A Naga wrestling match. (Morung file photo)
The sport which has been confined to only a few Naga
communities has now opened its doors for others as well
Atono Tsükrü Kense
Kohima | September 25
Traditional Naga wrestling, which is held ‘sacred’ by the Tenyimias is more than just a sport. It’s a tradition, which has survived politics and unrest in Nagaland. And today, taking the game to another level, wrestling which is limited to the three tribes is being introduced and trained to other tribes in Nagaland in a bid to preserve the tradition and to promote the game.
The indigenous grappling sport played by the Nagas popularly known as Naga wrestling” is one of the oldest traditional unique sports. It is not just for entertainment and physical fitness, but for brotherhood, socializing and most of all to settle contentious disputes.
Naga wrestling is popular among the Angami, Chakhesang and Zeliang tribes of Nagaland and the Poumai and Mao communities of Manipur. Naga wrestling is considered a sacred and holy sport with traditional beliefs and taboos associated with it.
In the bygone years, when a male member of a family is to wrestle, it was a taboo for the women to have any illicit affairs. On the day of the wrestling, women are not allowed to go to the fields and are confined in the house, as they are forbidden to either watch the game or enter the arena, which is considered a sacred place.
Nonetheless, as time passes by, some passive superstitious beliefs held earlier are done away with and the game has become more accommodative with women wrestlers over the years. Yet, till today, the game remains ‘revered, sacred and auspicious.’
Introducing wrestling to other Naga tribes
To make wrestling inclusive of all Naga tribes and to preserve the traditions and unity, the Naga Wrestling Association (NWA) has taken an initiative to introduce wrestling to other Naga tribes.
Talking about its project which is soon to take off, NWA president, Neivikuolie Khatsü said it is not complete unless all Naga tribes participate in the game, and not fair if only some tribes claim all grandeur of Naga wrestling.
While apprehensive about the pure form of Naga wrestling, which may not go well as other tribes are not used to it, he said, NWA will be introducing Belt Wrestling which is very similar to the Naga style of wrestling. This, he hoped would encourage more learners from other Naga tribes.
Belt wrestling, he explained is popular in central Asian countries recognized internationally by the highest wrestling body of the world—United World Wrestling, and was optimistic that it would be introduced in the Olympics soon.
Khatsü disclosed that starting from the farthest area Longleng, Mokokchung, Mon, Tuensang and Dimapur, 100 government schools are being targeted, where both boys and girls will be introduced to the game.
He expressed hope that other Naga tribes would take interest in wrestling and that many would come forward to learn the basic art of belt wrestling which, is has weight and age classes unlike the Naga style of wrestling.
Meanwhile, Khatsü informed that NWA will be participating in the National Freestyle at Uttar Pradesh and Belt Wrestling to be held at Telangana for which selection trail will be held on October 18 at IG Stadium.
Also keeping the importance of promoting wrestling and sustenance of the association, he informed that the NWA has put forward a proposal to the State Government to build an indoor stadium. He was hopeful that the government would approve its proposal.
Breaking the myths associated with wrestling
Physical attributes: Generally, people associate wrestling with heavy built physical structure, and that lean and slightly built persons cannot wrestle. However, breaking this common myth, Khatsü said while physical structure, no doubt is important, mental fitness is the first thing that is required of any sportsperson.
The bigger and heftier a person, the more advantage a person has, agreed Khatsü. He however added that physical built alone doesn’t achieve the ultimate goal. “It is the agility, regular exercise, practice and brains and brawns that work.”
Diet: Another misconception is the heavy diet of meat and huge quantity of food for wrestlers to gain strength and stamina. Khatsü said while “our forefathers heavily fed the wrestlers, it is different today. He maintained that a proper diet is essential for any sportsperson, but one shouldn’t eat excessively.
Citing examples, he said wrestlers have been defeated in the arena by wrestlers who were purely vegetarian and so it all comes down to proper diet. At the same time, Khatsü also pointed out that regular exercise, workout and practice and proper rest is important and added that wrestlers must be educated from the modern perspectives.