What Makes Russian Wrestlers Excel & Dominate?

We all know Russian wrestlers are known to be excellent and tough in the arena but what makes them excel?

Hardship is one of the strongest driving forces that push Russian wrestlers and forces them to emerge as victors and dominate the arena.

This question was posed to an acquaintance who has had experience training alongside Russian wrestlers and mixed martial artists and is well acquainted with life in Russia and his response was:

Russia Pride and Patriotism Mentality

The mentality from which they approach training itself is different compared to other fighters I have seen. There is huge pride and patriotism for their motherland and they take it very seriously, almost a matter of life and death, and imbue that mentality into their training.

Russia All-Rounded Training

For the training itself, the wrestlers focus on developing themselves in multiple areas of discipline as opposed to just focusing on wrestling itself. There is a huge emphasis on body flexibility and honing that via gymnastic practices, to build an endurable wrestler who will not be ‘torn’ in the arena due to injuries. It also provides greater grappling ability which gives way to powerful execution. From what I have seen, they focus a lot on developing whole-body strength through activities that might seem unrelated to wrestling yet it subtly gives them an upper edge - activities like swimming, rope climbing, and functional strength training.

Russia No Second Chance 

There are no second chances and the possibility of failing is not an option in Russia.

That in and of itself has great sway over their minds and life. The country itself has gone through massive hardships in the past and that in a way, seems to Harden the fighters much more in a primal way compared to coming up in a relatively comfortable environment. Having had to survive wars, the Gulags, and a difficult brutish life honestly gives them a big edge and of course, many of the current fighters and wrestlers have not encountered it personally yet it influences their psyche and plays a significant role. Life is still difficult for those from impoverished regions and it adds fuel to their fire to hone themselves and be the absolute best because it does or die. 

One of the best Russian wrestlers (9-times world champion and 3-times Olympic gold medalist), Aleksandr Karelin, was known to rely on straightforward hard work by training 6 days a week on weights like Zercher deadlift and running in the snow, besides his typical wrestling moves. 

Russia has always been in the spotlight for various things, ranging from trivialities to global complexities. Yet it has always retained a mystique about it despite having been in the spotlight and that makes prying eyes want to pry harder. In the context of fighting, Russian fighters in general - be it in mixed martial arts, boxing, or wrestling - carry a certain aura around them that undeniably makes them stand apart. Many theories are floating around, such as special genetics and a harsh living environment, as to why Russian fighters seem to excel and dominate in the arena. How much credence do these theories hold? That is unclear although one cannot deny that there might be elements of truth embedded in it.

In the world of fighting sports, there has been a lot of focus on techniques and styles yet the mentality of a fighter that propels him is something that does not yet receive sufficient attention, especially for a group like these wrestlers. Not to mention, for a long time, Russia has always been portrayed as a villain in movies and the media and this too seeps into the consciousness of the masses who lap that up and then treat these fighters as though they are demonic superhuman beings when in reality they are regular humans forged in the crucible of hardship.

Martial arts enthusiast & loves exploring all of life before it all ends!
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