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Author Topic: Notes from Stanislaus Zbyszko's autobiography
Phil_Lions
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In 1937 the former World champion Stanislaus Zbyszko published an autobiography. It was written in Polish and titled (in Polish) "On The Rings of The Whole World". I just finished going through the book and thought I would post the most important notes from it (like I have done in the past with the autobiographies of Paul Pons and Henri Deglane). The whole book is about 140 pages. It was published in 1937, but it covers Stan's pre-WWI years. I'm not sure if there was a second book to cover the rest of his career. As is the case with all books written by wrestlers some of the stuff needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I'm posting things as Zbyszko wrote them, in the order he wrote them in. I'm leaving out a lot of the less important non-wrestling stuff and focusing on the main information Zbyszko provided in the book.
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Stanislaus Zbyszko says he was born in 1881 in Jodlowa, Poland, near Krakow.

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Young Stanislaus Zbyszko (right), his father, mother and two sisters

His initial studies took place in Pilzno. He was considered the strongest kid in class.

A guy by the name of Wlodzimierz Swiatkiewicz was his first trainer and he started training Stanislaus when Stanislaus was 13 years old. Stan trained in swimming, fencing, running and eventually French wrestling (as he calls it at this point in the book).

His first serious wrestling training was in junior high school in Krakow. Szczesny Rucinski was his wrestling coach there.

During the holidays Zbyszko would tour with the provincial circuses and would wrestle Greco-Roman style bouts in front of thousands of spectators every day. All the money he made he put towards his education. This was around the time when he was in 6th grade.

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Stanislaus Zbyszko in his teenage years

One day Zbyszko heard the famous athlete Pietrusinski was in Kolomyja so he took the train and went there. He saw a poster for the circus and went to speak with the circus director Rosencwajg. There were no wrestling matches at the circus so Zbyszko ended up doing strongman tricks. He was paid 10 korony a day. The director liked him and told him as soon as he had another wrestler he would call him. Shortly after that Adolf Specht joined the circus so the director called Zbyszko back. Specht had an open challenge for 1,000 korony. Zbyszko was to wrestle Specht for ten minutes and would get 10 korony for that. The outcome of the match was predetermined - Zbyszko surviving the whole ten minutes. The second night they worked for 15 minutes. Zbyszko wanted to wrestle for real though so on the third night he told the director he would, and Specht defeated him for real in half an hour. The beaten Zbyszko left for Krakow.

In 1901 Wladyslaw Pytlasinski, the most famous Polish wrestler at the time, came to Krakow. Zbyszko met with him and Pytlasinki became his training partner. At the time Pytlasinski was preparing for a tournament in Charlottenburg (Berlin). Zbyszko went there with Pytlasinski. He had several wins there and then Laurent le Beaucairois beat him in a match where Stanislaus injured his knee. At first Zbyszko thought his career was over, but he healed quicker than expected. Pytlasinski sent him back to Krakow.

After a while Pytlasinki invited him to go on a circus tour of Ciechocinek, Wloclawek and Plock. Zbyszko agreed immediately as he considered Pytlasinki one of the best Polish athletes at the time and this was a chance to be under his guidance. This is where Zbyszko made his first real money from wrestling and for the first time he was able to send some money back to his father. During this tour he became friends with another wrestler – Wasilewski, who was known as "The Elephant" due to his size. One day they went swimming and Wasilewski drowned. Stanislaus tried to save him, but could not. After that Zbyszko went back to Krakow.

Not too long after Zbyszko went to train in Vienna. In Vienna he trained in weightlifting. While there he wrestled a man called Tomasevitz and beat him. That made him a sensation in Vienna so the popular German wrestler Michael Hitzler offered to take him to Bucharest for a big tournament there. Before going there though Zbyszko wrestled in several small Austrian towns to make some money. Wrestlers like Jean Calvet, Charles Axa, Georg Burghardt, Franz Sauerer, John Pohl (Abs II) were part of the tournament, and Zbyszko says he beat them all. Then one day he asked Hitzler, the manager of the tournament, who else other than himself had the chance to win the first prize. Hitzler smiled and invited him to a sparring session, with the idea that if Zbyszko can defeat Hitzler then Zbyszko will get the first prize. Zbyszko says he beat Hitzler after a couple of hours of wrestling, but then Hitzler got angry that Zbyszko would beat him and didn't pay him anything. Zbyszko went back to Krakow.

In 1903 Zbyszko found himself in Lodz where there was a tournament with Aleksander Aberg, Georg Lurch and Nicolai Petroff as the main stars. Zbyszko challenged all three, but they never accepted his challenge, despite the public wanting to see those bouts.

One of his first big breaks came when he wrestled at a Casino de Paris tournament in Paris. The pay was not good, but this was a chance for Stanislaus to get international fame. The first wrestler he came across there was the Serbian giant Simon Antonitch, who was about 7 feet tall, and that made him question his chances of winning the tournament. Some of the notable names in the tournament were Cotch Mehmet, Buzovac Mourzouck, Omer de Bouillon, Jess Pedersen, Raoul le Boucher, Aleksander Aberg and Ivan Poddubny. Zbyszko's first win was over Albert Sturm. Georg Strenge took a liking to Stanislaus and even started helping him in training. Zbyszko also wrestled Antonitch, who was considered a favorite to win the tournament. Before the match Leon Dumont, Antonitch's former manager, offered Zbyszko some advice on how to defeat Antonitch since Dumont was angry at Antonitch for breaking their contract. Poddubny, who was changing in the same dressing room as Antonitch, told Zbyszko Antonitch was saying backstage that he'll throw Zbyszko in 16 minutes, which angered Stan since the previous day he had had a good conversation with Antonitch and thought they were friends. The match lasted 1 hour 27 minutes and Zbyszko won. He calls this one of his "first and biggest" victories. Zbyszko claims this defeat more or less ended Antonitch's career, who became disillusioned with athletics, became a drunk and eventually died broke in a Brussels hotel. The win over Antonitch made Zbyszko quite popular, the top French sports newspapers writing big articles about him. The Casino de Paris management started pushing him a headliner as well. In the finals of the tournament he lost to Jess Pedersen. He finished 3rd after Pedersen & le Boucher, but placed before de Bouillon. The Casino management then offered Stan a new contract and increased his pay from 25 to 150 francs a day.

Zbyszko then received an offer from Circus Devigne to go to Lodz. This is where he wrestled Cyclop (Franz Bienkowski) for the first time.

In 1904 he made trips to Vilnius, Minsk, Uzhhorod and various cities in lesser Poland. His financial situation was not good. Boleslaw Rogalski became his companion. They traveled together everywhere.

While traveling with Devigne Circus Zbyszko met a woman named Mariska and fell in love. She was married at the time (and had a child as well), but he did not care. He ended up having a fencing duel with her husband and defeated him. Zbyszko was to marry this woman, but before their wedding she became ill with tuberculosis and died soon after. This was Stanislaus's first major loss in his life, the first time he had to part with someone near and dear to him.

At the age of 24 he joined the military as a one-year volunteer because such was the law back then. A few months in he was declared unfit for military service and left the military.

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Stanislaus Zbyszko in the army

After that he went back home to his family. His brother Wladek was only 10 years old at the time. Stanislaus took an interest in Wladek's development – taught him about working out, diet, hygiene, helped him with school, etiquette, etc. There's a whole chapter where Stanislaus lays out his ideas about how children should be brought up. He seems to feel very strongly about this, particularly because back then a lot of people were dying young and he thought this could've been avoided if they had followed a certain regiment in their upbringing/life.

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Stanislaus Zbyszko, young Wladek Zbyszko and their father (at least the caption says it's their father, to me it looks like Pytlasinski)

His first five years as a professional wrestler had not brought him wealth. At the end of December 1904 he traveled from Krakow to Hamburg to participate in a tournament at Metropol Theater. Jakob Koch, John Pohl (Abs II), Ivan Romanoff, Laurent le Beaucairois and others were in the tournament. Zbyszko finished 5th. Here he was training with Georg Strenge.

Zbyszko says a pro wrestler should train four hours every day – an hour and a half of what he calls "free exercise", an hour sparring with a partner, and the rest of the time for walking and running. He disagrees with a lot of the European wrestlers from back in those days who thought eating a superfluous amount of food will increase their strength.

After Hamburg he went to Circus Busch in Berlin, where the dangerous Omer de Bouillon was wrestling. Zbyszko beat him in a tough match. At the 46th minute mark Zbyszko threw him so hard that de Bouillon lost consciousness for 12 minutes and had to be revived by medics. In the mean time Berlin police had surrounded Stanislaus thinking he had murdered his opponent and they were getting ready to arrest him. That match made Zbyszko's reputation in Berlin.

After Berlin he went to Helsinki. Zbyszko has great respect for Finnish athletes and Finland in general.

After Finland he went to Paris in 1906 to compete in a tournament with 60 wrestlers, among them: Magnus Bech-Olsen, Ahmed Madrali, Laurent le Beaucairois, Wladyslaw Pytlasinski, Georg Lurich, John Pohl (Abs II), Ludwig Poplawsky, Cyclop Bienkowski, etc. His two biggest matches in this tournament were against Madrali and Lurich. The Turk Madrali had been winning all of his matches and the press was predicting he'd be the winner of the tournament. Zbyszko says that for his match with Madrali at Cirque de Paris 5,000 fans were turned away. Zbyszko won. After his win over Madrali he received an offer to wrestle in London, but still had engagements in Paris so he couldn't go. In the finals he beat Lurich in a very tough match in 52 minutes. Zbyszko had already met a number of tough wrestlers, but now wanted to meet Hackenschmidt and Poddubny.

After Paris Zbyszko went to Lisbon for a bit. The royal family there were wrestling fans.

From there Stan went to Warsaw, where he fell in love with a woman. They soon got engaged, but an opera singer stole her away from him. "Perhaps for the first time in the history of the world a tenor competed against an athlete and won the fight", is how Zbyszko summarizes the whole situation. This crushed Stanislaus. He left for Moscow and decided to focus his energy on getting a match with the top Russian wrestler Ivan Poddubny. One night Zbyszko, accompanied by Pytlasinski, showed up to one of Poddubny's matches and challenged Ivan to a match, but Poddubny wanted Zbyszko to put up some money as a guarantee, and Zbyszko did not have that kind of money. Then Poddubny returned the "favor" by showing up at one of Stan's matches and challenging him as well. Ultimately they picked a date and wrestled in St. Petersburg. In front of a packed house they went to a 2 hour 15 minutes draw. The match got so much press that both received offers to do the rematch in London.

Both guys went to England, where George Hackenschmidt had been the dominant wrestler. Leon Dumont and Charles B. Cochran set up a match between Zbyszko and Poddubny at the London Pavilion on 7 December 1907, winner gets Hack. They had a hard struggle, but it was looking like Zbyszko would come out on top. Finally around the 47 minute Poddubny, frustrated he could not beat Zbyszko, kicked Zbyszko in the leg very hard, which got him disqualified. Zbyszko was declared the winner and he was now to get Hack. Zbyszko was paid 30,000 french francs for the match. With that money he bought a house in Krakow. Hack went to the States to wrestle Gotch and Zbyszko followed him there.

Zbyszko talks about facing Frank Gotch in a handicap match in Buffalo and how that match gave him some confidence. He also mentions a match with Charley Cutler in Chicago. He then talks about touring the States. He says he beat all the top wrestlers (Henry Ordeman in Minneapolis, Jess Westergaard in Duluth & St. Paul, Americus in Kansas City, and Fred Beell in Milwaukee). The only two top wrestlers he had not defeated were Frank Gotch and Yussiff Mahmout.

Jack Herman was Zbyszko's manager in the US at the time and he would get him a lot of bookings – sometimes up to six matches in six different towns in a week. The constant traveling exhausted Stan – in five months Stan dropped from 265 to 209 pounds, and lost some of his strength too.

During his second stay in Buffalo he got word that his father had passed away. Zbyszko wanted to go back home, but his manager told him if he leaves now without facing Gotch he will be considered a coward and this will be the end of his career in the States, but if he stays and defeats Gotch this will bring him huge money and fame. Zbyszko agreed to stay in the States and in July 1910 he signed on to wrestle Gotch. In the their big match Gotch beat him in 26 minutes. Zbyszko felt like he had disappointed the Polish community in the States, which so far had been extremely supportive of him. He felt their disappointment and anger, some even going as far as to suggest he had sold out and laid down for Gotch for money. Zbyszko says Gotch was simply the better wrestler. Zbyszko thinks he should have not accepted the bout to begin with, given his emotional and physical condition at the time and his lack of knowledge of the catch style. For the Gotch bout Herman and Zbyszko had been promised $10,000, of which Zbyszko got $6,000.

Jack Curley, who was traveling in Europe with Dr. B.F. Roller, visited Zbyszko in Krakow and wanted him to train Roller for a match with The Great Gama, who had arrived in England and was challenging Gotch, Hackenschmidt and Zbyszko to wrestle him. In the mean time Curley arranged a match between Zbyszko and Roller in Vienna, which Zbyszko won. After that Zbyszko, along with his brother Wladek, went to London to train Roller. While there Zbyszko signed a contract to wrestle Gama himself. In the Gama match Zbyszko was to take 25% of the gate, regardless of the outcome of the match. Zbyszko went to Brighton and began training for the match. He was training with Roller, John Lemm and his brother Wladek, who was only 16 years old but was already wrestling quite well. Zbyszko then went to London to watch a Gama vs. Roller match, which Gama won. In his own match with Gama Zbyszko wrestled him for 3 hours and the match ended without a winner.

Before leaving England Zbyszko helped Curley persuade Hackenschmidt to sign with him. Stan then took his brother Wladek with him to the States for the first time. Zbyszko wanted another match with Gotch, but Gotch's manager Emil Klank was carefully picking Gotch's opponents. Klank also had Mahmout under contract. Mahmout was one of the most dangerous wrestlers and you had to go through him to get to Gotch. At first Zbyszko did not want to meet Mahmout, because he had a lot to lose (a loss from Mahmout would cost him the Gotch rematch). So Stan beat a number of lesser opponents, but the money wasn't all that great. He finally decided he had to wrestle Mahmout. The promoters in Chicago guaranteed $5,000 purse for the winner, but by that time Mahmout had left for Europe. So Zbyszko thought now he would get Gotch, but instead Gotch announced his retirement. So in May 1912 Zibby left for Europe.

There were tournaments being held in several large European cities at the time and Zbyszko went to Krakow. While there he got word that Curley had matched Hackenschmidt and Gotch and Curley wanted him to train Hack. Zbyszko, along with Dr. B.F. Roller and Jakob Koch, went to England and trained with Hack. They were there for three weeks. Then in the winter of 1912/13 Zbyszko went back to Krakow. Shortly thereafter he went to St. Petersburg and the war found him there. He had a contract with Circus Nikitin, but once the war started he went to Moscow, where his main opponent was the Latvian Dimitri Martinoff.

[ 05-17-2018, 10:50 AM: Message edited by: Phil_Lions ]

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Dirko
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Fantastic stuff! Thank you for sharing!

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"I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health."
(Voltaire)

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Ken Viewer
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Phil,

You've done a great deal of hard work here in providing new and fascinating information to advance the scholarship of professional wrestling.

Thank you and please continue your sensational efforts! As the previous poster noted a few hours ago, a special "thank you" for sharing your efforts.

Ken

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Matt Farmer from WA
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This is really great stuff Phil, appreciate you taking the time to transcribe this.
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Steve Ogilvie
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Yeah i'm finding all this fascinating.

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"Mr 100%"

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OSJ from NM by way of WA
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Very nice work, Phil; thanks ever so much for your efforts. Please, sir; may we have some more?

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"What you say sounds reasonable enough," said the man, "but I refuse to be bribed. I am here to whip people, and whip them I shall!")
-Franz Kafka - The Trial

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