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Book Review: Say Uncle! Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling

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Jake Shannon's Say Uncle!: Catch-As-Catch Can Wrestling and the Roots of Ultimate Fighting, Pro Wrestling & Modern Grappling is a valuable addition to the fighting sports library. Shannon runs the Scientific Wrestling web site -- a great resource for anyone curious about catch wrestling -- and has been a dedicated student of this nearly lost art for over a decade.

Shannon outlines the history and techniques of catch wrestling and, most interestingly, interviews many legends of the art including Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Billy Wicks, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Gene LeBell, Josh Barnett and Erik Paulson. The interviews are a wide-ranging lot and cover everything from the techniques and philosophy of grappling, to the old days on the carnival wrestling circuit to adapting catch to modern MMA.

The anecdotes from the old school catch wrestlers are my favorite part of the book as the era when pro wrestling was sometimes real and sometimes fake is a fascinating era. The grapplers Shannon interviews were on the side that fought to keep the sport a sport -- often by "shooting" (ie competing for real) on "workers" (fake wrestlers) who didn't have a clue to defend themselves.

The book also features a nice 30 page section on techniques featuring black and white photos and explanations for a number of take downs, rides and submission holds  and how to string them together. The book also does a great job of explaining the "scientific" basis of catch wrestling with its emphasis on bio-mechanics, leverage and torque.

The book makes an excellent complement to Mark Hewitt's Catch Wrestling and Catch Wrestling Round Two which both look more at the history of professional wrestling in the first half of the 20th Century and doesn't pay much if any attention to technical issues.

Shannon's book is a very professional production, well edited, nicely laid out and a pleasure to read. Most importantly the book is a critical contribution to the effort to preserve the knowledge and history of this almost lost martial art that is a direct forefather of MMA.

Thanks to ECW Press for the review copy.