Posted On:6/10/2009 6:03pm
A rare, undated pamphlet on the (now extinct) Norfolk style of wrestling from the 1830s is available at http://www.the-exiles.org/manual/norfwres/norfwres.htm .
Charles Layton, "the Celebated Game Chicken" and author of the pamphlet, details a very rough sport combining basic collar-and-elbow wrestling with purring (low kicks). The Norfolk style was evidently an "out-play" method, as distinct from in "inn-play" of Cornish hug wrestling.
Layton also offers a piece of charming doggerel about his rise as a wrestling champion, which kind of strikes a chord:
When wrestling that I first began,
'Twas years before I was a man,
As well in size as was in years,
As very plainly it appears;
And before thirteen years in life I'd spent,
I'd leave either marbles or the balls,
To put in tickets to play falls,
For apples or some other things,
As manly as they do in rings.
Although large boys I their master got,
Scarce one would play, that was their lot.
To be drawn, ‘gainst me, in any wise,
But would give the fall to share the prize.
When But when for home why I did go,
Which was but once a week or so;
It generally being market day,
My father he was out the way;
By mother I was sure to get a scolding,
Because my jacket was rent by holding;
And father shown on: Sunday morn,
My clothes to see, where they were torn;
And he, poor soul, would only smile,
But mother would chatter all the while.
About such villainy for to rend them,
And the time my sister took to mend them,
And said, this jacket cost shillings thirty,
Is spoil'd and likewise waistcoat dirty,
That 'tis no more fit to be seen,
And as for washing, why 'twill ne’er come clean
This happen'd on a certain Sunday,
The day before call'd Whitsun Monday,
Father and I agreed for walking,
To see a wrestle at Limpenhoe Falcon,
As he understood there would be seen,
Such work as not for years had been.
Monday three o'clock drew nigh,
Off set father, so did I;
So father and I we trudg'd along,
And soon were join’d by many in throng,
And 'twas all the talk as we were going,
About who'd win the prize, and so on:
One said, such a one is coming
I know, and am certain he's a rum one;
Another reply'd, why I know two
Will stand the kicking till all is blue
That are a coming, as I do hear;
We shall see some work we need not fear.
So we got there and stood about,
And heard the names aloud call'd out,
Of all the wrestlers who were to play;
And now and then could hear one say,
There's only one more wanting now;
In all my life ne’er saw such tow.
The number down and box'd all flair
To Kettle hole they all did repair,
And the sharpest wrestle it was I vow,
That e'er I see from then till now.
One man got kick'd so in four rounds,
That in very few days died of his wounds,
As fine a fellow, I do declare,
A little owing to drink and proper care;
But while a wrestling could hear folks say,
That's the lad if you like for play;
And now and then bear them talk and laugh out,
That boy very soon will put them half out.
The wrestle was not o’er till after nine,
So we just got home in good bedtime;
And mother did at father rattle,
As fast as e’er her tongue could prattle,
Concerning what might be the case,
In taking the boy to such a place,
And said, 'twas entirely out of pardon,
To show the boy so much blackguarding;
As it certainly would turn up his ruin,
The course of life, be was pursuing.
My father said little, I said less,
To prepare for bed I did undress:
It was no use my being in bed,
For all the wrestle was in my head,
Ay, every fall, I verily think,
That for hours kept me from sleeping a wink,
Not only that night but many more,
I could say, at least, a score;
That whether I was awake or sleeping,
Wrestling upon my mind was creeping;
And in the morning might be seen,
That I all night had wrestling been;
For no clothes was there upon the bed,
Either off my feet, or o’er my head:
You could 'not wonder at this you’ll say,
Considering wrestling all the day;
With boys some bigger, and some smaller,
Some pulky chaps, the others taller,
Did ne'er escape me that until when,
I got to play amongst the men;
And then the boys that I had play'd,
To wrestle with me did seem afraid,
Which fill’d me full of pride I vow,
Its remaining in me even now.
And from 'that time I do declare,
A wrestle took place scarce anywhere,
But what I went if poss'bly could,
And for the prize I firmly stood,
And as I so well did bear the kicking,
They nam'd & call'd me the game chicken;
And so they call me to this day,
Although I scarce or ever play
But to give up I will determine
No more on this to make a sermon,
No longer run on in own self-praise;
It don’t look well, as most men says;
And as the theory I've been giving,
The practical part it is me leaving;
No longer on them.
I mean to dwell,
And so to both I bid farewel.
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Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence (est. 1899)
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