From: Chip Cochran
Date: 17-Oct-01 | 03:50 PM
On this forum, we discuss wrestling in generic terms, but sometimes we talk about one of three styles: (American) Folkstyle, Freestyle, and Greco Roman. What differentiates one from another? What are the similarities and overlap among the styles? I will probably get a little too wordy (as usual) but hopefully it will be helpful. My purpose here is not to get into the nitty gritty little details of exact rules, but to give you an idea of what happens out on the mat and why. Why are you going to conduct yourself slightly differently in one style than another?
First, some very basic information…
As the name implies, American folkstyle - also referred to as "Scholastic" or "Collegiate" - is a style that is unique to the United States (although mud wrestling is also popular). Both Freestyle and Greco can be found in just about any country in the world. Those two styles are the only styles of wrestling found on the international level. For that reason, you often hear of them referred to as “the international styles.” (*Note – depending on who you ask, Judo and Sambo are also considered “international styles” of wrestling. Some people consider them wrestling, others don’t. Frankly, I figure it’s all grappling, but whether or not it’s all wrestling is a whole different discussion…).
On a philosophical level, the primary difference between Folkstyle and the “International Styles” (I’ll lump them together for the time being) is evident in the scoring systems. Folkstyle is primarily concerned with the issue of DOMINANCE. The International Styles are primarily concerned with the issue of RISK.
A scoring philosophy based on dominance is primarily concerned with who is controlling who, who is maintaining dominant position on who, etc. You score points by DOMINATING your opponent. The international concept of “risk” is defined as turning your opponent’s back toward the mat (“exposing” his back to the mat, or simply referred to as “exposure”) and by how you take him down. For example, you get more points in International styles for throwing your opponent than for simply getting a “normal” takedown.
In freestyle, for example, takedowns are scored like this:
1 point – taking opponent down from feet or knees to the ground
2 points – taking opponent from knees to his back or across his back (i.e. – “exposing” his back to the mat on the way down)
3 points – taking opponent from his feet to his back or across his back
5 points – “high amplitude throw” – throwing opponent so that his entire body comes higher than your hips and taking him to his back, with his feet or head – whichever end is up – making an arcing motion through the air (such as a back arch, or a nice throw from a back step).
As you can see, how you take your opponent down is very important in freestyle (and in greco as well). Let’s contrast this with how takedowns are scored in folkstyle:
2 points – taking opponent down from feet or knees
2 points – taking opponent from feet to back
2 points – high amplitude throw
2 points – spinning opponent on your finger like a basketball, then taking him to his back.
So in folkstyle, a takedown is 2 points, PERIOD. In folkstyle, only the ‘ends’ are relevant; which ‘means’ you choose is your affair. Folkstyle tells you, “We don’t care how you dominate him, just dominate him! Take him down and pummel him, control him, dominate him!” In the international styles, the ‘means’ is just as important as the ‘ends.’ The international styles tell you, “Take him down and dominate him, BUT if you can pull off some impressive, risky technique while you do it, we’ll reward you for it!”
For the reasons above, Folkstyle tends to be much more “no-nonsense” – since you are not rewarded for trying “fancy” moves, guys tend to stick with more high-percentage, low-risk types of attacks (e.g. – singles, doubles, front head locks, etc). International styles reward you for trying moves that might be a little riskier (e.g. – upper body work, throws, trips, etc.) so people tend to wrestle less conservatively in international styles.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two styles is the mat work (i.e. – ground work). Since folkstyle is primarily concerned with the issue of dominance (who is controlling who) the bottom guy keeps fighting and scrambling to get off the bottom. The top man is trying to turn him toward his back, of course, but he has the added effort of keeping him down before he can turn him. The bottom man has incentives to fight off the bottom and escape – he will be rewarded with 1 point for escape (because he broke his opponent’s dominance over him).
Mat wrestling in the International styles is very different. If I get taken down in International style competition, I don’t have much incentive to escape – I don’t get any points for breaking his dominance on me. So I just flatten out to avoid getting turned toward my back.
If the top guy fails in turning me over after about 10 or 15 seconds, the ref blows the whistle and brings us back to our feet again. In folkstyle, the top man is free to beat on me until I get out.
Another thing that helps illustrate the “dominance” vs. “risk” philosophy is how back points are scored (“back points” are scored by exposing your opponent’s back to the mat). In International Styles, all I need to do is expose his back to the mat for a split second. I don’t even have to have a takedown yet to score the back points! His back must turn more than 90 degrees toward the mat, and only for a short period of time, and I’ve got 2 points. I have succeeded in putting him at risk.
In folkstyle, I must expose him to this risk, but I must control him while doing it. First of all, I need to have established control (gotten the takedown). Then, I need to bring his back down to a 45 degree angle (not just a 90 degree angle) toward the mat. Also, I can’t score back points with a split second exposure. I must hold him there for at least 2 seconds to get 2 back points; if I hold him there for 5 seconds or more, I get 3 back points (because I demonstrated a greater degree of dominance over him).
This also makes me a little less concerned about where my own back is in folkstyle. Since he can’t score back points on me nearly as easily, I will be a little more relaxed in a scramble situation about where my back is. This is one aspect where freestyle or Greco is a little more conservative than folkstyle. In the international styles, you must constantly be aware of where your back is!
Now that I’ve beaten folkstyle vs. international styles to death, what about the differences between the two international styles?
In Greco, you can’t use legs. That’s basically it. Greco is scored identically to freestyle, however, leg attacks are barred. You can’t shoot to his legs or do any trips or anything. Down on the mat, you can’t try to turn him with something like a leg lace, or spur him into a leg ride or anything. I’m being pretty simplistic here, but you get the basic idea.
So how do all of these apply to MMA? Well, I’m sort of talking outside my area of expertise, because I’ve never actually competed in MMA. But I’ll give you my “armchair quarterback” idea of how training in these styles can be beneficial for MMA. (Input from guys like noshame, twinkle toes, etc. would be great here!)
Without question, Folkstyle and Freestyle both are excellent in training for all forms of takedowns – whether leg attacks, throws, trips, you name it. By contrast, Greco guys are probably the best out there for working in the clinch and in tight tie-ups because of the extreme emphasis on upper body work.
In my opinion (and I stress my opinion!)Folkstyle is probably the most realistic as a martial art because the wrestlers continue fighting for position and dominance when down on the mat. Folkstyle will help train you not only for takedowns, but for general position control as well. Also, since folkstyle is more “no-nonsense” and the emphasis is on dominance and control of your opponent, it’s a closer parallel to MMA. Have you ever noticed that most of the big time MMA guys that are wrestlers are almost exclusively American (with the notable exceptions of guys like Vladdy or Sakuraba)? Meaning that they are guys that all had a background of wrestling for years in folkstyle, before moving on to international competition in greco or freestyle, once they are done with wrestling in high school/college.
Funny aside about this: one of my college teammates was from Russia and a freestyle badass. American folkstyle was a totally new ball game to him. I remember him once telling me, in his (at the time) thick Russian accent, "I like volkstyle, eez more realiztic for de fight!"
Anyway, that’s my take on it. If there is anyone who would like to debate the points above, feel free. I certainly don’t present that argument as the “be all, end all” of which style is best for MMA. Those are just my ideas on the topic, which may be flawed.
My discussion of the differences between the various styles is by no means exhaustive. If anyone can add some input, it would be much appreciated!
i have nothing to add. i also have the same opinion you do about the application to MMA.
personally, i like folkstyle the best as it give you the widest variety of takedowns in your arsenal as well as the most work on ground control/technique.
I would like to chime in here and add a discussion on Catch as Catch Can.
As you can se from Chips posts, freestyle and folk style are essentially the same style of wrestling that really only differ by how they score the match. You can imagine them as splinters from the same thing. What was that thing they split from? It was called catch as catch can. Here I call it CACC for short.
CACC had no point scoring apparatus what so ever. All victories had to be decisive. As no matches went to the judges, the factors of risk and dominance were irrelevant.
There was only two ways to win a CACC match -- by fall (defined as pressing your opponent's shoulders to the mat for a 3-count) or by forcing your opponent's concession by the use of various punishing holds. There were no time limits to these matches. That was what wrestling like was before 1922.
In the pervious Olympics, one of the wrestling matches lasted an unbearable 6 1/2 HOURS! The Olympic committee demanded that wrestling install a time limit to competition. This time limit naturally required that matches not resolved by that time limit be handed over to a jury to award a decision based on the technical merits of the competitors. The jury needed formal criteria to judge the competitions. The issue of the scoring criteria split wrestling into American and European styles.
Professional wrestling existed as a real athletic competition until the end of the Second World War. Pro wrestling was also called Catch as Catch Can, just like the amateurs. The pro variety of CACC required not just one fall, but the best 3 out of 5 falls to win. Like the amateur level punishing holds were tolerated. Should a pro succeed in forcing his opponent to concede the match from such a punishing hold, all 3 falls would go to him. The “gamesmanship” or strategy of pro wrestling therefore revolved around the attack and defense of punishing holds. Masters of these holds were frequently nicknamed “hookers,” as to bring into play a punishing hold was to “hook” the other player.
Tony C. today has become a popular and controversial instructor of the “hooks” of the old pro game.
it's a shame that it's an all-but-dead art.
It is a shame and we should do something about it.
Anyone who can, Go train with Tony C you will not regret it, he is a legitimate bad ass and a top quality instructor
How do we get this thread archived?
slowmo, it's already archived. In the future, if you want something archived, just ask me to do it.
Please do come and work out with Tony and I. We do not have a great facility, but it's fun and friendly, if not a little nutty.
where are you guys located?
Posted to the Underground forum's Q&A: Wrestling.
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