The Origin of Coreeda
Aboriginal people have practiced wrestling since mankind first appeared in Australia, according to current scientific estimates this is over 70,000 years ago, although the Dreaming tells us that human beings were created insitu and therefore are truly indigenous to the land. This can be confirmed by various artwork depictions of the sport from around the country, most well over 10,000 years old, which are usually in abstract form and these are mostly misinterpreted by contemporary scholars as being representation of dance. The Mt Grenfell site, about 40km outside of Cobar in Western NSW, has some beautiful depictions of ceremonies done in ochre on rock walls by the Ngiyaampa ancestors more than 30,000 years ago, with many figures looking like they are in wrestling competitions.
One of the earliest European accounts of Australian wrestling is from 1802 when the French Baudin Expedition was stationed in Tasmania. A midshipman named Jean Maurouard challenged a local Parlevar man to a wrestling match, which he inevitably won due to his size advantage and in reciprocation, as an indigenous show of strength, he was later speared in the shoulder; this according to Francois Peron's journal. Another French expedition, this time under command of Louis Freycinet, witnessed some bouts around Sydney Harbour in 1819 but there are no English reports of Aboriginal wrestling from this era because the British penal colony was in a state of undeclared war against the local Daruk Nation & therefore they weren't invited to ceremonial events in which wrestling matches took place. In traditional times wrestling served a threefold purpose;
1. as a way to train young warriors in unarmed combat for tribal warfare
2. as a form of public entertainment and
3. most importantly as a peace keeping ritual held during large intertribal gatherings
Different rules existed in the different cultural zones and some of the names of the sports that have come down to us from the colonial period include;
tur-der-er-rin from the Kulin people of Southern Victoria
partembelin from the Nyeri Nyeri people of Northern Victoria
ami from the Jinibara people of South Eastern QLD
goombooboodoo from the Eualayi people of Western NSW and
arungga from the Kokomini people of Cape York.
The pictures in the above panels show;
1. partembelin on the left, drawn by the German artist Gustav Mutzel as instructed by the explorer William Blandowski who travelled down the Murray River in 1857, this is the oldest European depiction of the sport of wrestling in Australia.
2. The middle photo is of modern coreeda and was taken in 2008 during a NAIDOC display.
3. The black & white photo on the right was taken in 1901, showing some North QLD Aboriginal men practicing arungga while in Sydney under the supervision of the QLD Protector of Aborigines Archibold Meston during one of his 'Wild Australia Shows'.
The autodidactic polymath genius David Unaipon gave a vivid description of Ngarrindjeri wrestling in SA from the turn of the 20th century in his study of culture and the ethnographer Walter Roth did likewise for Cape York nations in the same era. Catherine Somerville who wrote under the pseudonym K. Langloh Parker described how wrestling was used as part of the bora man making rituals in Western NSW in 1905 while in 1957, the anthropologist Lindsay Page Winterbotham recorded the stories of an 80 year old man from Cherbourg Mission called Gaiarbau, who recalled how wrestling was used as part of the peace keeping ceremonies during the bunya nut harvest festivals in his childhood. This study of the traditional wrestling sports of Australia is continued in the book "From the Dreaming to the Dreamers" now published by Sid Harta Publishers PTY LTD.
Modern coreeda as taught by the Coreeda Association was started in 1998 as a fusion between Aboriginal cultural displays and martial art techniques. In the town of Cobar in Western NSW an Aboriginal Elder by the name of Bill Griffiths kept a story alive that was told to him by his grandfather. It was about how his ancestors had brought peace to their society by imitating the Big Red kangaroos in combat. Warriors were asked to lay down their weapons and only fight within strict rules of play, thus according to Dreaming lore the sport of wrestling was created. After hearing this story, the founders of the Coreeda Association, began working with the Koori kids in Western Sydney by incorporating the training methods of freestyle wrestling and judo into an Aboriginal dance class being conducted by Peter Williams. Peter was from the same Ngiyaampa cultural region as Bill Griffiths and had been teaching traditional dance for several years but was unaware of the story of the origin of wrestling; he soon developed a fascination for the concept and the word coreeda (Ngiyaampa for kangaroo hunt) was associated with the activity from then on. For two evening per week after laying down mats at the Emerton Youth Centre, kids could participate in a sport that combined their two greatest enjoyments, music with rough and tumble. Soon there were more kids involved in the actiivity than could be accomodated and demonstrations of coreeda were given at various community gatherings, thus the sport was developing a large following. This was all done without any funding from any government agency despite numerous applications for assistance.
Due to a lack of available resources and prohibitive insurance costs, coreeda was forced to move away from the youth club but continued to evolve in its own way. Coreeda today is played only in the Western Sydney suburbs of Whalan near Mt Druitt, Merrylands and Auburn although new groups are emerging in Bourke, Dubbo, Melbourne and several other locations around Australia. Classes are conducted at Whalan Reserve, an open parkland, but participation is by invitation only. Junior classes are being held at the Merrylands RSL Youth Club and the Auburn Lidcombe RSL Youth Club but seniors training remains closely controlled. If you wish to get involved contact us via this website but training is only for those that are willing to participate, it is not for spectators. If you do come along expect two things, to sweat and to get dirty. Coreeda training is done in the open on grass, in a dojo without a roof or walls so is different to most other martial art classes. Accounting for this it is essential to bring a change of clothes, a drink and it is worthwhile training in a long sleeved top, Rugby jersey work well for this and long pants. The dance involves a fair amount of acrobatics and so is a good workout in itself but after 8 minutes of coreeda combat I guarantee even the fittest competitor will struggle to finish. Coreeda has many similarities to wrestling, judo or even the tackling systems of the four codes of football so competitors with a background in these sports usually do well but the activity is open to all, young or old, male or female, rich or poor. Music is an important part of training and male competitors are expected to learn how to play the yirdaki (didjeridoo) and rhythm is kept with clap sticks. As the ancestors well knew, this was essential for building timing so that the practiced attacks and defences were made more efficient.
Our ultimate goal is to establish a First Nations Coreeda Championship with groups representing all of the pre-colonial Aboriginal Nations and we are close to forming teams outside of the Daruk Nation where it is currently based, in places as diverse as the Wiradjuri Nation, the Kulin Nation, the Mara Nation, the Yorta Yorta Nation, the Ngarrindjeri Nation, the Kulkatunga Nation & of course the Nyampaa Nation homeland of where the coreeda legend originated. In some future date we would also like to see the development of a professional coreeda competition called ProCor that pits the best grapplers in Australia against each other in a hybrid sport that takes the best of each. That way the Australian openweight judo champion could face the Australian openweight freestyle wrestling champion on a mutual arena or the Australian openweight jujitsu champion could go up against the Australian openweight sumo champion, Greco vs Turk, Celtic vs Mongol bukh etc. This would provide a legitimate competitive showcase spectacle that is much needed for the Australian grappling circuit.