Growing up in the Tenyimia area (Tenyiphe 1) in Chümoukedima, Naga wrestling was a familiar sight to Yimkumsashi, who developed a deep love for the traditional sport from a young age. His father, a martial artist, often imparted self-defense skills to him and his siblings, while his mother, like all mothers, preferred he avoid physical confrontation, steering him towards Naga wrestling instead.

Yimkumsashi and his journey towards promoting Naga Wrestling within Ao Naga community

In 2012, he joined the Chakroma wrestling team and continued with the same team in 2014, 2018, and 2020. “These teams were like family to me,” Sashi reminisced.

Sashi’s proudest moment came in 2021 when he represented the Ao Naga community in the Naga Wrestling Open Championship. Subsequently, he was granted an opportunity by the Nagaland Wrestling Association (NWA) to participate in the national level belt wrestling championship held in Goa later that year.

“I may not have any laurels attached to my name, but the fact that I represented the Ao Naga community was my biggest achievement. I really wish the Ao Naga community also embraces this sport,” he said.

However, Sashi recalled the challenges he faced transitioning from a dancer to pursuing a wrestling career. It may be noted that he was a member of the dance crew Hebron Heartbreakers Nagaland and represented Nagaland at India’s Got Talent in 2011.

“To wrestle in Naga wrestling, you need to put on weight, but I was a dancer and often played basketball, so maintaining health was a challenge. So, I left all of it and decided to pursue a wrestling profession,” narrated Sashi.
The introduction of Naga Wrestling in Mokokchung on May 1, 2024, at Saringyim village, was Sashi’s personal initiative aimed at promoting the sport among the Ao Nagas.

“We may have played wrestling in the past, but I am unaware of any professional players from the Ao community, and I really wanted to promote the game to be embraced by our community as well,” he explained.

He also added that his aim was to affiliate with the Nagaland Wrestling Association (NWA), the governing body, which responded positively and guided him morally.

“Initially, I was taking care of the entire event by myself in collaboration with three Angami wrestlers. Later, when we approached our village council, Saringyim Village Council (Nokpu B), they welcomed and supported us wholeheartedly, and I am really grateful to them,” he said.

He expressed gratitude towards professional wrestler Keduovilie Zumu, two times international medalist, who served as a mentor during the event. Additionally, Keneiselie Khawakhrie, a national wrestler, took on the role of coach, with Medosalie Zumu as the Assistant coach.

He also said that ‘Kiyim Lanur’ had been the backbone in this endeavor. He further acknowledged Ex-MLA Tiameren who encouraged him to start this journey although he was alone while he also acknowledged the Saringyim Students’ Union for aiding him in ground management during the event. He said all the players who took part in the competition were fresh, for which they provided a two-day coaching. “I had a feeling the response would be good because during the coaching, from their faces, I could tell that they were excited and enthusiastic about the game,” he said.

The event attracted individuals aged 14 to 45, with even boys aged 11 to 12 joining in the excitement.

“The response was really good, and I am excited about organizing more such events in the future,” he said, urging all young and old in Mokokchung to come forward and take part in the event.

“I really wish to reach out and form a wrestling organization among the Ao community. I’ve been having discussions with some elders on how to take it forward where we assumed that perhaps hosting it in Mokokchung town will amplify its reach,” he said.

As for the NWA’s feedback post-event, Sashi revealed they were yet to convene, as officials were abroad. Nonetheless, he remained optimistic about future discussions with the NWA on how to proceed.

Naga wrestling
Wrestlers of the recently held ‘Open Naga Wrestling’ meet held in Saringyim Village, Mokokchung 

The recently held ‘Open Naga Wrestling’ meet held in Saringyim Village, Mokokchung had Toshimanen in first place, Akumtoshi in second place, and Imtinenba in third position.

Mokokchung Times


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