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Collar-And-Elbow Wrestling
Also known asIrish Wrestling, Irish Celtic Wrestling, Scuffling, Irish Scuffling, Square-Hold Wrestling, Box Wrestling, Irish-style Scuffling, Coraíaocht (generalised).
Country of originRepublic of Ireland Ireland
Famous practitionersAbraham Lincoln

Edward MacLysaght
George Washington
John McMahon, Viro Small, Henry Moses Dufur,

Pat Connelly,
Ancestor artsIrish Fighting Arts/Irish Martial Arts
Descendant artsCatch wrestling
Olympic sportno

Collar-and-elbow wrestling (Irish: Coraíocht) is a style of folk wrestling native to Ireland that can be traced back to the 17th century but it has ties to the Games of Tailtinn between 632 BC and 1169 AD.[1] Though originating in Ireland, the style flourished in America, Australia and Argentina. Collar-and-elbow features an array of trips, mares/throws, hip-locking, shin kicking, pinning combinations, and limited knowledge of submissions.


Origins in Ireland[edit]

The origins of Irish collar-and-elbow are not known; according to historian Edward MacLysaght, it was an organised sport as early as the 17th century in which the more prominent wrestlers were able to earn a living.[1]

In particular, the Kildare county of Ireland was known for excellent Collar-and-Elbow wrestlings of the jacket style[2]. The rules then being to start in the namesake grip, with one hand gripping the opponent's collar firmly, the other gripping the opponent's sleeve by the elbow tightly. Once the wrestlers are instructed to wrestle, it usually becomes a contest of pulling the other off balance, then employing various sweeping, tripping or throwing techniques. The focus being to put the opponent "grass down" on their back, with either both shoulders and one hip hitting the ground or two hips and one shoulder for "3 points" or both shoulders and hips hitting the ground for "4 points". Scufflers of this method of Collar-and-elbow often rivaled in competitions with the Devon and Cornish Wrestlers.

While Side-Hold wrestling was another semi-popular style of jacket-wrestling native to Ireland, Collar-and-Elbow was by far superior in popularity. Side-Hold wrestling contests largely ceased to be but many Collar-and-elbow wrestlers found the techniques useful and would often switch in mid-wrestling of a bout, from the collar-and-elbow grip to the side-hold grip. As such, all of Side-Hold's wrestling techniques were assimilated into Collar-and-Elbow, making it a diverse means of standing wrestling. In The Magnificent Scufflers, it was mentioned that Henry Dufur Sr., a Vermont champion of Collar-and-elbow wrestling, would often break the grip and grab his opponent by side-hold if he were too challenging to take in the collar-and-elbow grip.

United States[edit]

Although collar-and-elbow was seen as a common man's sport in Ireland, it was considered a gentlemen's pastime in several areas of the colonies. It was part of the curriculum at the Reverend James Maury's Academy in Fredericksburg, Virginia. George Washington, at the age of eighteen, held a collar-and-elbow championship that was at least county wide. Twenty-eight years later, in command of the Continental Army, he demonstrated his wrestling skill by dealing flying mares to seven volunteers from Massachusetts. Washington was not the only grappling president of the United States. Zachary Taylor, William Howard Taft, Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge also practised at one time or another the style of collar-and-elbow.[3]

In the late 18th century, the style came to Vermont with some of the Irish settlers and had a home in the church. It flourished in the Vermont area for over 100 years and, during that time, spread across the globe as it mixed with other styles. In the mid 19th century, rules were loosely created to ban the use of biting, butting and scratching. These were known as the "Dufur" rules named after their originator, and famous Collar-and-Elbow champion, Henry Moses Dufur.

Collar-and-Elbow found much success in mixed-style competitions against styles such as Lancashire wrestling, Greco Roman Wrestling, and others. Often these matches were contested best "3 out of 5 falls". The fall stipulations would have been agreed upon by both competitors. Example: John McMahon (Collar-and-Elbow Champion) vs. William Miller (Well-known Greco Roman Wrestler). Two rounds "catch as you can", above the waist with jackets. Two falls "catch as you can" without jackets, tripping allowed—and if a fifth fall become necessary, the competitors would coin toss to determine who chooses. But this was never exclusive. In the latter days of Collar-and-Elbow's popularity, matches consisted of "2 out of 3 falls". One fall jacket Collar-and-Elbow, one fall Greco Roman, and one fall Catch As You Can.

Some of Collar-and-Elbow's techniques exist today within Catch wrestling, in addition to Freestyle wrestling and wrestling in general. Collar-and-Elbow's influence can also be seen in modern Professional Wrestling's use of the Collar-and-Elbow tie up, which is utilised as the initial starting position in a majority of Professional Wrestling matches.

Irish martial arts are known to teach "Collar-and-Elbow" techniques within their "Coraiocht" curriculum. "Coraiocht" translates as "wrestle". In the case of IMA, the term is used in general referring to grappling, not the old-style of Irish backhold wrestling by the same name, which also exists within IMA's "Coraiocht" training.

Edward Gallagher, in particular, was known to use a large number of techniques common to Irish Scuffling, Gallagher himself being considered the driving force behind collegiate wrestling in the state of Oklahoma.[4] He released two manuals, "Wrestling" wherein the techniques are adapted for Olympic competition rules[5] and "Amateur Wrestling" wherein he had adapted it to rival against Judo and Catch-as-catch-can.[6]

The Magnificent Scufflers by Charles Morrow Wilson in 1959 was seen as more a documentation on the history, evolution and characteristics of Collar-and-elbow more than an actual instructional manual but also mentioned that Collar-and-elbow had borrowed many techniques from way of catch-as-catch-can, showing that it had clearly become more well-rounded in its later days.[3]

Characteristics and rules[edit]

The rules of Collar-and-elbow in Ireland and in America largely differed from county to county. Some favored standing wrestling only, others favored a pinning combination. Some favored jackets, some without. And some favored never letting go of the Collar-and-Elbow grip throughout the entire wrestling match while others merely asked that it be the starting hold. Footwear was banned from being worn in competition early on due to the kicking and tripping techniques employed. The wrestlers who practised this style referred to themselves as "scufflers" and "trippers". An impromptu scuffling match was known as a scuffling bee.[1]

The beginning stance is the foundation of the style as well as the origin of its name. This very stance forced the scufflers to use technique rather than a sudden aggression or strength on their opponent. The beginning of the match was often a test of strategy and balance. The scufflers would often try to pull the other off balance or use "toe taps" to the opponent's foot, ankle or knee to knock them off balance as a set up for a takedown. This stage of the match could last a very long time, indeed, there are accounts where the standing portion of the match had lasted over an hour. Inevitably a take-down would occur. A flying mare was a common takedown.

While there is no evidence showing that the Irish style of collar-and-elbow wrestling in Ireland was a groundfighting game, the Irish who came to the United States in the late 18th and early 19th century had a style that included a fairly large amount of ground wrestling, which goes against the mold of other indigenous styles. Ground wrestling began after one or both of the scufflers hit the ground. Half-nelsons and various grapevines and other ground control techniques were then employed. A match was originally won only when all four points of the body (both shoulders and hips) were pinned to the ground for the count of five. In the late 19th century, the requirement to win was lessened to a three-point touch.

Common terms[edit]

  • "Scuffler"/"Tripper" – title given to practitioners of Collar-and-Elbow.
  • "Mare" – refers to any throw which causes the opponents feet to go over his head.
  • "Grapevine" – refers to any type of technique which "entangles" the limbs of an opponent.
  • "Grass Down" – refers to an opponent being thrown to the ground.
  • "Points Down" – refers to an opponent being pinned to the ground.

Common techniques[edit]


Collar and Elbow grip[edit]

  • The Trippett – similar to ko uchi gari.
  • The Loose Leg – similar to o uchi gari.
  • Howard's Hank – similar to ko soto gake.
  • The Flying Hobby – similar to harai tsurikomi ashi.
  • The Buttock – Also called the "Cross Buttock", borrowed from Catch-as-catch-can. Similar to O Goshi.
  • Flying Mare – Similar to ippon seoinage
  • The Blackguard Snatch – Speculated to be more than likely a means of unbalancing than an actual takedown.
  • The Whip (or Irish Whip) – Used alone as an unbalancing technique; used in combination with a quick leg trip.
  • Arm and Leg Hold – Similar to Fireman's Carry Takedown
  • The Octus – Similar to sprawling, only standing upright
  • Leg Trip - Similar to Deashi Barai
  • Double Leg Hold - Alternate name for the Double Leg Takedown
  • Standing Armlock to Inside Crotch
  • Hurl-To-Mat
  • Arm Drag
  • Elbow Throw
  • Leg Dive
  • Forward Leg Trip
  • Grapvined Leg-Hold Down
  • Hip Bump and Left Swing
  • Ankle-lock between Legs, borrowed from Catch-as-catch-can
  • Arm-and-Neck, also called the "Bulling Hold", borrowed from Catch-as-catch-can
  • Overarm Hook
  • Forearm Hook
  • Wing Lock, borrowed from Catch-as-catch-can
  • Body Slam

Mentioned in the Magnificent Scufflers as common methods from the Collar-and-elbow grip are "Arm Bars and Headlocks, Foot Pick-ups Foot Trips, Foot and leg plays, Heel blocks, Hip Rolls and Tackles".

Side Hold grip[edit]

  • Trip Forward
  • Heel Block
  • Double Heel Block


  • The Cradle
  • Nelson and Crotch – Multiple variations, similar to various cradle pins.
  • Bridge (grappling) – "Bridging Up" refers to being on your back, and pushing yourself up on elbows and feet to prevent pinning and to quickly rise back to feet.
  • Arm Scissors – to scissor one's legs around the opponent's arm in hopes of keeping the shoulder down
  • Double Leg Grapevine - Method of straightening out the opponent's legs to pin down his "hips". Often combined with an arm lock or arm hold of some sort to establish a 3 Point Pin via both hips and 1 shoulder.
  • Half Nelson and many variations including the Half-Nelson and Hammerlock, Half-Nelson and Toe Hold, Near Half Nelson and Farther Wrist Lock

Father Half Nelson and Near Arm Scissors

  • Reverse Half-Nelson
  • Hammerlock
  • Wristlock
Mentioned in the Magnificent Scufflers for ground-wrestling and pinning techniques are "Thigh and Body Holds, Double Leg Holds, Leg Grapevines, 

Elbow and Head Locks, Ankle Locks, head-and-elbow hold downs and Arm-and-neck holds." It also states the majority of Collar-and-elbow's grappling techniques to be borrowed from catch-as-catch-can.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Scothack, Cinaet. "Wrestling in Gaelic Culture". Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2009.
  2. ^ Ennis, John (16 March 1907). "Co. Kildare Online Electronic History Journal: Collar and Elbow Wrestling". Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b Charles Morrow Wilson (1959). "Magnificent Scufflers". Scribd. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  4. ^ Dellinger, Bob. "Wrestling In The USA" (PDF). National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  5. ^ Gallagher, Edward Clark; Peery, Rex (1951). "Wrestling".
  6. ^ Gallagher, Edward Clark (1925). "Amateur Wrestling".