The Bizarre Story (and Sport) of British Toe Wrestling

We’re pretty obsessed with unusual, culturally specific strength sports around here. There’s the Finnish sport of wife carrying, where a man carries his partner through a muddy obstacle course. There’s competitive wood chopping, which likely originated in the Basque region of Spain and France. We even wrote an entire article on the German sport of finger wrestling, which is why we couldn’t believe we’d never heard of its polar opposite: British toe wrestling.

It came to our attention when we came across this video from What’s Trending about the 31st annual World Toe Wrestling Championship, which recently took place in the small English town of Fenny Bentley.

In a nice show of sportsmanship, it’s traditional to take off your opponent’s shoes and socks and for them to do the same to you. All competitors are checked for fungus and injuries by a podiatrist before they compete.

The rules: two opponents of the same sex put their feet on a board, lock their big toes, and try to force the other’s foot to touch a small board just a few inches away.

The winner of each individual round is based on a system of “best two rounds out of three” and contestants compete in several bouts throughout the day, eliminating one after the other until a grand champion is declared.

This year, Alan “Nasty” Nash won his 14th championship — he has the words “unleash the beast” tattooed on his right foot — and he explained some of the sport’s finer points in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

You actually sit on the floor, put your foot that you’re toe wrestling with into what we call a toe-rack. You interlock the the big toes—so it’s the same as arm wrestling where you interlock the thumbs—and the idea is that you take the opponents foot over to it, the side board that sticks up.

You’ve got your bum on the floor at all times. Both your hands have got stay on the floor, and the leg that you’re not wrestling with has got to be held up in the air.

Nash also holds the Guinness World Record for the most eggs crushed with the toes in one minute (sixty) and he’s a renowned chicken whisperer. He’s able to quickly hypnotize dozens of chickens and arrange them in such a way that, when viewed from above, they form a picture, like “a flower pot or something.”

If you get into an argument with this guy, don’t let him take off his shoes. Or start summoning a chicken army.

Featured image via What’s Trending on YouTube.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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