Traditional Wrestling has a special place in Cumberland and Westmorland’s culture and also has a deep heritage in various places across the UK, including Cornwall, Scotland, and Ireland. Traditional wrestling is still actively practised around the UK and has hardly changed in over two centuries. Often, bouts adhere to the same rules and traditional costumes are still worn: white long johns with dark velvet shorts and floral vests are the usual garb worn by wrestlers at traditional village sports fairs such as Grasmere Sports. The iconic image of Cumberland wrestlers fighting at the foot of our majestic fells are about as Cumbrian as you can get.

The 16-20 year old England Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling team wearing their traditional garb of white vest, white longjohns, and dark velvet shorts

The official rules according to Black Belt Wiki are quite straightforward:

“The two combatants position themselves chest to chest in a 'Backhold' position with the right arm under the others left arm, the left arm over the others right shoulder and the chin of each Wrestler is placed on the others left shoulder. With the Wrestlers in position, the referee will call 'En Guard' followed by the command to 'Wrestle'. The combatants will then begin their struggle to get the opponent to the ground using techniques such as lifting, twisting and tripping. The first wrestler to hit the ground loses.”

Earliest references of wrestling in Cumbria date back to the 16th century but it is thought that our traditional ‘backhold’ Cumberland style may have been brought over with the Vikings or come from Scotland. Whilst much of the origins of the sport can only be surmised from tantalising excerpts from history, what we do know is that today the sport is very much alive in Cumbria. In fact, the Youth Wrestling World Cup is about to take place here in Cumbria next weekend!

The English Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling team in their official tracksuits posing with Giant GB Herdy

The “European Espoirs Championships” of the IFCW (International Federation of Celtic Wrestling) will be held at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith, Cumbria, on 7th-8th April 2018. The international event takes place every two years and was last held in Austria 2016. England has its own team with an enormous sheep for a mascot! Having brought home three Gold Medals and three Silvers at the last event in Austria they are hoping for great things. The event involves teams from England, Scotland, Iceland, Hungary, Brittany, Leon in northern Spain, Sardinia, Austria, Sweden and USA, which are all regions or countries with their own enduring traditions of indigenous wrestling. The two-day competition consists of two styles of wrestling: Gouren, a jacket style from Brittany, and Backhold (akin to our own Cumberland and Westmorland style). As the event is taking place in Cumbria our very own giant GB herdy is going to be the England mascot (there has been talk of some ENORMOUS velvet shorts and vest for him!)

The 16-20 year old English Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling team playing around with Giant GB Herdy

We're sure you’ll join us in wishing all the competitors the very best of luck, but secretly hope ewe’ll be rooting for our England team, which has a strong contingent of local lads and lasses. You can find out more information about the event here.