Wrestling: no faking it

Olympic wrestling has none of the theatrics of the made-for-TV WWF (World Wrestling Federation) or WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).

There's no faking it with this ancient hand-to-hand combat sport. It's a true test of grit, determination and athleticism.

Wrestling has been an Olympic sport since the inception of the Games in 1896. There are three wrestling styles: freestyle, Greco-Roman and female.

All three styles require agility, speed, flexibility, strength, stamina and strategy. If you don’t have any of these, wrestling can help you develop them.

“Children enjoy playful wrestling in their early years, so they could be encouraged to continue that,” says Malcolm Morley of the British Wrestling Association (BWA). “Olympic-style wrestling encourages good discipline, self-confidence and excellent levels of fitness.”

'I want to be in the GB wrestling team'

Ben Bellamy from Matlock, Derbyshire, got into wrestling after watching a demonstration at his school.

“I went along the next day to my local club and I got hooked,” he says. “I was on the school football team and had tried Taekwondo. But once I knew wrestling was the sport for me, I wanted to be on the GB wrestling team.”

After two years of hard work, in 2008 Ben was accepted on the GB wrestling development team for young wrestlers with potential in Salford.

“I think I am even fitter now than when I played football," he says. "When I'm on the mat, it's just me wrestling so I can't blame anyone but myself if I don't win.

“It feels good to win and even if I lose I want to go back to train so that next time I win.”

Team spirit

Although it's an individual sport, wrestling in schools and clubs takes place within a team framework, which encourages a sense of solidarity among team members.

“This aspect contributes to the development of lifelong patterns of responsible behaviour, including respect for others, regardless of social or racial origin,” says Malcolm.

“A young person involved in wrestling can be expected to display self-confidence and appreciation of their self-worth, and develop analytical and adaptive skills.”

He says many of wrestling’s more experienced practitioners enjoy workouts well into their 70s and 80s. A World Veterans' Championship is held annually.

“A healthy lifestyle demands self-discipline and all-round fitness – wrestling ticks both boxes and many others besides, including self-defence,” he says.

The sport can be played on a 12m x 12m competition mat or a 6m x 6m jigsaw mat so the required space is easily accommodated by most school or community halls and sports centres.

To get started, participants only need comfortable clothing and trainers. They then progress to wrestling singlets and boots for competition.

The cost for most is an annual membership fee to the UK governing body, the British Wrestling Association (BWA), and an entry fee to the sports facility, usually between £2 and £5.

If you would like to get involved, you can find a list of clubs on the BWA website.

Give the secretary a call before you go for the first time and, if you're under 18, ask your parents' permission first.

Page last reviewed: 01/07/2013

Next review due: 01/07/2015


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