PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 12:00am

You would be wrong if you thought that wrestling involved oversized musclemen performing staged fights in a ring to the sounds of heavy metal music.

In fact, as one of the world's oldest and most prestigious sports, it was included in the first Olympic Games which took place in Greece during 776 B.C.

According to Ho Yan-kit, chairman of Hong Kong Wrestling Federation (HKWF), it is a sport that requires practitioners to be quick and clever rather than strong. Wrestling is a highly technical form of martial arts even though it does not involve spectacular kicks and punches.

'Wrestling is a wushu [martial art] that comes from the heart, which means your consciousness is more important than your body movements,' Ho said. 'About 70 per cent of wrestling is about mastering techniques and only 30 per cent involves your strength.'

There are at least 40 variations of wrestling practised around the world. The three most common forms of wrestling are Greco-Roman style, freestyle and Chinese style.

Ho said Greco-Roman wrestling originated from ancient Greece, where wrestlers were anointed with olive oil and were not permitted to trip their opponents or grab their legs. Freestyle wrestling a variation on the Greco-Roman style that involves some footwork.

Chinese style wrestling, during ancient times, was a 'compulsory subject' for the emperor's body guards, who were not allowed to carry weapons. One of the most prominent streams of Chinese style wrestling is Mongolian wrestling, which is similar to sumo wrestling.

The reason why wrestling (apart from the WWF kind) is not a popular sport is that it is too exquisite and unusual when compared with other styles of martial arts such as taekwondo and karate.

Ho said the sport emphasised 'the flow of strength'. For example, most people are taught to back away when facing an attack to avoid being punched or kicked. But wrestlers will rush forward, because any kind of body contact is an opportunity to grasp an opponent.

'There are more than a dozen solutions to every wrestling movement. This is the fun part of wrestling,' said Ho.

A good wrestler needs to repetitively practise seemingly pointless and bizarre movements that are in fact very effective in an actual combat situation. Bruce Lee Chun-pong, HKWF chief coach, said that as part of his training, he holds an arm-length metal rod or pulls a waist belt back and forth. This is to get the feel of grabbing an opponent and to master the flow of pushing and pulling.

'It is something that can train your patience ... [because] you have to do the same movement repeatedly, like military training,' said Lee.

For more information, visit the Hong Kong Wrestling Federation website at www.combathk.org