Mongolian Wrestling (Bökh) Guide

Mongolian wrestling, or Bökh as it is known in Mongolia, has been popular for centuries. It is a traditional sport that dates back to the times of Genghis Khan and remains an important part of Mongolian culture today.

In this guide, we will provide you with an overview of Mongolian wrestling’s history, explain its basic rules and strategies, teach you some essential moves, and provide tips on how to get started if you want to become one of the greats!

Table of Contents

mongolian wrestling

What Is Mongolian Wrestling?

Mongolian wrestling or Bökh is a sport that originated in Mongolia, and is one of the two major sports in Mongolia, along with Mongolian horse racing.

In Mongolian wrestling, competitors wear a feel (a traditional Mongolian garment) and they wrestle each other without touching the ground with their hands, instead of using their hips to pin the shoulders of their opponent to the ground.

There are no weight categories but there is a time limit. If neither competitor manages to throw the other off-balance within that time limit, the winner is decided on who fell most according to gravity.

Mongolian wrestling has been practiced for thousands of years and has long since passed into modern-day Mongolia’s national sport. There is evidence that even in the days when Genghis Khan reigned, this type of wrestling was popular.

The Mongolian style of wrestling is not unlike the type of wrestling still practiced in Scandinavia or by Native Americans and has many characteristics that give rise to a debate about its origins. One thing is certain: this style of wrestling was passed down through the centuries before it finally found its way into Mongolia’s national sports competition program.

When Was Mongolian Wrestling Invented?  

Mongolian wrestling dates back to ancient times. The first national wrestling competition was held in 1946, and Mongolia joined the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) two years later.

Is Mongolian Wrestling Professional or Amateur?

Mongolian wrestling is not considered professional, but amateur wrestling, like in most countries around the world. Although Mongolia’s wrestling federation does not compete in the Olympics, their wrestlers are ranked against other wrestlers internationally through FILA (the international governing body).

Mongolian Wrestling Olympics

Currently, Mongolian wrestling is not an Olympic sport, but it has been included in the Asian Games since 1990 and is also a part of many international games. In the Asian Games and in the World Games Mongolian wrestlers have won gold medals multiple times. FILA has recently decided to make a separate Olympics for non-Olympic wrestling styles, which would be a first step towards professionalizing this type of wrestling.

Mongolian Wrestling Coach

A Mongolian wrestling coach must have a very thorough knowledge of the rules and etiquette involved in this style of wrestling. It is also important to be a good role model for young wrestlers because they will learn respect, perseverance, teamwork, and sportsmanship from their coach.

In addition to knowing the ins and outs of coaching this type of wrestling, a Mongolian wrestling coach must also know how to communicate and instruct his young wrestlers, as well as understand and be able to teach the tactics of the sport.

Mongolian Wrestling Uniform

Mongolian wrestlers must wear a traditional Mongolian wrestling uniform, called the feel. This uniform consists of a felt hat, shorts with belt loops, long stockings, boots tied above the ankle, and Mongolian wrestling shoes.

The most distinct features of the traditional wrestling uniform are headgear and unique knee pads. The hat has a horsehair plume coming from the top and is ribbed to add some extra grip for when the wrestlers grip each other’s hats.

The knee pads were originally made from leather, but today modern materials such as foam and hard plastic are used. The leg stockings cover part of the thigh and reach just above the knee. These stockings help protect the wrestler’s legs and also give him a better grip on his opponent’s trousers.

The Mongolian wrestling belt is called “Zodog”. The “Zodog” is made of sheep’s skin, and it symbolizes the respect that wrestlers should have for their opponent.

Mongolian Wrestling Techniques & Holds

Wrestling is a sport that relies mainly on strength and resistance. It requires great physical effort and a lot of training to be able to master the techniques, which can end a match in seconds.

In Mongolian wrestling, there are three types of holds: standing, byrk-bütei (neck and back), and ground.

Standing Holds

These include all the techniques that a wrestler can apply without being on his back or side. Because they do not have much time to think during a match, Mongolians use most of the standing holds in the initial stages of a match.

Byrk-bütei Holds

These are used to immobilize an opponent when he is on his back or side. The “byrk” hold is done by putting your arm around your opponent’s neck from behind.

This move can be used to force your opponent to his back or side. The “bütei” hold is done by grabbing the front of your opponent’s neck, usually from a prone position. This hold is generally used as a counter move against an opponent who has attempted a “byrk-büteï” hold on you.

Ground Holds

These are used when an opponent is down on the mat. Ground holds include all types of immobilization techniques. The “shoulder hold” is done by grabbing your opponent’s upper arm or shoulder with one arm, and gripping your opponent below the knee with the other arm. This move can be applied from any position, but it has a higher success rate if you have broken your opponent’s balance.

The “body hold” is done by putting one arm under the armpit and your other arm on top of the thigh of your opponent who is lying on his back or side, and gripping his two wrists with the corresponding hand.

The “catch hold” is done from a “byrk-bütei” hold or from a minor technical standup. The “Kraichin güriin nerbiin büteï” is done when an opponent is on his stomach with his arms around the waist in the opposite direction.

Mongolian Wrestling Rules

The Mongolian style of wrestling has a very complex set of rules with similarities to Sumo wrestling. These types of wrestlers, in fact, use many of the same techniques and tactics as sumo wrestlers do.

There are five ways that a wrestler can win in this sport:

By throwing their opponent to the ground;

By forcing their opponent off the wrestling mat;

By having their opponent touch the ground with any part of their body except for the feet;

By making them touch the ground with any part of the body other than both feet at exactly the same time.

By forcing their opponent to give up.

A match usually lasts no more than ten minutes. If neither wrestler is able to score a fall within that time, the winner is declared by drawing lots.

Mongolian Wrestling Tournament

There are two types of Mongolian Wrestling Tournaments: the national Naadam tournament and the international wrestling tournaments.

The National Naadam Festival is held in July, during the height of summer. The tradition behind this festival is to celebrate the birth of Chinggis Khaan (also known as Gengis Khan), the man responsible for bringing together the Mongolian tribes by uniting them under one leader.

The International Wrestling Tournaments are held in different Mongolian provinces, with Ulaanbaatar hosting one during Naadam Festival at Ankhbaatar Square.

The best wrestlers from each province compete against each other in a place where the trophies are shown to the public. They are recognized by their colorful costumes and wrestling rituals. One of the most famous of these is called “Alchi güjeer” (the Wind Up), where wrestlers show off their best moves before starting the real match.

Mongolian Wrestling Last Man Standing

Mongolian wrestling last man standing is a traditional form of Mongolian wrestling that has been maintained almost unchanged for hundreds of years. It can be seen in the 12th-century painting of “Gengis Khaan’s Wrestlers” by Japanese painter Tawaraya Sotatsu.

Mongolian Wrestling Training

Mongolian wrestlers (bokh) train year-round. A potential wrestler first learns to walk and run, then starts with pushups and sit-ups. Training consists of wrestling practice, weight training, running 10 miles per day, calisthenics, and more wrestling practice.

The main training camp for Mongolian wrestlers is located in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Like a good number of sports teams, wrestling practices usually take place at a dedicated facility or, if shared with other athletes, at least on separate days from those used by other sportsmen. Every city and province has its own training facilities and teams, where young athletes normally start training at the age of 10 to 12.

How Different Is Mongolian Wrestling From Other Styles?  

Mongolian wrestling techniques are basically the same as those in other forms of wrestling, with key differences being in the gripping of the jacket and more emphasis being put on lifting. However Mongolian wrestling is different from freestyle wrestling because there are a lot more throws involved, as Mongolians view groundwork as inferior to throwing your opponent.

Mongolian wrestling is also totally different from folkstyle wrestling as there is no point system; the only way to win is by throwing your opponent and/or making him touch his back (buttocks, heels, or shoulder blades) to the ground. You can also win if your opponent gives up – this is called a “stepping backward” in Mongolian wrestling terminology.

Although, Mongolian wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling have some similarities. The jacket grip in Mongolian Wrestling is exactly the same as in Greco-Roman wrestling.

During a match, both wrestlers are allowed to use only their arms and upper body to attack. Throws are made by lifting your opponent off the ground, turning him sideways, and either slamming his back into the ground or throwing him over your head with the aid of your leg.

What Equipment Do Mongolian Wrestlers Use? 

This may be considered strange by spectators of other forms of wrestling, but in Mongolian wrestling, it’s seen as a sign of courage and honesty not to wear anything that might give you an unfair advantage over your opponent during the match. Mongolian wrestlers only wear a traditional wrestling singlet (shuudag) and, sometimes, shoes.

Are Mongolians good at wrestling? Mongolians take a great deal of pride in their national style of wrestling, and they’ve demonstrated excellent results in the Olympics. In 1968, The Mongolian National Wrestling Team brought home three golds from Mexico City. In 1972, Mongolia won two silvers and one bronze from Munich. And in 1992, Mongolia once again received two medals at the Barcelona Olympics.

What Do Mongolian Wrestlers Eat? 

Traditionally, Mongolian wrestlers eat large quantities of meat (especially mutton) and dairy to build strength. In fact, when Genghis Khan’s warriors started conquering new nations in the early 1200s, they brought cooks along with them to prepare meat and dairy dishes.

Why Is Wrestling Popular in Mongolia?  

Despite the harsh winters in Mongolia, people have practiced wrestling there for thousands of years. Even Genghis Khan’s soldiers routinely wrestled as part of their military training.

Wrestling is popular with Mongolian men today because it allows them to show courage and strength. There are no weight divisions or time limits in Mongolian wrestling, so it’s the perfect sport for the nomadic herdsmen who live there.


Mongolian wrestling is a unique sport that has been practiced in the country since ancient times. It combines techniques from both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, with an emphasis on throws. Competitors are expected to wear only a traditional wrestling singlet during the match and usually eat large amounts of meat and dairy to build strength.

Mongolian wrestlers have earned great respect from their peers for their courage and strength, and the country has done well in international competitions for many years. Mongolian wrestling is an important cultural tradition and a great source of pride for the people of Mongolia. It’s a sport that will surely continue to be practiced for many years to come.