Cornish wrestling

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A form of wrestling in Cornwall, England, in which the physical encounter was based traditionally upon the ‘hug’ (in which a wrestler could grip the garment of an opponent) rather than kicking or tripping, which was more characteristic of the Devon style. Joseph Strutt (Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, 1801), quoting Carew's Survey of Cornwall (1602), noted that wrestling was learned early in a young man's life in Cornwall, and that the inhabitants of Cornwall (and Devon) ‘are universally said to be the best wrestlers in the kingdom’. Devon champion Abraham Cann (1794–1864) challenged the much larger Cornwall champion, publican James Polkinghorne (b.1788), in a drawn match in 1826 that attracted 12,000 spectators, almost none of whom, having backed their favourite to win, could then take home any winnings. It was a controversial outcome, not least because of the lack of clarity concerning the permissible moves and styles. Cornish wrestling continues to attract its devotees, and a Cornish Wrestling Association, established as late as the 1920s, organizes regular events and championships. Its survival is based on a mixture of cultural pride, Celtic revivalism, and heritage tourism in which the distinctively regional practice can be rebranded as a cultural novelty.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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