Oil Wrestling (Yagli Guresler) from History to Today

Wrestling, known as our ancestor sport, has been one of the most important sports among us, Turkish people, for centuries along with horsemanship and archery. According to written historical sources, Turkish people knew wrestling in the 2nd century BC. However, oral sources and estimates suggest that this date goes back to much further back. The “kispets“, known as the “wrestling pants” (link mevcut),  were seen during the Scythian period. Each member of the nation had been practicing this sport, and wrestling (gures) had been the most important figure in celebrations and ceremonies; even after the death of important people, wrestling (gures) competitions were held at commemoration ceremonies. The desire to always being ready for a war was making wrestling (gures) stand out significantly among Turkish people.

Wrestling (gures) is practiced individually among Turkish people but it also is a type of sport that is supported by the government. It is known that there had been wrestling teams consisting of 30-40 people (Kirk Yiğit) who were watched over by the rulers (Hakanlar) and khans (Kaganlar). It is also known that in relations with other governments, Turkish wrestlers (guresciler) had been competing with the wrestlers (guresciler) of other nations during peace agreement signing ceremonies.

Until the 10th century AD, Turkish people, who had been wearing leather kispets and wrestled with their unique methods, being different from other nations, this time had encountered with oil wrestling (yagli gures). It is known that oil wrestling (yagli gures) was performed during the period of Patzinaks (Pecenekler). Some sources also report that Sarı Saltuk was a pioneer in oil wrestling (yagli gures). Together with that, as the Turkmens began to settle in European territories, the “Deliorman” region, which is now within the borders of Bulgaria, became a famous region where many wrestlers (guresci) were trained.

Besides, The Historical Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling (Yagli Gures) has been an event of wrestling (gures) that has been ongoing since the 1300s. This historical festival, which started in Kirkpınar Meadow under the leadership of Sultan I Murad, continues today. Although Kirkpınar Meadow is no longer within the borders of Turkey, oil wrestling has been moved to Edirne and it has become to be continued from where it was left off.

Apart from the wrestling competitions at the Olympics, this festival, which is the world’s oldest wrestling festival, has got a great importance for Turkish culture. These oil wrestling ceremonies, which have produced many chief wrestlers (baspehlivanlar) for more than 650 years, show that Turkish people not only give such an importance to the sport itself but they also give such importance to bonding, having fun, and competing.

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