National games

Long-long time ago, national games and competitions were the favorite amusement in Kyrgyz land. No special events passed without it.

A horse is man’s wings
At Chabysh - Long-Distance Races
Dzorgosalysh - Pacer's Races
Kok-boru or Ulak tartysh
Oodarysh - Wrestling on Horseback
Kuresh – waist wrestling
Tyin enmey – picking up coin off the ground
Kyz-Kuumai - Chasing After the Bride
Kyz dzharysh - Girls and Young women’s Races
Jumby Atmai - Shooting at the target while galloping
Upai
Falconry
The Chaban Festival

A horse is man’s wings
To the Kyrgyz, a horse is a prized possession, and horsemanship a much-prized skill.
Perhaps, therefore, it is not surprising that among the most popular national pastimes, or sports) are contests on horseback.
The relationship between a man and his horse is praised in the heroic epic poem «Manas» — The mighty hero, Manas, resembles a tower built of silver and his snow-white steed Ak-Kula carries him swiftly over the mountain tops. The horse looks like a bird hovering over the sharp peaks of the mountains.
Chinghiz Aitmatov's novel «Farewell Gulsary» tells a touching story of the of the relationship between a horse (a pacer) and his owner as the old man reflects on events in their shared life as the horse lies dying.
Kyrgyz horses possess such qualities as lightness and good coordination (essential in the mountains). They are exceptionally hearty, will eat almost anything, and are not susceptible to sudden changes of weather. They can endure long-distance marches with the rider. For these reasons Kyrgyz ponies were prized possessions even further a field in Russia and Europe in the past. Top

At Chabysh - Long-Distance Races
Long-distance races are an ancient and widespread sport. Fast and hearty horses capable of enduring long-distance are chosen for the race.
Experienced trainers prepare yearlings for a race called «tai chabysh» and one-and-a-half year old foals run in the «kunan chabysh» race. When the animals become three years old they are entered into the competitions proper.
Previously «Aht-chabysh» races were held on different occasions, usually in connection with some holiday or commemorative festival. The winner (or its owner) was given some jewelry and cattle as a reward. Horses of various breeds and ages took part in the races. Each trainer had his own methods of preparing the racer for the competition. The distance was 53 versts (1 versta - 1,066 km), later on 100 kilometers. Moreover the riders were quite often boys of 10-13 years of age, sometimes riding without a saddle.
According to current rules, only horses three years old and older of any breed are admitted to the races. The riders «minimal age must be not less than 13. The distance ranges from 4 to 50 kilometers. Top

Dzorgosalysh - Pacer's Races
Amble (laterally gaited) is a rapid double tempo pace. The pacer swings the right front and right hind legs forward at the same time. Experts consider «dzorgo» to be a great merit of a horse. These horses demonstrate not only speed but also gracefulness. The Kyrgyz people have many proverbs and sayings related to the pacer, such as: «Don’t let your horse run beside a pacer.» Top

Kok-boru or Ulak tartysh
Wrestling on Horseback for a Goat’s Carcass - kok-boru or ulak tartysh mean «grey wolf». Apparently, the original game came historically developed in antiquity when herds of cattle grazed in the steppes and mountains all year round, exposed to possible attacks by wolves.
Having no firearms, the shepherds could not deal with wolves. Brave djigits (horse riders) chased after the wolves until the beasts of prey fell, then they began beating them with sticks and lashes, trying to snatch them away from each other.
Later on when the people led a more settled life «kok-boru» was replaced by ulak-tartysh. There are two teams, consisting of an equal number of riders. The playing ground is 300 meters long and 150 meters wide. The opposite sides of this area, marked with flags, present symbolically «the gates». In the center of the playing ground a carcass of a goat, weighing on an average of 30-40 kilograms, is placed. One game is 15 minutes long. The objective of the game is to seize the goat’s carcass and deliver it into the gates of the contesting team.
The players are allowed to pick up the carcass from any place within the limits of the field, take it from their rivals, pass or fling it over to the partners, carry it pressed to the horse’s side or suspended between the horse’s legs.
During the course of the game some unlikely, unforeseen and ad hoc alliances may be formed among the participants. These alliances are usually short-lived, dissolving in the rapid fluidity of the competition as quickly as they are established. So one moment brothers may be vying for the honor of becoming the new champion, whilst old rivals can be seen aiding each other. All this fosters fast-thinking teamwork that is absolutely vital under actual combat conditions (which the game very realistically simulates).
The rules forbid rearing the horse, making your horse collide with a rival’s at a high speed, seizing the rivals horse by the bridle, taking the reins off of it, including blows with a whip, or shouting or entering into conversation with one’s opponent. Top

Oodarysh - Wrestling on Horseback
It is one of the most popular games. Two riders try to pull each other off the horseback. It is allowed to throw the rival together with his horse. The time given for wrestling is 10 minutes. The rider who manages to pull the rival off his horse or throw him down together with the horse wins the competition. The rules allow the player to seize the rival by his sash or arms, by his torso, to press his knees or feet against the trunk of the rival`s horse. Top

Kuresh – waist wrestling
Kuresh – one of the most popular types of national sport in Kyrgyzstan. Wrestlers (aged 16 and over) stand in a circle, approach each other and place their hands onto waist area of another wrestler. On a judge’s sign fight begins. It is allowed to use any tactics as long as the hands do not get misplaced or get unattached from the opponents’ waists. The winner will be the wrestler who manages to put down his opponent to the floor on his both shoulder blades. Duration of the fight is 4 minutes for youngsters and 6 minutes for adults. Top





Tyin enmey – picking up coin off the ground
Overall length of the distance from start to finish is no more than 100 metres. Tyin – the coin is located on a clean smooth surface, marked in white sand or sawdust, 50-60 metres away from the starting line. That is the coin that should be picked up by the participant. The participant will ride up to a starting line and on the judge’s sign, he should ride at not below the gallop pace. In a case where the participant goes into a slow pace or a horse comes into a halt at the moment of reaching out for the coin, the result would not be taken into consideration, neither there will be given a second chance for another round. The competition will be timed from start to finish. If the rider falls off the horse, he should get back on it and get to the finishing line. Otherwise he will be withdrawn from the game. Each participant is allowed 3 rounds. The victory will be awarded to the one who will manage to pick up the coin as many times as possible. Top





Kyz-Kuumai - Chasing After the Bride
The man has to catch up the girl and kiss her. Otherwise she could beat him with a whip.
One of the most interesting horse games is kyz kuumai (chasing after the bride). In olden days this game was a part of the wedding ritual.
According to the rules the bride was given the best racer and she was entitled to a head start on her horse that began the race. The bridegroom set out in pursuit to catch up with her, in this way proving his love and right to marry her. Being at a disadvantage with the slower horse the bridegroom sometimes failed to catch up with up with his fiancee. Yet, although she might beat him with her Kamchi (or horse-whip) she did not reject him and the wedding would be held all the same. It’s the very beautiful game: they both wear bright national clothes, they rush on horses as wind and he tries to reach her with warlike clamors…
At present this traditional folk game is usually held during holidays for example in the green meadows of high mountain pastures, (zailoo) or on racecourses. Top




Kyz dzharysh - Girls and Young women’s Races
A Kyrgyz woman learns to ride a horse in her childhood in the highlands, where there are severe winters and deep snows, where flocks of sheep are driven up and down steep slopes of mountains or across turbulent foaming rivers, and where one cannot do without a horse.
It is possible to make out the difference between the girl and women riders by their headdresses. Girls put on hats with a wide marten trimming while young women wear pretty kerchiefs. Top

Jumby Atmai - Shooting at the target while galloping
«Jumby» in Kyrgyz means an ingot of silver or other jewelry on a thread tied to an inclined pole. The contestant has to break the thread with a shot and bring the jumby down. Originally, the contestant used a bow and arrow that was replaced by firearms over the course of time.
Besides the games we have named there are several other games, such as picking up coins from the ground while galloping («Tyin enmei»), falconry on horseback (with falcons or eagles) for foxes, wolves and pheasants. Top

Upai
Upai – it is a traditional game with bones from the sheep knee joints (chuko).
This traditional Kyrgyz game can be played indoors as well as outdoors. Most preferable place is the floor covered by a felt carpet – alah kyiiz. Players play in two teams of 2, 4 or more members. The quantity of chuko (bones) necessary for the game can vary from 13 up to 37 and more, but it is important, that the total chuko correspondent to the rule: the total should be divided by 3 without the remainder and plus 1.
Every 3 chuko make up a collection, a set, called "upai" or "basym". The purpose of the game is to collect it is as many upai as possible (sets from 3 bones). Top

Falconry
Hunting with the golden eagle is an ancient tradition that dates back to the Mongol conquest of Central Asia around the 12th and 13th centuries, when a fine eagle and good horse cost similarly and were the main indicators of their owner’s wealthy. Centuries have passed but in Kyrgyzstan there are still nomads who hunt with eagles and ride specially trained horses. Eagle hunters here are called “berkutchi”. Kyrgyz people are experts in training eagles for hunting.
Yet training eagles takes a lot of time (3-4 years), it should be done by one person, and requires constant daily application. When the golden eagle is still a chick, the trainer personally feeds it and speaks to it so that the tone of his voice is imprinted in the animal's mind. Later on, the eagle is able to distinguish human voices and will obey only voice of his master. When the eagle is almost an adult, the trainer shows it the hides and furs of the animals it must hunt so that it becomes used to the smell and characteristics of the prey; all this is done with special commands.
Sent out to bunt fawns, foxes, or other small animals, the eagle dives down on them and kills them. But often it is also capable of killing young wolves when they cannot negotiate the deep snow. Sometimes the eagles hunt in fairs, just as they do in the natural state. Top

The Chaban Festival

A gathering of farmers, herdsmen etc. for games. The location and timing tends to vary from year to year depending upon harvest and other work requirements. Sometimes called a «Kyrgyz Rodeo».
Every guest of our beautiful land can enjoy and even take part in it. Top

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