Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who needs the WWE....



W
hen you have the wrestlers of the Naadam Festival?

Mongolian wrestling is THE highlight of Naadam but I must admit, unless you know how the sport is played, you can't really follow it so for me, it was more people watching.
Of course, the first thing you notice is the wrestling *outfit* which comes in two colors - red and blue. Didn't seem to matter if the top and bottom were the same color or opposite colors.



Have to admit, we all chuckled a bit at the clothing combo which my cousin Gigi described in a Facebook comment as "Speedos with a shrug". Makes me laugh each time I think of that :-)

So, here's the real description. The wrestler's outfit is comprised of 3 main components. The hat is worn before the match begins.

Jodag: A tight, collarless, heavy-duty jacket of red or blue color. Traditionally it was made of wool, but modern wrestlers have changed to looser materials such as cotton and silk. The front is open but tied at the bottom with a simple string knot, exposing the wrestler’s chest. According to legend, on one occasion a wrestler defeated all other combatants, then and ripped open the jodag to reveal her breasts, showing everyone that she was a woman. From that day, the jodag had to reveal the wrestler's chest.

Shuudag: Small, tight-fitting briefs made of red or blue colored cotton cloth. These make the wrestler more mobile and prevent an opponent from taking advantage of long pants to get a better grip. Can't rip the guy's pants off :-)

Gutal: High leather boots, either in traditional style (with slightly upturned toes), or commercial, Western style. The traditional style gutal are often reinforced around the sides with leather strings for the purpose of wrestling.

Only men compete in Mongolian wrestling. Usually 512 wrestlers from different cities and aimags (regions) enter the Naadam competition and final eliminations are decided after nine rounds. If for some reason, they don't have 512 wrestlers signed up to compete then they enlist members to military to participate. We were wondering why there were wrestlers with fatigue jackets and caps on. That explained it :-)

The wrestlers slowly started to fill the grassy area and then a bunch of men dressed in long burgundy robes entered into the arena and they were soon followed by a bunch of men dressed in long blue robes. These were the coaches and apparently, each wrestler has his own coach. 512 wrestlers + 512 coaches = a lot of men!




As they waited for the wrestling event to begin, several of the wrestlers started to do this dance in slow motion - lifting their arms and legs up and down looking like a bird walking in slow motion. The sight of some r-e-a-l-l-y fat Mongolian wrestlers prancing around on their toes made me giggle....couldn't help it. Puji called the move they were doing the "Eagle Dance" and it is traditional dance that the wrestlers do before and after each match. The dance is based on the flight of the mythical Garuda bird, which symbolizes power, bravery, grace and invincibility and imitates the bird taking flight. While some wrestlers may appreciate the dance for its artistic merit, most apparently treat it as a warm up warm-up and cool-down routine before and after an intense fight.













The objective of a match is to get an opponent to touch his back, knee or elbow to the ground. Aside from that, I don't know what rules of the sport are but apparently, unlike Western style wrestling, there are no weight classes. Seems awfully unfair for a scrawny wrestler to be pitted against one the Mongol giants but that's how it goes.

From our vantage point in the stands, we couldn't really see the wrestling very well plus it seemed like a bunch of wrestlers were all going at it the same time. It would have probably been more enjoyable had we had someone around us to explain what was going on but without that, it wasn't all that interesting to watch. Luckily, Violeta and I didn't have to hang around for too long because it was getting to be lunch time and we had to meet up with the rest of the gang to head to the restaurant. Saved by the lunch bell! :-)