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Throws seem mysterious to me. Just the idea of being able to move your body in such a way that you are able to physically pick someone up without your hands and land them on their back seems like a "how did anybody ever come up with that" kind of thing. The earliest I know of throws existing is the samurai learning Jujutsu, but I'm not sure if that was the first use. I have even learned a few throws in my time doing BJJ, but I still have questions:

  • Who invented the concept of body throwing and when?
  • What gave them this idea?

I understand that the second question may be harder to answer, so at least try to answer just the first, the second is bonus.

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Earliest examples of wrestling

Wrestling has been a part of most societies since time-immemorial:

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Fresco in tomb 15 at Beni Hasan, Egypt ca. 2,000 BC.

The earliest known historical European descriptions of wrestling techniques are from classical antiquity: Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 466 (c. 200 CE, Greece).

And the earliest known manuals are from Chinese classics:

  • Wrestling how-to manuals of the Western Han (2nd Century BCE)1
  • Six Chapters of Hand Fighting, Book of Han (1st Century BCE)

However there are illustrations of and references to existing traditions dating much much earlier, with the oldest recorded example of Chinese wrestling (jǐao dǐ) from a military clash in 2679 BCE.

Convergent techniques in independent styles

There are only so many ways one can off-balance and throw an opponent, and so there is a lot of overlap in techniques in various independent styles of folk wrestling and martial grappling.

For example, there are many throws similar to judo/jujutsu techniques in Historical European Martial Arts manuals. The following techniques are from the German unarmed combat tradition, Ringen:

"Koshi-guruma"

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"Tomoe-nage"

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Talhoffer Fechtbuch (MS Thott.290.2º), 1459

Submissions

Note that this isn't limited to throwing. Joint-lock and strangling techniques also appear in other historical traditions:

Khmer wrestling:

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Khmer bas relief depicting a rear-naked-choke (with hooks) and a figure-four armlock, ca. 800

Greek Pankration:

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Black figure pottery depicting an arm-triangle, guillotine

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Sculpture depicting an armlock.


1. Referenced in Records of the Grand Historian, c. 100 BCE

Sources:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_arts_manual
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_martial_arts
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_wrestling
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuai_jiao#History
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_wrestling

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3

Re-calibrate your expectations. Nobody invented throwing. Wrestling is pre-human. Mammals wrestle as both bonding and male-dominance-hierarchy behavior. Monkeys wrestle. Lions wrestle.

The codification of wrestling and throwing is human, but still pre-historic. From the indigenous wrestling cultures that still exist we can infer that prehistoric people wrestled casually in jackets on grass plains like Mongolian Bökh, in manicured indoor dirt pits like traditional Indian wrestling, in rings with lots of ceremony (and a little striking) like sumo, covered in olive oil and grabbing inside each other's leather breeches as in Turkish oil wrestling, and certainly in many more variations. Getting acquainted with the variety in ancient wrestling traditions is a good way to expand one's understanding of humanity's relationship to combat sports.

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