The Role of Folkstyle Wrestling in Submission Grappling

Folkstyle Wrestling is an invaluable field for harvesting techniques for the wonderful new sport of No-Gi Submission Grappling. However, Folkstyle is not a system, but rather a title to represent the “folk” or people, of a particular nation. For example, the Folkstyle Wrestling of Japan is Sumo and the Folkstyle Wrestling of Iceland is called Glima, they all have different rules and objectives. Submission Grappling is the newest style of American folk wrestling. It is the latest and most advanced evolution in wrestling. It was introduced to the world by the legendary Dan Gable and John Peretti in the 1997 cable tv show “The Contender”.

The Roots of Folkstyle Wrestling: Catch as Catch Can

What we call Folkstyle today is actually called amateur Catch as Catch Can, the most deadly submission art in the world of the 19th and 20th century. However, Catch as Catch Can wrestling was stripped of its submission holds and joint locks when the modern Olympic Games re-emerged circa 1896-1904. This was to give amateur athletes a chance to participate without fear of serious harm or risk to the their health.

No-Gi Submission Wrestling Emerges:

It’s time for American Folks wrestling to CATCH up with the times, (no pun intended). We are in the 21st century and various grappling arts abound. We have a responsibility as Folk Wrestlers to evolve. And as they say, the times they are “a changing”. It’s time for American Folkstyle Wrestling to take its rightful place as the greatest style of combat the world has ever seen, by putting submission holds and joint locks back in the art.

We must harvest the fruit Folkstyle wrestling has been raising for the last 100 years. We must borrow the techniques it created and apply them to the newest form of American folk wrestling, No-Gi Submission Wrestling, or “Grappling” for short. We must be judicious in our harvest, as not every piece of fruit is edible. We must carefully select techniques which apply to our modern times. We must create the perfect MMA fighter and Submission Grappler using select techniques from wrestling.

Many Folkstyle techniques will remain unchanged, some must be modified, while others have to be abandoned since they do not apply to MMA or Submission Grappling. At this point you may be asking, “Why not just practice Catch as Catch Can, as there are a few schools still teaching this old fashion art?” The reason not to is that Catch as Catch Can is still using its original outdated rule system. It allows joint locks, but no strangle holds or chokes and victory can still be had by pinning the opponents’ shoulders. We can still harvest techniques from Catch wrestling for Submission Grappling and MMA but we must separate the grain from the chaff, because its rules system is outdated.

American Folkstyle Wrestling is an excellent resource for Submission Grappling . It has many beautiful takedowns, takedown defenses, escapes, reversals, etc, as well as some beautiful mat work. We must utilize its extensive repertoire of techniques and abandon that which doesn’t apply to today’s MMA and grappling environment. This will enhance our Submission Grappling, MMA, and self-defense ability. (For a list of specific techniques from Folkstyle that do not apply to MMA or Submission Grappling, see the article titled, “Folkstyle techniques for MMA.”) Until we recognize Folkstyle wrestlings’ rightful place, as well as that of No-Gi Submission Grappling, we are hindering the evolution of our beloved sport of “Rasslin”.

About Sam Basco

Sam Basco is a lifelong competitor, coach and student of Mixed Marital Arts and Combat Sports Training.  Sam coaches submission grappling, wrestling and strength training for combat athletes at Flawless Victory MMA in Ridgecrest CA.  Visit to learn more about customized personal or team strength and conditioning program created by, Sam Basco, a licensed and experienced professional.  You can also reach Coach Basco via email at or phone at (760)-499-0692