Mongolian wrestling

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Mongolian wrestling (Mongolian: ???, bökh, wrestling) is a traditional style of wrestling that has been practised in Mongolia for centuries.

Wrestling is one of Mongolia’s age-old “Three Manly Skills” (along with horsemanship and archery).

Genghis Khan considered wrestling to be an important way to keep his army in good physical and combat shape.

The Manchu dynasty (1646-1911) Imperial court held regular wrestling events, mainly between Manchu and Mongol wrestlers.

There are two different versions, Mongolian (in the country of Mongolia), and Inner Mongolian (in northern China).

The object of a match is to get your opponent to touch his upper body or elbow to the ground. In the Inner Mongolian version, any body part other than the feet touching the ground signals defeat. There are no weight classes or time limits in a match. Each wrestler must wrestle once per round, the winners moving on to the next round.

The technical rules between the Mongolian version and what is found in Inner Mongolia have some divergence. In both versions a variety of throws, trips and lifts are employed to topple the opponent. The Inner Mongolians may not touch their opponent’s legs with their hands, whereas, in Mongolia, grabbing your opponent’s legs is completely legal. In addition, striking, strangling or locking is illegal in both varieties.

In the case of a sacrifice throw, the first wrestler to touch the ground, regardless of who threw whom, is the loser.

Wrestling events traditionally take place in the end of July or early August, during a festival called Naadam (Play). A Naadam is time for some fun and relaxation- a combined event of entertainment, sports, and commerce.

Wrestling matches are held in the open on a grassy field, or bare dirt ground not too hard or littered with gravel. There are no weight classes. A small wrestler can end up wrestling someone twice his size.

Traditionally, match-ups were not based on an equal chance. The host of a naadam had the privilege to arrange matches- often, in ways that lent their favorites the upper hand. Sometimes such arrangement results in serious disputes between hosts and visiting wrestlers.

The modern wrestling codes (since 1980) stipulate that a lot drawing method be used-only at major cross-regionally naadams and specialized wrestling championship matches; at the grassroots level the traditional system still holds sway.

Rank can only be attained during the Naadam festival. The number of rounds won by each wrestler determines rank. In ascending order, the ranks are: unranked, bird (5th round), elephant (7th round), lion (9th round) and titan (winner with lion rank). Additional two ranks, hawk (6th round) and garuda (8th round) were introduced in 2003.