Highland Wrestling Seminar


The Broadsword Academy Germany was very happy to invite Zane Grey from Paisley, Scotland (yes, THE Paisley where fencing master Archibald Macgregor lived) to hold a workshop on Highland Wrestling or Scottish Backhold Wrestling. It was part of the 13th Human Pankration workshop Hessen, kindly hosted by our friend Mark De Fazio at the Asiafitnesspark Dietzenbach, not far from our own gym.

The day started with a workshop on stand-up fighting with strikes and kicks based on the ancient greek/roman pankration style by Mark and later followed by our friend Thorsten from the Krav Maga Union Team, who showed aspects of takedowns and groundfighting basing on Pankration, but also Catch-as-catch-can Wrestling.

Zane and me arrived at time to Thorsten´s workshop, unfortunately we missed Mark´s part. I picked-up Zane at his hotel near the main station in Frankfurt and we headed over to Dietzenbach, which is not that far, but takes a while. During the drive we already had time to talk a lot about Highland Wrestling, Scotland and everything else which came in mind. Zane is a great guy, not only physically, but a really nice guy with a big heart.

Zane and me where building a training-team, when we paired up for Thorsten´s techniques. I was really lucky, because as an experienced wrestler, Zane helped me a lot to understand and performe the several techniques we trained with Thorsten. He started with Judo as a kid, but also trained Freestyle Wrestling and Catch-as-catch-can before he started with the scottish style of Wrestling. So a lifetime of experience he shared kindly with me.

We did level-changes against different punch attacks and closing the distance to get into clinch-position. From here we trained a variation of a single-leg and hip-takedown and various positions on the ground to dominate and control the opponent. We also did an arm-lock and leg-lock from there. It was really great for me, because I did not train wrestling and groundfighting for at least one year due to several injuries.

After a break the workshop on Highland Wrestling started. Zane gave us a really interesting insight to the history and culture of the scottish wrestling style. Listening to him was like a travel back in time and the stories about shieldmaidens on the western islands, highland clans and gatherings where really entertaining and interesting. Especially the warrior academy called “Fortress of Shadows” was amazing the audience and participants.


Then the practical part started. Several students and instructors from different martial arts and sports where taking part at this event, not only as participants, but also some spectators joined to watch from outside the mats. I was really happy to meet the first instructor again who introduced me to wrestling in general some years ago (before that I had only done some groundfighting). He is now teaching a german league wrestling team and was really interested to see the Backhold style in action.

Zane taught us the basic grip and stance of Highland Wrestling, which is already interesting itself. You have to hold your opponent with your  left arm over his right and your right arm under his left. This over- & underhook-position is where the fight starts. Zane explained to us, that this style is easy for beginners as well, because they are “forced” to take the closest hold in wrestling right when they start. Other wrestling styles starting from the outside position with no hold give the chance to “run away” and avoid a clinch for a long time.


Another speciality of Backhold wrestling is, that once the hands are closed in the grip, the wrestlers are not allowed to let go. So if one fighter breaks his grip, he looses the round. This not only demands a lot of strength and hard grip, but also gives interesting possibilities to perform throws and trips. The reason for this traditional grip could be, that in weapon combat if a grappling situation happens, you do not want to give your enemy the chance to use his weapon or pull out a dagger.

We trained from here basic exercises of pushing, pulling and spinning, which is all important to perform big powerfull throws and stand very good grounded. Zane showed us the Backheel throw, a headlock-throw, a simple, but effective tripping technique and some other techniques.


You can see the complete video of the seminar here:

The training day ended with some bouts between the participants, which where a lot of fun and we had the chance to use some of the material we´ve learned before (or tried to use it):

The seminar ended way to fast, because it was really interesting. Zane is an excellent wrestler and teacher and we all were amazed by his workshop. Although I´ve already trained some other wrestling styles before a bit, but Highland Wrestling with the Backhold-grip is really the most exhausting in my opinion. But it is great fun too 🙂

After I picked-up Zane´s lovely family at his hotel, we´ve met again with some of the attendants and instructors to have a traditional german dinner at the Sonnenhof Restaurant. It was a wonderfull evening with very good food, lots of conversation and laughing, some hardcore Hessian special dishes 😉 and good beer and applewine.

The next morning we´ve met again with some of my students and guests from the seminar to have two hours of Highland Broadsword practice at our regular dojo. I introduced Zane and the other guests to the basic footwrok, cuts and guards with the Broadsword, later we did some advanced techniques and close-quarter fighting too.


Time passed to quickly and in the early afternoon I drove Zane and his family back to their hotel and had to say goodbye until the next time. And for sure there will be a next time 🙂 Highland Wrestling is not only a lot of fun and exhausting combat style, but also there are many deep connections to our scottish swordsmanship, which Zane and me want to uncover in future more and more. So the exchange between Wrestling and Swordsmanship will go on, as will our friendship 🙂

Thanks a lot to Zane for coming all the long way to us from Scotland, thanks to Mark and Thorsten to make that happen and their workshops too. Also many thanks to all participants and spectators for a great weekend.


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