Wrestling, known as Bökh or "durability", is one of the "Three Manly Skills" encouraged by Chinggis Khan to keep his army in training. The other two were horsemanship and archery, and all three are a central feature of regular midsummer "Naadam" ("Games") festivals.
Mongolia – Been There

How are your “Three Manly Skills”?

Photo by Timothy Allen

Mongolia – Been There How are your “Three Manly Skills”?

The “Three Manly Skills” – archery, horse riding and wrestling – are celebrated in Mongolia’s Naadam, a traditional festival held in summer throughout the country.

Gavin Haines
Gavin Haines Travel Writer

Wrestlers dress in tight briefs, leather boots and a shoulder vest that allows a grip. The object is to throw your opponent to the ground. While women can now take part in archery and horse racing, wrestling is still reserved for men.

Archery uses the traditional bow and the target is a series of blocks on the ground. Ten-person teams have four arrows each and have to hit a total of at least 33 blocks. Mongolian horse racing covers distances of up to 30 km cross-country, with children as young as three years old taking part as jockeys. However, the horse can still win even if it finishes without a rider, as it is the horse that is being tested.

The Naadam is also a fair, with lots of food and drink, especially airag, fermented mare’s milk, and khuushuur, a fried pastry filled with meat and herbs. Regional festivals culminate in a national event in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, during National Day in July.

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Living free on the steppe for much of the year, the Mongol horse can be temperamental when put under a saddle. The breed is one of the world's most ancient and has remained unchanged since the time of Chinggis Khan. Photo by Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Aperture
ƒ/4
Exposure
1/8000
ISO
640
Focal
200 mm

Living free on the steppe for much of the year, the Mongol horse can be temperamental when put under a saddle. The breed is one of the world's most ancient and has remained unchanged since the time of Chinggis Khan.

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