Kohima: This is no ordinary wrestling match. Although two opponents face off in close combat, it isn’t just about proving one's physical prowess. In fact, they grapple for a higher purpose, for the spirit of brotherhood.
This is perhaps the only sport which addresses one’s opponent as a beloved friend.
Naga wrestling, also known as belt wrestling, is a unique sport in which competitors aim to knock each other off their feet but only holding a belt tied around their opponent’s waist.
Neivikuolie Khatsu, president, Naga Wrestling Association (NWA), “Sports bring unity, understanding and oneness among the community. So does wrestling. Through wrestling, we make friendship and settle disputes. Even during olden times, wrestling was very important. It is a sport which everyone loves.”
The 12th edition of the Open Naga Wrestling Championship, which concluded recently, saw a packed house this year. The sport, played by one of India’s own warrior tribes, is slowly but steadily gaining recognition across the globe. It has also been considered one of Asia’s fastest growing sports.
Belt wrestling was featured for the first time in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Six Naga wrestlers participated in the event with one winning a bronze medal.
The game is popular in Central Asia with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan considered the traditional big four.
Neidilhoutuo Sechu, organiser of the the Open Naga Wrestling Championship, said that efforts are being made by the NWA to get associated with the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
“NWA is making its effort to reach out to other parts and also getting associated with the Wrestling Federation of India. So it’s trying its best but it will take time. However, the encouragement is there and so we hope that the NWA will reach out to other parts of the world in popularising Naga wrestling,” Sechu said.
The sport, which started out as a conflict-resolution mechanism to forge relationship between and within tribes, is now making its foray into the global arena.
“When we reach out to other parts of the world, we also have to adjust accordingly. But as for Naga wrestling here in Nagaland, it will not lose its originality,” Sechu added.
Maybe with time, this indigenous sport will become a favourite of the world and enthusiasts will travel miles to watch the game where no love is lost.