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“ Though at the begining of the Preface I take notice that wrestling was in vogue, great credit, reputation, and estimation in Martial the poet's days ; wrestling, without all doubt, is of greater antiquity, as appears, Gen. chap. xxxii. ver. 24, Jacob wrestled with an angel. Whether it was real and corporeal, or mystical and spiritually in its signification, I leave Pool and the rest of the divines to determine.
“ But I advise all my scholars to avoid wrestling with angels; for though they may maintain the struggle till break of the day, and seem to lay their adversaries supine and on their backs, they will have the foil, and be out of joint with Jacob's thigh.
“ I conclude that it requires a much abler pen than mine to explain it; and that it remains only ingeniously to assure you, I ne'er had been induced to write this first Treatise of Wrestling, that ever was published by any, but that I found it mysterious, and hoped that it might fall into such ingenious hands, as would make good Facile est inventis addere, and that such would fill up the several blanks, I have left for that purpose. Then I further promise, if this is acceptable to gamesters, and those that would be such, to illustrate, and make clear and plain, each letter, with two or three copper-plates, at least, of the postures in wrestling, which can't be well done till the blanks are filled up; that it may be, in time, a correct Treatise of Wrestling, and invite many persons to look into it, with an itching curiosity of reading and exercising the whole book frequently through, till they are become complete wrestlers. 'Tis difficult to pitch upon a subject like this, that has not been, in some manner or other, treated of by others; but much to be wondered at, if I am not laughed at, for being the first undertaker, being fearful I have committed many faults, yet am concerned that I cannot apologise for myself, in the words of the great and celebrated Seneca, to his Lucilius—de alienis liberalis fui; quare autem aliena dixi? Quæcunque bene dicta sunt, ab ullo, mea sunt. And though Martial speaks for me, Epig. 17. lib. i.
Sunt bona, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt mala plura
“'Tis not a book, if not so; neither am I confident of my own sufficiency, to think I can perform any thing like others, or do I set a greater value on the spider's web, for being spun out of its own bowels; however I declare, by a notum sit omnibus et singulis, that if, upon perusal of this my book of wrestling, my readers shall laugh at it, 'till they lie down, I hope they'll be so ingenuous, as to own the fall which answereth the design and very end of this undertaking.
“ Now I have done every thing requisite and necessary, in a good wrestling master, 'tis not my fault, if scholars do not obtain the desired and proposed end, which is a total vanquishing and overthrowing of their enemies.”
At page 22, Sir Thomas commences his “ Young Wrestlers,” thus learnedly :
My Institutes to Young Wrestlers. “ Most problems of the mechanics are more useful than curious, in regard they commonly relate to the execution of the most necessary things in the way of life, so that I might be very large on my subject, but that my book may not exceed some wrestlers' pockets.
“ I only explain the small sword, lever, or stilliard, which are all one, in the reason of their operations, and how far useful to the wrestler, but as this is a new application of mine, I'll explain myself with all the perspicuity and agreeable easiness to be understood, and deduced into the practice and exercise of wrestling, therefore both at the longer end of the stilliard, as well as of the lever, from the fulciments and props, may be called the Feeble, because, as those ends are farther from the centers, they easier, with less weight and force, command the greater weight or blows, on the shorter sides of the fulciments and props.
“ I cannot demonstrate the sharp stroke of your elbow, upon your adversary's feeble wrist or arm, which are of the greatest consequence, and preferable to, and before the weight, better than in these following words, in " Mandy's Mechanical Powers," who treat of the lever, stilliard, and stroke of the hammer. From Proposition the 4th to the 5th.
“From all other statical motions of human bodies, such as are curious may find them abridged, from Alphonsus Borellus, in Lib. I. De Motu Animalium, Prop. 156, by Sturmius Statics, with the lines of direction, 176, 177, 178, 179,-184, 187.”
Immediately after the foregoing passage, ten pages of “Mandy's and Moxon's Mechanical Powers," which, however necessary for the education of the young wrestler, would be by no means interesting to any other reader.
The general directions to the In-play wrestler, commence at page 37. The high-heeled shoes, against which the baronet is so outrageous, and which were the fashion of his day, must have been extremely inimical to a person desirous of maintaining a firm footing. How could a man, standing, as it were, upon a couple of claret corks, expect to resist the energies of the flat-footed.
“ 1. Choose rather to wrestle in a pair of linen drawers, wide at knees, easy tied above the knees, than in a pair of straight breeches.
“ 2. Choose rather to wrestle with narrow low-heeled shoes, than with broad heels; for in the first you will stand much faster, whether on a cause-way, wet or dry ground; and with narrow heeled shoes, you will easier disengage, and come off from the hanging trippet, &c.; you may put tacks into your heels to prevent your slipping and sliding.”
Sir Thomas proceeds “ to explode” high-heeled shoes, and recommends the inconvenience and danger of them to the serious consideration of soldiers : (he is very anxious about the soldiers.) He is then led to define what is a strain or distortion, and to prescribe the best remedies for the same; enlarging very tediously on oyl-rosat, bandage, rosemary, pomegranate rinds, bolster, and powdered alum. His conclusion runs thus :
“If we choose an horse for strength, whether for the course, hunting, or burthen, do we not take a particular care that he has short fet-lock joints, that he may not strain those parts in his exercise and business?
“For shame! let us leave off aiming at the out-doing our Maker in our true symmetry and proportion ; let us likewise, for our own ease, secure treading, and upright walking (as he designed we should) shorten our heels.
“Since the women have lowered their top-sails and head-dresses, and find it a vain attempt of their's in offering to add one cubit to their staiure.”
Sir Thomas recommends “ unbuttoning your shirt-neck and wrist-bands,” that your antagonist do not knuckle down at your windpipe, and put you to unpleasant inconvenience. * Stand low too,” says he, or camp
your antagonist get not“ his right hand betwixt your elbow and side."
This is clear. Then follow some of the interesting problems, which Sir Thomas gives ample directions for the working. And first for “the Flying Horse.”
“ The Flying Horse. “ Take him by the right hand with your left, your palm being upwards, as if you designed only to shake him by the hand in a friendly manner in the beginning, and twist it outwards, and lift it upwards to make way for your head, and put your head under his right arm-pit, and hold his hand down to your left side, hold your head stiff backwards, to hold him out of his strength, then put your right arm up to the shoulder between his grainings, and let your hand appear behind past his breech, without taking hold; but if you suspect they will cavil at that arm, as a breeching, lay your same arm along his belly, and lift him up as high as your head, and in either hold, when so high, lean backward and throw him over your head.”
There is a friendliness in this little encounter which quite charms us. 6. Take his hand in a friendly manner!” how placidly it commences! And then how the plot thickens, till you behold the astonished gentleman performing the flying horse over his friend's head !
“ The Flying Mare” is pleasing, but much resembling the Flying Horse. The Hanging Trippet, in-clamp, and backclamp are admirably defined The first is “ when you put your toe behind your adversary's heel, with a design to hook his leg up forwards, and throw him on his back.” Of the two clamps, the Black-clamp is the most to our taste.
“ Back-clamp. " When your adversary back-clamps you, which is, when he claps his heel in your ham, with a design to throw you backwards, fall in close to him with your arms about him; as for the gripes, bear upon him with your breast and chin, and kick your own breech with your own heel, with his feeble heel in your fort ham, and his head and shoulders will come to the ground first, that throwing him out of the line of direction.". The Pinnion is rather difficult to work ; but “ The Gripes,"
“ The Gripes. “ Are nothing but laying your right arm amongst his small ribs, and putting your left hand to your right arm, to augment your strength in griping; and, when you gripe, get your head on the outside of his arm, then may you lift the better.
Never delay the gripe, but get that as soon as you can, and hold him strait, and your head close to his breast, that he doth not give you his elbow, and stand low, with your knees bent and toes out, and it will prevent buttock, back-lock, in-lock, and trip.”
In the “ Method for Inn-play,” which follows, Sir Thomas rather repeats himself, and again directs you to play “ The Flying Horse” upon your friend, as before. We should be inclined to say, with Mrs. Malaprop, “ You need not read that again, sir." The “Method," however, proceeds in the most familiar manner.
“ Or when you twist him in that hold, he will be apt to bend or lean the other
and continue your twist, and step sharply with your left foot to his left, then throw your right leg clever behind his, even to his right heel; and at the very same time, with a sharp stroke at the middle of his breast, with your right elbow; that your right hand may reach his right arm, throw him head and shoulders over your right thigh.
2. “ With your right hand, having your palm upwards, take him by the left wrist, your little finger, and next about his thumb, his palm being behind, or downward, then thrust your hand down toward his left knee, and turn his fingers up backward, and, with your left hand, help to hold his fingers, whilst you shift all your right fingers round his thumb, which hold up, and pain him till you please to throw him forward, by laying your left hand upon his neck.
“ And if he gets his hand betwixt your arm and body, towards your side, you may break that hold by securing and thrusting at his elbow, and thrusting your breech out.
Holding hoth your arms higher than your head, bid him take what hold he will, and be sure he will come to gripe you, but as soon as his arms are going about you, put your arms under his, and take hold of botlı your elbows, and lean backwards, let either of your arms go, lean backwards, lifting your other up, and from thence take the gripe.
“ If he take hold of your right wrist with his right hand, throw your left arm on the inside of his right arm, and take the pinnion, or throw your liberty elbow over his arm, and in for the gripes.
There is next a long direction, entitled, “ Hold with one arm,” which shews much knowledge of a one-handed kind; and this is followed by another passage, headed “ Hold with both arms." In the latter, the “ Gripes” are clearly ever in Sir Thomas's head!
“ If his right hand be at your side, you must hold your left elbow close, and lift his elbow to get the gripes, but if he resists you by holding his elbow down, at the same time turn over his wrist, and in for the gripes, and when he hath you by the left side, with his right hand, and you the same hold of him, at the same time turn over his wrist for the gripes, pluck him to you with your right hand, the best way, and presently lift him up, but you need not pluck him to you if his right hand be at your left shoulder.”
There are here fifteen long paragraphs on the “Holding with both arms,” all full of mathematical certainties. The concluding passage, which is a fair sample of the rest, runs thus :
“ If your adversary taketh hold of your right wrist with both of his hands, throw your left arm into the inside of his right arm, and take the pinion and gripes; or, if he holds by your breast, his wrists being cross, to break that hold, take hold of his uppermost wrist, and take the pinnion, or lay both your arms edgways upon his and crush them downwards towards your breast, fall in for the gripes, belly to belly, and Cornish hugg, lift him, and throw him.”
The chapters on " Buttock and Inn-lock" are great; but our readers will have had enough for one exercise. On“ Out-play” Sir Thomas writes with evident coldness and disgust. He dismisses the whole art in two feeble and careless pages.
We conclude with the following singular directions to the boxer.
. · By all means have the first blow with your head or fist at his breast, rather than at his face, which is half the battle, by reason, it strikes the wind out of his body.