Kırkpınar Yağlı Güreşleri / Tradational Turkish Oil Wrestling

In The Arena Of The Brave Men

Wrestlers were they…

It was a brave struggle far from lies and hypocrisy. They were preparing themselves for the triumph that would be won all alone. Their duty was to defeat their rivals in wrestling; but this was an arena in which the losers were congratulated.

Bravery, faith and honesty are the most important doctrines of being a wrestler and those virtues were seen on the faces of the wrestlers from the youngest one to the chief. 

In fact there were no losers of the honourable struggle of these brave men who shook the ground on which they wrestled… Because taking part of the arena bravely means accepting the defeat from the very beginning as well and even if they win or lose, preparing themselves for the next wrestling even with the same faith means winning, doesn’t it?

I saw a wrestler worn his kıspet1 in the arena. As the sun started parching his oiled skin, he concentrated on tying the lower part of his paça2. Then he straightened up, stood straight, raised his head and looked attentively at the wrestling arena; who knows, perhaps he wanted to see his rival or was dreaming about his championship as the chief-wrestler3. You could see the faith in his eyes from the farthest part of the arena.  Then he took his place next to the other wrestlers in order. He caught his rival’s eye for a moment; he liked him as a brother but with a sideways glance, evaluated him carefully as if he could knock him down in a moment…

With the announcement of the Cazgır4, the wrestlers started the peşrev5 before the competitions. The wrestler saluted the audience who came to watch him.   He accepted the audience’s salute and joyful applause. . The wrestler shook his arms on both sides and opened the ceremony by throwing his chest forward as if to say “I could knock-down the whole world if it came on me.”

Drums and zurnas had already started playing with the waving hands of the head drummer. Joyful melodies as powerful as thunder motivated the wrestlers in the opening ceremony.  The wrestlers met their rivals in the middle of the arena and they greeted each other by checking the lower parts of their kıspets. That was a unique sharing, a brotherhood in this honourable struggle which presented both winning and losing at the same time.  

The competition started with the strong pulling down6 and striking trials7. They had both the same expression on their faces; the sharp expression of faith, proud and honesty…. They wrestled such as the crash of two different worlds. The oil they poured on their bodies mixed with their sweat. The wrestlers demonstrated all their skills as they struggled to knock down their oiled skinned rivals.

It was the exhibition of power, wisdom and faith. They didn’t need any artificial additions. The power came from their wrists and the faith in their hearts which was always with them.

One of them won in the end, but the other didn’t lose …

The wrestler’s championship was declared with the raising of the victor’s hand…. He himself also raised his arms, thanked God and proclaimed his power to the whole world. The other one was angry with himself, went close to his father to find consolation, beaten for now, but he knew that another wrestling arena was waiting for him for the next time….

P.S. The visuals’ take place in the presentation were recorded during the 649th Kırkpınar Oil-Wrestling’s

1Kıspet; it is the wrestler’s short leather tight worn by him during the competition. The waist part of it is surrounded by a thick belt. (kasnak)
2 Paça; the lower part of kıspet’s leg. It must be tied tight not to allow the rival’s hand hold it easily. It will be disadvantage for the wrestler if it is tied loose.
3 Chief-wrestler is the champion of the wrestlers in the arena.
4Cazgır is the person who introduces the wrestlers to the audience and gives the start of the competition. He excites the crowd and motivates the wrestlers with his words and joyful sayings.
5 Peşrev; These are the routine warm up movements of the wrestlers to prepare themselves for the competition both physically and mentally. While the wrestlers are walking along the arena, they also pull their rival’s kispet’s legsfor trying their power.
6 Pull down; It is a sudden movement made by the wrestler to unbalance his rival by pulling him down from his nape and hitting.
7 Striking trials; These are the wrestler’s sudden movements which are made to reduce his rival’s power and make him get tired by holding, pulling or hitting with whole body.