List of Mongolian Martial Arts
Mongolia, a land-locked country in Central Asia, bordered by Russia and China, has three traditional martial arts. These martial arts are sometimes known as the “Three Manly Skills,” as they were seen as the three techniques of fighting all Mongol men should be able to perform. They are an important part of Mongolian ritual ceremonies and festivals, and are also increasingly performed by women.
Bajutsu is the only Mongolian martial art conducted on horseback. Mongols have always been highly adept riders due to their nomadic heritage. Mongolia is the world's second largest landlocked country and has a predominance of grassland plains. Horses have been the primary means of transport for centuries. Traditionally, Batjutsu is a holistic approach to horseback combat, including physical prowess (developed through horseback stunts), weapons skill and animal husbandry. Riders use a variety of weapons – bows and arrows, swords, pole arms – to fight, with the emphasis being on balance and coordination. There is also a close-fighting hand-to-hand variation.
Bokh is a Mongolian word meaning “strength” or “solidity” and it is the name given to Mongolian wrestling. Bokh dates back more than 2,000 years to when the Chinese Han dynasty ruled the country. It was considered a military art, but later became primarily a sporting pastime. There are no weight categories in bokh, nor any time limit. A fight is concluded only when one wrestler is forced to touch the ground with any part of his body above the knee. Bokh matches commence with ritualized movements by the competitors imitating the movements of lions and eagles, as a demonstration of strength.
Mongolian archery is performed with a specific type of bow which originated during the reign of Genghis Khan. It is a composite bow made of wood and an animal horn that re-curves at the tips. It was developed for its military effectiveness, strong but light and capable of shooting arrows long distances. There are different types of archery performed at festivals, which are named after different ethnic groups, such as the "buryat" and "khalkha." The festivals involve shooting at targets for different distances. There is also an event where horseback riders shoot at leather balls on top of poles. The riders shoot one on approaching the target and another as they ride away from it.
The event at which the three traditional martial arts are most widely practiced in Mongolia is the annual Nadaam Festival. Nadaam is a Mongolian word for “competition” or “game.” The festival takes place over three days in July, in all areas of the country. It allows members of communities to compete in the three events. Women compete in all, but the wrestling. The festival is intended to honor community endeavors and as an act of worship to the gods.
Dirk Huds has been a writer/editor for over six years. He has worked for bookshops and publishers in an editorial capacity and written book reviews for a variety of publications. He is currently studying for his master's degree.