sports

Mongolian Wrestling

National rank can only be attained by participation in this tournament

Mongolian wrestling

Touching the ground with anything other than the foot loses the match

Up to 512 participants competing in each tournament

National rank can only be attained by participation in this tournament


Mongolian wrestling is a traditional Mongolian sport that has existed in Mongolia for centuries.

Böke is Mongol for “wrestling”, and 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. Böke was also used occasionally as a way of eliminating political rivals. Mongol history records incidents of the Khan arranging to have political enemies killed via a wrestling match.

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

Mongolian wrestling has certain codes of conduct that are concerned with etiquette. For example:

Before and after the match, each wrestler does the traditional “Eagle Dance” (devekh) based on the flight of the mythical Garuda bird –said to symbolise power, bravery and invincibility. When a wrestler loses the match, he then symbolically passes under the arm of the winner as a sign of respect. Each wrestler has a zasuul who acts as both coach and herald. During lulls in the match the zasuul slaps his wrestler on the back and exhorts him to struggle on.

When a wrestler’s clothes get loose or entangled, his opponent is expected to stop attacking and help the former to re-arrange them – even though it might mean giving up a good winning opportunity. The wrestler who loses the match unties his jacket which is said to represent that he respects his opponent’s strength.

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