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The Seven Continent Sport

25 May 2011 No Comment

The Yaghan would paint themselves in preparation for wrestling matches and festivals.

Soccer? Not a chance. Wrestling is thought to be the only sport “played” on all seven continents. Read below as Gavin Dickson of the Coreeda Association in Australia explains how the native wrestling of the South American people reached lands considered to be part of Antartica. Gavin has delivered a fantastic historical entry that has also proved as an excellent primer for preparing readers to consider the geographical and cultural scope of wrestling.


The Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), an island at the southern tip of South America, who practiced a type called Kalaka Mulaka. According to Father Martin Gusinde, a German priest who went on several large expeditions into the region between 1917 & 1923, the tradition began when a fight broke out between two ancestral bird ancestors & the sport has been used to control hostilities since time immemorial. The Yamana Sea Nomads, as they were called by Gusinde, are now recognised to have reached as far as the Falkland Islands 500km into the Atlantic Ocean, we know this because of the now extinct warrah (killed by sheep farmers in the 19th century) or misnamed Falkland Islands Fox, which was actually a small domesticated hunting dog brought to the islands by the Yaghan & the remains of a thousand year old canoe that was once buried in sand, amongst several other artifacts found around the archipelago in more recent times. There are other enigmatic clues that show the Yaghan may have also reached the South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands & islands around the Antarctic Peninsula; therefore this style of traditional wrestling could have been the only one practiced on the Seventh Continent (Antarctica). The Yaghan were a remarkably resilient people who lived in an environment as harsh as that of the Inuit in the Arctic, adapting to it both physically & culturally but were unable to survive the onslaught of European Colonisation. Their culture is retained only in memory, even though several thousand mixed ancestry descendants still live in the region, but we do know enough about Kalaka Mulaka to give a description of it. It was considered a fight for honour & men would ceremonially paint themselves (as can be seen in photographic record) in elaborate designs before combat, which was done in the middle of a circle formed by a crowd of spectators. As a challenge, one of the contestants would place a kalaka, a small animal skin ball stuffed with fur, at the feet of the one he wished to fight & soon after the wrestling began. The object was to pin the opponent on the ground until he conceded & although tripping was forbidden in stand up wrestling, it was considered legal to try to knee the opponent’s thighs out from under him from a grappling hold, so it resembled modern Thai Boxing in some ways.

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