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Martial arts

Dozens of martial arts are developing in Belarus, from Greco-Roman wrestling to Muay Thai and Capoeira.

The first clubs appeared in the early 20th century, mostly for Greco-Roman wrestling. Jakaŭ Čechaŭskoj of the Hrodzienskaja voblasć (best known as Jakuba or Ichadzhi) brought popularity with his seeming invincibility. His style, according to experts, was the closest to modern Greco-Roman wrestling. In 1918, the legendary wrestler became Vice-Chairman of the All-Russia Union of Wrestlers, and later headed Vseobuch, the Soviet administration for general military training.

Significant international successes came in the late 1950s, when Alieh Karavajeŭ became twice world champion; in 1960, he took Olympic gold in the under 57kg category.

Within just a few years Belarus (and the whole Soviet Union) had been swept up in a 'wave of medvedemania', thanks to Belarusian freestyle wrestler Aliaksandr Miadzviedź.

He became Olympic champion three times, won the World Championship seven times, and was nine-time Soviet champion.

Recent success has been connected, primarily, with Viciebsk’s Viačaslaŭ Janoŭski, who became Olympic champion in 1988, in Seoul (under 63.5 kg).

Muay Thai and kickboxing

After Belarus gained its independence, new kinds of martial arts began to gain in popularity, including Muay Thai and kickboxing. Thousands of young people now attend clubs, making Belarus a world centre in these arts. At international tournaments of the highest level, teams of wrestlers from Belarus usually enter the top three.

Many experts recognise that today’s Belarusian Muay Thai Championship is higher in level than the World Championship; it’s often the case that several world champions (across various weight categories) lay claims for the title of the country’s champion in one weight category.

The popularity of professional kickboxing has risen of late, connected, first of all, with the victories of Viciebsk’s Siarhiej Liachovič: the ‘White Wolf’. In 2006, he became the first (as yet, only) Belarusian World Professional Super Heavyweight Champion. Belarusian Alesia Hraf also became World Champion.

Every year, Belarus holds hundreds of competitions in combat sports, from classical national championships in Olympic disciplines, to show programmes and international professional tournaments in Muay Thai boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts.

Sports clubs in Belarus encourage young people in Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, Capoeira and other kinds of martial arts.

Wrestlers of Belarus

The country has more than twenty world champions in Muay Thai and kickboxing across various weight categories, including Andrej Kuliebin, who holds eight world championship belts, and nine-time world champion Dzmitryj Šakuta. Dzmitryj Valient, Dzianis Varaksa and Vitaĺ Hurkoŭ are also famous wrestlers. Seven-time world Muay Thai champion Aliaksiej Ihnašoŭ, the ‘Red Scorpion’, won the К-1 project in the early 2000s. Thanks to these athletes, competitions in Muay Thai and kickboxing enjoy success in Belarus.

Another Belarusian, Andrej Arloŭski, the ‘Pit Bull’, performing in the USA, is also famous. Raised in Babrujsk and a graduate of the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he is Belarus’ world class sambo master. He competes for America and Belarus, underlining his birthplace. In 2005, he became World Champion at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the heavyweight category.

Moulding champions

Belarusian Muay Thai and kickboxing clubs, Chinuk and Kick Fighter, have already won glory among the best in Europe. They liaise with the best training centres in Thailand and, every year, new talent emerges, able to compete for the most prestigious titles.

The state renders all-round support to teams competing in Olympic martial arts sports, helping fund training, and costs involved in attending competitions.