December 21, Astana – TV and radio broadcasting complex Kazmedia Center hosted Altyn Tugyr 2022, an award ceremony that aims to recognize the best athletes across nine traditional Kazakh games: sadak atu, zhamby atu, tenge ilu, togyzkumalak, kokpar, assyk atu, kusbegilik, audaryspak, and baigue.
The games are not only seeing a revival in Kazakhstan but recognition abroad as well, insiders told a correspondent of QazMonitor. They revealed that the interest in the Kazakh-style sports come from a modern standpoint, whether it is about equality or machine learning.
Commenting on the appeal of sadak atu (traditional archery), the vice president of the sport’s republican federation, Dias Akhmetov said that it is one of the few competitions that does not have standard physical requirements for athletes.
Strength or even vision – these things don’t matter all that much in archery. There’s no difference between men and women. It’s the only sport that can have a 72-year-old competing with a 20-year-old!
He also pointed out that the interest stems from the fact that Kazakh people were once known as fine marksmen, or mergens.
People have more opportunities now to learn traditional archery thanks to regional branches and hobbyist clubs that are popping up all over the country.
According to Akhmetov, even though the federation does not restrict equipment made out of non-traditional materials, they try to encourage the use of wooded bows without scopes or any other modern equipment.
The turn-based strategy board game of togyzkumalak (nine pebbles) is enjoying quite a bit of popularity not only in Kazakhstan but also abroad in Europe and Latin America, says the executive director of the game’s republican federation Serik Aktayev.
“When we say ‘national sport’ abroad, we think that it’s [only] our diaspora that plays it. In fact, it’s [usually] other nationalities who enjoy the game,” said Aktayev.
He went on to say that the game’s appeal may lie in the fact that the algorithms have not been perfected by artificial intelligence, as in other strategy games, such as chess, go, or checkers. This means the human player can still win against the computer in togyzkumalak.
Zhamby atu takes archery and turns up the difficulty level by adding horseback riding. According to chief trainer Yeldos Badashev, this distinct Kazakh style has already been adopted in official competitions by other countries.
“We represented our style at the World Championship in South Korea and some countries were already using our style and rules at the competitions. Soon, for example, there will be a competition in the Republic of South Africa in January and they’ll have [competitions in] the Kazakh style,” said Badashev.
Among the countries where horseback archery is developed, the trainer particularly noted Hungary and its Némethy Horseback Archery Academy. During the pandemic, specialists from Hungary even conducted online lessons for athletes in Kazakhstan.
In togyzkumalak, the winners were Asel Daliyeva and Galymzhan Temirbayev.
Bakdaulet Babazhan took home the award for his skill in hunting with a golden eagle in the traditional falconry category. Tanat Ospankulov and Beksultan Seitzhan were also recognized for their mastery over hunting with a saker falcon and a northern goshawk, respectively.
Shyngys Yerzhanov was pronounced the winner in horseback fighting under the 70 kg weight class, while Daniyar Smailov is the champion in the weight class of under 90 kg.
Award in the tenge ilu category has gone to Baydibek Sabyrov. Yerelkhan Aikoz took first place in horseback archery, and Ulan Omarov distinguished himself in baigue, or the traditional horse races.
Kasymkhan Kanat was recognized for his skills in traditional archery. The national teams in kokpar and assyk atu have been awarded for their participation in the World Nomad Games 2022 and the Asian championship, respectively.