Old Wrestling Rules

Hi Guys,

This is a cross post from the History forum and I thought some folks here who don't read both forums would like to read this.

An Excerpt from:

The Science of Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu. by W.E. Winthrow of the Winthrow Physical Culture Institute Sydney Australia.

The parts in square brackets are my little musings.

Conditions of Wrestling in Australia Catch-as-catch-can-style

Rounds are of 10 mins each with a two-minutes' interval between each round.

The Referee's decision shall be final and he shall decide all questions which arise during the bout.

The Referee's decision is given on pin falls, that is when one wrestler is thrown on his back with both shoulders touching the floor at the same time for a period of three seconds, which must be counted by the Referee.

A fall may also be awarded when a contestant surrenders (submission fall) which is usually signalled by tapping the mat.

When a wrestler refuses to continue at the Referee's instruction, the decision may be awarded against him.

Opponent's may grasp any part of each other's body. One arm may be pressed against an opponent's throat, but the other arm must not touch the opponent's head or neck. (The stranglehold is barred in Australia)[suggesting it may still be allowed elsewhere?]

Deliberate striking and kicking, scratching and biting are regarded as fouls. Boring and gouging are prohibited. [What is boring?]

When a foul or deliberate breach of the rules occurs, the Referee may award a fall against the offending wrestler.

When the wrestler's roll off the mat, beyond the boundary lines, or under the ropes they shall be ordered to the middle of the mat. The wrestler who has the advantage the when rolling out of the ring occurs must be given the position of aggressor when the bout resumes in the middle of the mat.

The Referee must tap on the shoulders or on the back, the wrestler securing a fall.

Seconds must not touch their man or give him advice during the progress of a round.

Changing holds or grabbing of the legs is permitted.

The use of oil or grease on the body or on the head of a wrestler is not permitted.

Australian championships may be decided on points, but World's Championship is only decided on falls.

Cheers, Stu.

I believe it was common to bar chokes, unless it was considered an "all in" match, in which case many of those rules did not apply. 


Keep in mind the "pin" way of winning.  Think about what submission grappling would be today if there were no guard, or at least not for 3 seconds.  These guys were absolutely submission men.

Once you add striking, though, the game changes, and the guard is a decent way to control and defend.  But, I think escaping and wrestling to position is much better than thinking that a guard will protect you.