Belt-Wrestling

Belt Wrestling is one of the most ancient sports known to man. This is proved byarchaeological excavations and research. The oldest recorded illustration of wrestling, a bronze statuette of belt wrestling created circa 6,000 years ago, was found in 1938 at Kyafaje, near Baghdad.  In the Chinese manuscript “Tan Shu”  from the 10th Century, the competition of Kuresh is mentioned in the description of the  Nooruze festival somewhere in  Ferghana Valley. In the 11th Century the scholar and philosopher Avicenna spoke of this type of wrestling. Every country has its own kind of struggle. Originally,   wrestling was intended as a means of survival for ancient civilizations.  Put literally, the struggle for existence was carried on in much the same manner as Darwin’s survival of the fittest.    

Belt wrestling has achieved a new dynamic and is undergoing a renaissance in the 21st century.  The modern drive for its valorisation comes from the Russian Federation where several indigenous variations are still practised.  To accommodate the many variations of belt wrestling throughout the world, the philosophy of the new International Belt Wrestling Association (IBWA) has been simple and logical; it has adopted two sets of standard rules and a standard costume.  Their reasoning is, that some styles do not permit trips and some do, but, in the new association, to compete without trips is called ‘classical style’ and with trips is called ‘free style’. The standard costume is an attractive feature, which allows for all styles to be completed, so that no one can conclude that his or her national style or costume has been slighted. IBWA unite all belt wrestling lovers in the world. 

Then and now; Bashkortostan 1913 and a scene from the World Championships in Ufa 2007, which shows the ancient style of belt wrestling in one of the most modern indoor sport centers in the world

In different corners of the planet, in Europe, Asia, or the African Continent, the central component of wrestling is a simple device like a belt, ordinary towel or girdle. For example, within Central Asia Kuresh wrestling is popular. It is distinguished by throwing one’s opponent by tearing him away from the floor or from the mat  without using one’s legs.  Such rules can be relevant only in that region. In England, sportsmen compete under different rules. In Spain rules are of a third kind and in Niger a fourth.

Honorary President of the International Association of Traditional Types of Sports Reef Gainanov: “This type of wrestling will always be interesting.  Every nation has its own colouring. One nation should not impose its own rules upon other countries and should respect other cultures and their customs”.

However, today it is necessary to understand the differences between:

 1) the rules of national wrestling in every single country or region, of which there are surely  thousands of variations;

 2) and a common, well-defined system of belt wrestling rules, which makes it possible for athletes from around the world to come together in a competition as equals.

Today wrestling as a national sport cannot be ascribed to any single country. Nobody calls soccer an English sport and basketball is not said to be American. In the same way belt wrestling does not have any national boundaries. It is unique, is getting more and more fans and the circle of contestants is widening considerably. This is a spectacular and democratic sport and one that does not require much financial expenditure. An important fact is that the International Belt Wrestling Federation considerably lessened the number of injuries received by contestants since the introduction of the new rules. As it was proved, the correction of this or that wrestling rules popularized this kind of sport. Nowadays world and continental championships are being held in different parts of the world.

6th World Championships in Ufa, Bashkortostan, 2007

The sport is developing rapidly and has become so prominent that President Putin of Russia attended the 6th World Championships in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, from the 9th till the 13th October 2007. 

In America and Oceania the popularity of belt wrestling is no less than that in Iran, Turkey, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Togo and Spain – countries which have already been the hosts of international competitions. This is how one more step towards the main aim -the Olympic Games – is being made. Several years ago very few people knew anything about belt wrestling. Today the International Association is getting applications for holding tournaments from all the corners of the globe. This is no surprise as now the army of admirers of this kind of sport unites more than eighty countries of the world.