelin – Nyeri Nyeri people from North Victoria,
- Ami – the Jinibara people from the South East part of Queensland,
- Goombooboodoo – Eualayi people from West New South Wales,
- Arungga – folk Kokomini from Cape York.
Wrestling has also become an element of ethnographic research. David Unaipon in his study of local culture at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, presented the female wrestler Ngarrindjeri, and ethnographer Walter Roth at the same time posted a similar relation while examining the community of Cape York. Catherine Somerville, who wrote under the pseudonym K. Langloh Parker, described the functions of wrestling as part of the rituals of the residents of Western New South Wales in 1905, and in 1957 anthropologist Lindsay Winterbotham published the story of an 80-year-old man from Cherbourg Mission, also known as Gaiarbau, who mentioned that in his childhood days wrestling was part of the harvest festival of bunya cones.
Currently, since 1998 modern Coreeda is being taught by the Coreeda Association. The story began in the city of Cobar in West New South Wales when Bill Griffiths told the story he heard from his grandfather. It was a message that the ancestors brought peace to their people by imitating the Big Red kangaroos in battle. The warriors fought following specific rules of the game. Actually, according to this today's form of this sport has been created. After hearing this story, the founders of the Coreeda association began to work with Koori's children in West Sydney, adding the method of training freestyle wrestling and judo to the Aboriginal dance, conducted by Peter Williams. Peter was from the same cultural region of Ngiyaampa as Bill Griffiths and he taught traditional dance for several years, but he did not realize the origin of this sport. Since then, the word Coreeda has been associated with it (in the Ngiyaampa language means kangaroo hunting), and the sport has become popular, combining music and competition, especially among children and adolescents.
While UNESCO recognized this sport as part of the intangible cultural heritage of Australia, it did not receive official recognition or permanent funding in Australia.
Due to the lack of available resources and unfavorable insurance costs, Coreeda was forced to leave the youth club, but it still evolved in its own way. Coreeda is present today only in the western suburbs of Sydney Whalan, near Mt Druitt and Merrylands, although new groups are appearing in Bourke, Brewarrina, Melbourne and many other places in Australia. Coreeda classes are conducted in the Whalan Reserve, an open park, but participation is only possible at the invitation. Youth classes take place at the Merrylands RSL Youth Club, but senior trainings remain strictly controlled. Trainings are only for those who want to participate, not for viewers. Coreeda training takes place on the grass, in a dojo without a roof or walls, it differs from most other martial arts trainings. Due to these conditions, it is necessary to change clothes, and the exercisers are dressed in long-sleeved shirts. Long trousers also would work well. Dance involves a lot of acrobatics. Coreeda has many similarities to wrestling, judo and other combat systems, so players with experience in these disciplines usually do well, but sport is good for everyone, young or old, men and women, rich or poor. Music is an important element of training, and the trainers have to learn to play yirdaki (didjeridoo), and the rhythm is kept clapping – already the ancestors knew that it was important for timing to make attacks and defense more effective. Coreeda as sport activity is divided into two equally important elements: Coreeda dance and Coreeda fight. The dance element, based mainly on traditional kangaroo dance steps, is a form of warm-up and gives competitors the opportunity to show their skills in strength, speed and agility. Divided into three one-minute segments, the part informs that the players, being able to touch the ground with their hands and feet, must stay within the range of a yellow circle with a diameter of 4.5 m. The first segment lasts until one of the players falls, crosses the circle or stops maintaining continuity of movements. The second segment allows competitors to come in contact with their opponent or hit him, maintaining a constant movement (similar to the Brazilian Capoeira). The third segment is more similar to the Sumo competition, in which the players try to push each other out of the circle, or cause the opponent to touch the ground with different part of the body than hands or feet. The dance is important for the position that the players will take in the fight. The Coreeda fight is divided into four rounds or quarters, each lasting a maximum of two minutes. The winner of the dance part can choose the position in which the players start the competition, inside the circle as a defender or outside the circle as an attacker. The role of the attacker is to try to push the rival out of the circle, throwing or fighting the defender – within a time limit of twenty seconds. Of course, the defender's role is to keep the attacker in the circle for more than twenty seconds. Such a victory, known as a decider, ends the round, and points are summed up for the entire competition. Players change positions in each round and the score is maintained until the end of the match. Another thing that differentiates Coreeda from most other wrestling styles is the fact that it is a team sport and players add to the team's score points they have won in their rivalry. Teams consist of six players representing each of the weight categories: pademelons 60 kg, potoroos 70 kg, wallabies 80 kg, grays 90 kg, reds 100 kg and boomers in the open category. The teams are divided into two groups marked with colors, black and red, which are the colors of the Aboriginal flag. Clothes also have such colors. Coreeda is a fast and effective combat sport that not only shapes reflexes to prepare the body for a potential conflict, but is also a great fun.
The Coreeda Association believes that it advises against a sports tradition whose beginnings date back to the beginnings of human presence on the Australian continent. Since 1998, this sport has been slowly developing, and the Coreeda Association of Australia is currently a member of the World Martial Arts Union recognized by UNESCO. It is considered an important element of the Intangible Heritage of Australia. Although Coreeda is still fighting for recognition in his country, the Coreeda Association of Australia is taking action and its goal is to create the First Nations Coreeda Championship, where indigenous Australian Continent will be represented (and not representatives of contemporary regions of Australia), as well as creating a professional league called ProCor.
The Aboriginal world around Mount Grenfell - https://web.archive.org/web/20120320195806/http://www.daa.nsw.gov.au/publications/Yapapunakirri.pdf
Sources of information
In April 2012 SBS TV Aboriginal Affairs Program emitted “Living Black” telling the story about Coreeda – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjuZ-DLDnPI
Micheal Copp’s video material about Coreeda – https://vimeo.com/18814133
In March 2014 International TV Sports Journal Trans World Sport emitted a program about Coreeda – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXquEqXu1LM
In September 2014 was created a short video material concerning Coreeda’a history – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oInhDv2LC1k
NITV Coreeda Wrestling – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejOOj4bOqJ0
Coreeda – Australian Martial Arts Style – http://www.blackbeltwiki.com/coreeda