Turkish oil wrestling

Oil wrestling (in Turkish yağlı güreş) or grease wrestling is a traditional sport of Turkey. A wrestler's body is oiled with mixture of olive oil and water. The wrestler or "pehlivan" (from Persian pehlevān that means "hero" or "champion") wears special trousers called "kisbet". They are made of water buffalo hide or calfskin.

The main goal of each wrestler is to effectively hold the kisbet of his opponent. This move, when properly performed, is called "paça kazık". Depending on the category the fight lasts between 30 and 40 minutes.

Turkish oil wrestling
Turkish oil wrestling (photo by Charles Roffey)

During season there about 40 major tournaments. The most important tournament of the season is The Kirkpinar ("Forty Springs"). It is held near Turkish city of Edirne located in the west of the country. The tournament is organized in late June. It lasts for three days. Almost 1,000 fighters participate in this tournament. They are divided in 13 categories. The winner in the top category gets the title of Baş Pehlivan ("chief wrestler").

The weight is not the only factor in categorizing of fighters. Judges decide what fighter belongs to certain category according to his size, age and so called "track record". The competitors participating at the Kirkpinar tournament are approximately between 12 and 40 years old.