The Wrestler’s Dissertation, Chinese and Western Wrestling
By Dr. Antonio Graceffo
Pankration, Gladiators, Mongolia, Shaolin kung fu, Catch Wrestling, the Olympics, Wushu, Pro Wrestling, Sanda, and MMA…
The Wrestler’s Dissertation traces the history and evolution of Western wrestling, from Ancient Greece, to Catch wrestling champion Frank Gotch, and on to Gorgeous George, Hulkamania, and UFC champion Daniel Cormier. During the same time, across the Pacific, China was transforming itself from a loose collection of warring kingdoms to a modern nation state. Behind The Great Wall, Chinese shuai jiao wrestling was growing out of countless regional and ethnic wrestling styles from Mongolia, Manchuria, and Korea. The Shaolin Temple was also incorporating Chinese wrestling techniques into wushu forms, and eventually sanda (kick boxing). In the last twenty years, Chinese wrestling has collided with Western wrestling in the Olympics, MMA, and now pro wrestling. This book explores the similarities and differences between western and Chinese wrestling from a cultural, historical and technical standpoint and seeks to understand why western wrestling is so much more aggressive, competitive, and violent.
In 2013, Martial arts author and traveler Antonio Graceffo was awarded a PhD scholarship to Shanghai University of Sport (SUS). His major was Chinese wushu and his dissertation title was “A Cross Cultural Comparison of Chinese and Western Wrestling.” The entire three-year course was taught in Chinese, during which time, Antonio conducted both academic and field research, training with the wrestling team, learning Chinese traditional shuai jiao wrestling, as well as Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling. At SUS, he cross-trained in Chinese sanda and Japanese judo. He also trained freestyle in Cambodia, san da in Vietnam, catch wrestling in Singapore, and professional wrestling in New York. After graduating in 2016, he set about translating his dissertation into English. In Antonio’s own words, “A standard PhD dissertation is a dry, academic affair with all of the life sucked out of it.” This book, however, is not the actual dissertation. It is an English language version with all of the interesting bits put back in.
Read more in The Wrestler’s Dissertation, by Dr. Antonio Graceffo, available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.