Kırkpınar is a Turkish oil-wrestling (Turkish: yağlı güreş) tournament. It is held annually, usually in late June, near Edirne, Turkey since 1346.
Before each bout, the wrestlers pour olive oil over their entire bodies, and the matches take place in an open, grassy field, with the contestants naked except for trousers made of leather, which extend to just above the knee. Victory is achieved when one wrestler either pins the other to the ground (as in many other forms of wrestling) or lifts his opponent above his shoulders.
It now holds a Guinness World Record for the longest running sports competition.
Oldest known evidenceThe history of oil wrestling links straight back to 2650 BC with evidence both from Ancient Egypt, Assyria and around. The Babylonian body of evidence, a tiny bronze, excavated near the Chafadji-temple. It is as clear as plain day-light that the bronze concern oilwrestlers: both athletes are pictured with oilvessels on their head.
The oldest known proof of the existence of oil-wrestling in Ancient Egypt is found in limestone from the tomb of Ptahhoteb near Saqqara from the fifth dynasty (about 2650 BC) from the same period as the Chafadji-bronze.
Another appealing proof is about 4000 years old and painted like a cartoon in a tomb near Beni Hasan in Egypt. The deceased, who occupied this tomb must have been a famous oil-wrestler in his time.
On the first picture, greasing of the wrestler and the oil stored in a reed stem is seen. After that, the wrestling starts. The pictures could have been taken yesterday during a Kırkpinar. The last picture down shows the unchanged three step triumph of oiled wrestling. From this period we can trace the basic rules.
Centuries later, the Persians conquest Egypt and Persian shah-kings occupied the throne of the Pharaoh's.
Oil-wrestling in Iran
The history of the oil-wrestling tournaments as we know today links back to the Persian Mythical Era, which, according to Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, started 1065 BC. The legendary pehlivan of this era is called Rostam, a hero constantly saving his country from the evil forces.
The ceremonial start of oil-wrestling, called by its Persian name "Peshrev" has clear links with old Iranian institutes as the zurkhane, literally "house of strength". The building consists of a court, around which the men, who will perform, arrange themselves, and a gallery for the ostad ("master") or morshed (spiritual leader) and the musicians. Nowadays, the musical accompaniment consists of a drum and recitation of portions of Ferdowsi's Shahname. There are various rhythms employed, and a variety of movements associated with them, including displays of strength in manipulating heavy objects (such as weights and chains) and acrobatics.
Here the origin of the peshrev has to be found, by some considered to be a warming up and greet-the-audience ceremony, to others a participatory form of dance. Certain different from the usual step-right, step-left, step-right, kick-left, step-left, kick-right dance found all over the area.
Oil-wrestling for Sultan and Shah
During the period Islam was brought into Asia Minor, spirituality and philosophy became part of the physical garment of the pehlivan. Oil-wrestling was established as a sport on its own. In Iran and the Ottoman Empire alike wrestling became the national sport. In Iran, wrestling grew to the customary institution of the zurkhane strong house, where people go to socialise and engage in athletic exercise. The wrestler is the strong-man in popular culture (in Persian the term is "big neck"), but he is also the pahlavan, the knightly hero, who is a free-living spirit and is generous and loyal.
The year 1360 is adapted by the organizers of the Edirne Kırkpınar as date Ottoman soldiers started to organize annual oil-wrestling tournaments in Kırkpınar, a wrestling field "within Samona village". According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this legend made the Kırkpınar world's oldest continuously sanctioned sporting competition.
The last bout between the two finalists lasted all night as neither was able to defeat the other. They were found dead the next morning, their bodies still intertwined. They were buried underneath a nearby fig tree, whereupon their comrades headed to conquer Edirne.
After the conquest, the soldiers came upon another fig tree, surrounded by a crystal-clear spring, so they renamed the surrounding meadow (which until then had been known as Ahirköy) Kırkpınar, which translates from Turkish as "forty springs" or "forty sources".
To commemorate the heroism of the conquering warriors, a wrestling tournament was re-enacted annually at this site, and the oldest still-contested sanctioned sporting competition in the world began
Whatever tales, myths and stories. There has always been a common respect for the oil-wrestlers. The pehlivan is being stronger than anybody, having a well built body, clothed in heavy leather pants. Up till today, the wrestlers pour olive oil onto their bodies. And still you see a younger wrestler defeating an older wrestler kiss the older wrestler's hand.
In 1590, a peace agreement was reached between Murat III and the Persian Shah. The model of the wrestling pants go back to this period. The model is still same for the Iranian "pahlivan" and the Turkish "pehlivan", except that the Turkish wrestling pants are made of leather and are called "kispet", while the Iranian pahlivan wears a "pirpet", made of silk.
Famous wrestlers from Iran came to Istanbul to compete with the Ottoman champions, and the Turkish champs were invited to Persia to show their strength
Collecting Strong Men
Before 1582, all recruits came from prisoners of war, the devsirme, or other slave sources. With that devsirme, the very best and strongest guys were recruited from all the provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Only the strongest and most healtiest boys had a chance to become a pehlivan. Always known to be free enough to be honest and through history trusted for his words and behaviours.
Everywhere in the Ottoman Empire were wrestling championships held. Every city and village had its annual wrestling, like nowadays. Wrestling occurred in a variety of contexts, including social and ceremonial events. There was wrestling on religious festival days, during special evenings of the Muslim fasting-month of Ramadan, on agricultural events, circumcisions and weddings. On special occasions, charity wrestling competitions were organized outside the palaces. Only the best wrestlers were accepted in training to become members of the elite Janissary Corps.
Oil-wrestling for French Impératrice Eugenie
When the Ottoman sultan visited France in 1867, oil-wrestlers were part of his entourage and Impératrice Eugenie visited the wrestling-tournament. Wrestling was tough, but oil-wrestling was even harder. It was considered the most difficult sport in the world. In these days, the expression "Fort comme une Turc" (strong as a Turk) revived from the crusade-days.
During a year, about 300 different oil-wrestling games are held in Turkey. They host 10 million spectators on average.
|Statue of past champions|
Introduction of Time
Until 1975, there was no time limit to wrestling in Kırkpınar. The pehlivans would wrestle sometimes one, sometimes two days, until they could establish superiority to one another. Wrestling games would go on from 9a.m. in the morning until dusk and the ones that could not beat each other would go on the next day. After 1975, wrestling was limited to 40 minutes in the baspehlivan wrestling category. If there is no winner within these limits, the pehlivans wrestle for 15 minutes with the score recorded. The ones that can score points in this last period are accepted as the winners. In other categories, the wrestling time is limited to 30 minutes. If there is no winner, 10 minutes of score wrestling follows.
Oil Wrestling in Other Parts of Europe and The World
The "Mother of All Sports" came in 1997 for the first ever to Western Europe, when the European Champions League were held in Amsterdam. No less than 22 television teams covered the event, and scenes from the Amsterdam Kırkpınar were shown at CNN and the BBC alike.
|Some of the musical entertainment|
The 2nd European Oil-Wrestling Championship held in Amsterdam had already a final with 42 wrestlers from Turkey, the Netherlands and other European countries. Winner was Cengiz Elbeye, Edirne Kırkpınar oil-wrestling champion. Addressing the ceremony held upon the start of the matches, Erkut Onart, the Turkish Consul General in the Netherlands, said that he believed the friendship between the Turkish society and the European countries is intensified when these kinds of cultural values are brought to Europe.
In the world of oil-wrestling, Amsterdam became the most important annual after Edirne.
Oil-wrestling is a growing sport, not limited to Turkey only. However, it is difficult for foreign wrestlers to enter this National Turkish Championship. In 2000, Dutch oil-wrestler Melvin Witteveen's entry in Edirne was rejected, while Kadir Yilmaz, beaten by Witteveen some weeks earlier at the Amsterdam Kırkpınar, was allowed to participate due to his double Turko-Dutch nationalities.
As the winners of the categories of the Amsterdam Kırkpınar in Holland are considered to be European Champions, this creates the strange fact that according international standards the Amsterdam Kırkpınar tops Edirne, as latter being the National championship of Turkey only, repudiating non-Turkish entries.
The event attracted little attention outside of Turkey until the 1990s, when the style of wrestling began to spread to Western Europe. It has become particularly popular in the Netherlands, which now hosts its own annual version of the tournament, attracting participants from throughout Europe. Yağlı güreş wrestling matches are also held in Japan.