North America

Tarahumara (Mexico)

Name of sport (game): Lucha Tarahumara also Najarapuami, Narajapuame
Place of practice (continent, state, nation):


Side-Hold (USA, Canada)

Name of sport (game): Side-Hold
Name in native language: Side-Hold
Place of practice (continent, state, nation):

United States and Canada


The Side-Hold was a North American fixed hold folk wrestling style which in the XIX century was very popular among the farmers of British descent who were residents of the Midwest of United States and the Province of Ontario, Canada (Province of Upper Canada in the 1800s).

Despite being of English origin the Side-Hold wrestling style was long forgotten and unknown in England in the 1800s. The most famous visualizations of the old English Side-Hold wrestling match are the following:

1) A XII century sculpture at the Church of St Mary and St David, Kilpeck (Herefordshire)

This Norman artwork shows two men standing side to side having their inside arms around each others bodies, and one of the wrestlers is grabbing the other by the elbow with the hand of his outside arm.

Notably, this sculpture is not the only image of wrestlers in that church the other one shows two wrestlers in old English Back-Hold, the “Hug.”

Side Hold Kilpeck

2) A XIV century roof boss sculpture from the St Lawrence Church, Lechlade (Gloucestershire).

Roof Boss Side Hold

3) A XVI century misericord wood carving at the Ely Cathedral, City of Ely (Cambridgeshire).

Both these pieces of art portray two men standing side to side having collar holds of each other with the hands of their inside arms and hands of their outside arms are clasped.

Ely Catherdral Wrestling

Among the famous practitioners of Side-Hold wrestling were: the future president of the United States Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) during his early years in Illinois (1830s) and the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) during his years in Kirtland, Ohio (1830s). The great Iowans, the “Father of American Pro Wrestling” Martin “Farmer” Burns (1861-1937) as well as his most famous student Frank Alvin Gotch (1877-1917) who became the greatest American pro wrestler of the XX century in the years of their youth were both adepts in the Side-Hold wrestling.

In the 1600s and 1700s North American (or Colonial) wrestling customs weren’t much different from those of the contemporary English. In general the wrestling matches were played either out of interest (amateur) or for a small purse (semi-professional). Those contests were usually held on such days as May Day, Good Friday, Whit Monday, Shrove Tuesday, Wakes, and other folk and religious festivals and even on the Sunday markets. These practices were brought to America by English pioneers among other their customs and pastimes.

During that era, North American wrestling was represented by the following styles of English origin: Arm's Length (after the Norfolk fashion), Close Struggle (after the Bedfordshire fashion), Cornish/Devon catch-hold of the jackets above the waist, old English Back-Hold or the “Hug” (archaic trial of strength in which wrestling techniques weren’t allowed and physical strength was a decisive factor), and English Catch-Hold of the body above the waist.

There also was the “Run, Catch and Throw” style of wrestling, which was a standing catch-as-catch-can style presumably of Germanic origin. According to the famous master of arms and wrestling scholar from Milan (Italy) named Pietro Monti (1457-1509) the wrestling customs of Germanic people allowed holds of any part of the person’s body in wrestling matches. The practice of unrestrained wrestling style in Medieval Continental Western European countries with the population of Germanic ethnic background is well documented.

Among the white settlers of North America along with wrestling styles of European heritage were also popular the Native American wrestling games such as “Indian Hug” (Back Hold) and Indian free-for-all wrestling (up and down catch-as-catch-can). In America during that era an organized wrestling prize-ring, unlike in England, didn’t exist.

In different parts of the United States different wrestling styles prevailed. The Eastern men (Yankees) preferred Square-Hold (which is Collar and Elbow, or wrestling at Arm’s Length), those from the Middle States – Side-Hold, and the Southern and Western men used Breeches Hold and old Indian Hug.

The most popular American folk wrestling styles were Collar and Elbow (fixed hold wrestling at Arm’s Length, which featured the art of Hooking Legs, Tripping and Kicking) and Side-Holds (a fixed hold variation of Close Struggle, or Hugging and Heaving which featured the famous Hip-Lift Technique). Both those styles were descendants of historical English folk styles such as “Collar Wrestling” and “Girdle (Holdster) Wrestling.” Those two styles at some point of their evolution merged into what became known as the Catch-Hold of jackets above the waist or Cornish/Devon Wrestling. In America medieval English folk wrestling the condition of grasping alike and maintaining the original hold (fixed hold wrestling or a “fair wrestle”), unlike in England, remained unchanged till the end of XIX century.

In the 1860s the American pro wrestling ring was finally established being exclusively represented by the following wrestling styles: Collar-and-elbow, Side-Hold, Cumberland and Westmorland Back-Hold and Cornish catch-hold of the jackets above the waist. During that era the professional Lancashire catch wrestling matches were also contested. Those were mainly restricted to the mining communities of immigrants from East Lancashire or West Riding of Yorkshire outside which Lancashire wrestling was unknown. In 1864 the first ever official American Pro Side-Hold Wrestling Championship (Shoulder and Hip variation of Side-Hold) was decided in New Yorks City at the Cremorne Gardens (corner of 72 Str. and 3 Ave.). A sum of $1000 was at stake in that 2 out of 3 fair back falls match. A New Jersey athlete called Uzile Pricket, who was considered the best overall pro wrestler of United States defeated Harry Hill of New York (late of Epsom, England) 2 falls to none.

In the early 1870 the International Wrestling Tournament Association for professionals was established in Detroit, MI. The president of that organization was Mr. Thomas Lewis of Detroit. First official Championship of United States and Canada in 3 styles (Collar and Elbow, Side-Hold, and Back-Hold) was held at Young Men’s Hall in Detroit on March 10th, 1870. The fair back fall (2 shoulders and 1 hip or 2 hips and 1 shoulder down flat at the same time) constituted the victory in all contests. Breaking hold or three “files” (foils, falls on any part of the body) also constituted a fall. Side-Hold contestants had the choice of upper and under holds by lot, unless they otherwise agreed. The Side-hold Championship was won by James Defoe of Detroit who was awarded a gold medal symbolic of this title. At first Defoe beat William Bell of London, Ontario (1-0), then beat Mathew Brown of London, Ontario (1-0), after that he beat Bell (1-0) again, and finally beat Brown (1-0) one more time. The organizers were thinking to make such championships annual like it was in London, England for Cumberland/Westmorland and Cornish/Devon styles, but that never happened. The 1870 tourney remained one of a kind pro wrestling championship of North America which was decided in the most popular folk wrestling styles.

NPG Side Hold


In the American Side-Hold contest both parties stood side to side facing one way (forward) usually clasping hands of their outside arms (sometimes by the mutual agreement they would decide to grab by either outside wrists, elbows, or shoulders); with their inside arms and hands they took the “over” and “under” holds respectively.

In the Canadian Side-Hold match the wrestlers stood side to side and were clutching with the hands of their outside arms a four inch woven ring; with the hands of their inside arms they took the “over” and “under” holds respectively.

Usually the men tossed coin for a choice of holds, the winner could take either the “over” or the “under” hold. Among the wrestlers the under-hold was considered advantageous, because it allowed easier levering of the opponent and throwing him down.

Historically, the over-hold was usually taken by the wrestler’s collar (usually a special kind of tie worn around the neck) and the under-hold was taken by the wrestler’s girdle (waist-band, stout leather belt). In the Middle Ages English pro wrestlers were wearing those “wrestling tools” to apply holds at during the match.

Sometimes wrestlers would agree to take inside holds by either the collars only (“one hand to collar”) or by the belts only (“one hand to the belt”). But the most common way of taking holds was the mentioned above combination of collar and belt holds.

It appears that in the Medieval English Side-Hold wrestlers had to fight with their inside and outside arms and hands for the better holds. In that case inside holds were taken by either collars or belts and outside holds were taken by the hands, wrists or elbows. That probably caused a lot of breaking of the previously taken holds in order to achieve the most advantageous hold. Basically Medieval Side-Hold was a catch-hold style of wrestling. This practice definitely prolonged the contests and being considered unnecessary or even unfair over the time was discontinued. It was decided to make Side-Hold a fixed hold wrestling style with a fair play based on the coin toss.

The fair back fall signified victory in the Side-Hold contests. The definition of a fair back fall varied depending on the mutual agreement between the wrestlers. It was either traditional English combination of “shoulders and hips” (3 or 4 points down back fall) or modern American rule of “two shoulders” striking the ground simultaneously. The man whose back touched the floor first lost the match; any attempt to pull or turn opponent over wasn’t counted. Letting go the initial hold wasn’t allowed. Either man was allowed to drop on one or both his knees and rise again. Kicking, or grabbing either leg was considered unfair. Usually matches were played for one fall, 2 out of 3, or 3 out of 5 falls. Ten to twenty minute breaks were allowed between the falls.

In 1883 National Police Gazette of New York City released the standard Side-Hold Rules for American pro wrestlers. According to those rules each wrestler had to wear during the match the set of strong leather or Webb harness, which must reach from the shoulder to the waist and from the neck to the elbow. The coin toss decided the choice of holds which could be either the “right and over” (wrestler takes hold of opponent’s harness behind the right shoulder with his right hand) or the “left and under” (wrestler takes hold of opponent’s harness at the waist with his left hand).

The most commonly used Side-Hold wrestling strategy was to swing suddenly or more effectively to get the knee behind that of the other wrestler and throw backward. Among other wrestling techniques popular in the Side-Hold contests were: The Hank, The Inside Lock Forward (performed both ways, forward or backward), The Cross-buttock (performed both ways, arm around the neck or arm around the body), The Buttock.

Side Hold Match

Current status:

With popularization of Graeco-Roman and Catch-as-catch-can in the United States the traditional American folk wrestling styles such as Collar and Elbow and Side-Hold lost their significance and by the mid 1890s ceased to exist as pro wrestling styles. The industrialization put an end to the practice of old rural wrestling styles in the farmers’ communities of North America as well. In the 1880s Side-Hold wrestling along with Collar and Elbow and Back-Hold was still taught in most prestigious colleges around the USA as part of their physical education program, but it soon was replaced with the Amateur Catch-as-catch-can of German Gymnastic Societies (Turners Catch). It was the birth of American amateur wrestling in America. Currently Side-Hold wrestling is not practiced anymore.

Sources of information :

This article is based on “The Story of Catch” (2019), by Ruslan C Pashayev.

Pelota Mixteca (Mexico)

Name of sport (game): Pelota Mixteca
Name in native language: Pelota MIxteca
Place of practice (continent, state, nation):


The game is played in many places of Oaxaca, Mexico City. Besides Pelota Mixteca has emigrated to the United States as well as the people , so is very common to find places in California and Texas where the game has been adopted as an important cultural heritage.


Mixtec ball is an autochthon five team game between two opposing teams which has its roots in the Mesoamerican ball game.
This game represents the fight of two teams for territory.
Each player is placed strategically in the court to hit the ball. Court is composed in two areas: Service area and a baseline at the back. The game starts with a service throwing the ball which needs to bounce in a stone located on the floor, the ball returns to service area and the team in this area must hit the ball again and again.

The ball moves between the two teams until the ball is out . The score is very similar to a tennis game, the difference consist that only 3 games are required for a set. The court also called “pasajuego” is a clay court with a length of 100 meters x 9 meters of height.

The glove. Before 1900’s the Pelota Mixteca was played only with hands and this technique was called “cold hands”, players used to put leather on their hand in order to protect them for heavy ball punches, this protection has evolutioned into a glove. Current glove weight is between 3.5 to 6 kilos and it is made of layers of leathers and steel nails. Each glove is considered a craft due each one is unique in weight, size and design.

Pelota Mixteca5
The ball is a vulcanized rubber with 900 grams of weight and approximately 12 cm. of length-

Pelota Mixteca de forro ball
Players . Everyone can play pelota mixteca, there is not age restriction, however there are 3 major categories : first, second and third division, the experience, performance and skills which depends on.

Current status:



Pelota mixteca tradición viva 
Pelota mixteca tradicin viva

Pelota Mixteca Oaxaca 
Tel. +52 951 260 0661
Pelota Mixteca Oaxaca logo

Pelota Mixteca San Martín Tilcajete 
Pelota Mixteca San Martin

Pelota mixteca San Jose el Mogote 

Pelota Mixteca Los Ahijados 

Pelota Mixteca Nochixtlan Oax. 
Pelota Mixteca Nochixtlan

Pelota Mixteca Tamazulapam 
Pelota Mixteca Tamazulapam

Pelota Mixteca Arellanes 
Pelota Mixteca Arellanes

Pelota Mixteca Xitle CDMX 
Pelota Mixteca Xitle CDMX

Pelota Mixteca Manzanos 

Asociation de la Pelota Mixteca de California Central

Pelota Mixteca San Fernando California 

Pelota Mixteca Dallas Texas 

Japan Pelota Mixteca Association 

Sources of information :

Books and articles:
- Agrinier, Pierre 1991 The Ball Courts of Southern Chiapas, Mexico. In The Mesoamerican Ballgame, edited by David R. Wilcox and Vernon L. Scarborough, pp. 175–194. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
- Alvarado, Francisco de 1593 Vocabulario Mixteca. Vocabulario en lengua mixteca hecho por los Padres de la Orden de Predicadores, Mexico.
- Becquelin, Pierre, and Eric Bosc 1972 Notas sobre los yacimientos de albita y jadeita de San Cristobal Acasaguastlan, Guatemala. Estudios de Cultura Maya IX:67–74. Universidad Nacional de Autonóma de México, Mexico.
- Bernal, Ignacio 1968 The Ball Players of Dainzú. Archaeology 21:246–251.
- Bernal, Ignacio 1969 El juego más antiguo. Artes de México XV Aniversario 119:28–33.
- Bernal, Ignacio, and Andy Seuffert 1979 The Ball Players of Dainzú. Akademische Druck- u Verlaganstalt, Graz.
- Bolaños Cacho, Raúl 1946 Reglamento de pelota Mixteca. Dirección de Educación Física, Oaxaca.
- Borhegyi, Stephan F. De 1964–1965 Archaeological Synthesis of the Guatemala Highlands. In Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 2, pt. 1, edited by Robert E. Wauchope and Gordon R. Willey, pp. 3–58. University of Texas Press, Austin.
- Braniff, Beatríz 1988 A propósito del Ulama en el norte de México. Arqueología 3:47–94. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico.
- Cohodas, Marvin 1991 Ballgame Imagery of the Maya Lowlands: History and Iconography. In The Mesoamerican Ballgame, edited by David R. Wilcox and Vernon L. Scarborough, pp. 251–288. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
- Cortés Ruiz, Efraín 1992 El juego de pelota Mixteca. In El juego de pelota precolombino y su perviviencia en la actualidad, pp. 169–177. Museu Etnologic, Ajuntamento de Barcelona.
- Fidel 1846 Costumbres nacionales (juego de pelota). Revista Mexicana II:28–30.
- Gaxiola, Margarita 1984 Huamelulpan Un centro urbano de la Mixteca Alta. Colección Científica No. 114. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico.
- Gillmeister, Heiner 1988 La dissémination géographique des jeux traditionnels: l'unité et la diversité des jeux traditionnels en Europe. Séminaire sur les Jeux Traditionnels. Comité pour le développement du sport, Vila Real.
- Ichon, Alain 1991 Les terrains de jeu de balle dans l'est du Guatemala. In Vingt études sur le Mexique et le Guatemala réunies à la mémoire de Nicole Percheron, coordinated by A. Breton, J.P. Berthe, and S. Lecoin. College Hespérides, Presses Universitaires du Mirail, Toulouse.
- Kowalewski, Stephen A., et al. 1991 Prehispanic Ballcourts from the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. In The Mesoamerican Ballgame, edited by David R. Wilcox and Vernon L. Scarborough, pp. 25–44. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
- Leyenaar, Ted J.J. 1978 Ulama: The Perpetuation in Mexico of the Pre-Spanish Ballgame Ullamaliztli. E.J. Brill, Leiden.
- López Austin, Alfredo 1965 Juegos rituales aztecas. Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas No. 5. Universidad Nacional de Autonóma de México, Mexico.
- Lowe, Gareth W. 1974 The Mixe–Zoque as Competing Neighbors of the Early Lowland Maya. In The Origins of Maya Civilization, edited by R.E.W. Adams, pp. 197–248. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
- Marcus, Joyce, and Kent Flannery 1996 Zapotec Civilization. Thames and Hudson, London.
- Moser, Christopher L. 1977 Ñuiñe Writing and Iconography of the Mixteca Baja. Vanderbilt University Publications in Anthropology No. 19. Nashville, TN.
- Oliveros, Arturo 1997 Un lugar para el juego de pelota: Dainzú-Macuilxochitl. Arqueología Mexicana V(2):24–29.
- Ortiz, Sergio Elías 1963 Tres modos de jugar a la pelota en Colombia. Revista Colombiana de Folclor 3:84–87.
- Paddock, John 1966 Ancient Oaxaca: Discoveries in Mexican Archaeology and History. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.
- Parsons, Lee A. 1991 The Ballgame in the Southern Pacific Coast Cotzumalhuapa Region and Its Impact on Kaminaljuyú during the Middle Classic. In The Mesoamerican Ballgame, edited by Gerrard van Bussel, Paul van Dongen, and Ted J.J. Leyenaar, pp. 17–42. Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden.
- Peralta, Espiridión 1903 Juego de pelota. Reglamento. Oaxaca de Juarez.
- Pérez Bazán, Tomás, and Adulfo Manterola 1936 Disposiciones y reglamento para el juego de la pelota a mano. Oaxaca.
- Plazola, A. 1972 Arquitectura deportiva, pp. 590–596. Reglas oficiales de pelota Mixteca. Limusa, Mexico.
- Scarborough, Vernon L., and David R Wilcox (editors) 1991 The Mesoamerican Ballgame. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
- Scheffler, Lillian, Regina Reynoso, and Víctor Inzua C. 1985 El juego de pelota prehispánico y sus pervivencias actuales. La Red de Jonas, Mexico.
- Schieber de Lavarreda, Christa 1994 Abaj Takalik: hallazgo de un juego de pelota del preclásico medio. In VIII Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala, pp. 95–111. Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnografía, Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Instituto de Antropología e Historia, Asociación Tikal, Guatemala.
- Stern, Theodore 1948 The Rubber Ball Game of the Americas. American Ethnological Society Monograph No. 17. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
- Strömsvik, Gustav 1952 The Ball Courts at Copan, with Notes on Courts at La Unión, Quirigua, San Pedro Pinula and Asunción Mita. Publication No. 596. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC.
- Swezey, William R. 1972 La pelota mixteca. In Religión en Mesoamerica, pp. 471–477. XII Mesa Redonda de la Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología, Mexico.
- Taladoire, Eric 1981 Les terrains de jeu de balle (Mésoamérique et Sud Ouest des Etats Unis). Etudes Mésoaméricaines, series II, vol. 4. Mission Arquéologique et Ethnologique Française au Mexique, Mexico.
- Taladoire, Eric 2000 El juego de pelota mesoamericano: Origen y desarrollo. Arqueología Mexicana VIII(43):20–27.
- Taladoire, Eric 2001 The Architectural Background of the Prehispanic Ballgame: An Evolutionary Perspective. In The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame, edited by M. Whittington, pp. 96–115. Mint Museum of Arts, Thames and Hudson, London.
- Uriarte, María Teresa 2000 Práctica y símbolos del juego de pelota. Arqueología Mexicana VIII(44):28–35.




Una Tar Taq (Inuit)

Name of sport (game): Una Tar Taq
Place of practice (continent, state, nation):

Inuit people


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