Turkish oil wrestling (also known as grease wrestling) is the national sport of Turkey. An annual event known as Kirkpinar holds the Guinness World record for the longest-running sports competition, having occurred since 1362. Over 2,000 wrestlers a year participate in this event. Kirkpinar was even recognized by UNESCO as a heritage event in 2010.
Competitors wear hand-stitched leather trousers called kisbets.
Wrestlers are covered in oil before the match as this makes it more difficult to gain a grip on your opponent. Turkish oil wrestling always uses olive oil and the quality of the oil is considered important.
As competitors are announced they do a sort of dance as they enter the field.
Wrestlers assume positions and as a referee blows a whistle the match begins.
In ancient times matches had no set duration and could go for up to two days. Sets would begin in the morning and continue until dusk before resuming the next day. It wasn’t until 1975 that a forty-minute cap was placed on matches.
Unlike traditional wrestling, oil wrestling matches can be won by gaining hold of your opponent’s kisbet. This means during a match competitors need to protect their own kisbet while trying to attack his challenger. To gain hold the wrestlers will go down the back of their opponent’s uniform. Winning using this move is known as paca kazık.
Referees are on hand to announce match winners.
The winner of the event earns the title of a wrestler in chief and is awarded a cash prize. In ancient times winners were awarded bulls, camels, and thoroughbred horses.
One of the most famous wrestlers in chiefs came from the Ottoman Period and was known as Alico the Bald. He held his title for twenty-six years, a record which remains unbroken to this day.
Visiting other destinations in Turkey? Check out our other guides:
- Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon: Best Experience Ever
- The Best Walking Tour Istanbul, With Serif Yenen
- The Best Walking Food Tour of Istanbul, Turkey
Additional Shots Of Turkish Oil Wrestling On The Field:
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