What is Mas Wrestling
Mas-wrestling is a traditional entho-sport originating from the Sakha region of North -Eastern Russia. Sakha is a beautiful land, and it’s capital Yakutsk is the coldest major city in the world. The 2018 World Championships saw 200 athletes from 40 countries, including Australia, converge on the city, to compete in front of 5,000 Russian fans! Since 2014, a number of Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Islander athletes have competed internationally in the sport.
Athletes sit in front of each other, prop their feet against the jamb board that divides the competition arena, and pull on a short mas (stick).
Arnolds USA Mas Wrestling Competition Stage
Mas Wrestling is a very taxing sport and therefore a thorough warm up is required. Similar to warming up for a max deadlift, attention needs to be paid to hamstrings, glutes, hips and back. Belts are allowed but cannot be doubled up or larger than 10cm tall. I prefer a soft belt; a hard leather belt will dig into you, but it is personal preference. Knee sleeves are also allowed. Shoe preference is up to the individual however, I would suggest a flat sole similar to a converse or vans which will give you a good feel of the board as you move. Lifted shoes are allowed however it puts you in a disadvantageous position making you easier to pull over.
I’ll keep these rules very simple but if you want to go into full detail go to https://maswrestlingaustralia.com/.
Rules are very simple
- Heels must be touching the ground until the referee says “che”
- All hands must be a finger distance part
- The Mas cannot be turned more than 90 degrees, if the athlete does, they will receive a warning. If they do it again, they will lose the round.
- The Mas cannot be pushed against either side of the board to use as leverage.
- The Athlete cannot touch the end caps with any part of their body, if the athlete does, they will receive a warning. If they do it again, they will lose the round.
- you must pull the stick out of the other athlete’s hands
- pull them off balance so both their feet leave the board whilst you maintain at least one foot on,
- pull the athlete over entirely
- pull the athlete so that their knee or elbow touches the board.
Mas-wrestling is open to all male and female strength athletes and contested in weight divisions:
Men’s Weight Divisions
Women's Weight Divisions
- weight categories with 2 or less athletes merged with next higher weight category;
- weight categories with 3-5 athletes conducted in round robin format; and
- weight categories with 6 or more athletes conducted in double elimination format.
Top 10 Strategy Tips
This is my top 10 tips for Mas Wrestling, they get progressively more advanced, so make sure you know the basics first. Although these are techniques that are relatively widely accepted, you may change your technique based on your strategy to best beat your opponent. The great thing about Mas Wrestling is the lighter and/or weaker athlete can win if they have better technique and strategy. Although I make suggestions as to which technique or strategy you may prefer, I would recommend trying both and find out which works best for you.
1. Inside or outside grip
The red side will be given first choice of if they would like to go outside or inside grip. It’s a rough rule of thumb that strong dead lifters like the inside grip and more dynamic Mas Wrestlers prefer the outside. Keep this in mind when you are choosing as you may chose the grip your opponent prefers just so they cannot. If you chose the inside grip you will have the choice to change your hand grip based on what your opponent chooses. As a simple rule, if your opponent chooses their left-hand palm facing up means they will be more comfortable turning the Mas to the right.
2. Fight for position
This is the most important tip for beginners. Once both athletes have gripped the Mas, before the Ref says “Che” (go), you need to be pulling 80% and fighting for position. If there is not sufficient tension this can lead to jerking which is where injuries can happen. The example I give is you don’t try to catch you max deadlift from a loose position, you build tension on the platform just before you lift. It is the same with Mas Wrestling, you need to be pulling before you start but maintaining the Mas over the centre of the board.
3. Starting Position
The Mas still needs remain over the centre of the board until the Ref is ready, but the Mas doesn’t need to be perfectly horizontal. It can slightly angled depending on which way you want to go or if you are trying to trick your opponent by making them think you will go a certain way. You can either start with your bum flat on the ground or you can be slightly angled to build more tension either left or right. People with strong deadlifts tend to prefer the flat bum method and dynamic wrestlers start on their side so they are ready to move.
Side position (note the red athlete foot is outside of the line before “Che” which is illegal)
Strong deadlift position (blue)
4. Walking the board
The most effective way of pulling the other athlete off balance is moving along the board. This may open up an opponent’s weak point which you can use to win the round. To walk the board, you need to be pulling hard and slightly lean in the opposite direction you wish to go as this will free up the desired leg to move. Walking the board can put you at a momentarily disadvantage so it is recommended that any movements are made with a purpose of winning the round off of it.
To counter your opponent walking the board, it is generally accepted that you counter by going the opposite direction. This will keep you and your opponent in a straight line which is the best defensive position.
6. Feet higher
To get better leverage, after the round has begun you can position your feet higher on the board. This allows you to put your mass at a slight decline making it harder to pull you over. When walking the board, you may want to put one foot higher on the board and one lower to create more tension in your twist.
Pancaking is a good defensive position if you know you cannot overpower your opponent. You do this by allowing your back to fold over your legs. This sounds worse than how it feels. In this position you are using your leverages to fight the opponents pull and using your grip to hold onto the Mas. This technique can be done to tire your opponent particularly if you think they will not have the stamina to finish the match. Once you see/feel a weak point (normally you can feel it in the tension of the Mas or their breathing) you can move to an offensive position and try to finish the match. Keep in mind this technique is somewhat of a last resort as if may tire your grip out for future matches.
8. Twisting of the Mas
The Russians work a lot of technique to twisting and turning the Mas to try to loosen their opponents grip. Think of turning the throttle on a motorbike and making sharp turns. This may be something you bring out in a long match to try to finish it as to not wear yourself out for future opponents.
This is a highly technical move and requires you to pull yourself up which will pull up your opponent as seen in the photo below. As you can see the Russians feet are high on the board giving him more leverage.
The best way to counter it, is to bend your knees more allowing you to get closer to the board which should drop the opponent.
10. Playing dirty
Some people like to play dirty before the match begins by trying to loosen your grip before you start. They do this particularly if they get second choice of grip, they will jolt forward to grab the stick and use your grip to keep them in place. They also wait a long time whilst the first athlete is holding the stick out for them to grab. The first-choice athlete may also not put the stick in the middle of the board to start with to try to get the opponent to grab the stick in a disadvantageous position. I’m not a fan of these however I thought I would mention them in case you come across it. If your opponent is doing any of these just take your time and don’t play into their games. A good ref will call them on it if you alert them to it.
Training Mas Wrestling
Mas Wrestling is best trained with partners of similar strength and size, however if that is available then I use bands that are wrapped around an axle bar which is put behind a squat rack. I then position a Mas Board or plank of similar size wood against the other side of the squat rack. (See picture to right) You can train static holds for your grip or practice moving along the board or pulling out of your starting position.
Supplemental training to support mas-wrestling includes barbell exercises designed to strengthen the back, hamstrings and grip. These exercises may include deadlift variations (such as deficit or rack deadlifts), various rowing movements, good mornings and grip exercises. These exercises are probably already part of your current strength training program which is what makes Mas Wrestling a great sport to do in addition to strongman, powerlifting, crossfit etc.
Mas Wrestling gym in Russia