Oil Wrestling Sport: Rules, Training Tradition| How is oil wrestling played?

Turkish Oil Wrestling, also known as Yagli Gures, is one of Turkey’s oldest sports and an annual festival that has been celebrated since 1346. Two men, each drenched in oil, grapple in matches that can last hours in order to become champions.

It is accessible to men of all ethnicities, regions, and ages and attracts thousands of applicants each year. As the wrestling begins, the drum and shawm bands begin to play traditional festival music, adding to the excitement as the two men are ready to defeat their opponent and be named Başpehlivan.

What Is Turkish Oil Wrestling?

The Turkish Oil Wrestling event is held each June in Kirkpinar, Edirne, Turkey. Yagli Gures, also known as Turkish Oil Wrestling, is a sport in which two oiled wrestlers compete to pick one other up in the air and make their opponents ‘belly face up in the sky’ on the grass.

oil wrestling sport

Yagli Gures’ origins can be traced back to 1346, during the Ottoman campaign in Thrace. On that occasion, two warriors wrestled to the death, and the winners received horses, camels, or bulls as a prize.

Champions are now crowned with a golden belt and monetary prizes. The prize of being named the winner, on the other hand, is a dream come true for the vast majority of people. The oil was originally used to assure impartiality, making the wrestling about strategy rather than size or power.

The addition of oil also makes standing and gaining traction harder, as sweat mixes with the oil on the grass around them. It ensures that the match is fair by putting both opponents at a disadvantage and allowing men of different weights to compete.

Previously, there was no set time limit for the combat, thus it might go anywhere from minutes to hours. However, because two men previously fought for more than a day and were tragically killed, all battles now have a predetermined time restriction of 40 minutes.

Training Tradition

Every wrestler from a traditional background has an apprentice who they help mould. The master trains alongside his student, also known as the ‘Cirak,’ who teaches them the technique of oil wrestling and demonstrates any methods they have learned. When the master wrestler retires from the ‘arena of the courageous,’ his apprentice will take over to carry on the tradition.

Why Do They Apply the Oil?

Wrestlers have been training in religious colonies for many years. The first wrestling sketches were discovered in Egypt’s Beni Hasan temple, which was constructed five thousand years ago. Wrestling has long been practised by holy men known as “shamans” and “dai” in Central Asia.

For seven hundred years, wrestlers were raised in religious surroundings known as “tekke” throughout the Ottoman Empire. Japanese Sumo Wrestling and Turkish Kirkpinar retain the religious motifs of the past, much as they did five thousand years ago.

Man is made up of more than just matter; our spirit and spiritual being make up the other half of the human equation. Wrestling without a spiritual relationship has been proven to be detrimental to the development of the human character. Wrestlers oiling each other symbolises the necessity of “balance” in such matches.

According to English thinker Bertrand Russel, the collapse of the Roman Empire was caused by sick mosquitoes that carried Malaria. Living at sea level to 400 metres above sea level was nearly impossible at the time.

Even mosquito nets, burning animal excrement, and standing in smoke at dusk were insufficient to provide complete mosquito protection. The oil derived from a Mediterranean vegetable known as “the olive” was utilised in cooking and as a mosquito repellent.

The Roman Empire had long since vanished by the time people discovered how to combine a special chemical called “kafur” with olive oil to provide complete mosquito protection.

oil wrestling sport

The Anatolians, who spent their days applying olive oil to their bodies, continued to wrestle with their bodies oiled, and a new type of wrestling emerged as a result of this condition: “oil wrestling.”

Turkish Oil Wrestling Rules

Turkish oil wrestlers are required to wear a pair of heavy leather pants known as a kipset. After that, each participant is sprayed with olive oil to make them slick.

Each wrestler’s goal is to position their opponent such that their belly button faces the sky. Matches have been confined to 45 minutes in recent years, but earlier fights may last days. As a result, it is now feasible to win on points.

How to Win

The goal of oil wrestling is to bring your opponent’s belly button to face the sky, at which point he loses the game. During the battle, opponents will try to stick their hands inside the other’s kispet in order to acquire leverage and seize the cuffs below the knees.

However, according to the rules, one must avoid the opponents’ genitalia. If a junior wrestler defeats an older wrestler, they will, out of courtesy, kiss the more senior wrestler’s hand.

What Do the Winners Get?

The winner of the oil wrestling tournament receives the desired gold belt for the year and the title of Başpehlivan, which translates to “head wrestler.” If a wrestler wins this honour three years in a row, they will be the sole owner of the golden belt, in addition to cash prizes.

Because of the size of the competition, many banks, companies, and even people sponsor and endorse the athletes, and monetary rewards may be awarded to the wrestlers who perform well.

Kirkpinar: Turkey’s Oil Wrestling Festival

The yearly Krkpnar festival is the greatest spot to view Turkish wrestling live. Every year in late June, the festival is hosted in Erdine, one of Turkey’s most attractive cities. Male wrestlers of all ages are welcome to compete, and wrestling fans from all around the world will be in attendance as spectators.

The tournament is shrouded in ritual. During a ceremony featuring traditional drum and shawm music, the festival’s patron, the Kirkpinar Aga, officially kicks off the festival.

oil wrestling sport

Each wrestler, or pelican in Turkish, is introduced to the audience before being doused in oil in preparation for their fight. At the conclusion of the competition, the champion and runner-up are paid prize money.

Where Does the Kırkpınar Oil Festival in Turkey Take Place?

The Kırkpınar festival is held in Edirne in Western Turkey, close to the Turkish land borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Travellers flying into Istanbul airport can reach Edirne by car in just over 3 hours. There are plenty of places to stay in Edirne and several interesting tourist attractions to see in the area including mosques, synagogues, and museums.


Yagli Gures is an exceptionally unique wrestling style that deserves more recognition because it is unquestionably one of the most difficult and challenging techniques. Turkish oil wrestling is definitely worth studying about, and you could even enjoy it.

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