Aren’t we big fans of sports? It’s safe to say that every single one of us has their own favourite sport.
And ‘contact sports’ have had a special place in our hierarchy of favourite sports of humans, since ages.Contact sports like boxing & wrestling have been there since the time of the Greeks & were even part of the ancient Olympic games. Over the centuries, the knowledge of these sports has travelled across the & gradually evolved.
We’ll try to understand three specific types of contact sports & seek to establish which sport is the most entertaining of the three.
We've been introduced to professional wrestling since our childhood through wrestling shows on TV like WWE (formerly WWF), WCW, TNA etc.
Professional wrestling (casually called ‘pro wrestling or just referred to as wrestling) traces its origins back to 19th century Europe. After growing popular there, pro wrestling travelled to North America in the form of a sideshow spectacle in travelling carnivals or circuses. Adopting diverse cultural influences, pro wrestling has grown to become a billion-dollar entertainment industry.
Pro wrestling falls one step short of being called an actual sport, primarily because it is a combination of athletics & theatrical performance that is showcased as a live combat. Most importantly because the outcomes are pre-decided & the entire routine is choreographed in a manner that the combat & respective reaction looks real, but isn't.
Pro wrestling is an eccentric form of combat that flexibly includes various forms of martial arts, along with traditional styles of wrestling. Sometimes, there is limited use of weaponry.
The invention of television amplified the reach of pro wrestling. But the popularity of pro wrestling & boxing triggered a new form of delivering content, pay-per-view subscriptions. Pro wrestling has a humongous market in the US, Japan & Mexico. But wrestling in each of these countries has evolved individually to have their distinct character.
Wrestling in the US tends to focus more on theatrics. Storylines tend to revolve around matches & personalities. Characters in US form of wrestling rely on special moves & strikes to defeat their opponents.
Mexican wrestling, known as ‘Lucha Libre’, is relatively faster, where wrestlers depend heavily on aerial stunts & acrobatic moves. Wrestling in Mexico also has storylines; but they’re given less emphasis. Japanese form of pro wrestling, known as ’Puroresu’, draws similarities from the US version of wrestling in terms of basics. But where it becomes unique is that this form of wrestling high influences of martial arts & is a full-scale combat.
Thai Boxing, officially known as ‘Muay Thai’, is a combat sport that applies various grappling techniques while striking in a standing position. Also, known as ‘the art of 8 limbs’ because it employs fists, elbows, knees & shins in combat. One requires a high level of physical & mental discipline to become an efficient fighter.
Thai boxing gained popularity when Thai boxers defeated prominent fighters from other martial arts’ disciplines in the 20th century. Muay Thai traces it’s parenthood back to Indian martial arts, it’s distinct history can be placed around the 16th century. During the battles between the armies of the Burmese & Thai kingdoms, a popular fighter was captured along with his comrades. After years in captivity, the Burmese allowed the fighter to win back his freedom through a trial by combat with Burmese boxers. The fighter triumphed & his fighting style came be known as Muay Thai. This combat technique became part of military training. Apart from being a fighting technique practiced for warfare, Muay Thai evolved into a spectator sport that was organized during temple festivals & has become a national sport ever since.
Thai boxing has spread across the globe today with the martial being taught at innumerable gyms. Muay Thai is widely used by MMA fighters because it uses a combination of punches, kicks, elbows & knee strikes, as against traditional boxing. Thai boxing is one of the primary martial disciplines to learn in case one wishes to pursue mixed martial arts.
Japanese Sumo Wrestling:
Just known as ‘Sumo’, which means ‘striking one another’ in Japanese, is also full-contact sport. Here, a wrestler known as ‘rikishi’ attempts to dislodge another wrestler outside the circular ring known as ‘dohyō’ or wrestle him to the ground.
The centuries-old sport traces its origin in Japan & it’s only here that the sport is conducted professionally. Even today, Sumo follows many ancient traditions from the times of the Shinto religion. The sprinkling of salt as purification is one of the examples of such rituals. Before the combat, the dance ritual with the divine spirit, ‘kami’ is also said to be associated with ancient Shinto traditions.
A wrestler’s life is highly disciplined, with strict rules laid down by the regulatory body. Traditions dictate all aspects of a sumo wrestler’s daily life, ranging from what he eats to how he dresses. Sumo wrestlers are restricted to staying in communal stables, known as ‘heya’.
Today’s professional Sumo wrestling has roots back to the 'Edo' period in Japan’s history, which was somewhat likeJapan’s period of Renaissance. The popularity of Sumo has historically fluctuated according to the liking of every successive ruler in Japan. Even today, the viewership of Sumo is primarily restricted to Japan.