Irkutsk
Ulan-Ude

Blagoveshchensk
Chita
Yakutsk

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Vladivostok
Khabarovsk

Magadan
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Anadyr
Petropavlovsk-
Kamchatsky
Moscow

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Fight with the Yakut flavor

Sakha traditional sport grows warriors and Olympic champions

According to ancient legends, the inhabitants of Yakutia selected the strongest and most enduring boys and sent them to special training in order to raise real warriors. Each of those selected had to learn how to fight without weapons. To master this skill, future boat tours were taught the wisdom of the national struggle - hapsagai. Now it is recognized worldwide.

Fight with the Yakut flavor
Photo: courtesy of Andrian Zakharov

The Way of the Warrior

“Hapsagai” is literally translated into Russian as “dexterous”, “fast”. It is these qualities, and not strength and power, that are central to wrestlers. The essence of the hapsagai is that the opponent touches the carpet with any part of the body, except the feet. The exception is only touching one hand - in this case, the wrestler receives a penalty and loses one point.

“Accidental, inadvertent touching with one hand, two hands or any other part of the body is considered a loss. Any inaccuracy, carelessness threaten defeat. In the old days, the one who touched the ground with his finger was also considered defeated, even if he accidentally stumbled. Hapsagai rules are strict and leave an imprint on the technique and tactics of national wrestling, ”says Andrian Zakharov, specialist at the Yakut Republican Center for National Sports named after Manchaara.

In the hapsagai any captures are allowed for any part of the body except the fingers and toes. In the arsenal of wrestlers - sweeps, running boards, twists, hooks, snatches, snatches, replants and throws. The wrestlers have a lot more tricks than equipment - only shorts are needed for a duel. In ancient times they were made from the soft skin of a moose, now the material is not important.


If two adroit fighters converge on the carpet, the duel can last a very long time. Cases are known where meetings lasted for several hours intermittently and continued the next day. Previously, the place for the hapsagay was a large clearing covered with grass, now fights are carried out on a wrestling mat with a diameter of ten meters.

“The works of the Yakut heroic epos Olonkho vividly describe the victories of the god Tyrya from the middle world over representatives of the“ dark force ”using the methods of fighting the hapsagai. This example suggests that in ancient times, ancient warriors underwent some training in the study of hapsagai techniques and successfully used them in various battles, ”notes Andrian Zakharov.


Honor and meat

The main event, where the wrestlers, who in ancient times were called daadars, could compete in the hapsagai, was the national holiday Ysyakh. Famous heroes always gathered there. They came to the place of competition covered with a blanket from the skins of a bull. On command, they dropped them and ran to the middle of the circle. The rules of the fight were discussed before the fight, the most respected elder became the judge.

According to legend, on the first Ysyakh the hero Bert Hara even tore off the arm of one of the rivals. Popular in Yakutia is the story of how the old warrior Tihiken Bege entered into battle with the robber brothers Ilgiela and Inerche. First, Inerce defeated, and then during the fight he killed his brother Ilgiela, furious from losing.

In addition to Ysyakh, wrestlers could measure strength and dexterity at weddings of noble families, during the autumn ice fishing or during horse races. The winner received honor and respect, as well as a valuable prize. Often the heroes were handed a muse - boiled stallion femur with meat in the upper part. There were other options for the awards, so the Russian revolutionary, folklorist and ethnographer Ivan Khudyakov, who had served a link in Verkhoyansk from 1867 to 1876 years, described that an insulting cookie stained with earth was shown to the loser, and a cup of koumiss or vodka was poured into the winner, and they also sang a song in his honor.



Fight for everyone

Actively engage in hapsagay as a sport, the inhabitants of Yakutia began the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. In 1932, the first official competitions in this type of wrestling took place. In 1955, hapsagai rules came out, which divided the wrestlers into four weight categories.



Hapsagai originally meant fighting for men, but he was addicted to children and women. During the Great Patriotic War, competitions were held among the fair sex. In 1944, 86 women took part in the competition. A year later, the Mountain Ulus Championship was held, which brought together 59 participants. In the same year, the first championship of Yakutia among men took place, but only four athletes took part in it.


“There was even a variant of the rules of the struggle, according to which a pure victory was awarded for a throw on the back, on the stomach, on the side and in the sitting position, and other touches on the ground. The points system of the award of victory was usually applied only in official competitions. Competitions were held on public holidays by agreement and points were not counted, ”explains Andrian Zakharov.

Hapsagay group fights - Homagur Hapsagay - are now developing. In this form, the struggle is in the format “wall to wall” of three or five people in a team.


Way to the Olympics

Hapsagai helped raise famous freestyle wrestlers, sambo wrestlers and judokas. Hapsagai’s similarity to freestyle wrestling became a springboard for athletes from Yakutia to achieve high results in all-Russian, international competitions and even at the Olympic Games.

“In the 1972 year at the Olympics in Munich, the Yakut wrestler Roman Dmitriev won gold, and after four years at the Olympic Games in Montreal, three Yakut wrestlers climbed the podium at once: Pavel Pinigin won gold, and Alexander Ivanov and Roman Dmitriev won silver. They were pupils and students of the great and ingenious coach Dmitry Petrovich Korkin, who laid the elements of the hapsagai wrestling in the basis of free-style wrestling. He understood that the result can be achieved by using a kind of technique that is unique to the hapsagai fight, ”notes Andrian Zakharov.

Until now, many freestyle wrestling trainers in Yakutia use hapsagai elements to prepare athletes of different ages for competitions.



International recognition

In October 2010, the hapsagai were admitted to the World Organization of United Struggles. The World Federation of Unified Wrestling Styles (FILA) and the Association of Folk Games and National Sports of Yakutia “Sakhaada-Sport” signed an agreement according to which hapsagay became the same recognized type of wrestling as the Tatar sidekick, Kazakh corez, sambo and alish. Now fans of this sport are creating an All-Russian and International Hapsagai Wrestling Federation.

Despite the fact that there is no international hapsagay federation yet, competitions in this sport have long gone beyond Yakutia and Russia. The championship and championship on hapsagai wrestling is held annually in Mongolia, this year the Asian Hapsagay Cup was held for the first time, in which, in addition to the Russians, representatives of Mongolia and South Korea took part.

In 2011, this sport aroused great interest of the Benin Wrestling Federation. Its president officially announced that he was ready to make his federation a base center for the cultivation of hapsagai fighting in Africa. Since 2016, this sport has been included in the competitive program of the international sports games "Children of Asia".