The Hero with a Thousand Holds
Episode 3

Chipewyan wrestling: a grappling isolate?

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The Chipewyan (Denésoliné), 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.

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  • I am so happy that you made this and for Matt Galas for sharing it! For Mi'kmaq (Indigenous people of the north-eastern North America) hair-grabbing was an acceptable hold to assume during wrestling and combat. There are a few records of this occurring: "If the offenses are not between tribes, but between
    compatriots and fellow-citizens, then they fight among themselves for slight offenses, and their way of fighting is like that of women here, they fly for the hair, holding on to this, they struggle and Jerk in a terrible fashion, and if they are equally matched, they keep it up one whole day, or even two, without stopping until some one separates them; and certainly in strength of body and arms they are equal to us, comparing like to like; but if they are more skillful in wrestling and nimble running, they do not understand boxing at all..." I never considered this may be a form of wrestling where the hairgrab is either the initial hold or a common hold during the wrestling match.