The Amazing Sport of Turkish Oil Wrestling – Yagli Gures

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One of the most unique and misunderstood wrestling styles is Turkish Oil Wrestling, also known as Turkish Grease Wrestling and by its Turkish name – Yagli Gures.

Turkish Oil Wrestler Takedown
Turkish Oil Wrestler Takedown

What makes Turkish oil wrestling different to other styles of wrestling is the fact they smother olive oil all over their body prior to wrestling, this makes it incredibly difficult to attain a proper grip and thus very difficult to achieve a throw.

To get a proper understanding on how hard it is to throw someone in Turkish oil wrestling all you have to do is try wrestling for grips in a nogi setting with sweat, it is very difficult, now add in olive oil to the mix and it becomes exponentially harder.

The National Sport of Turkey

Yagli Gures is the national sport of Turkey and wrestling is deeply rooted in Turkish culture. Although wrestling has been practiced in the area for thousands of years, Yagli Gures was founded in 1346 making this style of wrestling one of the oldest continuous styles still practiced.

The Rules of Turkish Oil Wrestling

Turkish Oil wrestling has a few interesting rules, the first of which is that the wrestlers can actually reach within the opponent’s pants in order to achieve a better grip for throwing.The wrestlers are not allowed to grab the genitalia of the opponent. The reason for gripping within the opponents pants is simply because of the fact it is so hard to attain a proper grip on an oiled body, they need any handle they can get in order to take an opponent down – the pants are perfect for this.

Oil Wrestler Grip in Kispet
Oil Wrestler Grip in Kispet

Wrestlers must wear special leggings called a Kispet, which weighs 13kg and is made from buffalo leather.

The matches are maximum 40 minutes length with a 7 minute final score period although prior to 1975 there were no time limits with there even being matches lasting several hours.

The goal of the match is to “make the opponent’s belly face the sky”, once this is achieved then the match is over.

Why Do They use Oil in Turkish Oil Wrestling

Turkish Oil Wrestlers have been smothering oil all over their bodies prior to competing for centuries and historians say the original reason for the oil was due to the fact that most Yagli Gures wrestling tournaments occurred in the summer months, when mosquitoes were very active and bothering people out in the open. 

Due to the fact the mosquitos were bothering the wrestlers, they used olive oil to ward off mosquitoes thus leaving the wrestlers better able to concentrate at the task of wrestling.

Modern Turkish Oil Wrestling Tournaments

There are many practitioners of Yagli Gures and they all aim at the chance to compete in the biggest oil wrestling tournament in Turkey called Kirkpinar, which has been held since 1346 and it is held in Edirne Turkey.

Kirkpinar wrestling tournament winner
Kirkpinar wrestling tournament winner

In fact the Guinness book of records has recognized this tournament as being the oldest sports tournament in the world.

The champion of the Kirkpinar tournament receives $100,000 and is named Champion of Turkey which is an extremely prestigious award within Turkish culture.

The Kirkpinar tournament even entertains the President of Turkey each year, with the President attending the final day of competition.

Yagli Gures Traditions and Techniques

Turkish oil wrestling has very specific techniques due to the fact that opponents are so incredibly slippery, the most famous of which is a move on the west we know as “the Turk”.

The Turk is an extremely effective method to expose an opponent’s back to the ground for a pin, simply by hooking certain areas of the leg with your own leg in order to control the hips and movement. 

This is excellent in Yagli Gures a once the wrestlers hit the ground the use of a “Turk” wrestling move eliminates much of the use of the upper body grips in order to attain a pin and thus pointing the opponent’s belly to the sky for the win.

These amazing traditions have been passed down for centuries from master to apprentice, the apprentice being called a Cirak. Generally all competitors find an apprentice to carry on the tradition of Yagli Gures one they retire from competition just as they one were themselves with the cycle repeating itself generation by generation.

In Conclusion

Yagli Gures is an extremely special style of wrestling and needs more attention as it definitely is one of the hardest and most challenging styles. Turkish oil wrestling is definitely worth learning about and you may even find it very entertaining too.


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