Great Naadam Festival: Mongolian Wrestling

Premium Travel Mongolia

2016-07-08 10:27 GMT+8

Mongolian wrestling is an age old tradition. Petroglyphs dating back to bronze ages (7000-110000 years) found in Del Mountain in Dundgobi province depict 2 men wrestling while other people watching.  Also historic documents show that nomadic tribes in Central Asia used to compete with each other with wrestling, archery and horse racing. Today wrestling is one of the Three Manly Games of the Mongols. Mongol wrestling is mainly shaped by soldiers during the hundreds of years of warring; and good wrestlers have always been respected as fine men. It is even said that Genghis Khan liked wrestling a lot and his favourite sibling Khasar was a renowned wrestler.

The Mongols have the saying that every Mongol man is a wrestler and every Mongol horse is a race horse. However, one should note that not everyone grappling is considered as a wrestler in Mongolia, but a wrestler is one with fine body, considerable agility, strength and many tricks as well as pleasant characteristics.

Mongolian wrestling has the following specifics compared to other types of wrestling:

  • A great variation of tricks with both arms and legs
  • No weight categories of components
  • No time limits (though not after 2000s)
  • No fixed pitch
  • Simultaneous wrestling between pairs
  • Higher ranking wrestlers enjoy privilege of choosing their opponents, though at certain rounds there’s automatic matching of pairs to avoid arranged title earning. 

Also there’s special ritual at the starting, saluting, and finishing the competition – performing these rituals is considered a special duty for wrestlers. Moreover, seconds calling out the titles of wrestlers, wrestlers’ costumes and rites of acknowledging defeat all combine elements of sports and arts. Seconds call out the names & titles of high ranking wrestlers melodically at certain rounds, when those wrestlers choose their opponents. When wrestlers salute spectators they perform special dance like routine which usually imitates soaring eagles, falcons and hawks. Wrestling seconds are reflected as vital helpers and coaches for wrestlers as they encourage wrestlers and advice when necessary.

Wrestling at the Great Naadam Festival (in Ulaanbaatar) comprises 512-1024 wrestlers, and it’s the main event that wrestlers earn national titles. Some 32-128 wrestlers compete at provincial and village Naadams. Mongolian wrestling titles represent strong animals symbolising power and agility for wrestlers. Below is the titles earned at the Great Naadam:

  • 5 rounds – Falcon
  • 6 rounds – Hawk
  • 7 rounds – Elephant
  • 8 rounds – Garuda
  • 9 rounds – Lion (winning a Naadam of 512 wrestlers)
  • And if a Lion wins another year he will become Champion and for more years of winning praisals are added to his title.

Mongol wrestlers’ costume consists of 2 parts: upper part is called zodog and the lower part is called shuudag. The zodog & shuudag are usually bright red or blue. Wrestlers complete their looks with Mongol hat & Mongol boots that can be of any colour.

This year, the Mongols are celebrating special anniversaries and the Great Naadam will be bigger to celebrate the 2225th anniversary of Hunnu/Hun empire, 810th anniversary of the Great Mongol Empire, and the 95th anniversary of Mongolian people’s revolution. Therefore, 1024 wrestlers will compete in Ulaanbaatar.

Great Naadam Festival 2016 wrestling schedule:





11 July


Wrestling 1st round

Central Stadium


Wrestling 2nd round

12 July


Wrestling 3rd round

Central Stadium


Wrestling 4th round


Wrestling 5th round


Wrestling 6th round


Wrestling 7th round


Wrestling 8th round


Wrestling 9th round


Wrestling final round

Wrestling ticket costs 16000 – 24000 MNT depending on the seats & sections. 

Prepared exclusively for GoGo Travel by Zola 
(Co-founder of Premium Travel Mongolia.
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

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