Wrestling camp exposes raw talent
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
CHARLES TOWN, Portland:
IN THE bed, the living room, the backyard, front yard, school yard, play field and even in the church yard, Jamaican youngsters are always wrestling one another.
Even grown men, in the car parks and taxi stands, on street corners, from time-to-time, engage themselves in entertaining mock boxing and wrestling duels. It's all about strength and physical prowess. Not to mention bragging rights.
And now, some youngsters have something to show, trophies, for their strength and skills. They were participants in the Jamaica Wrestling Federation (JWF) summer camp, hosted in the Maroon village of Charles Town, Portland, by president of the JWF, Kevin Wallen.
"The purpose of this camp really is just to introduce wrestling, and a healthy lifestyle to the community," Wallen told Rural Xpress, two Fridays ago, on a visit to the camp, which ended yesterday with exhibitions, championship duels and prizes.
The camp had been going on since mid-August, and was open to males and females between ages 12 and 20. It was Wallen's idea to have such a camp to launch Jamaica Wrestling. In a discussion about his desire, Portland was mentioned. A visit to Charles Town resulted in a wrestling exhibition during the 2014 Charles Town International Maroon Conference in June.
"So it was when I came here and I did the exhibition, and I saw the raw talent that was here, that was when we decided to come back ... What we are doing right now is that we are helping them to unearth what is already inside them. It's natural for them to wrestle, all the techniques are natural, so we are just showing them the correct way to do it," Wallen said. Showing them the right way, however, seemed to be a slight challenge, as the participants just wanted to go ahead and fight.
Outside of the formal training session, Rural Xpress saw some spirited combats, even between children below the required age. The young, enthusiastic wrestlers seemed to be having the time of their lives, duelling in the new wrestling pit. It was heart-warming to them demonstrating some of the techniques they had learned from Coach Wallen, shortly after fetching sand to form the wrestling pit.
In that pit and from the other elements of the training, participants were expected to have developed non-discriminatory attitudes; have learned self-reliance, problem-solving, and self-defence skills; have improved their self-esteem, and critical-thinking skills. Character-building is key, Wallen said. "We are trying to get these guys to understand their worth, to get them to respect time ... to open up their minds to possibilities."
Wallen said he was focusing on the youngsters, because there are scholarship opportunities that they can access through wrestling, which can also steer them away from social ills.
"Absolutely, and it will, if they are willing to come out and grab wrestling, wrestling is willing to grab them," he stated emphatically. "Wrestling is a gateway to a better life; once you do wrestling, you do things differently."
The end of the camp doesn't mean the end of wrestling at Charles Town. The programme will be ongoing. In fact, Wallen believes Charles Town, with a pit and stands already in place, could become a "wrestling Mecca" from which world champions could spring. He said it is extremely possible for the trainees to be world champions, as he had already identified some stand-outs who have steely determination.
Also, he said wrestling in Charles Town may just be the catalyst to the development of wrestling programmes in schools, leading to national and international competitions.
Colonel Charles Lumsden, who is just as enthusiastic as the trainees, said the wrestling camp has brought back duelling full circle to Charles Town as the Maroons themselves were skilled fighters who used the terrains of the region to defeat the British, and that it has exposed the youngsters to elements of the Maroon culture in addition to teaching them respect for each other and for themselves. It is a win-win situation, Lumsden said.