Combat Sports Project Est.2012
Combat Sports Project Est.2012

Folk Wrestling Styles

Folk Styles Wrestling purpose

Humans have been wrestling since the beginning of times.

Contrary to the popular beliefs, folk style wrestling was not trained as a meaning of self defence or set of skills to be used in war (spear and a shield can cancel any style of grappling quite easily).

They were mainly practiced by the common folks, for the purpose of staying in shape and a popular competition in festivities, religious or others, like the Olympic Games.

Until this day, in many places around the world, where wrestling is popular (more specifically, the areas around Black Sea and Caspian Sea), kids usually wrestle outdoors, when helping herding cattle and sheeps.

Such style is easy to practice, only needs flat space and consists on the first objective or folk wrestling around the world:

To take your opponent to the ground.

So, typically, wrestling is practiced recreationally on rural areas, by youths and adults alike.

The only wrestling application in the military was indeed to help soldiers practice physical activity and replace the need of dragging hundreds and thousands of kilometers, cars filled with workout equipment. So the soldiers would break camp and have a wrestling practice.

Famous conqueror Alexander the Great has all his sioldiers practicing Pankration for that same purpose. And while all of them were indeed formidable grapplers, it is known that all of his success as a warlord, came from the competent use of spear formations (the Macedonian Phalanx:

Not much of a chance to wrestle these guys.


In general, we can separate all folk styles by uniforms into 2 categories:

  • Jacket wrestling
  • Non-jacket wrestling

Depending on if the competitors are allowed to grip the opponent’s clothing (been a type of jacket/belt or other pieces of clothing). or not, we have the styles differentiation.

Georgian Chidaoba using jacket and belt grips
Korean Ssyrium using belt grips
Central Asian Kurash using jacket grips
Japanese Sumo using mawashi’s grips
Turkish Oil Wrestling using kispet grips

The non-jacket styles are usually played with minimum clothing, to avoid the possibility of gripping.

Burgarian Folk Wrestling

And sometimes, the champion takes home live cattle on his shoulders as a prize for the first place:


Almost all folk styles of grappling and wrestling are limited to taking down your opponent, make him touch the ground with any other part of his boidy but ther feet.

Then we have area boundaries limitations, where matches are held only at certain area and the player who leaves that area, loses.

And then we have the small number of folk styles, that continue the match on the ground (in par terre), until a pin is achieved.

The difference with professional warrior training is, that none of the styles has an objective of harming the opponent, but to demonstrate dominance instead.

Starting position is either equal for both players (both establish certain grip on the opponent and then start is called) or freestyle, where players start with a distance between themselves and must fight for grips, before throw and a pin.

Professional Martial Arts purpose…

is to allow the practitioner gain an advantage over untrained person and be capable of disarm, incapacitate, uprehand and if necessary, to maim and kill.

Such styles are traditionally practiced in small circles, by professionals from warrior cast and only recently open to general public.

Here are 2 examples of such arts, that are currently blowing up in popularity, been available for average people, for the first time in history:

  • BJJ

The art of Jiujitsu was developped for the needs of the samurais– the Japanese warrior cast, and the law enforcement officers.

Jiujitsu was not available to the masses (edged weapons werent either, for that matter) and that is the reason Kano Jigoro developed Judo as a sport- to create a folk style, preserving some of the principles of Jiujitsu, even some of the dangerous techniques (chokes and joint locks).

And in the recent few decades, Jiujitsu is making its comeback, but this time directly to the recreational practitioners.

  • Sambo

Originally, created with the specific purpose of a hand to hand fighting system for USSR intelligence services, LEO and military, for many years Sambo was practiced only by professionals from those spheres.

Once a decision was made, for popularization of Sambo as the official USSR Sport, to enter the Olympics, the Sport Sambo version (primarly a throw and pin style) was created, while the Combat Sambo version was kept for military and LEOs, until the end of the Cold War.

All Combat Sambo competitions before the 90s, were only held as part of military or police games and championships, under different names: Combat Sambo, Rukopashiy Boy and etc.

Today we have a free flow of information online, the Sport Sambo competitions are now enjoying a wide variety of submissions.

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