Grappling is a combative technique which involves technical time-tested movements which the opponents implement including submission, pinning, trapping, and throwing, to get the better of each other in a contest. There are many martial arts which have the principles of grappling incorporated in them and without it they are incomplete. Though grappling does not include the art of striking, or the use of weapons, but there are fighting styles which use grappling along with striking techniques to make the combat all the more effective.
History / Origins
The word grapple seems to have been influenced by Old English ‘Graepplian,’ which means ‘to seize.’ This further improvised to Middle English word ‘grapplen,’ which meant ‘to lay hold of,’ or ‘to seize.’ The Old French word ‘grappil’ meant ‘a ship’s grapple,’ or ‘grappin,’ which meant ‘hook.’ Germans also used the word ‘grabbeln,’ which meant ‘grope about’ and ‘grapsen’ which meant ‘grasp.’ Hence all these old vocabulary seems to have worked for coining of the word grappling.
Grappling is the big brother of all the empty-handed combats, and has been around for longer than any of them. Its traces are lost in the Egyptian times around 3400 BC. All that is left are the images of grapplers engraved in tomb walls of Beni-Hasan in Egypt, and in Ptahhotpe in Saqqara. Some of the styles displayed in graphics are still in vogue today. If you want to go further back in time, then you can reach for the bible, where prophets and angels are mentioned fighting the beasts. Genesis 32 states that Jacob wrestled with beasts until the break of day.
Grappling got highlighted as a sport when it got the patronage of the Greeks in 704 BC. Greeks introduced the early popular styles in the Olympic Game. The Greek version of the sport emphasised more on the ground techniques much like the Brazilian Jiu-Jujitsu. Then, the ancient Etruscans were instrumental in moving the grappling scene to the Roman Empire. The Romans added their own flavour to the fighting style, which laid stress on military style upright takedowns.
Though, the rest of the world was also not left untouched by the grappling world, which is evident from the European wrestling form which existed in the British Isles way back in 1829 BC. Then Scandinavia had its own version of ancient wrestling style Schwingen.
In India as well it existed in the form of ‘Pahalwani,’ or ‘Mallavidya’ around 11th century AD, which the ancient kings patronized. Then, there was also another less popular form of grappling art ‘Vajra-Musti.’
In present days you can view the exhibition of grappling combat in different tournaments around the world. ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship is the most popular grappling competition in the world, where the takedown, submission, and positions are executed. Moreover, the grappling techniques can also be seen in World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, where the jacketed version with takedown, submission, and position are displayed, along with the non-jacketed version as well.
NAGA, the North American Grappling Association since 1995 has taken up the mantle to promote the sport. The association holds ‘Submission Grappling’ and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions across North America and Europe. Today NAGA is the leading organization of grapplers with more than 175,000 members, which include some of the renowned submission grapplers.
It is said that around 20 century BC, ‘Sumai,’ a form of grappling wrestling was in its full galore. Many of the techniques it exhibited can be seen in today’s Sumo Wrestling. Before the 16th century it is said that all wrestling forms were practiced for battles, though they were practiced for competitions as well by Sumo warriors.
It is speculated that the earliest form of this combative sport fight was Chikura Kurabe. Japanese also had the ancient grappling styles like Tekoi and Kumi-Uchi. Though, Kumi-Uchi was the battlefield version. During 875 to 880 AD, one of the sons of Emperor Siewa, Teijun Fujiwara met a Chinese man who apprised him of new fighting techniques. Using those principles, he developed his own version of combative art called Aiki-Jutsu. Though he chose to limit the training to royal Minamoto family, thus the art remained secret till the early 1100s.