Mongol Bukh Australia
Known as either Bukh, Khapsagay or Khuresh, the traditional style of wrestling from Greater Mongolia is a powerful standup system of fighting that some claim has a history going back at least 7,000 years. There are cave paintings discovered in Bayankhongor Aimag (Province) of Mongolia that depict wrestlers in combat and these have a confirmed thermoluminescence dating of approximately 7,000 years, so this is why the sport can declare such an ancient lineage. It is thought that the horse was first domesticated for riding at about this time, somewhere on the vast Eurasian Steppe and the artistic style found in archeological record shows a fair amount of uniformity between cultures as distant as Hungary in the West and Mongolia in the East, as well as everywhere in between. During the Hunnu or Xiongnu Empire (209BC-93AD) there are several depictions of the sport found in the artwork of the period, demonstrating its immense popularity even at this stage in Mongolian history and Bukh continued to grow during the era of the Union of Syanbi Tribes (155-235AD). In the 4th century the Jujuan Khanate became the predominant political power of the region, forcing Attila and his Huns to flee west into conflict with the Roman Empire. It is highly likely that these migrations took the training methods of Bukh far and wide, influencing the growth of wrestling across the world.
The Great Gokturk Empire ruled a region from the border of Korea in the East to the Black Sea in the West from 550-659AD, spreading the Turkic languages from their source in Mongolia across this huge domain. Even today Turkish people in Turkey consider the Mongol people to be their cousins for this reason and both no doubt share a common passion for wrestling. The Orkhon Turkic Khanate filled the vacuum left with the collapse of the Gokturk Empire from 679-745 and this was followed by the Uyghur Khanate from 745-847AD. The Kidan Empire was the next super power of the region from 900-1122AD, followed by the Khamag Mongol period that lasted for the next forty years but all these political units are dwarfed by what came next with the Great Mongol Empire, started by Chinggis Khan in 1206AD. At its peak in 1368AD, most of the known world was subserviant to the Khan at his capital in Karakorum and it still considered the largest land empire the world has ever known. Chinggis Khan insisted that all the men of this realm be taught the art of Bukh because he rightfully believed that the sport strengthened them for warfare. Naadam Festivals were begun in several different regions in which the three manly sports of Bukh, archery and horseracing were entrenched as core celebrations of the Mongol ethnic identity, individuals could even gain ranking in the state bureaucracy based on their success in Bukh tournaments.
Naturally the biggest of these Naadam Festivals took place in the Mongolian heartland and the most significant was the Urga Games that went from from 1778 till 1924, all throughout the turbulent period of Chinese domination during the Qing Dynasty, creating in essence a permanent capital for the region. Due to the fact that large numbers of Mongolian people could meet during this Naadam, an independence movement began and the 8th Jeptsundamba Khutughtu or Buddhist spiritual leader of Mongolia, was declared the Bogd Khan in 1911. A famous wrestler from this period was Jambyn Sharavjamts who dominated the tournament for three decades from 1894 and was even still successfully competing as a 70 year old in 1945, which was recorded on film. The Urga Games continued at the same location, which eventually became Sukhbaatar Square at the centre of the capital Ulaanbaatar, until the period of Russian Communist domination of the Peoples Republic of Mongolia (1924-1990), when they were eventually moved to the 20,000 seat National Sports Stadium in 1958. Held to celebrate the Mongolian Declaration of Independence in 1921, the Mongolian National Naadam goes from July 11-13 annually and Mongol people living around the world take this as an opportunity to gather together to practice their own unique cultural heritage, in which Bukh is a most important part. Outside of the Naadam Festival the next most important Mongolian festival to include Bukh is the White Month or Tsagaan Sar, the equivalent of the lunar new year, which was February 14 in 2011. At this time the second most important National Bukh Championship is held at the Wrestlers Palace in Ulaanbaatar. This is a fairly new facility built by Japanese entrepeneurs in 2006 in imitation of the traditional ger felt houses of the Steppe and being a roofed arena, competitions can be held there in the colder months.
The National Naadam in Ulaanbaatar has 512 wrestlers, while at the same time each of the 21 Aimag (Provinces) will hold its own Danshik Naadam with 128 wrestlers, so the sport is widely practiced across the whole country. The ranks of Bukh include the 4 Avraga (Giants or Titans) of the Nation, the 5 Arslan (Lions) of the Nation, the 5 Garid (Mythical Birds) of the Nation, the 13 Zaan (Elephants) of the Nation, the 23 Hartsaga (Provinicial Champions) and the 104 Nachin (Local Champions). The ultimate title is Darkan Avraga or Invincible Giant for the wrestler that wins the National Naadam for five years in a row and the most famous of these was Colonel Bat-Erdene Badmaanyambuu who won the national title an impressive eleven times between 1988 and 1999. He also competed in international wrestling tournaments gaining ranks in sambo, judo and sumo; because of this he is considered a national hero and was the flag bearer of the Mongolian team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Other famous Darkan Avraga include Khorloogin Bayanmonkh, 10 times national champion between 1968 and 1987, who was also freestyle wrestling silver medalist at the 1972 Munich Olympics and Jigjidiin Monkhbat, six times national champion and freestyle wrestling silver medalist at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, who is also the father of Hakuho Sho, the most succusseful Yokozuna in the history of Japanese Ozumo.
Monkhbatyn Davaajargal, which is Hukuho Sho’s Mongolian name, became the second Mongolian Yokozuna in 2007, following in the footsteps of Dolgorsurengiin Dgavadorj or Asashoryu Akinori, the 68th Grand Champion of Japan in 2003. Prior to this other Mongolian wrestlers gained high ranking in Ozumo, the most famous of which was Davaagiin Batbayar or Kyokushuzan Noboru, who competed between 1991 and 2006, Nyamjavyn Tsevegnyam or Kyokutenho Masaru who also came to Japan in 1991 and is still competing and Batmonkhiin Enkhbat or Kyokutenzan Takeshi whose career also started in 1991 but he likewise retired in 2007. Incredibly with a population of just 3 million, Mongolians have certainly left their mark on the international fight scene and if you ask any one of them what is their secret they will all answer, daily training in Bukh. Actually it is the fact that sport is enshrined in cultural consciousness and all boys are trained in wrestling from the earliest age that gives an opportunity to engrain grappling reflexes, this is what makes Mongolian wrestlers so effective in competitions. Thousands of years of selective breeding to make strong pastoralists who can daily wrestle cattle, sheep, horses, deer and camels probably contributed to this success as well but Mongol wrestling is not just limited to Mongolia.
In 2008 a Pan-Mongol Wrestling Championship was devised between the Bukh Associations of Mongolia, the Chinese Provinces of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang as well as the Russian Republics of Tuva, Buryatia, Kalmyk and Altai, with the first competition held in Ulaanbaatar on 15-17 July, just after the National Naadam. The winner was the Mongolian Chimedregzengiin Sanjaadamba, who had yet to even win a national title. He followed this success the following year, held this time in Huhhot Inner Mongolia, again without gaining a national title. The 2010 Pan-Mongol Wrestling Championships were held in Ulan-Ude in Buryatia but this time two weight divisions were included, under 75kg won by Seldys Mongush of Tuva and over 75kg won again by Sanjaadamba, who is still waiting to win the Mongolian National Bukh Championship. In September 2011 Mongolia set a world record that it is particularly proud of when 6002 Bukh wrestlers competed in a nine day tournament at the National Sports Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, demonstrating how popular the sport is in the country. Check out this website for more information;
Because of the success of the Pan-Mongol Wrestling Championship this has inspired others to consider the possibility of holding a world championship in Bukh. Naturally this can only happen if the sport is spread to all six continents and therefore having an Oceania branch is crucial in this. Although numbering less than a thousand people as yet, the Mongolian Community of Australia have responded to this call by creating Mongol Bukh Australia. During festive gatherings around the time of Tsagaan Sar (February 14) and Naadam (July 11-13), Mongolian people living in Sydney have held local wrestling competitions since 2006 but are now opening the sport up to anyone who would like to try it. Coaching seminars will be arranged by the resident coach Jack Batkhuyag and plans are in motion to bring Mongolian wrestling champions to Australia to show the sport off at special events. Although a fairly easy sport to comprehend because of its rule structure, there are over 500 techniques used and I am sure these could be added to any martial artists personal arsenal to make them more effective fighters.
The question to ask though is what distinguishes Mongol Bukh from other styles of wrestling. Well for starters the wrestling uniform is pretty unique, consisting of a small jacket called a dzodog, an even smaller belt called a shuudag and special leather boots called gutal. According to a legendary story, in times gone by a competitor once entered the Naadam beating every opponent and it wasn’t till after the contest that the organisers realised she was a woman. For this reason the dzodog is left open at the front to expose the breasts of competitors but the sleeves reach down to the wrists while the jacket only reaches halfway down the back, making it appear something like a matadors jacket in Spanish bullfighting. Made out of silk or other strong fabric, the colourful dzodogs may have been the ultimate source that lead to the creation of the judogi after influencing Chinese Shuaijiao wrestling in the 13th century. In Chinese Inner Mongolia the uniform is slightly different with a short sleeved dzodog made out of studded leather while the wrestlers wear baggy trousers rather than small belts. In Mongolia, Tuva, Buryatia and other regions the shuudag looks a bit like a pair of speedos but is made of the same material as the dzodog so it can be used for lifts and throws, like the Sumo mawashi, while the gutal boots act something like boxing gloves for the feet, used to protect against the powerful kicking trips that come from playing the sport. The gutal also have upturned toe ends that resemble the traditional horse riding boots of East Asia.
Being a traditional style of wrestling, Bukh also has a special dance closely associated with it that is done by wrestlers at the start of the competitons and is based on the mimicry of animals, just like in Coreeda. These animals can be the mythical garid birds, falcons, deers, lions or tigers and all have great Shamanistic ritual meaning as well as being an excellent warm up. There are also slight variations in the rules across the different national borders and the different styles include Oroid, Oros, Alagshaa, Ujimchin, Halh and Hulunbuir but no matter where they are played they are all considered as belonging to the same Mongol Bukh family. If this is of interest to you please contact us at this site and we will relay messages to the organisers of Mongol Bukh Australia. Alternatively if you live in Sydney, come check out the excellent food and dining of Khan’s Road Restaurant on Parramatta Rd in Auburn to experience a genuine Mongolian cultural experience.
There is now a Facebook site giving up to date information about both Mongol Bukh at;