The origin of this North Country style of wrestling is a matter of debate. Some describe it as having evolved from Norse wrestling brought over by Viking invaders while others associate it with the Cornish and Gouren styles indicating that it may have developed out of a longer- standing Celtic tradition.
Whatever its origins, the Cumbrians engage in Cumberland Wrestling to this day and it now forms part of the larger Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show where I went to see it this bank holiday Sunday.
The rules are straightforward. The starting backhold position involves the wrestlers standing chest to chest, grasping each other around the body with their chins on their opponent’s right shoulder. The right arm of each contestant is positioned above his opponents left arm.
Once the grip is firmly taken the umpire gives the signal to start the contest and the wrestlers attempt to unbalance their opponent, or make them lose their hold, using any method other than kicking. If any part of a wrestler’s body touches the ground aside from his feet then he loses. If both fall down at once the last to hit the ground is deemed the winner.
If it’s unclear which wrestler hit the ground first the fall is disqualified and must be started again. A win can also be achieved if either party loses his grip on the other while his opponent still retains his hold, and matches are decided by a best of three falls.