Georgia’s ‘chidaoba’ wrestling joins UNESCO heritage list

Combining elements of wrestling, music, and dance, chidaoba has played an important role in Georgia’s social and cultural life over the centuries and remains popular throughout the country.

Friendly fight: Young Chidaoba wrestlers train in a sports hall in Tbilisi on November 25, 2018.   -  AFP

A centuries-old form of Georgian traditional wrestling called chidaoba on Thursday won recognition from UNESCO as a global cultural asset. The United Nations cultural and scientific agency announced at a meeting in Mauritius it had added the ex-Soviet country’s martial art to its list of intangible cultural heritage.

The small mountainous country, rich in culture and history, already has listings for its three alphabets, polyphonic singing and a unique winemaking technique using pottery jars stored underground.

At a meeting in Mauritius, UNESCO also announced the inclusion of Korean wrestling and reggae music in its register of intangible culture that is worthy of protection and promotion.

Wrestling, music, dance

Descriptions of chidaoba techniques and codes of chivalry for champions appear in ancient Georgian manuscripts. Combining elements of wrestling, music, and dance, chidaoba has played an important role in Georgia’s social and cultural life over the centuries and remains popular throughout the country. It was an essential part of training for Georgia’s army in the 13th century but by the late Middle Ages, it had lost any combat function and tournaments were held as festive events in rural and urban communities.

A chidaoba match lasts for five minutes. Photo: AFP

 

The tournaments are accompanied by traditional music instruments and usually end with wrestlers performing folk dances.

Read | IOC to decide on the future of boxing in Olympics

A match lasts for five minutes, during which wrestlers wearing traditional high-necked woollen coats try to defeat their opponent using various holds. The winner is determined by the number of points he gains and how often the fighter pins his opponent to the ground. Intentional kicks, offensive blows, using holds on a felled opponent, and creeping up on an adversary who is kneeling in a defensive position are all forbidden.

Chidaoba skills are passed from generation to generation in many families as well as at specialised schools and almost every small village has its own chidaoba club.