Wrestling Club Taking hold in Madison
Wrestling Club Taking hold in Madison
February 4, 2006
by Martin Kester
One of the newest options for learning self-defense in Madison County is actually one of Western civilization's oldest methods of combat.
The Madison Wrestling Club was started in September by Rich Swete, a transplanted Californian who moved to Madison after being promoted to a job at the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Complex.
A supervisor at Swete's previous prison was a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, a Japanese martial art that is principally based on grappling and joint lock techniques.
"(It) has ground fighting involved in it, and that's what I really enjoyed," said Swete, who started reading books and researching the topic.
At the time, he was involved in pancrase wrestling, an open-handed style that involves submission holds and has similar rules to that of the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Swete trained for six months in both styles, but it wasn't until the oldest of his four children, Ricky, was in trouble that the student became a teacher.
"He had a slight bully problem four years ago," said Swete, "I thought if he got involved in freestyle wrestling that he might gain confidence from it."
Swete's wrestling club for kids lasted three years, and when the family moved to the Magnolia State, his co-workers pushed him to start one for older participants.
"A buddy of mine from work talked me into starting a club," said Swete, who talked with Madison Cultural Arts Center. "What I actually pitched to them was myself and a couple of friends of mine to clean up an old locker room in the old Madison-Ridgeland High School."
Swete is very thankful for the center, which allowed his club to tear out a cement divider, paint the area, pad the floor and line the walls with historical wrestling event posters.
"My long-term goal is to start a kids' club, and when they turn 16, they can filter into the adult class," said Swete. "Right now, I would be taking on a lot more than I can chew if I started the kids' group."
The club, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., is currently open to adults 16 and older. There are currently 12 members, including 16-year-old Madison Central sophomore Jeremy Warner, whose father works with Swete.
"I used to play soccer and I was very aggressive, but I found it wasn't physical enough," said Warner, who's about 5-foot-6 and not imposing at all. "When he told me about this, I was interested."
Warner is at a disadvantage when the members train because unlike most Eastern arts, you can't train against the air.
"Ground fighting and grappling is the end-all, be all," said Gary McElroy, a 33-year-old club member from Ridgeland. "(With) the striking arts (like karate), those guys can't practice that. You can't practice kicking someone in the face because you'd have no training partners.
"Fights always end up on the ground anyhow," added McElroy, who works with Swete. "When it gets down there, that's where this takes over and the fight will end rather quickly."
Swete doesn't plan on teaching those with bad intentions.
"I'm not going to go out and pick fights with people, but if I find myself in a situation, I think this would be very useful," said Warner. "I look at this as a self-defense class. This is a place where the little man can learn how to beat the big man."
McElroy, who has previous experience in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, admits his worst beatdown came from a woman with an Olympic medal in judo, so he feels this would benefit the opposite sex, too.
"We're talking about someone who could be overpowered and this doesn't require strength," said McElroy. "It requires joint manipulation and (understanding) fulcrums (the point or support on which a lever turns). You don't have to be a big, strong guy to do this."
"It would be good if we had women come in" said Matt Dalton, a 34-year-old from Madison who wrestled in high school in Georgia and works with Swete. "It's good knowledge for people to know for self-defense."
Ricky no longer trains with his father but sometimes will join him at the center.
"He'll sit down and watch some old UFC matches with me, but I don't think he can quite grasp what's going on," said Swete. "It does take about two years before you can really wrap your mind around what's going on."