Scottish Backhold is a style
of wrestling originating in Scotland. The wrestlers grip each other around
the waist at the back, with the right hand under the opponent's left arm and
the chin resting on the opposite right shoulder. When the referee is sure
that both wrestlers have taken a firm grip, he shouts "hold" and the bout
starts. Should either wrestler break his hold or touch the ground with any
part of his body except his feet, he loses. There is no ground work and the
bouts are usually best of five falls.
Scottish-Backhold is almost
identical to the Cumbrian-Westmoreland style of Northern England (it is also
practiced in Northumberland), involving largely the same techniques, Indeed,
wrestlers from both styles regularly compete in local and international
competitions either side of the border. In recent years Scottish wrestlers
have been particularly successful in Cumbrian competitions, winning a number
of local and World titles.
Backhold Wrestling involves the two wrestlers “taking hold” of each other by
putting the left arm over the opponents right (and the right under the left)
and clasping their own hands behind the opponent’s back (hence the name
‘Backhold’, clever huh!?). It is important not to lock the fingers together
as they might be broken in a fall. The wrestlers then attempt to trip or
throw each other while maintaining the hold. The first to touch the floor
with any part of the body except the feet or to break their hold) loses.
This style of wrestling differs from the well-known “Olympic” styles of
“Greco-Roman” and “Freestyle” in that there is no ground-wrestling.
Furthermore, the hold must remain constant. Whereas Greco-Roman does not
allow trips and holds to the legs these are fundamental features of
Backhold. Techniques like the ‘Inside Hype’, where a wrestler lefts and
throws by using the knee against the opponent’s inner thigh, are
spectacular. Techniques from other styles, such as the suplex from
Greco-Roman, have also been absorbed into the wrestler’s arsenal.
Competitions are usually open to all comers and happen at a number of
Highland Gatherings around the country (as well as the country shows of
Northern England, like the famous Grassmere Show of Cumbria). Wrestlers,
male and female, compete on the grass field (really fun in the wet). The
wrestler can wear ordinary sports clothes but for championship titles it
necessary to wear a kilt (feet are bare or stockinged). The ‘birling’ of the
kilts during the swinging and throwing adds to the spectacle but can make it
difficult for the judges to work out who lands first (“Watch the wrestler,
no’ the kilt, Sonny!”). Many a frustrated wrestler has commented that they
won a fall but the judges declared it a ‘dog fall’ (both land at the same
In recent years Scottish Backhold has been promoted by the Scottish
Wrestling Bond, headed by the former Commonwealth and Olympic Wrestling
coach, William Baxter (who has a number of articles on the web). Scottish
wrestlers have been very active (and successful) in international
competition within the Celtic Wrestling Federation, where they have been
successful in both Backhold competition and Gouren.