The most adored ancient sport for Tuvans is a national fight Khuresh. Khuresh, like khoomei, is a Tuva phenomenon. For centuries legends have been told about this sport and ancient invincible heroes-athletes. Khuresh is the most interesting entertainment for men.
Scientists disagree on the “khuresh” word etymology. Some of them suppose that it could be loaned from neighboring Mongolia, although Mongols deny this claim. There is also an opinion that it derived from a Turkic word “khur” – strength. Other scientist makes a thesis that from Bashkir language it is translated as “friend’s belt”. “What language did the word come from?”, “How does exact translation sound?” – these questions yet remain open.
Every year khuresh becomes more and more preferred national sport of Tuvan nation. At all kinds of national celebrations khurest is a main type of sport competitions together with horse races and archery.
Khuresh is held in open air and has its own clear rules, violation of which leads to withdrawal from the competition like, actually, in any other sport. The fighting system is also based on withdrawal. Winner in the last couple is considered absolute winner.
Particular titles in khuresh fight are officially introduced in Tuva. Khutuchen moge (Giant) title is to be assigned to a fivefold winner of absolute Tuva khuresh championships at the national cattle-breeders celebration Naadym, but on the condition that no less than 128 fighters participate. Chaan moge (Elephant) title in Tuva is awarded for three wins in a similar championship ans also for two, but on condition that the fighter previously was twice a vice-champion of absolute championship. Arzylyn moge (Lion) deserves a sportsman who at least once came first at such competitions or thrice got the third place there. Finally, Nachyn moge (Falcon) title is rewarded to athletes who once reached 2-4 place or twice took 5-8 place among 128 participants at khuresh competition in Naadym honor. The honorary titles are entitled according to an order of Tuva mayor, for every holder a special breastplate is produced – a locket and a certificate.
Sport costume of fighters is called “shodakh-shudakh” and traditionally consists of light shorts back-lined with soft leather and a shirt which has only sleeves linked by a narrow stripe of fabric at the back. Feet are in soft national shoes.
Khuresh opening ceremony from times eternal starts with special ritual dance “Devig” or “Ezir samy” (“Eagle dance”): “Devig – it is a demonstration of love and respect to native land, nation, it also reflects preparedness of a fighter to the upcoming fight and symbolizes dexterity and strength. Every fighter dances in his own way, showing individual capacities, beauty of arms and legs movement, demonstrates his build, “shodakh-shudakh”. During Devig the fighter must in the light dance improvise eagle movements. Devig impresses spectators a lot.
The most important khuresh contest is held in honor of national cattle-breeders celebration “Naadym”. The winner is awarded with an auto, the rest are rewarded by different prizes and sums of money.
Khuresh from ancient times has become a genuinely national and favorite sport of Tuvan nation. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is impossible to imagine Tuvan sport without khuresh, no national celebration is held without it. Hardly anywhere else in the world can be found a place where as many connoisseurs and experts of men single combat come together as in Tuva. Performances of famous fighters gather halls, stadiums. People create sagas, legends about their favorite athletes, ascribing them supra-natural qualities.
Tuvans say that khuresh fosters determination, will, bravery and discipline in people thanks to regular trainings, and also ability to accept and respect the competitor’s win and indulgence towards the less strong.
Among famous khuresh fighters can be called such names as Aias Mongush, Maadyr Mongush, Nachyn Mongush, Ai-Demir Mongush, Opanas Semis-ool, Andrei Khertekh and others.
If you are lucky to visit Tuva up to a national celebration, don’t miss the chance to take interest, evaluate, how Tuvan nation rests at tournaments, how they are sensitive and careful to their national heritage, just once visiting khuresh.