Mongolian wrestling (бөх, bökh) has been a traditional sport in Mongolia for centuries. Mongolian wrestlers have an important cultural status in traditional Mongolian society and are thought to embody ancient ideals of nobility, strength and chivalrous sportsmanship. The rituals associated with Mongolian wrestling competitions are believed to have been virtually unchanged for hundreds of years. Mongolian wrestling is the highlight of Naadam (Наадам,games) a traditional outdoor festival held every summer in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar from July 11th – 13th. It is considered one of "Three Manly Skills," along with horsemanship and archery.
Wrestling matches are held in the open on a grassy field, or on bare dirt that is not too hard or littered with gravel. There are no weight classes; a small wrestler can end up wrestling someone twice his size.
Only men compete in Mongolian wrestling. Usually 512 wrestlers from different cities and aimags enter the Naadam competition and final eliminations are decided after nine rounds. The wrestler with the most victories and highest title decides who his opponents will be after the third round of eliminations. Traditionally, the host of a naadam had the privilege of choosing opponents and arranging matches, often in ways that gave his favorites the upper hand. These arrangements sometimes resulted in serious disputes between hosts and visiting wrestlers. The modern wrestling code instituted in 1980 stipulates that opponents be selected by drawing lots at major cross-regionalnaadams and specialized wrestling championship matches; in local competitions the traditional system still holds sway.
The number of contestants in a Mongolian-style wrestling match must be a power of two and the contest follows a single-elimination system. Rank can only be attained during the Naadam festival. The number of rounds won by each wrestler determines rank. In ascending order, the ranks are: unranked, Falcon (Nachin, 5th round), Elephant (Zaan, 7th round), Lion (Arslan, 9th round) and Titan (Avarga, the winner from among Lion rank). Every subsequent victory at the national Naadam-festival adds an epithet to the title ofAvarga, such as "Invincible Titan," "Invincible Titan to be remembered by all" and so on. The Mongolian parliament added two additional two ranks, Hawk (Hartsaga, 6th round) and Garuda (Garudi, 8th round) in 2003.