Ancient Armenian “Kokh” Wrestling

Ancient Armenian “Kokh” WrestlingThe Armenian wrestling style “Kokh” is regarded as one of the oldest forms of wrestling. The ancient history of this national combat sport is confirmed and attested by numerous travelers to Armenia. First of all, the Persians “touched” the style in the early years of their contact with Armenians.

Armenian wrestling was famed in the ancient world as well. Armenian King Trdat III (250 – 330 AD) himself becoming an Olympic Champion in wrestling at the 265th Olympiad in 281 AD. Kokh has also been a common tradition during weddings, with two fighters wrestling from the sides of the bride and groom.

Illustrations of Kokh can be seen on the walls of the medieval Armenian Cathedral of Akhdamar. French investigator Henry Chardin also wrote about Kokh during the Middle Ages.

In the years of the USSR, Kokh began to fade out of usage, though it would be practiced in the rural areas of Armenia up until at least 1988. Today, only modest attempts are made to preserve this combat sport in Armenia. It should be mentioned that the popular Soviet combat system Sambo was heavily influenced by the Armenian Kokh wrestling.

There are two main types of Kokh – Lori Kokh and Shirak Kokh. The main difference between these two styles is the grabbing rules and outfit. In Shirak Kokh, wrestlers perform topless, wearing only traditional Armenian pants. Apart from that, they are allowed to grab the legs of the opponent. In Lori Kokh, wrestlers wear traditional robes and are required to grab the opponent’s dress to do throws or push them out.

To win, the athlete needs to throw the opponent on his back (thus performing the “kokh” move) without turning him and/or boosting. The victor is also required to hold down the opponent to the ground by pressing with the knee. Pushing the opponent out of the 7 – 9-meter wrestling mat also leads to winning.

There are no time limits in Kokh, though fights usually last between 5 and 10 minutes. Every fight commences with a ceremonial warm-up dance that must last at least half a minute. Armenian folk music always accompanies the fight. Lastly, the rules require the victor to perform a traditional victory dance at the request of the public, participants, and judges.

Ancient Armenian Wrestling Kokh (ԿՈԽ) – Folk Song

Sources:

[1] Green, ed. by Thomas A. (2001). Martial arts of the world: en encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 718. ISBN 9781576071502.

[2] (Russian) Tyshler, edited by F.P Suslov, D.A. (2001). “Кох (Kokh)”. Terminologiia sporta : tolkovyĭ slovarʹ sportivnykh terminov : okolo 9500 terminov. Moscow: “SportAkademPress”. pp. 480. ISBN 5-8134-0047-8.

[3] Wolfgang Decker, Wolfgang x (2007). Festschrift für Wolfgang Decker zum 65. Geburtstag. Hildesheim: Weidmann. p. 224. ISBN 9783615003406.

[4] Countries and Territories of the World: Volume II – Middle East & The Caucasus. p. 582

[5] (Armenian) Ispiryan, Mikayel (1984). Մարզանունների բացատրական բառարան [Dictionary of Sports]. Yerevan: Hayastan. p. 68.


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