Galhofa: the Portuguese wrestling between tradition and survival




Martial arts, combat sports, galhofa, traditional wrestling, traditional games, intangible cultural heritage, phenomenology


This study was financially supported by PNPD/CAPES and FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) – grant # 2019/03947-5


This paper aims to present the galhofa, a traditional wrestling style practiced in Portugal, especially in Trás-os-Montes, in the northern region. Part of an oral and folk tradition, galhofa has survived with no systematic organization, either regarding its rules or even its techniques. Thus, this paper is focused on introducing and discussing the galhofa as an activity between tradition and sportization. Data was collected in Bragança in 2019 through interview and immersion activity, along with images and videos from field research conducted in Parada between 1997 and 2001. Both the visit to Bragança and the analytical process were conducted via phenomenology and inspired by esthesiology and emersiology. Overall, the experience of galhofa encompasses a free way of fighting with the main objective of keeping the opponent’s back and shoulders on the floor for a few seconds. It is historically related to a manly activity and it is often associated as a ritual of passage from adolescence to manhood. As the only traditional Portuguese wrestling modality surviving nowadays, the galhofa can be considered as a very unique fighting practice. However, there are some shared aspects with other martial arts and combat sports, especially more traditional ones, such as capoeira, loita or lucha leonesa. Under the risk of disappearing, it faces an ongoing sportization process, which includes a more gender equality agenda and a systematic organization of techniques and competition procedures. Relevant changes have also been made towards making this practice more popular and widely known, such as establishing it as part of the undergraduate curriculum on Sports degree at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança.


Download data is not yet available.

Métricas alternativas


Andrieu, B. (2018). Learning from your body: an emersive method at the CNAC. PUHR.

Andrieu, B., Nobrega, P., & Sirost, O. (2018). Body ecology: a new philosophy through cosmotic emersiology. AUC Kinanthropologica, 54(1), 16–27.

Barreira, C. R. A. (2017a). The essences of martial arts and corporal fighting: a classical phenomenological analysis. Archives of Budo, 13, 351-376.

Barreira, C. R. A. (2017b). A norma sensível à prova da violência: o corpo a corpo em disputa sob a ótica fenomenológica em psicologia do esporte. Revista da Abordagem Gestáltica, 23(3), 278-292.

Bragada, J. (2004). Jogos tradicionais e o desenvolvimento das capacidades motoras na escola. Instituto do Desporto de Portugal.

Bragada, J. (2017). Galhofa: Luta tradicional de Portugal. Escrytos.

Channon, A. (2013). ‘“Do you Hit Girls?” Some Striking Moments in the Career of a Male Martial Artist’. In R. Sánchez García and D. Spencer. Fighting Scholars: Habitus and Ethnographies of Martial Arts and Combat Sports (pp. 95-110). Anthem Press.

Espartero, J., Gutiérrez-García, C. & Cuadrado, G. (1997). La lucha de la bandera o de la cruz: un juego luctatorio tradicional extinguido. In F. Amador Ramírez, U. Castro Nuñez, & J. M. Álamo Mendoza (Eds.), Luchas, deportes de combate y juegos tradicionales (pp. 737-743). Gymnos.

Espartero, J., Gutiérrez-García, C., & Martín, J. C. (2000). La galhofa, pervivencia de una forma de lucha tradicional. El Filandar. Publicación de Cultura Tradicional, 11, 22-26.

Fernández, F. (2013). Pioneras y luchadoras, la mujer en la lucha leonesa. Ayuntamiento de Mansilla de las Mulas.

Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. Oxford University Press.

Gutiérrez-García, C. & Espartero, J. (1999). La lucha como actividad lúdica tradicional en la comarca de la Guareña. Anuário – Instituto de Estudio Zamoranos “Florian de Ocampo”, 16, 209-251.

Gutiérrez-García, C., Espartero, J. & Villamón, M. (2000). La galhofa: analyse descriptive d’une forme traditionnelle de lutte encore présente de nos jours. 1er congrés mondial de sports de combat & arts martiaux. Amiens, France.

Gutiérrez-García, C., Espartero, J. & Villamón, M. (2001). Juego tradicional y deporte autóctono: a propósito de un estudio comparativo entre la galhofa y la lucha leonesa. El Filandar, 13, 25-31.

Legendre, A., & Dietrich, G. (2020). Improving Movement Efficiency through Qualitative Slowness: A Discussion between Bergson’s Philosophy and Asian Martial Arts’ Pedagogy. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 1-14.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945). Phénoménologie de la perception. Gallimard.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (2011). Le monde sensible et le monde d’expression (Cours au Collège de France – notes, 1953). Métis Presses.

Nóbrega, T. P., & Torres, L. (2018). La boue comme champ expressif : une esthésiologie du corps et la motricité en danse. Movement & Sport Sciences – Science & Motricité, (99), 69-75.

Nöe, A. (2006). Action in perception. The MIT Press.

Robles-Tascón, J. A. & Gutiérrez García, C. (2020). Lucha Leonesa (Leonese Wrestling). In S.-Y. Park & S.-Y. Ryu (Eds.), Living Heritage Series. Traditional Martial Arts As Intangible Cultural Heritage (pp. 85-97). International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP) and the UNESCO International Centre of Martial Arts (ICM).

Saura, S. C. & Zimmermann, A. C. (2021). Traditional Sports and Games: Intercultural Dialog, Sustainability, and Empowerment. Frontiers in Psychology. 11, 590301. doi:

Telles, T. C. B. (2018). Corpo a corpo: um estudo fenomenológico no karate, na capoeira e no MMA. PhD dissertation. Universidade de São Paulo.

Telles, T. (2020). Fighting and leaving no one behind: promoting engagement in combat practices through phenomenology. Journal of Martial Arts Research, 3(3).

Telles, T. C. B., & Barreira, C. R. A. (2020). Ssireum: Approaching the Korean Wrestling. Martial Arts Studies, 10, 98-107.

Telles, T. C. B., Vaittinen, A., & Barreira, C. R. A. (2018). Karate, capoeira and MMA: a phenomenological approach to the process of starting a fight. Revista de Artes Marciales Asiáticas, 13(2), 114-130.

Valério, P. H. & Barreira, C. R. A. (2016a). O sentido vivido da capoeira: cumplicidade, risco, autenticidade e criatividade. Revista Brasileira de Psicologia do Esporte, 6(1), 88-108.

Valério, P. H. & Barreira, C. R. A. (2016b). A roda de capoeira: uma vivência comunitária. Memorandum, 30, 177-198.




How to Cite

Telles, T. C. B., Andrieu, B., & Barreira, C. R. A. (2022). Galhofa: the Portuguese wrestling between tradition and survival. Revista de Artes Marciales Asiáticas, 17(1), 38–49.