Radio Podcast Interview:
No Holds Barred: Antonio Graceffo, the Brooklyn Monk, on Wrestling and China
On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with the writer, web show host, MMA fighter, and wrestler, Antonio Graceffo.
Born in Brooklyn, known as the “Brooklyn Monk”, and raised in Tennessee, he is in the process of completing his Ph.D. at Shanghai University of Sport in Shanghai, China, and is a member of the traditional wrestling (Shuai Jiao) team there.
We spoke with him Thursday in New York while he was in town.
“My Ph.D. thesis topic is comparing Chinese traditional wrestling with Western wrestling,” he said. “My professors want me to write about history, culture, rules, competition, techniques, training, all different aspects. And they sort of expanded that and they wanted me to write a lot about Greece and Rome for some reason, but that led me to writing now about Pankration: ancient Greek wrestling, and then Pankration, and then Pankration into the Roman era, which becomes like the gladiators. So actually it becomes very interesting, a lot of fun for me to write it.”
He continued, “But then it also means it’s expanded, the types of things that I need to go do in addition to my reading, that I need to go experience, catch wrestling for example. And they also want me to write about pro wrestling. And of course as soon as you include pro wrestling as sort of a modern evolution of wrestling, if you want to call it that, and in a way, the modern pro wrestling is the gladiatorial games of the Romans.”
Thus, on this trip back to New York, he sampled training in several different styles. He attended a training session in catch wrestling with Sambo Steve Koepfer at New York Combat Sambo, as well as one in judo at Long Island Judo with Sensei Gary Rasanen, and even met with a group which performs the staged pro wrestling.
We also discussed the status of wrestling and grappling in China, how there is not now a large feeder system there on the amateur and youth levels of wrestling, how children in regular schools do not play sports, why it would be difficult for catch wrestling to succeed in China at present, his future plans, and much, much more.