What is Mongolian Wrestling?


In traditional Mongolian society, they consider this sport as an essential part of their cultural status. This is because they see wrestling as a symbol that represents ancient standards of outstanding sportsmanship, strength, and nobility. Mongolian wrestling involves certain rituals that have been practiced for centuries. These rituals prove that the relationship between the Mongolian’s cultural tradition and wrestling remains active over the years. In this article, we are going to know more about this iconic sport.

Cultural and Historical Background 

According to historians, Mongolian wrestling approximately originated seven thousand years ago in one form or another. And during the past, this sport was used by some army leaders to keep their soldiers in good physical condition. In other cases, Mongolian wrestling was also used to get rid of political rivals by arranging to have them killed during wrestling matches. In fact, the Manchu dynasty Imperial court even held regular wrestling matches.

Mongolians consider this sport as a part of the “Three Manly Skills” along with horsemanship and archery. These sports were the ones that take most of the Naadam festival’s competition. This is a traditional outdoor festival that is held every summer in the capital of Mongolia.

Unlike the Japanese Sumo, the Mongolian wrestling doesn’t have any wrestling ring. The matches always take place outdoors, on bare dirt areas or a grassy field. Mongolian wrestling also doesn’t have any weight category. This is because the main goal of the wrestlers is to make their opponent touch the ground with their elbow, back, or knee. That’s why Mongolian wrestlers must know a variety of trips, lifts, and throws.

Mongolian wrestlers can only achieve ranks on matches that take place during the Naadam festival. It is done by counting the rounds each wrestler won during the competition. There are two types of Mongolian wrestling: Inner Mongolian and Mongolian. Inner Mongolian wrestling is mostly practiced in the Northern part of China, and the second one is spread throughout Mongolia.

Ranks and Matches

As we mentioned, Mongolian wrestling matches are held in an open field. Only men can compete in this sport. During the Naadam festival, several wrestlers who came from different cities of Mongolia enter the competition. Final eliminations are decided after nine rounds, and the wrestler who has the most victories throughout the competition gets to choose who will be his opponents.

That has been the rule for a long time until harsh disputes resulted in the creation of the modern wrestling code. It was introduced in 1989, and it states that opponents must be selected by drawing lots. However, this rule was only valid for national Naadams.

Wrestlers in any given competition must have a number two ranking. Since rankings can only be achieved during the Naadam festival competitions, the number of wrestling matches that a wrestler wins determines his rank.

There are a total of four possible ranks in Mongolian wrestling. They are the Lion, Falcon, Elephant, and Titan. However, in 2003, the Mongolian parliament decided to add two more ranking system, namely Garuda and Hawk.

General Combat Rules

When Mongolian wrestlers are prepared to start their match, they slap their thighs to signal everybody that they are ready. They use a wide range of techniques that are based on their assessment of their opponents. Since Mongolian wrestling doesn’t have any weight category, they are supposed to look for their opponent’s weaknesses and strengths.

Mongolian wrestling doesn’t have any time limit, too. Each of them will fight one round and move on to their next opponent. The one who lost the round will have to pass under the arm of the winning wrestler. This gesture is considered as a sign of respect.

Every wrestler requires a coach that will also be his proclaimer. In Mongolian wrestling, a coach is called a zazul, and he is needed to be there for the wrestler throughout the competition to guide him, praise him, and encourage him.

The objective of the Mongolian wrestling is to get the opponent touch the ground with their back, knees, or elbow. However, in Inner Mongolian wrestling, any body part that touches the ground means that the round is lost. Grabbing the opponent’s leg is also an allowed move in Mongolian wrestling while it’s wholly forbidden in Inner Wrestling.

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