Kurash: a millennial tradition in the process of modernization


Kurash is one of the oldest traditional wrestling styles recorded in human history. According to researchers, this sport appeared on the territory of modern Uzbekistan at least 3,500 years ago.

Kurash is an Uzbek word meaning “to achieve a goal honestly”. This combat technique was once used in times of war to protect populations. Men displayed their mastery of kurash at weddings and feasts, as well as at local and national celebrations. Kurash is mentioned in many ancient literary and historical sources.

In Central Asia, the technique, tradition, rules and philosophy of kurash were transmitted orally from generation to generation, from fathers to their children. The first attempt to unify and codify this knowledge dates back to 1990.

Until then, kurash was not considered an independent sport, subject to specific rules and requirements. Many local athletes, trained in kurash as children, discovered a passion for sports in general and tried their hand at other disciplines, winning championships and world titles.

Komil Yusupov, the founder of modern kurash, also followed this path. An international sambo and judo champion, the Uzbek athlete was also a member of the former USSR Olympic judo team.

In 1980, after the death of his mother and the onset of health problems, Yusupov was forced to withdraw from the Moscow Olympics, where he was considered a favorite.

Far from being discouraged by the end of his professional sports career, Komil Yusupov turned his full attention to the transformation of national kurash into an international sports discipline, with the aim of including it in the program of the Olympic Games.

Yusupov began by drawing up a whole set of rules for kurash, analyzing the rules of various sports disciplines that were already in the Olympics. The regulations established by Yusupov made it possible to unify the thousand-year-old tradition of Kurash with the requirements of a modern sport.

He introduced the concept of weight class, codified the movements of kurash, proposed terminology based on 14 Uzbek words and established the duration of fights. He also designed the attire of athletes and referees, as well as various other attributes without which any modern sport would be hard to imagine.

The first international kurash competition took place in 1992, under the personal auspices of the President of Uzbekistan. This first tournament was dedicated to the memory of the great medieval commander Tamerlane. To date, more than 300 international competitions have already taken place in different regions of the world; Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and North America also host continental kurash championships.

On September 6, 1998, the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, hosted, on the initiative of Komil Yusupov, an international congress which brought together teams from 28 countries. The Congress unanimously decided to support Yusupov’s personal initiative and create a new international organization, the International Federation of Kurash. The Congress has also approved the international regulations of the kurash. For kurash lovers, this day marks the transformation of this popular pastime into an international sport.

Since 1998, confederations of kurash have officially emerged on 5 continents (in Africa, America, Europe, Asia and Oceania) and 136 national federations of kurash have been created.

In 2003, kurash was recognized as an Asian sport and was officially included in all continental games held in Asia. Kurash competitions have featured on the program of the Asian Summer Games, Asian Indoor Games, Asian Beach Games and Asian Martial Arts Games.

Today, efforts continue to include kurash in the competition program of the European Games and the Islamic Solidarity Games. The main objective is to include kurash in the program of the Summer Olympics.

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