Modern Catch As Catch Can: Written By Kris Iatskevich

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

” Let me show you how to properly do a front face lock”

Thinking that there wasn’t much an old ”pro” wrestler could teach a veteran grappler like myself, but having been brought up to respect my elders (and this guy was old, very old) I let him do his stuff, telling myself it would make the old man’s day ( I’m nice that way). He wrapped his still massive arms around my head, placed a hand on my shoulder, figure foured his wrists and cranked. Although he didn’t seem to apply much pressure, my knees buckled. My jaw, neck and spine made a loud cracking noise. I was certain he had just ripped my head straight off of my shoulders.

But he wasn’t done yet…he took me down and put me in a leg lock, a half Boston of all things, a fake ”pro” move (or so I thought).

What hadn’t cracked on the earlier move cracked then. Two weeks of regular chiropractor visits later, I humbly made my way back to the gym, armed with a new found respect for the old ”pro” wrestler and a desire to learn more about the old wrestling methods.

And so began my journey into the world of Catch as Catch Can wrestling… REAL ‘‘pro’’ wrestling.

(you can see the half boston crab in a MMA fight at 6:00 in, in the clip above)

Much like today, the Catch wrestlers of old were always looking for new ways to pin and submit their opponents. Their livelihood depended on it. In the past, these men dedicated themselves to the very real tradition of wrestling and engaged in completely real professional bouts. Furthermore, this wrestling was not the collegiate, free style or Greco-Roman wrestling we see today. It was submission wrestling, using techniques these men called “hooks’’

These submission wrestlers, called “hookers, shooters, pistols” by those in their trade, were the sort of men who sought real challenges and were not afraid to learn or show anything, Of course, this lead to a blend of wrestling styles. European styles mixed with Russian, Indian, and Japanese styles. So anyone claiming to know the ‘’true system’’ of CACC is either ignorant or trying to confine it to a mould that never existed before. There is no ‘’one way’’ of doing things, only principles and rules for you to use and play with. These principles and rules are what define Catch as Catch Can Wrestling and give it its unique flavour. I do admit that there are some Catch techniques and set ups that I have yet to find in other grappling systems, but what really sets it apart are the underlying principles behind the techniques, the philosophy of the art if you will.

After making its way to North America, around the end of the 19th century, the English Lancashire CACC wrestling style was blended with the “rough and tumble” American mentality of the era and a more aggressive catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling emerged, creating some of the most outstanding grapplers of that period.
In all the annals of history you would be hard pressed to find tougher and more skilled mat men than the Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestlers. These old time shooters took on all comers from all over the world and emerged victorious through a flood of blood, sweat, tears, and broken bones.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

Catch can be particularly aggressive. Unfortunately, some mistake this aggressive pace for a lack of technical finesse.

The system is based on domination and pain compliance, but also on leverage, physics and control. The use of pressure points is also encouraged to set up techniques and keep opponents on the defensive.

All forms of submission holds, heel hooks, neck cranks and small joints manipulations are allowed within the CACC curriculum.

Catch has a wide appreciation of body mechanics and demonstrates a flexible and innovative mindset when it comes to submissions.

Not only does it use the typical subs you see across styles, but also flows freely from one technique to another, often times improvising subs to better take advantage of whatever the opponent leaves open during a scramble. Hence the name Catch as Catch Can (Catch a hold anywhere you can).

Basically, besides gouging, fish hooking, biting and deliberate striking, all is permitted within the CACC rule set. It’s all about getting the job done, as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Actually, the term ‘’ No Holds Barred’’ was originally used to describe the wrestling method prevalent in CACC tournaments during the late 19th century

, Meaning that no holds were banned from competition. That is why the CACC Wrestling men had to know how to throw, control, pin and submit their opponents from every angle and position imaginable. These men coupled brutal submissions (double wristlocks, neck cranks, toeholds etc) with an ability to twist their opponents into pretzels to pin them.

Since a Catch as Catch Can match can be won by either submission or pin, Catch wrestlers pay particular attention to positioning; high level of proficiency in breakdowns, rides and pins is required to excel in this system. Position is crucial to pulling off any submission, and even more so to obtain a pin.

Bottom escapes is another aspect of the game that is perfected. knowing that your opponents will work extra hard at keeping you on your back to obtain the pin, an incredible amount of time is spent working our way back up from bottom .

CACC became by far the most popular American sport during the post-Civil War period up until just before World War I, especially in the carnivals and fairs.

The carnival’s wrestlers challenged the locals as part of the carnival’s “athletic show”

and the locals had their chance to win cash reward if they could defeat the carnival’s strongman by a pin or a submission. This eventually led to the carnival’s wrestlers preparing for the worst kind of scenario and aiming to end the wrestling match quickly and decisively. As carnival wrestlers traveled, they met with a variety of people, learning and using techniques from various folk wrestling disciplines, many of which were accessible due to a huge influx of immigrants in the United States during this era

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

It is important to remember that there were also many style vs. style matches. In this way, the Japanese, amongst others, became very aware of the CACC tradition and vice versa.

Judo expert and prize fighter Mitsuyo Maeda also known as ‘’Count koma’’ perfected his fighting system by competing in and learning Catch as Catch Can before moving to brazil and teaching is style of fighting to Carlos Gracie.

Another judoka, Masahiko Kimura, also learned Catch as Catch Can while working as a professional wrestler. Kimura would go on to defeat Helio Gracie with a staple hold of CACC the Double Wrist Lock aka ‘’The Kimura’’.

Karl Gotch after honing his skills at the infamous ‘’Snake pit’’ in Wigan were he learned CACC, travelled to india and studied Pehlwani (Indian Wrestling) and then to Japan were he studied Judo and Sumo. My coach Edouard Wiecz Carpentier, , practiced Greco Roman Wrestling, Boxing and Savate before turning his attention to Catch as Catch Can. Later, he also became an avid Judo player.

Much like many of their contemporaries, these men were cross training even before we had coined a term for it.

I often thought that, were Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Edouard Wiecz and many of the old time greats in their prime today, they would be at the forefront of MMA fighting, as it is results oriented instead of performance oriented like pro wrestling. Given their training and dedication, they would have been at the top of the mma food chain.

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Unfortunately, while many of the ‘’Old Timers’’ kept a very open mind towards training. Some coaches today seem to adopt a very dogmatic approach to teaching.

Beware of all teachers who tell you that their method is the only legitimate one. All Grappling styles are good, it’s up to you to find witch one suit you best.

On a closing note, here is what I have learned in my 30 + years of practice.

Judo, Sambo , Wrestling (Freestyle/Greco Roman/Folk style) , Catch as Catch Can and BJJ are all legitimate combat sports. They’ve all been proven effective.
Nothing else needs to be said.

If you want to be good at grappling, find a good grappling club and train there. The rest all comes down to the instructor and the individual.

We all know what styles are effective and which ones are not. Just pick one you have access to and train hard. For the best grappling system out there, the only one worth devoting yourself to, is the one you enjoy practicing.

And to paraphrase my good Friend Jake Shannon president of Scientificwrestling .com

‘’So what is modern Catch as Catch Can Wrestling? ANYTHING that is legal under the rules of a catch wrestling contest IS catch wrestling. I think a lot of people get confused that because catch wrestlers show a lot of little known but effective techniques that they think there is some sort of secret society where a few anointed people “know” catch wrestling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Catch wrestling is “Open to suggestion”. Anyone can contribute as long as their contribution “works”.

The only “proper” way to pin or submit a man is the way that works. That’s it. Catch wrestling isn’t necessarily a canon of technique; it is a METHOD and a set of rules.
Each person will chain the techniques their own way. Each person will apply the subs and pins based on their individual body types and knowledge base. Catch is rigorously individualistic.

That is why we are here, to continue experimenting in new ways to pin and submit people; no points. The permutations are endless.

That is why it is called Scientific Wrestling; test it, prove it, use it, teach it to others to help them.

These men will champion catch (their own brand of catch) and will have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know their subject. It is truly an exciting time!’’

Exciting times indeed!

As an addendum to the original article, Coach Iatskevich asked me to include the following links for reference:

first is an article written in 1905 and debates catch wrestling vs Jiu jitsu

second Is an overlook of the history of MMA and it,s link to catch wrestling

third is the story of Ad Santel vs judo

From Kris Iatskevich: “I know some of these stories seem a bit negative,I personally don’t like comparing systems. But what you get from them. is the understanding of how much these arts influenced each other.”

Kris Iatskevich has studied different fighting arts for the last 30 + years.

– Catch Wrestling under the guidance of Eddy Wiecz Carpentier since ’96
– Lead Instructor for the certification program
– Black Belt and Regional rep. for SAW (submission arts wrestling) Hidetaka Aso
– Black Belt Judo
– Canadian rep for FIAS Sambo
– President of Catch Wrestling Canada Association
– Owner and Head coach of the Quebec Toe hold Club

You can learn more about him, his system and more at his official website:


As a final note from me (Brian Yamasaki), I would like to add that I own both of Coach Iatskevich’s Competition Catch as Catch Can DVD’s and consider them some of the best DVD’s I own.  They contain an enormous amount of useful information and give a fresh perspective to the art of Submission Wrestling.  I highly recommend either or both of these wonderful volumes.

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

14 replies
  1. KevinDillard
    KevinDillard says:

    Great article and nice laying out of the lineage in a short, but informative fashion.
    Kris is an absolute credit to not only Catch, but to the grappling/mma community.
    I’d like to also echo the sentiments regarding the dvd series.. it is one of the most exhaustive series on the subject.. I consider it part of my “Holy Trinity” of catch tutorials.. the other two being WAR: Catch Wrestling Lessons with Billy Robinson and the Yoshiaki Fujiwara Submission Master Clinic.
    I’m honored to also consider Kris a very dear friend.
    Thanks for sharing this guys.

  2. wylothar
    wylothar says:

    Great article, I like to see how close the ideology of Sambo and Catch relate. If it works they will use it and make it part of them.
    Coach kris iatskevich recently also became an advisory position for the American Sambo Association. The ASA is going to soon have a Catch/ Sambo DVD coming out soon with Coach Iatskevich and Coach Stephen Koepher president of the ASA.

    With the high praise for these video series. The will be high on my list to get. Probably next.

  3. KevinDillard
    KevinDillard says:

    I went back and watched the match with the Boston Crab finish in the second.. does anyone understand what the yellow card foul was supposed to be in the first round?.. I know the fighter pulling guard punched the other guy in the face/ear, but not sure what about that constituted a foul?

  4. Coach Randy
    Coach Randy says:

    Judo, Sambo , Wrestling (Freestyle/Greco Roman/Folk style) , Catch as Catch Can and BJJ

    Hey Brian, may I ask where’d you find the time to learn all of this or are you still in the process of learning it all? Do you mind telling your readers how much time you’ve spent with each style? Thank you.

  5. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Coach Randy,

    I am a full time student of the arts. I find time anywhere and everywhere I can, and make time whenever possible. It’s not easy. Not for anyone, myself included. I just do as much as I can, when I can. And I am definitely STILL IN THE PROCESS OF LEARNING. I don’t think I’ll ever learn it all. Nor do I want to.

    Guro Inosanto likes to tell us about the “Stay Green Mentality”. Once a fruit ripens, it can then only grow stale and rot. Learning, especially in the Martial Arts is a constant process, your game changes and evloves, peoples ideas change and cycles eb and flow. Age changes you and you must adapt to it in order to keep up and stay healthy.

    The more I know, the more I know I don’t know. I’ve spent a fair amount of time (it’s hard to qualify) with Judo. My Grandfather was a 3rd Degree Black Belt. My Father is a 2nd Degree which he earned at the Kodokan Institute in Japan. I never took formal lessons from either of them, but I grew up around it and soak up as much as I can when possible (my Father no longer actively practices).

    I’ve never taken a formal Sambo class. I’d love to, given the oportunity. What I know about it is only what I’ve read and learned from the internet.

    I wrestled my second year of Jr. High (and was terrible… I think I only won 1 match). I restarted my formal wrestling studies in 2004 via seminar under Ricco Chiapparelli and again with him in 2005 along with Sean Sherk. In 2006 we would occasionally bring Chris Wells out to Mushin Self Defense to teach once in a blue moon. After that Chris began teaching takedowns at the Bernales Institute on Wednesday nights. I’ve worked with him whenever possible since that time (about 2007). He has been a really good friend and wonderful teacher to me.

    Catch As Catch Can is the most recent art to tickle my fancy. I’d seen it there and there on the internet and such, and to be honest, it had a real influence on Shooto which was the Art the Sensei Erik Paulson began studying and teaching before he began Combat Submission Wrestling. So bits and pieces of it have been in the mix since I began studying CSW in 2000-2001 with Brandon Kiser. But my study of it in it’s own right, for CACC’s own sake as opposed to aspects of it within the contexts of CSW really began in 2009 when Jake Shannon moved from CA to UT and needed a place to host a Billy Robinson seminar.

    Since that time I have attended 2 (1 Day) seminars with Billy Robinson and picked Jake Shannon’s brain whenever possible. Kris Iatskevich has been a helpful correspondant online, but as of yet I have not had the opportunity to train with him in person.

    I began my study of BJJ in 1999 with my Cousin Kelly Sheffield at the Seattle School of BJJ under Glen Barber (I think that was his last name). I travelled up there to train at the school twice over a two year period. My cousin would come out UT and update me once or twice a year as well. In 2000-2001 I began training under my current, primary instructor Will Bernales (BJJ Black Belt), I began with privates and then joined his group classes and have been with him ever since. Under Khuen Khru Will I study Muay Thai, CSW, BJJ, Kali, JKD and a little Silat. Since 2000 I have supplemented my BJJ training under Khuen Khru Will with seminars with: Jean Jacques Machado, Rigan Machado, Royce Gracie, Professor Pedro Sauer, Steve Maxwell, Alex Derizans, and Nick Diaz. Each week I take a BJJ lesson either from Khuen Khru Will, Mike Diaz (BJJ Black Belt), Chris Wells (BJJ Black Belt), or Paul Sizemore (BJJ Black Belt). I am currently a first stripe Blue Belt in BJJ.

    My main areas of study are CSW and Muay Thai which I’ve studied under Khuen Khru Will (Full Instructor TBA Muay Thai) and Ajarn Surachai Sirisute since 2000. I have since achieved an Associate Instructorship in Thai Boxing Association Muay Thai. Currently, I take 1 lesson in Muay Thai every week under Khuen Khru Will Bernales. I have also supplemented my Muay Thai Training with 6 or 7 (I can’t remember off the top of my head) week long Thai Camps with Ajarn Chai, Ajar Inosanto, and Ajarn Greg Nelson as well as the rest of the TBA senior and full instructors. In addition to 8 seminars with Ajarn Chai here in UT. I’ve also studied the TBA method of AP (American Pugilism) Boxing (one of the TBA’s component parts).

    I have studied CSW since 2000 as well under Brandon Kiser (Utah State CSW Representative), Coach Will Bernales, Ajarn Greg Nelson and Sensei Erik Paulson. I have achieved a rank of Coach Level 3. I am currently taking 2 lessons a week in CSW. One under Coach Kiser and 1 under Khuen Khru Will Bernales. I have supplemented this with 5, 3 day CSW camps in CA with Sensei Paulson, Ajarn Greg Nelson, and whomever he brings out as guest instructors (Sifu Larry Hartsell, Ricco Chiaparelli, Sean Sherk, Marvin Cook). In addition I have attended 3 seminars in Utah under Sensei Paulson.

    In passing I’ve worked on Kali and Silat (more Kali than Silat), as well as picked up a Brown Belt in Taekwon-Do.

    I think that every art has something to offer and every teacher can give you a real unique insight into the game. I try to keep an open mind and train in as much as I can. I am saving Kali, Yoga and Tai Chi for my older days when I am no longer able to move as well in the more combative, contact oriented arts… a time that has been creeping up on me fast!

    As my Instructor Khuen Khru Will likes to say, it’s not the years it’s the hours. I studied under Khuen Khru two or three times as much in my younger years but since that time, family commitments and running my own school have slowed me down a bit. But I feel that constant and consistent training under skilled instructors such as Khuen Khru Will and my other mentors is essential to continued growth and progress.

  6. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    I also have to thank all those who have contributed to the efforts to Damage Control MMA and Taking It To The MMAT, I have learned a great deal from these contributors and their wonderful techniques! Thank you!!!

  7. Coach Randy
    Coach Randy says:

    Ok Brian/Dr, Sick,
    I’m still catching my breath from reading your resume or life time committment of learning, however I do commend you. I don’t exactly agree with Dan Inosanto’s explanation of “Once a fruit ripens, it can then only grow stale and rot.” If you follow football, the ever popular ‘Wildcat Formation’ is really stemmed from the old Double Wing Formation with tweaks in rotations, motion and formation. I know this is a forum about Kris Iatskevich’s history and explanation of CACC but it parallels what I just described about the “Wildcat Offense”. Basically influence, education, assimilation, progression and execution determines the finish product. I wish you all the best in your lifetime endeavor of the martial arts.

    I for one do not have the time, money or interest to dabble into other styles UNLESS I know it can compliment my concepts, style, philosophy and overall objective-WINNING.

  8. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Coach Randy,

    May I respectfully ask, what if the game changes? If everyone adhered to the ripened fruit mentality, we’d still be seeing granny shots in basketball. The slam dunk was not created by those who allowed themselves to be content with a ripened view of the game and their own potential. The ripened vision of basketball would never have allowed for the development of the post up and triangle offense. The game has shifted due to zone vs. no zone defense being allowed and disallowed.

    In MMA, the game has also seen changes over the years which can cause a shift in tactics and training. The addition of time limits is a big factor IMHO. No longer is it a question of whether or not you can submit or knock someone out. It’s a question of whether or not you can submit or knock someone out in 5 minutes or less (for pros). If you keep training fighters to use the “wait it out” style prevelent in the early days I don’t think it’s going to help anyone’s objectives of winning.

    Judo has just recently outlawed any wrestling style leg shots. This will change the game. How it is scored, how it is played, and how it is practiced and trained. Those fixed on the old way of doing things will be left in the past, those who adapt and develop new strategies and tactics based on the new rule structures will be the ones in the winning circle. This requires change, and a mindset accustomed to new ways of thinking and perceiving advantages.

    Regardless of the sport, I think a continued education is very helful in creating a “winning” strategy. You may not use the new material for your own game, but you are at least familiar with how someone else may attack you. Take the “Rubber Guard” stuff for example. Whether you use it or not, it is helpful to be familiar with it so that you understand the mindset and capabilities of your opponents.

    I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m asking a question and offering other points of view. There are those who can ripen, stop their education and win everything they do. I am not one of them. But to be honest, winning isn’t my primary personal goal. I just enjoy learning the art for the art sake. I’m in it to meet wonderful people. That is how I feel I win.

    Best of luck and thank you for supporting Damage Control MMA.

  9. Coach Randy
    Coach Randy says:

    Brian/Dr. Sick

    What you had stated basically agrees with what I had stated;

    “the ever popular ‘Wildcat Formation’ is really stemmed from the old Double Wing Formation with tweaks in rotations, motion and formation”

    As to your question, ‘what if the game changes?’ for which I had stated;

    “Basically influence, education, assimilation, progression and execution determines the finishED (typo error) product.” However, its never truly finished as people will come up with schemes to defend it for which its is your responsibility to counter-the-counter. As Billy Robinson had said in an interview, “Physical chess match.”

    I wasn’t there when you spoke to Dan Inosanto and perhaps there should be more clarification but I’m going by what you had stated in an earlier post and I just don’t agree with the ‘ripened fruit’ theory. If you met my wife, she will take ripe fruit and make wine; mince/chop it up for homemade ice cream flavors, make cakes and pies or pickle them for a later date. Basically, if you feel your fruit has ripened much to say like how some people refer to themselves as being ‘old school’ then I can see where you can grow stale, not just for your own sake but for your students/athletes as well. I for one make adjustments on a need-only basis not to go along with the old cliche of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” but it is my duty to asses needs and weaknesses.

    Another thing you have to understand, if you are learning/doing just to meet people, personal development or as a hobby you are defnitely in a different scope than I am or any other coach for that matter. People can tolerate a loss here and there, continued losing will not only force you to take a look at yourself, you’ll be out of a job!

  10. Coach Randy
    Coach Randy says:

    I am a full time student of the arts. . .The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.

    Brian/Dr. Sick

    You stated the following above. This is just a suggestion if/when you decide to do it, its up to you. Get a stack of flash cards-since you study alot of arts then get a very big stack. Write every SINGLE move you know from CACC-BJJ-Boxing-Muay Thai-Judo-Kali-Silat-Tae Kwon Do & Wrestling.

    Based on your own personal proficiency of each move score it from 1-10. Each card scored 10-9, have it rubber banded and set to the side. Each card scored 8-6, do the same BUT put a post it note on it saying, WORK ON IT. Each card scored 5-1, just rubber band it and put a post it note on it saying, FOR A LATER DATE.

    Put yourself in situations like distance, positions, height, weight, strength advantages/disadvantages and see how 10-6 stood the test. Keep a journal of your findings.

    Best to you.

  11. MABookGeek
    MABookGeek says:

    Great Article. Do you happen to know the source material for that CACC poster? It looks like it’s from a French book. I like to collect old Judo/Jiujitsu/Grappling books, that’s why I ask.

  12. Sylvain
    Sylvain says:

    Salut Kris! I think that if I had to choose a sentence to resume your article, that would be the one where you say : “Catch is rigorously individualistic”. I think that the mind of your great article, is that we are always in process to re-invent and to rediscover the infinite ways of how to wrestle. The evolution of wrestling pass through the knowledge of the basic in different styles and to perfect what we are confortable with.
    I must say that I love your approach of complementarity between different styles and that none can pretend to be the only way.
    You are not just a great coach, you are a wise man.

  13. full one war machine
    full one war machine says:

    will some one formalize catch wrestling ?

    what about bringing over kazushi and a dozen helpers and make a USA league.

    how come we dont bring over boat loads of sambo teachers from russia to help copeate against all them bjj-er`s.


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