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Fighting Styles of the New World

By Cliff Montgomery, ExtremeProSports.com
Sports and games revolving around some form of unarmed combat were an important element of several Native American cultures. Many contests held a central place in ceremonies, and many public sports began as religious rites. Nearly all Indian games required the contestants to prepare spiritually and to show high sportsmanship standards.

Often sports primed participants for such activities as war and hunting.

Children and adults played ball games - rubber balls in Mesoamerica and northern South America, rawhide or fiber balls elsewhere. The Mesoamerican ball game called tlatchtli was fairly similar to basketball in that the players competed on a rectangular court and had the goal of knocking a hard ball through a stone hoop high on the court wall; however, players were not allowed to use their hands, but only body parts such as the hips and knees.

In Mesoamerica these ball games often were seen as rituals of vast significance. Most probably among the Aztecs, the games sometimes took a violent turn, becoming one of life-and-death. Captives caught in warfare were split into two teams; the team losing the tlatchtli match was sacrificed, while the winners were presumably enslaved.

The most popular ball game among Native Americans was lacrosse, one of an assortment of stickball games in which players could not touch the ball with their hands. The original form was such a violent endeavor that it was often employed as a peacetime fill-in for war. Nearly any strategy was acceptable, including stomping, butting, and biting; players were often killed in the clash.

As many as 700 players participated in the Choctaw rendition of lacrosse, leaping, running, and tripping each other in their fight to catch the ball in their sticks and throw it to their goal.

Other athletic games included wrestling, archery, foot racing, and after the gain of horses, horse racing.

Roughly 500 years old, Capoeira is a Brazilian cultural art created and practiced by African slaves who had been imported by the Portuguese since the early 1500s.

Forbidden to train in combat arts, the early capoeiristas hid their style in the inoffensiveness of a dance. Accompanied by atabaques(drums) and an unusual percussion instrument, the berimbau, capoeira did not seem to be a threat to the slaveholders.

Sometime around 1814, capoeira and other forms of African cultural expressions were outlawed by the slave masters and overseers. It was however practiced in a violent form in Rio De Janeiro and Recife - sometimes in hiding, and at other times openly defying the laws which prohibited it.

Even today, music is pivotal to the art which is commonly performed in a roda (circle), with musicians and players singing. Action is rhythmic as two players - never 'fighters'- smoothly attack and counter attack without actually striking each other.

Capoeiristas all over the world can be grouped under either Regional, Angola or a combination of both. Two Ultimate Fighting Champions, Marco Ruas and Pedro Rizzo, have their roots in capoeira.

Brazilian, or Gracie, Jujutsu is a well-known native Brazilian martial art founded and developed by the Gracie family. Carlos Gracie learned jujutsu from a Japanese master named Maeda, who emigrated to Brazil. This particular art is derived from pre-war Kodokan Judo, western wrestling, and Maeda's learned insights into combat.

Brazilian Jujutsu favors taking an adversary to the ground and then relying on grappling techniques like chokes, holds, armlocks, leglocks, and strikes to overcome the opponent. These tactics take away the dominance of an opponent with superior striking skills, as well as lessen the advantage of a stronger and much larger opponent who depends on wrestling or grappling.

In the United States amateur wrestling is common in athletic clubs and most places of secondary learning. In addition to national title competitions, thousands of regional and local matches are held each year.

Collegiate-style wrestling, also known as scholastic or folkstyle, is a form of wrestling native to the United States. This wrestling style is practiced in U.S. secondary schools, colleges and universities, and in many wrestling clubs. Collegiate-style wrestling rewards wrestlers with "near falls," worth two or three points, for holding an opponent close to his or her back.

Along with Brazilian Jujutsu and capoeira, it is one of the only surviving martial arts native to the New World.

The first standardized national wrestling competition was held in New York City in 1888, while the first wrestling match in the modern Olympic Games was held in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri.

In early U.S. professional wrestling, victory went to the wrestler scoring two falls out of three. Bouts often were contested in a mixed style - that is, one fall was wrestled in freestyle (which became collegiate-style), another in Greco-Roman. The form used for the third fall was decided by the toss of a coin.

There was no time limit on matches.

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