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Virginie Kerjean

Virginie Kerjean, 23, Breton, France. One of the most prominent Celtic wrestlers. Two-time Celtic wrestling European champion and Gouren wrestling trainer. She believes that women humanize combative sports.

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Virginie Kerjean

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Brest (France) in 1981. I have practiced Gouren for 17 years; currently I am a Gouren trainer. I am a college student in data processing. The both my sisters also practice Gouren.

How often do you have training and how many hours a week do you practice in wrestling?

I am training in Gouren once or twice a week; it comes to from 2 to 4 hours a week.

What are you major achievements in the sport?

I was the champion of Europe in 2001 and 2004. I was announced the best wrestler of the 2004 competition.

How would you specify particular features of Gouren wrestling in compare to other wrestling styles?

Gouren is an old traditional Celtic wrestling form; it has a very strong family spirit. It is a sport where the respect for opponent is very important. Besides, contrary to many combat sports there is no combat on the ground in Gouren.

Besides the standing-only rule, what else makes Gouren different from other wrestling styles?

In the Gouren world everyone knows everyone - it has a family spirit; its environment is very friendly and cordial. We often meet each other and have a glass of drink together; we have fun gathering on festivals.

What is "Back-Hold" form of wrestling?

It is Scottish wrestling. It is another form of traditional Celtic wrestling. On the European championships we wrestle in the Back-Hold style.

What are the particular differences between Gouren and Back-Hold?

You can see a moment of a Back-Hold match at the photograph (at right) where I wrestle with Michelle, a very good Scottish wrestler. There is no time limit in a Back-Hold match. The winner is the wrestler who gains more "drops" (the limit is 5 drops per combat). To accomplish a drop you have to take the opponent down in the way that any part of his/her body (knee, back, buttocks, etc.) touches the ground before yours.

Why don't you choose any worldwide Olympic combative sports like Judo, Freestyle wrestling, Taekwondo?

Because I have started Gouren very early and I just fell in love with this sport. Moreover, I am Breton and I am very proud to continue the traditions of my people.

Why Gouren is so popular among girls and women in Breton and some other parts of Europe?

Gouren is a combat sport perfectly suitable for women. Our federation pays very much attention to our needs.

Why Gouren is it more suitable for women than other combative sports?

This sport matches any woman, no matter if she is a zealous competitor or not. It inspires a very good spirit. Besides, it is the very versatile sport where women can improve their build, flexibility and techniques.

Which particular features of Gouren make it appropriate to women?

Since the basic Gouren is a sport adapted to everyone, there are very few differences between female Gouren and male Gouren. During the past 13 years men and women compete separately. There are just two differences:
- Duration of a match for women is less than for men;
- Women must wear a white tee-shirt under our "roched" (special wrestler's robe to grab by).

What wrestling gives to you?

For me wrestling is a real pleasure. Gouren is a very significant part in my life. It brings me a lot in physical, moral and intellectual development.

Isn't it scary to be thrown down? What a wrestler feels when she is thrown down?

No, because we learn how to fall during the training. Besides, there is no grappling on the ground in Gouren. But in Gouren the thrower has to accompany the opponent in the fall.

The thrower must follow the thrown opponent down? Why? Then who is announced to be a winner?

The objective in Gouren is to make your opponent fall on two shoulder blades before any other part of the body (we do not compete on the ground). The technique is called "Lamm", it brings the absolute victory in combat. In fact, there are other techniques to get winning points. In order to gain points, it's necessary to make the opponent touch the ground by the back first.

What do you think about such combative sports as boxing and extreme fighting? Would you like to try them too?

I don’t know much about these sports but why not? I am always ready to test myself in new sports

Besides wrestling, what other sports have you participated in?

Only one year of gymnastics when I was very young. But I use many elements and techniques from other sports in order to have a good physical condition for Gouren.

Do you consider Gouren more as a sport or an entertainment?

Gouren is a real sport because we you have to develop your physical condition very much but it is also an entertainment because it is a fun to wrestle with friends. It is a sport for the people who like contests and an entertainment for the others.

Do you feel yourself as a special woman; do you stand out among ordinary non-combative women? Is it visible for other people that you are a wrestler?

Not at all, I have many friends who do not practice any sport. I don’t think that there are criteria to distinguish a wrestler from another female athlete

Do you consider wrestling as an appropriate activity for an average woman or she must be extraordinary? Would you recommend your daughter (if you would have her) to practice in wrestling?

I think Gouren is suitable to all women. We have a lot of techniques, which can be used by any kind of women. Of course I would recommend because I think wrestling brings you a lot of advantages - both at the physical and mental levels.

Don't you thing female wrestlers might lose femininity (at least in men's eyes)?

I don’t think so but that depends on the character of a women wrestler. I would pose this question for men…

Have you wrestled with boys or men?

Yes, of course. When I was younger I wrestled against boys and I won very often. Now I wrestle against men but only for training or demonstration. I think I learn more when competing with a man.

How men react when discover you are a wrestler?

They are very surprised and have trouble believing it at the beginning. They think that I don’t have the physical appearance of a wrestler but then they are proud to say that they have a friend who is a wrestler and especially a champion of Europe.

Do you prove that by challenging them to wrestle? Did it happened, you turned out in funny situations?

No, I don't challenge anyone; I usually show them wrestling photographs or call them to see me in competitions. After that they said, "OK, OK, I would always agree with you." :) One day after a tournament, when I was younger and still wrestled against the boys, a photographer intending to take pictures of our group asked: "Boys, why don't you approach this young lady, does she frighten you?" I turned around and saw all the boys whom I defeated during the competition. Ones when I was hanging out with friends, I joked at a friend and automatically accomplished a Gouren technique on him. The guy found himself lying on the ground in front of the other friends. This story spread very quickly and everyone was impressed.

Do you protect breasts when wrestling?

No, there is no need to do that in Gouren.

Why women never participated in combative activities during centuries but all the sudden they just burst into the world of physical combat?

I think that in the old times nobody would imagine to see women's fighting. May be men were afraid of women beating them. ;)

Why female combat became so popular? There are so many movies, TV shows, video films and pictures with fighting women. Why?

I think that women have humanized the combat sports and improved their image. Women bring positive elements to combat sports.

What do you think about widespread opinion that women's wrestling looks erotic in men's eyes?

II have never noticed something like that and I don't think Gouren has anything to do with such things. There is much respect between women wrestlers and men wrestlers in Gouren.

Do you believe that women should do whatever men do?

No, because we don’t have the same strength. We don’t have the same way of working and acting.

Do you consider physical superiority of men over women acceptable and natural?

I think it is the law of the nature.

Would you imagine that your husband or boyfriend is weaker than you are?

I don’t think that is the right criteria to choose a boyfriend

Have you ever fought on the street? Are you ready to defend yourself or even attack someone if you think it necessary? Do you consider street fight as acceptable under some circumstances?

No, never but I am ready to defend myself or my friends because I don’t like gratuitous violence. I would do that only as a last resort or if there is no other choice (if it is for someone's defence).

Do you wrestle just for fun with friends?

Yes, of course I wrestle for fun all the time.

What is your hobby (besides wrestling)?

I like music, movies, going out with my friends, others sports…

What language you speak at home, Breton or French?

At home I speak French. I also speak a little Breton. I would have liked to speak Breton but for the moment I don’t have time to learn it much but I am learning when talk to my grandparents.

Do you want to say anything about content and design of our WEB site?

I think it is a very good initiative. It makes it possible to discover other combat sports. It is very nice. Continue!

Lamy Morgan We are grateful to the Gouren trainer Morgan Lamy for having organized this interview. For more information about Gouren female wrestlers visit their site (in French): "Female Gouren".

December 2004

Virginie Kerjean - European champion
Virginie Kerjean

Virginie with her friend Carine
Virginie Kerjean with a friend

Virginie with her friend Rigine
Virginie Kerjean with a friend

Virginie is attacking Michelle in a Back-Hold match
Virginie Kerjean

Virginie in outdoor Gouren wrestling actions
Virginie Kerjean
Virginie Kerjean
Virginie Kerjean

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