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Celtic Wrestling

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Bringing Gouren to North America

Matthew Nichols of New Orleans recently brought Gouren to North America. He first became acquainted with Gouren in 1995. During a trip to Iceland, while writing a book on the traditional Icelandic style of wrestling (Glima) that he first learned of the existence of Breton wrestling. He was given a booklet entitled Celtic Wrestling: Our Culture, published in 1990 by the Federation de Gouren under the auspices of the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling (I.F.C.W.). This short, but highly informative, booklet includes four "Celtic" styles: Gouren, Cornish wrestling, Glima, and Backhold / Cumberland-Westmorland wrestling.

Literature on traditional wrestling styles, the European folk-styles in particular, are very few in number and extremely difficult to obtain. There are literally hundreds, or even thousands, of books on Japanese styles such as Sumo and Judo, as well as other Eastern forms of wrestling—but the European folk-styles are almost totally forgotten or absent in the lexicon of even the most ardent wrestling enthusiasts of today.

Nichols eventually obtained a wonderful book on Gouren, skillfully written in the English language. This excellent book was both an historical and technical manual describing and illustrating, with a series of black and white photographs, the basic techniques of Breton wrestling. The book, Gouren: Breton and Celtic Wrestling, was written by Guy Jaouen and published in 1985 (in Bretagne). Jaouen is unquestionably one of the foremost authorities on the traditional sports and games of Bretagne. Eight years later Jaouen and Nichols have remained close friends and have joined efforts to bring Gouren to North America.

After nearly nine years of solo practice and promoting, Nichols finally got the call he was waiting for. In June of 2004, Scotty Weeks, a former High School Wrestler and Celtic enthusiast contacted Nichols. The moral and historical relativity of Gouren instantly grabbed Weeks’ attention and he began training with Nichols. They immediately obtained a friendship and a spiritual bond that can only be explained as Celtic. Their lives have joined to form the physical and spiritual bond necessary to propel the club forward.

As fait would have it Weeks was from St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, the same place Nichols had demonstrated gouren to the local high school just a six months prior to their meeting. Weeks quickly contact Coach Rich Zimmer of St. Bernard Wrestling and he agreed to allow them to begin training and promoting at Andrew Jackson High School. During one of their training days, 1998 Greco Roman state champion and USA Wrestling coach Brad Groce approached them. Groce immediately joined the team and GNO Celtic Wrestling Club was formed.

Just as the GNO Celtic Wrestling began to gain notoriety with in the Louisiana / Mississippi Celtic community, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf South. Not only did the impact relocate the club members, it also displaced most of the Celtic community that surrounded the area.  Now almost a year later the club and Celtic community are getting things back together in a way that was unimaginable just a year earlier. Mr. Nichols still resides in New Orleans, but Mr. Groce is now residing in the Hammond, LA area and Weeks is now located in the Lafayette, LA area. This has widened the clubs impact to reach the greatest number of people possible. Lead by Celtic groups such as Highlands and Islands of MS, Swamp Celts, and The Celtic Nations Heritage foundation, the Celtic community now span’s from Lake Charles, LA to Gulf Port MS.

 

April first set a new mile stone for Gouren in the US. The team once again was invited back to Gonzalez, LA to the Swamp Celts Festival. The next appearances are scheduled for the weekend of October 13 in Lake Charles, LA and November 11 -12 in  Gulfport Mississippi. If you would like to  learn more about Gouren and join the club for this exciting opportunity please contact and we can get you started with your own club or you are welcome to join us.

 

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