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The Global Spread of Wrestling: Different Styles from Around the World

Wrestling, in its various forms, has been a part of the human story for millennia. As one of the oldest known sports, its roots trace back to ancient civilizations from every corner of the globe. While the basic premise remains the same — pinning an opponent to the ground or outmuscling them — the techniques, rituals, and cultural significance differ immensely. Let’s embark on a journey exploring the diverse world of wrestling styles.

Greco-Roman Wrestling (Europe)

Originating from ancient Greece and refined by the Romans, this style is characterized by its prohibition of holds below the waist. Wrestlers engage using throws, locks, and grapples, focusing on upper body strength. Today, it remains one of the two styles contested at the Olympic Games.

Sumo Wrestling (Japan)

Rooted deeply in Japanese tradition, Sumo is more than just a sport. It’s a ritualistic display where wrestlers, or ‘rikishi’, aim to force their opponent out of the ring or touch the ground with any body part other than the soles of their feet. The ceremonial aspects, from the Shinto rituals to the elaborate attire, make it distinct.

Freestyle Wrestling (Worldwide)

Another Olympic staple, freestyle wrestling offers more flexibility than its Greco-Roman counterpart. Wrestlers can use their legs for offensive and defensive moves, making for a dynamic contest of strength and strategy.

Lucha Libre (Mexico)

Translating to “free fight”, Lucha Libre is a high-flying spectacle. Known for its colorful masks and theatrical storylines, wrestlers, or ‘luchadores’, employ acrobatic moves and dramatic techniques, creating an entertainment extravaganza.

Kushti or Pehlwani (India)

Dating back to the Mughal era, Kushti is traditional Indian wrestling practiced in a clay or dirt pit. Wrestlers live and train together, adhering to strict dietary and lifestyle regimes. It’s not just a test of physical might but also mental discipline and spirituality.

Ssireum (South Korea)

Contested on a circular sand-filled ring, Ssireum sees competitors trying to topple each other using a cloth belt, or ‘satba’, tied around the waist and thigh. Celebrated during traditional festivals, it’s a cherished cultural sport.

Catch Wrestling (UK and USA)

Emerging in the late 19th century from Lancashire, England, catch wrestling focuses on submission holds. Its philosophy of “catch as catch can”, meaning using any technique available, later influenced the development of modern mixed martial arts.

Mongolian Wrestling (Mongolia)

A key component of the Naadam Festival, Mongolian wrestling has competitors wearing unique attire, including an open-fronted jacket and boots. Victory is achieved by forcing any part of your opponent’s body, other than feet and hands, to the ground.

Senegalese Wrestling (Senegal)

Known as ‘Laamb’ in the Wolof language, this form combines wrestling with punches, making it akin to MMA. With deep-rooted cultural and spiritual elements, matches often draw massive crowds and are accompanied by traditional music and dance.


The world of wrestling is a rich tapestry of history, culture, and athleticism. While the styles may differ, the essence remains constant: a physical and mental contest between two individuals. It’s a testament to the universal human desire for competition, discipline, and achievement.


  • Global wrestling styles,
  • Greco-Roman wrestling,
  • Sumo,
  • Lucha Libre,
  • Kushti,
  • Ssireum,
  • Catch wrestling,
  • Mongolian wrestling,
  • Laamb.


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