Collar-and-elbow is a unique style of sleeve wrestling, also known as Irish collar wrestling. Historically, it’s been practiced in areas of the globe with large Irish Diasporas populations, including the United States and Australia. The moves are characterized by being wrapped around the opponent’s throat and then the area (or center part of the breastbone). Many competitors wear a traditional collars or cuffs made of leather, cotton, or polyester. The main difference between this style of sleeve wrestling and traditional “wrestle art” is that there is no submission hold used on the collar.
In the early 17th century, collar-and-elbow style wrestling was brought to Ireland by the Earl of Shelburne. It soon became popular in the English speaking world, and gradually became the favored style in professional wrestling. The move was first illustrated in English in the sporty wrestling magazine Punch, No Holds Barred, where it was illustrated using an English ring. In recent years, the term has been used to describe a more generalized version of the art, often being applied to describe any variant of sleeve grips, holds, and positions used in the modern game of professional wrestling.
The main idea of the collar-and-elbow is that you get an arm wrap around your opponent
then you pull down on his throat with the other arm and bring it up over his head to throw him off balance. A variation of this move would be called the flying mare. In this move, your arm is not wrapped around your opponent; rather, your opponent pulls down on your throat with his free arm, pulls your arm down, and then you pull down with your non-dominant arm. In this move, the result can be a trip to the floor. There have been some matches where wrestlers have landed with flying mares, however, these are very few.
One of the first people to put together this move was John McMahon, who was a professional wrestler from 18th century Ireland. In the early days, this move was simply called “collar and elbow.” “Camel’s horn” is how John McMahon described the move in a letter to his wrestling coach. “The bulldog is not a bull, but a scepter,” he wrote. This term, now commonly known as “moses dufur,” came from a story in which Moses, a baby Pharaoh, was thrown by a bull.
As one wrestler put it: “Moses dufur” means, literally, “throwing one another out of the ropes.” Because the early wrestlers did not wear collars, they had to use their hands and feet to break the other person’s hold on the ropes. They would also throw each other out of the ring or back door after a match had ended. This was a risky and brutal way of winning a match, but it was widely accepted at the time.
One early example of someone using a collar-and-elbow as an attack move comes from Ireland, where folk wrestling native Joe Gough used it to beat opponent Frank Brady. According to records, Gough grabbed Brady’s left arm and forced him to the ground. He then wrapped his right arm around Brady’s throat with his left hand and pulled hard. Gough then put his right foot into the left open mouth of Brady, causing him great pain. This technique became known as the “open mouth trap” and was used frequently by Irish wrestlers.
Another common use of the collar-and-elbow in folk style wrestling is seen in the early portion of the 17th century. A Scottish titled man named James Graham used this move often to take down opponents. Graham was a fierce competitor who often challenged Scotland’s most famous folk fighters such as Robert Burns and James Graham. He even took down Graham of St. Clair and then proceeded to break both of his legs in the attempt to wrestle him to the ground. This move was used to great effect by Graham against more formidable opponents, such as James Graham of Scotland.
Even with all of the time that has passed since the days of Graham-in-training, this particular collar-and-elbow grip remains quite popular amongst the many amateur wrestlers and fighters that continue to use the old style. Many competitors in both amateur and professional circles still incorporate this old school strategy into their matches today. As with any move or technique in wrestling or mixed martial arts, there is no reason that a person cannot use the old fashioned collars-and-elbows for their advantage. They can work just as effectively today as they did back when they were first introduced to the ring or cage.
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