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The Hero with a Thousand Holds
96 minutes | Nov 25, 2020
White Rhino Speaks
The two primary martial arts of Burma are Lethwei (a form of bare-knuckle kickboxing featuring headbutts) and Naban, a grappling style that allows palm strikes, and with a focus on ferocious pressure and unforgivingly applied submissions. Phil Dunlap has a lifetime of experience in both of these Burmese arts, with a lineage that stretches back to his grandfather's time in Kachin State during World War II. In this episode, I talk with Phil about how these two seemingly divergent combat styles actually complement each other remarkably well, the cultural factors that influence how martial arts are practiced among the different ethnic groups of Burma, the past and potential future of Burmese grappling, and how his combat base in Naban still sees him medalling at high-level BJJ tournaments well into his 50s.
135 minutes | Nov 14, 2020
Episode 1.5: Irish Collar and Elbow Remastered
As the modern revival of the Irish national wrestling style continues, it's time to lay old myths to rest. To mark the 2-year anniversary of The Hero with a Thousand Holds, I've re-written and re-recorded the very first episode, on the subject of Irish Collar and Elbow. Not only to enhance the story with newfound historical discoveries, but to vigorously dispute one particular source (Charles Wilson's "The Magnificent Scufflers") that has unfortunately led to the spread of many misconceptions about the style over the years. Most meaningfully of all, thanks to the truly staggering amount of interest that has arisen in Collar and Elbow over the past two years, we can now end on a much more exciting note than before...
82 minutes | Sep 1, 2020
A Phone Call to the Inner Mongolian Steppe
Lavell Marshall is a world champion and 5-time US national champion in Shuai Jiao, a form of Chinese jacket wrestling. For the past year, he’s been living in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, training and competing with the local Mongol people in their own native wrestling style – Bökh. In this episode, I talk with Lavell about the culture and techniques of Bökh, the differences between Inner Mongolian wrestling and that of Mongolia proper, the strategies he uses to face off against 130 kg giants on a surface of bare grass and rock, and recent measures that the Chinese government have introduced in order to limit expressions of Mongol identity in this ostensibly autonomous region.
113 minutes | Aug 17, 2020
Episode 6: The Roar of the Rain: Ritualized Jaguar Combat in Guerrero, Mexico
The region of the world stretching from Mexico to Costa Rica – traditionally referred to as “Mesoamerica” – was, in its pre-Columbian heyday, home to empires that mapped time, carved words out of mid-air, and raised some of the most magnificent cities on Earth. And from the Olmec to the Toltec, from the Aztec to the Maya, one element of their shared regional culture we can clearly discern was their deep reverence for the local apex predator – the jaguar. Whether as a symbol of imperial authority, death, storms, or individual martial might, the jaguar has been an omnipresent element in Mesoamerican religion and ritual from 3000-year-old stone carvings of “were-jaguars” right up to the present day. In this episode, we trace the origins of combat rituals that saw men cloak themselves in jaguar skin and spill each other’s blood in hope of ensuring a bountiful harvest; rituals that survived the rise and fall of empires and the brutality of the Spanish conquest, and still inspire modern Mexican “jaguars” to take up the mantle and fight for the honour of their neighbourhood and their state.
137 minutes | Jan 26, 2020
Episode 5: By Law Shall Land Be Built: Icelandic Glíma
One of the last major landmasses to be settled by human beings, Iceland is nowadays a thriving modern nation that boasts a highly educated populace and one of the highest standards of living on Earth. The world of the earliest Icelandic settlers, however, was significantly different – one of endless, back-breaking agricultural work carried out amid brutal North Atlantic weather and the constant threat of violent family feuds. Their wrestling matches could often be similarly wild and injurious, often barely distinguishable in motivation or consequence from a duel fought with sword or axe. As this young society began to mature and regulate itself, however, their wrestling began to change accordingly. And just like the modern nation of Iceland emerged out of a fractious mass of Nordic and Celtic settlers on the edge of the world, the Icelandic national wrestling style, Glima, gradually took form. A game of joy – of truly convivial wrestling – Glima is both stylistically unlike any other grappling tradition on Earth, and a physical manifestation of the discipline that Iceland forced on itself in order to balance the conflicts of an honour-driven society with the need for mutual cooperation in order to survive.
114 minutes | Sep 25, 2019
Episode 4: “O Sword, Forged in Khevsureti”: Georgian Chidaoba
The Caucasus mountains, a 750-mile-long chain of rock and ice stretching between the Black and Caspian seas, have traditionally been regarded as one of the great cultural boundaries between Europe and Asia. Nestled among its towering peaks and valleys are a tapestry of diverse peoples, many of whom speak languages unrelated to anything else on Earth. And stretching out on the southern side of these mountains lies Georgia – an ancient nation at the crossroads of East and West, with a history rooted in the earliest days of Christianity, in the movements of empires and armies, and in their ability to remain proudly distinct through it all. Visited by, traded with, and occasionally subjugated by the Greeks, the Romans, the Mongols, the Timurids, the Persians, and the Russians, modern Georgia is an independent, sovereign country that boasts several UNESCO-listed cultural practices: an entirely unique writing system, a polyphonic musical tradition, a millennia-old method of wine-making, and a wrestling style whose name (“Chidaoba”) originally derived from a term meaning “a struggle between a man and a beast” but that ultimately came to embody the highest ideals of Georgian knighthood. In this episode, we look at this land of highlanders, saints, and poets, the role that Chidaoba plays in their conceptions of “Georgian-ness”, and how the widespread practice of this hallowed wrestling style has elevated their small nation to the status of a world superpower in grappling sports like sambo and judo.
42 minutes | May 10, 2019
The Kimura Traps of Angkor
The traditional wrestling of Cambodia, Bok Cham Bab, has a history stretching back to the days when the Khmer Empire was the undisputed lord and master of the Southeast Asian mainland. At the height of the empire’s power, wrestling contests held a sufficiently meaningful role in their society that they chose to enshrine it in stone at the site of their greatest lasting achievement – the temples of Angkor. This episode takes a closer look at some of those engravings and, inspired by the presence of some distinctly modern-looking submission holds among them, asks the question: have we really already invented every grappling technique that ever will be?
78 minutes | Apr 10, 2019
Episode 3: Killing Sharks in the Open Sea: Vietnamese Đấu Vật
In the western world, our conceptions of Vietnam are often limited to the Vietnam War – that prolonged and devastating conflict in the mid-20th century that resulted in the deaths of anywhere up to 4.2 million people. As undeniably ruinous as that war was, it was ultimately just two decades in the history of a nation and a people that stretches back to the first millennium BC. Conquered and ruled by the first Chinese Empire, winning their freedom and taking their first steps as an independent nation, waging their own wars of expansion against the other kingdoms of Southeast Asia; the story of Vietnam is a long one often characterised by conflict and desire to carve out an identity of their own. In this episode, we look at their story and the associated significance of Đấu Vật – a grappling style centred around the most sacred holiday on the Vietnamese calendar, and inextricably linked to legends of their fierce resistance to foreign invasion.
23 minutes | Feb 7, 2019
Chipewyan Wrestling - A Grappling Isolate?
The Chipewyan (Dënesųłı̨né), a First Nations people of northern Canada, historically had a deeply ingrained – and in many ways highly unique – wrestling tradition that was remarked upon by almost all of the early European settlers that they encountered. In this short episode, I briefly discuss the things that made Chipewyan wrestling so unusual, and explore some of the possible reasons behind its drastic divergence from many global grappling norms.
95 minutes | Jan 5, 2019
Episode 2: Beyond the End of the World: Yaghan and Selk'Nam Wrestling of Tierra del Fuego
The Yaghan and the Selk'nam are – were – the southernmost peoples in the world; a scattered group of nomadic hunters living on the sub-antarctic inlets and islands of Tierra del Fuego. Yet despite being so isolated from the vast majority of the rest of humanity, and despite speaking a language entirely different from anything else on the planet, they go together and wrestled in a way that would be recognisable to any of us. How did they get there, how did they live, how did they wrestle, and where are they now? All that, and much more, we explore in this look at a culture that is in many ways unique but in other ways keenly familiar.
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