Catch Wrestling Expert Jake Shannon Weighs In on the Sport’s Crossover into MMA

December 4, 2014

Jake Shannon: Josh has really been crucial in getting respect for catch wrestling. We’re kind of the underdogs. We simply don’t have the numbers. So Josh has been seminal.

Josh BarnettWhat’s been kind of fun to watch with at least Metamoris – and they’re doing a great thing – is that they’ve harkened back to the catch wrestling versus jiu-jitsu match of the early 20th century with a match like Lister vs. Barnett and Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Renzo Gracie (in November). Not only was Barnett’s submission of Lister big news, but also his traditional catch wrestling attire. What did you think of him busting out the old school wrestling trunks for the match?

Jake Shannon: I thought it was pretty brilliant. The point is that if you’re a pro athlete, you have to come to terms with the entertainment side of the business. You make money by putting asses in seats and getting attention. And he definitely got a lot of attention. People who are fans of the history of wrestling or catch wrestling got it, and some people freaked out about it, but I thought it was brilliant on Josh’s part and I thought it was a nice homage that definitely got a lot of attention. Earlier you mentioned Billy Robinson, who passed away this past March. What sort of impact has his death had this year?

Jake Shannon: Billy was more than just a coach to me. He was a mentor and a member of my family. It was actually my wife’s idea to name our youngest son after him. It’s been a rough year losing Billy. I tried to record as much information from him – not just technique, but history – as I possibly could, so that when he did pass, he could continue teaching his passion after death.

With Billy’s passing, we’ve had some really large shoes to fill for our training program – which has kind of been our flagship to spread the word of catch wrestling around the U.S. and the world – but I was very fortunate to get an email from Wade Schalles (who eventually succeeded Robinson as head coach for Scientific Wrestling). What do you see as the current state of catch wrestling here in the U.S.?

Jake Shannon: It’s been a hard year and a good year in a lot of ways. Catch wrestling has gotten a lot of respect because of Erik (Paulson) and Josh’s efforts, but also we’ve been able to hold a whole host of catch wrestling tournaments where wrestlers can win by submission or pin, and no points or anything like that.

It’s a really exciting time for catch wrestling. It really is small and there’s kind of a fanatical hardcore group of us. It’s ragtag, but I like it that way because there’s no one person being a dictator about it. There’s a bunch of little groups that keep popping up. I don’t know if we’ll ever get big. Thankfully, if you look from the peewee ranks to college, there’s no shortage of wrestlers, so it’s an interesting time to track the growth of catch wrestling now. Before we go, tell us about what’s going on with your writing and what fans can expect to see from Scientific Wrestling in the near future.

Jake Shannon: The first book I wrote for ECW Press out of Canada is “Say Uncle: Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling and The Roots of Ultimate Fighting, Pro Wrestling and Modern Grappling.” It’s a hodgepodge of history, interviews with guys like Karl, Billy, Eric and Josh, and there’s a short segment on the techniques of the sport so people can see how it differs from Judo, Sambo and Jiu-Jitsu.

It was first published in 2011 and has only recently fallen out of the Top 20 in wrestling and MMA books. It’s really had some legs. It’s on the strength of that book that ECW had me ghost write Billy’s autobiography, “Physical Chess: My Life in Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling.” It’s really fascinating and it’s been well-received and well-reviewed.

We’re in the middle of revamping the Scientific Wrestling site. I’m going to be putting a whole host of technique videos and whatnot on the site for free. You’ll also find instructional DVDs on there from guys like Billy and Karl, Wade, Eric and Josh for people who are interested in learning. We’re doing seminars and training camps as well. If anybody’s interested in learning more about that, just shoot me off an email at the website.

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