The festival was held on February 1, drawing tens of thousands of visitors. More than 100 wrestlers in Thua Thien-Hue province competed in two categories of age: adult and teenage.
According to legend, the wrestling festival in the village of Lai An, also known as Sinh, has existed for over 500 years. It is considered the greatest and oldest martial arts festival in Southern Vietnam.
Annually, after Tet (the lunar New Year Holidays), on January 10 of the lunar calendar, the villagers in Sinh Village are eager to open the festival and they build a wrestling ring on a high rectangular piece of land in front of the village’s communal house. The wrestling arena is surrounded by ropes.
It is the place of the imperial capital of Hue so there are many talented martial arts masters. To highlight the sporting spirit and prevent wrestlers who are bent on winning at any cost, the rules clearly state that wrestlers are forbidden to use dangerous blows, such as pinioning, twisting and locking joints, head butting, pressing points on the human body, grabbing hair, attacking below the belt or eye gouging.
To begin the festival young wrestlers are allowed to compete first and then wrestlers from other places can compete. Each competition is controlled by two referees, one observing the competitors in the wrestling ring and the other, who is a prestigious elder in the village, beating the drum.
The most unusual characteristic of the festival is that anyone attending the festival can participate in the wrestling competitions. For this reason, the festival attracts a large number of wrestlers of different ages.
Today, many female wrestlers also participate. Matches are held both in the morning and afternoon.
In the morning, competitors participate in the qualifying round and the wrestlers who beat their three rivals are selected for the semifinal that is held in the afternoon.
In this round, the competitors must also defeat three rivals for the final match. Before the final match, the wrestlers carry out a rite to worship the village’s genies and elders then listen carefully to the rules. For example, when the drum is beaten one time, the wrestlers must kneel down and greet each other. When the drum is beaten two times, the wrestlers start wrestling. When the drum is beaten three times, the wrestlers must separate from each other.
The rules also state that the wrestler who is lifted off the ground or falls on his back will lose the match. Each wrestler can only participate in a single match. If he is defeated, he must wait for next year’s festival. For this reason, the wrestlers try their best to show beautiful attacks and win. The winner of the festival is awarded a tray of betel and arecas, wine and money.
Besides the wrestling festival of Sinh Village, in Hue there is also a wrestling festival of Thu Le Village in Quang Phuoc Commune, Quang Dien District. For hundreds of years, the wrestling festivals in these villages have been preserved and developed. At present, these festivals not only attract the participation of wrestlers in Vietnam but also foreigners who visit Hue and want to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Dang Khoa