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Posted by   |   July 24th, 2015   |   Categories: News


Oil Wrestling, or Kirkpinar, as its known in Turkey is a sport that goes back to over 600 years to 1361! It was recognized in 2010 by UNESCO as an “intangible heritage event” and is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest competitive sport in Turkey and  the world.   The myths of its origins begin during the reign of Orhan Bey, who was the son of Osman 1.


Myths and Legends

According to legend  40 raiders of the Ottoman Army were returning to the Ottoman capital of Bursa after conquering part of Thrace.  Two soldiers started to wrestle in Samona, now located in Greece but could not beat each other.  They arranged a re-match in Edirne where they both died of exhauston after wrestling from morning until midnight!   Neither won the match.   Years later it was discovered that spring water started to gurgle up from where the wrestlers were buried.  It was decided  to call the site Kirkpinar, which means 40 springs in Turkish!

The matches were interrupted during the  War of the Balkans and WW1 but was reinstated after the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 and have been held in Edirne every since.

The winner of each years competition wins the title of  Wrestler in Chief and if he wins 3 years in a row receives a golden belt – bygone days  wınners  were awarded with camels, horses and bulls!

The best known wrestler in the Ottoman era was known as Alico the Bald, who won the title 26 years running.   In the modern era the most famous wrestler was Ahamet Tasci from Kocaeli.  He is now 57 years old and will compete again this year – preparing for his matches by carrying 300KG of truck tyres.

Rules of Kirkpinar!

If a wrestlers back touches the ground, he if sits down or calls an end to the match or if his trousers are removed the opponent wins.  Another way is to carry your opponent for three steps without his opponents feet touching the ground!   The title of as Agasi   (Lord of Kirkpinar) is auctioned off and the the successful person organizes the event.  Invitations are sent accompanied by candles with a red bottom 25 days prior to the festival of Hidrellez, or the coming of Spring, on 6th May.

Rituals of the Match

Match begins oil and water sellers patrol among the sportsmen and announce each match with words and prayers wearing traditional Turkish costumes.   At the beginning of each match each wrestler applies water and oil and come to the grass called the er meydani or field of the man!   The ritual of each match is that the men take 3 steps forward and then backwards, touch their left knee on the ground, and touch their knee, lips and foreheads with their right hand 3 times as a band of 20 drums and 20 zurnas play music.  The suddently jump shouting Hayda bre pehlivan!!

The Most Important Aspect of All –  the oiled trousers!

The Kispet, are  the oily tight trousers worn by the wrestlers!  Each manmust project his own kispet. Made of leather while attacking his opponents – it is the only thing that a wrestler can take hold of.  The quality of the oil is important which should be olive oil.  Tradition has it that the wrestlers start to oil their bodies with their right hands and then vice versa!!  Many tactics are used to outplay the opponent but the wolf trap is banned!  Taking a wrestler by the head and one arm to knock him to the ground!


Erdine is situated 2 hours from Istanbul and is worthy of a 2 day visit to visit its famous mosque and ancient medical centre.  And if you happen to be there last week of July don’t miss the Kirkpinar!

Turkey Travel Guide Tours