Mongolia’s Warrior Games: Wrestling and Archery at Naadam

By Stevie Adams / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

DREW VOICE OVER: I’m Drew Scanlon. I’m exploring the world through the lens of
games, and doing it with the support of people like you on Patreon. Help us out at The first two days of Naadam, Mongolia’s
annual traditional games festival, are taken up by horse racing and the opening ceremony. On the third day, we headed back to the stadium
in the middle of Ulaanbaatar to see the rest of what are known as the “three games of
men,” namely, wrestling and archery. Our cab driver was already listening to the
westling broadcast on the radio. KHOSOO: So I think the seventh round is finishing. That’s why he’s singing the song of praise. DREW: Does he have a favorite wrestler? KHOSOO: He’s from Zavkhan Province, so he’s
supporting a wrestler from that area. DREW VO: The games of Naadam are a big deal. Competitions are held in each of Mongolia’s
21 provinces and the winners meet here to declare the ultimate victor. Once we arrived at the stadium, we waded into
the excited crowd, past vendors selling food, homemade commemorative items, and Kodak moments. Many attendees were dressed in their finest
traditional garb. Security was tight. Even with our press badges, we still had to
show passports to the blue-suited parliamentary guard to get into the stadium through the
media entrance. Inside, the wrestling competition was in full
swing. [CHEERING] To my untrained eye, the wrestling itself
looked pretty straightforward. Except when it came to the elaborate actions
that occur before and after each match. The movements are meant to evoke two animals. KHOSOO: So usually it represents a phoenix
and a male camel. DREW VO: “Camel” actions involve the slapping
of muscles, while the “phoenix” dance reminded me of a bird in low gravity. KHOSOO: It’s representing the strength and
flexibility of those two animals. It also shows how your body is better than
the other wrestler’s. DREW VO: But for all the posturing, a strong
sense of respect is also built into the sport. KHOSOO: A tied vest usually represents that the wrestler
is ready to fight and battle. And untied shows that the competition is finished,
and “I’m not holding any grudge, I’m respecting everything.” The wester that has lost is bowing and accepting
that he’s lost the competition, going under his arm. And the other one is accepting that he won. And it shows that they’re respecting each
other. When the winning wrestler slaps the bum, it
means “just work hard, if you don’t want to get more slaps from me.” [LAUGHING] DREW VO: Wrestling is also the only event
that women do not compete in. KHOSOO: There’s an old saying, a myth, that
says that, many many years ago, a woman participated once in the wrestling competition and she
actually won. And men didn’t like it, so they changed
the vests to open-vest, to prevent women from participating. DREW: Wow, because they got beat! KHOSOO: Yeah, they did! DREW VO: As with any popular sport, new wrestlers
are training all the time. A few days later, in a park on the edge of
the city, we got to meet the next generation of fearsome warriors. As you might expect, just as much attention
is paid in training to the ceremonial format as the actual wrestling. The kids are taught how to do the camel and
phoenix dances, as well as how to wrestle respectfully. As in horse racing, kids start wrestling young. KHOSOO: He’s probably three or four. So cute. DREW VO: I chatted with the kids’ coach
about what training is like for a young wrestler. KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): First, they learn to
let the person fall without any injuries. Even though it is a fighting competition,
it’s not all about winning or about making the other person fall, it’s all about respect,
love, and respecting the audience, getting very nice energy, and showing the body, and
all the muscles that they’ve got. It’s a very different sport. Mongolian boys, their very first teachers
are usually their fathers. His (the coach’s) father taught him, and he
taught his son, which is sitting next to him. Mongolian men need to be strong and capable
in this very extreme weather, so sports represent that character of Mongolian men as well. Naadam makes Mongolians very special. Once a year, everyone gets to feel Mongolian
history, and everyone gets to feel that they’re a Mongol. That’s why, I guess, Mongolians love sports. DREW VO: Of course, when I think of Mongolian
warriors, I can’t help but think of archery. In a separate venue next to the stadium, men
and women archers compete for supremacy. Each archer fires four arrows, tipped with
bone or wood, in ten rounds. Knocking over any block counts as a hit. The archer with the most hits wins. [CHEERING] To get a better sense of the sport, we spoke
with an archer named Oranga, who’s competing in her second Naadam. KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): That stretchy part is
made out of stretchy threads. Depending on the weather, when the weather
is hot, the thread becomes stretchier, and when the weather is cold, it’s very tight. So she (the archer) needs to feel and she
needs to decide how much strength to use to actually pull the arrow. She really likes archery. It makes people very patient. She’s the first archer in her family. She’s very happy that she’s leaving this unique
culture to her next generation, and she’s happy that she’s becoming an example of women
participating in the “three games of men.” It’s a unique culture. No one else has this kind of Naadam festival. DREW VO: Perhaps because Naadam is such a
Mongolian event, a national TV station got curious about why this blonde guy was poking
around. DREW: Being able to see these games that are,
really, historical artifacts, is really amazing to see. DREW VO: When the segment aired on TV, I got
to hear what I sound like dubbed in Mongolian. [VOICE OVER IN MONGOLIAN] DREW VO: I include this part not only for
my own vanity, but because of what the segment was about. Khosoo: They’re saying that Mongolia is receiving
about half a million tourists at the moment. And if we want two million tourists by 2020,
we need to make more videos about Mongolia. And they’re basically saying that you’re doing
a free advertisement for Mongolia without the support of the Mongolian government. And they’re implying that we should be supporting
people like you a lot in the future. DREW VO: Again, these traditional games are
alive and well only because new generations of competitors keep coming in. This man runs an archery team in Ulaanbaatar
for kids of all ages. DREW: Why archery? Why has he (the coach) chosen to devote twenty
years to archery? KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): In old times, Mongolian
men used to hunt with archery. They used it to find their food. And because it’s part of Mongolian culture,
he (the coach) is very happy to represent this sport. VO: He even makes his own equipment. KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): So this is made of three
things. Mainly it’s a horn. There is wood in there as well, as well as
a muscle. This is one of the biggest bows that you will
see. In order to make a bow, you need to look at
the person’s height, weight, and strength. DREW: What’s the weight difference in pull
between men and women? KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): The weight feels usually
less for women. However, it depends on, again, what kind of
bow they’re using. There are women who are using bigger bows
that require more strength, and there are ladies using smaller bows requiring less strength. So it really depends on the preference of
the lady. And the men usually shoot from 75, and ladies
65, meters away. And he needs to cover his wrist now. It’s to protect the wrist from getting hit
by the string. However, if you hold it properly, you wouldn’t
hit your wrist, but it’s still for protection. DREW VO: As for the young archers on his team,
the sport clearly means a lot to them, too. DREW: How old are you? [KHOSOO TRANSLATING INTO MONGOLIAN] DREW: Four. [GIRL ANSWERING IN MONGOLIAN]
KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): Six. DREW: Why do you like archery? KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): They (the women archers)
think it’s not a sport of strength, they think it’s a sport of brain and intellect. That’s why you can be better than a man. This sport changed his (the boy archer’s)
life. He used to get angry very easily. He used to be a little bit aggressive before. Now he’s very patient and he respects people
now. So his character is starting to change in
a nice way. DREW: Is archery fun? [KHOSOO TRANSLATING TO MONGOLIAN] [BOY ANSWERING IN MONGOLIAN] KHOSOO: He likes it. [LAUGHS] DREW VO: Not wanting to be outdone by a four-
and six-year-old, I decided to try for myself. KHOSOO: Drew, you’re a man, so you’ve
got to try 75. DREW: Aw man! [COACH GIVING INSTRUCTIONS] KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): So think that this is
your root, and this is your stand, so flex this and pull strong. DREW VO: When I fired, the woman’s face
on the right said it all. DREW: The trickiest part is, you’re pulling
back with your thumb, not your fingers. It’s with the thumb! KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): Okay, it needs to be
tight, yeah? And strong. DREW: Okay. KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): To the right. DREW: That almost got there! [KHOSOO LAUGHING, TRANSLATING TO MONGOLIAN] DREW VO: The third shot was the worst of the
three. KHOSOO (TRANSLATING): Up, up, up. Pull and up. That’s it. Go! DREW: Oh boy. Sorry. Try to keep it in the field next time, Drew. KHOSOO: Yeah, be careful, you could hit someone! DREW: Yeah! DREW VO: It’s harder than it looks. In my defense, I didn’t grow up in Mongolia. I don’t know what it’s like to be steeped
in a culture that celebrates its warrior history through traditional games. But celebrate it they do. Back at the stadium, winners from each event
are honored in front of the crowd with trophies, songs of praise, and the occasional swig of
airag, or fermented horse milk. Try serving that at the Indy 500. I may not be very good at Mongolia’s historical
games, but I do know that such a history deserves to be kept alive, and that’s exactly what
the people of Mongolia are doing. Cloth Map is possible only because of our
supporters on Patreon. If you liked this video, and want to keep
seeing more like it, we’d love to have you with us.

100 thoughts on “Mongolia’s Warrior Games: Wrestling and Archery at Naadam

  1. Fascinating stuff. I have wanted to visit Mongolia for a long time. This makes me want to go even more . Thank you for this.

  2. That lil girl at 8:29. Man wtf?! Thats some crazy shit. Hitting a small ass target on the floor. I bet I couldn’t even hit an elephant

  3. So basically…
    Every year the provinces send a tribute to the capital to fight, sounds like the hunger games is real yall

  4. Well made! Thank you for introducing our Mongolian Naadam to people who don’t know about it. Even I learned about some traditions of Naadam from your video. Also, the translator is good.

  5. I just felt blissful after watching this video. I'm from Mongolia but I never deeply looked into my country's culture and this video taught me to appreciate my own culture

  6. ive noticed that there are many more tourists and generally more foreigners living here lately. must mean my nation is growing!

  7. Im Mongolian too and the community is thinking of making a new stadium in another location because ulaanbaatar’s stadium took only 25% of travelers from America

    BTW. you are showing last years naadam because it begins in July

  8. i watch so many things from Mongolia, but this is the first time i see this competition and the kids training

  9. This came out really, really great! Also appreciate how respectful, amiable, and open-minded you are ! Thank you so much for delivering our culture to the world 🙂

  10. I laughed when the lady explained the story of why women aren’t allowed in the wrestling competitions. While it likely isn’t 100% true (but who knows!) and it’s more just a cultural norm, it’s a nice story. Maybe someday far in the future there will be a women’s division for wrestling, like in Senegalese Wrestling, or young girls will just informally learn how to wrestle. It’s good and healthy for all kids to be physical. But! Archery might be serving that purpose for girls anyway

  11. When assembling armies, the Mongols hosted great games like this with lavish rewards to attract lots of young men and their horses.

  12. Great documentary Mongolia is very obscure internationally, so it's good to see documentaries like this

  13. Much more uplifting than watching the big money, prima-donnas so often associated with Western sporting and events.

  14. I would LOVE to visit Mongolia. The land, the people, the food and the history. I'm into archery as well (recurve and coumpound). Never shot a bow on top of a horse before but I'm willing to try.

  15. as a Mongol, I`m really proud of translator woman. She is explaining traditional things easily and professionally, which I can`t explain well (sort of jealous :D) Thank you for letting others know more about our culture.

  16. Last year I went to Mongolia for a month and this year i went for 3 weeks. Everytime I am so captivated by the culture and everything around it. I want to go once during wintertime. Because the summertime is the easytime in Mongolia.

  17. This is a well presented & very informative video. I really enjoyed watching it. I did have to laugh a bit at your attempts at archery. In the West we pull with 2 fingers not the thumb which might have been part of your problem. But you were trying to pull the bow almost entirely with your arms. Go back and take a look at your footage of the archers and watch the way they pull their bows.

  18. Did a 2 month construction deployment to Ulambaatar with the Army Corps of Engineers back in the 90's. It's good to see how much better the Mongolian people are doing these days.

  19. I didnt know anything about mongolia until this, except Gangiskahn, and thats its Russian China, this video has been delightful ty

  20. You were having issues with the arrow falling off the bow because you knocked it on the wrong side you can hold the arrow with your thumb until ready to loose.

  21. With most eastern bows you hold with the thumb same goes for the Japanese bow that actually hits with greater force than a english long bow recurve bows allow more power in a smaller frame which makes it really good for horse archery.

  22. It's so neat how Mongolia celebrates it's history and heritage in this way. It reminds me a little of how in the US, England, and Australia there are medieval or renaissance faires, but they are usually privately hosted and not really celebrated or honored in the same way as in Mongolia. We have living history museums and re-enactments of historical events, but we don't have official government funded celebrations of culture and history. This is so cool that Mongolia does this. Those kids are so good at their traditional wrestling and archery. Archery in the west is becoming almost a lost art… like sword fighting or calligraphy.

  23. I’ve never really thought about Mongolia or traveling there prior to this video. Between the interviews of the different people and the informative explanations I’ve learned a lot about a new culture. Thanks for making a great video, I’m interested to see what other places might be shown in the future.

  24. This is really cool. I hope to go to mongolia some day. They aren't ashamed of their culture and I find that incredibly inspiring.

  25. For those wondering about draw weight, iirc, back during the Khan era, the mangudai would run around using two fingers to draw a weight of roughly 160lbs on horseback in the middle of battle while accurately sniping targets. What you're looking at is essentially 160lbs and working down from there in the video.

  26. I want to know how they didn't cut their hands when the feather of the arrow passed over them. Isn't that dangerous?

  27. Archery is like the meditation for the Mongolian people.
    Good to see that they practice archery as a way of social event, where people can meet and make new friends.

  28. We have an event now in switzerland which celebrate wine and it happens every 25 years, we built an arena for 20’000 people only for one month. We also have the federal games which consist of typical swiss sports you should come here and checks those out

  29. I always heard that Mongolians are hostile to visitors and tourists these days. Apparently this is the complete opposite, much like Mike Cheng said in his many visits to Mongolia, its a culture that is very enjoyable, lots of hospitality and still much more proud of their traditions than going around wih products off big market countries around them. This is something that I kinda envy on them, which as Brazilian I only saw this mindset in Europe passing through Norway, this traditional sense of culture, the old staples that never needed to be changed, because ain't broken, no need to be fixed. Genghis Khan's people seem very hospitable much like the people of Vlad Tepes, this is great to known about boh of them, really.

  30. This country is on my bucket list. Hopefully someday I can go there and experience the Mongolian way of life… I have huge respect to all Mongolians….

  31. Sold my old compound bow and bought a bone, horn, sinew 60 pound hun Biocomposite bow. Archery has become a lot more fun now. Shooting with a thumb ring ad well. It's a great way to appreciate the skill and power of Atila and Khan and their Calvary archers

  32. Random fact from TED Talks, mongolia is not carbon negative, not carbon neutral but carbon positive! 60% of their country is trees!

  33. simplemente grandioso, maravilloso, estupendo… su cultura trae algo por lo que estar unidos. la mia se pierde, es horrible saber que no tenemos nada como eso. me alegro por su cultura ojala nunca se pierda.

  34. Why Doesn’t Mongolia 🇲🇳 Use The Mongolian Script Instead Of Russian 🇷🇺 Cyrillic For Writing ✍️

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