Forms of traditional or folk wrestling can be found in all regions of the world. They are the expression of the ancestral cultures upon which our modern societies were built. Wrestling has always played an important role in the civilizations' everyday life by being tightly connected to myths, military activities, religious and political rites, and festivities. Wrestling contests are still held in numerous countries at times of national celebrations, farm work (sowing, harvest, etc.), baptisms, engagements, weddings, or funerals. Contests are generally held outdoors on village squares, clearings, or special arenas and take place on sand, clay, sawdust, grass, snow, or even on hard surfaces. Traditional wrestling endows countless variations and can be practised on horses, with oil-coated skin, with the use of fixed or loose belts, and in different uniforms, such as leather pants in Turkey, tunics in Georgia, drawers and doublets with heavy leather boots in Mongolia, or colourful ritual sets in Africa.
FILA gave itself for mission to protect this cultural heritage by identifying the various forms of wrestling and by giving them appropriate visibility through the publication of books (The Roots of Wrestling by Professor Raïko Petrov published in 2004) and presentations/lectures during the Traditional Wrestling Festivals held every other year. FILA also bring administrative and logistic support to the regional, national, and international federations with whom partnership agreements were sealed. To date, cooperation agreements were signed with:
In addition to the recognition and promotion of the various wrestling styles, it appeared essential to FILA to allow athletes from the different countries to compete on the international level under unified rules and to give them access to the official multisport games. A set of international traditional wrestling rules was therefore published by FILA to offer a neutral ground around four variations: on the mat with and without belt and on the sand with and without belt. Rules are deliberately simple in order to encourage fast and high-intensity matches and allow easy understanding from the public and media. The FILA World Wresltng Games take place every other year and include the World Championships of the various associated styles.
In 2010, traditional belt wrestling was added to the program of the SportAccord World Combat Games and FILA is actively working towards the inclusion of the four styles in other Games and Festivals.