“Nowadays, despite drastically increasing number of Vietnamese sports, wide range of traditional sports (i.e. wrestling, Tug of war [keo co], sailing [dua thuyen]) … still remain being an integral part of the modern society.”
It is inevitable that with such a long history, Vietnam have created unique and traditional sports and pastimes. Those games can form the backbone of a community and further community spirit, bring people together and instill a sense of pride. Also, they create a lot of fun. Please check out one of Vietnamese traditional sports – Wrestling – which have been around for thousand years.
Wrestling contests are annually taken place in several villages and areas across the country during the “Tet holiday” – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival around mid-February.
In terms of wresting regulations, two fighters will be on the stage and try to defeat the opponents by throwing them down, belly up or take both feet from the ground. The winner will be defined as the wrestler who turns his rival with his “face to the sky” and forces his shoulders to touch the ground or lifts the rival up high in the air. As for modern wrestling rules, a match comprises three to four-minute rounds while the traditional ones often lasted for hours since draw result is not allowed.
Additionally, rhythm is regarded as one of the outstanding features in this sport. Normally, the game can be started by “Toong! Toong! Toong!” – the drum sounds used to call competitors to the battles. Drum, gong or both are used quite frequently in Vietnamese traditional sports and so does wrestling. The drum rhythms play an important role in stimulating and inspiring the athlete. Then, the speaker announces the competitors, who stand up and step forward to the middle of the “carpet.” They are barebacked and dressing up colorful shorts together with a silk belt around their waist. Also, during the battle, drum beating is continuously used for regulating the fight. The rhythm accelerates once one of the competitor attacks and holds the other’s body. Then it quickly returns to the normal status once danger has passed, as if the drum wants to let the wrestlers recover their breath and preserve their guard. When a wrestler falls, the rhythm gets increasingly hastened. Then once the winner is defined, last stroke of the drum will be resounded as the way to end the combat. Finally, the winner and loser jointly stand at the stage center, applauded by a prolonged drum roll.
Wrestling style is relatively similar to Muay Thai and Cambodian boxing, which primarily focuses on rapid set of locking- pushing- pulling, short bouts with the form of a dance. Their arms make supple and undulating movements, showing their musculature. In short, Vietnam’s traditional wrestling can be considered as quintessence of martial arts.
It is recognized as a national pride when Vietnamese win championship at Southeast Asian championships 2017 with the stunning results and remarkable achievements. Among 125 wrestlers from seven different countries, 24 out of 24 sets of gold medals were awarded to Vietnamese team in the men’s and women’s freestyle category within 3 days of competition.
Some popular wrestling events can be highly recommended for tourists, including: Lieu Doi festival (Ha Nam Province – the 5th day of the 10th Lunar Month), Sinh/ Thu Le village festival (Thua Thien Hue Province – 10th January on Lunar Calendar), Mai Dong village (Hanoi – from the 4th to the 7th of the first Lunar Month), Cao Dai Village Festival (Nam Dinh – the 22nd day of the 7th Lunar Month).
By Huyen Pham, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam