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- Tibet: A Century-long Struggle for Independence
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away called Mongolia, there was an undefeated wrestler who won every tournament he ever participated in. Yet, many of his peers would secretly and sometimes even openly mock him that despite all his achievements he had no sons to pass down the family fame. Nonetheless, his only daughter, given her genetic inheritance, has a remarkable strength and stamina by being raised by the strongest man in the country. She grew up wrestling with boys of her age and quickly rose to a local celebrity by pushing harder than everybody else. But there is one rule that restricts her from going forward. It proclaims only men can practice traditional Mongolian wrestling.
Even though her talent at wrestling was unquestionable, she would never get recognized as a professional wrestler or feel the glory of winning in the Naadam (the largest summer festival of Mongolia) like her father. All her male friends she used to wrestle with were participating in tournaments as they reached adulthood while she was expected to give up her dreams and marry someone suitable. But deep down, she knew she was as good as any of them!
One day, fellow wrestlers came by to celebrate her father’s retirement from wrestling. After many drinks, one of the men had the audacity to say how sad this legendary wrestler had only one daughter who would never be able to wrestle in the Naadam. He continued, “Only if your wife had given you a son, your family reputation would not have died with you”. Being the strong-willed Mongolian woman, the daughter had said nothing in return, but she hatched a grand plan to respond to the man.
A few days before the Naadam tournament, she registered herself with a false identity. She dressed up as a man and entered the competition. With her mighty shoves and fast moves, she sent many men flying into the dirt. The competition continued in this manner until the last round, where she was left with only one opponent, her father’s friend who disrespected her family the other day. At this critical moment, when the champion would be found after a single face-off, the wrestler recognized that he is being challenged by someone he never expected to meet on the field.
Confident enough that he would win without breaking a sweat yet aiming to teach the “little girl” a lesson, he opted to go all in without mercy. He did not even grasp for a second that the girl doesn’t need any of his leniency. The two wrestled very long that it was almost the sunset, but suddenly she took him down with one sharp move. Fearful that people would find out he lost to a woman, he quickly accepted the defeat and ran away without revealing her identity.
Traditionally, new champions must perform the ceremonial dance of a victor in front of the crowd and receive the grand prize on their wrestling costume’s top by taking it off. Realizing that there was no way out, she proudly told everyone that she was indeed a woman. Deeply shocked, the judges immediately seized her recently earned title and ordered all wrestlers to compete bare-chested to prevent any other woman from disguising as male. The practice of bare-chested wrestling in Mongolia continues to this day, as is the practice of banning women.
MONGOLIAN NAADAM FESTIVAL TOUR
Once a year Mongolia puts everything on hold as the country's top wrestlers, horse trainers and archers gather from all corners of Mongolia to compete over the most prestigious titles.VIEW TOUR