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Irish Collar and Elbow Wrestling


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This book explores the history of Collar and Elbow, its staggering popularity, its strategies and techniques, how it fit into wider sporting and combative contexts, and examines the causes behind the style’s precipitous disappearance. Given the modern resurgence of interest in grappling sports such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, might it now be possible to spark a revival of the tradition that was once known worldwide as “the Irish method” of wrestling?

About Irish Collar and Elbow Wrestling

“In measuring the values of the different styles and schools of wrestling, I unhesitatingly give preference to Collar and Elbow as the most scientific and beautiful of all.”

Collar and Elbow was once the national wrestling style of Ireland. Taking a firm grip on each other’s jackets, competitors would engage in intricate, lightning-fast battles of “footsparring” in which they would attempt to trip, throw, or otherwise send each other crashing to the ground.

At its height in the 19th century, Collar and Elbow was practised on three continents by some of the finest athletes of the age, from village wrestling circles in Ireland to sold-out arenas in the United States. Due to a combination of social and political factors, it declined rapidly in the early years of the 20th century, to the extent that it is now almost entirely extinct both in its homeland and abroad.

About the author

Ruadhán MacFadden is an independent researcher in cultural anthropology, focusing on the history and traditions of folk wrestling styles around the world. He is a member of the special advisory group of UNESCO ICM, in which he represents the traditional Irish wrestling style of Collar and Elbow. Ruadhán has more than a decade of experience in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has trained and taught grappling in over a dozen countries.

Book Details

  • Authors: Ruadhán MacFadden
  • Editor: Keith Farrell
  • Publisher: Fallen Rook Publishing
  • Date of Publication: 8th June 2021
  • ISBN: 978-1-913066-00-0
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Pages: 214
  • Height: 22.86 cm
  • Width: 15.24 cm
  • Language: English

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Note on Technical and Foreign Terms
  • Chapter 1: The History of Wrestling in Ireland
  • “I Invoke the Land of Ireland”
  • The Nature of Early Irish Wrestling
  • Wrestling in the 17th-18th Centuries
  • Chapter 2: The Style of Collar and Elbow
  • The Jacket
  • The Grip
  • The Techniques
  • “A Fist Fight with the Feet
  • Crooks, Hooks, Trips, and Taps
  • The Grapevine (a.k.a. Hank or Crook)
  • Kicks
  • Falls
  • In a Nutshell
  • Chapter 3: Collar and Elbow in Ireland
  • The Village Wrestling Ring
  • Of Field and Phoenix
  • Injuries
  • Usage in Gaelic Games
  • Usage in Faction Fighting
  • Usage in Everyday Speech
  • Chapter 4: Collar and Elbow Around the World
  • United States
  • Green Mountain Wrestling
  • “The Most Scientific and Beautiful of All”
  • The First Written Rules
  • The Wrestling Harness
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Chapter 5: The Decline
  • Social and Political Factors
  • The Great Famine (1845-1849)
  • Coercion Acts and Association with Violence
  • The Rise of Other Grappling Styles
  • Lack of Organised Support
  • Excluded from the Modern Tailteann Games
  • Overlooked by the Gaelic Athletic Association
  • Lingering Presence
  • Chapter 6: A Spark of Revival
  • Appendix 1: The Broken History of The Magnificent Scufflers
  • Claim #1: Collar and Elbow was often performed shirtless, and the collar-and-elbow grips were optional
  • Claim #2: Collar and Elbow matches featured a significant amount of groundwork and were won by pin
  • Claim #3: Collar and Elbow was a core influence on the development of the US amateur and collegiate wrestling system
  • Why Does This All Matter?
  • Appendix 2: Dufur vs. McLaughlin Full Report
  • Appendix 3: Notable Bouts
  • Bibliography
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Anonymous customer published the 18/10/2021 following an order made on 03/10/2021


Fascinating exploration of a lost tradition. At times philosophical, humourous and always entertaining

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Anonymous customer published the 16/07/2021 following an order made on 25/06/2021



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Anonymous customer published the 08/07/2021 following an order made on 16/06/2021


Interesting book on yet another lost Irish martial art.

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