[...]Techniques and rules of Turkish style wrestling began taking form in Central Asia
in early Middle Ages; this style of wrestling is still widely practiced among Central Asian Turkic
people under names of Köraş
etc. Turkish wrestlers had started covering themselves according to the Islamic law (between the navel and the knees) after the 10th century.
branch of Turks migrated to Western Asia and Anatolia, they brought their Central Asian Kurash
wrestling style with them. After conquest of Anatolia by Seljuk
Turks, they brought their traditional freestyle wrestling called "karakucak" (literally means black hug) and the special leather clothing and initiated usage of olive oil, to make it harder to grap the opponent, from the ancient Western Asian wrestling; and created what is today known as the Yağlı Güreş
or Turkish Oil Wrestling.
In the Ottoman Empire
, wrestlers learned the art in special schools called تکیه tekke
, which were not merely athletic centres, but also spiritual centres, similar to those attended by the Japanese Sumo
wrestlers, where it was taught that man is not just matter
, but also spirit
. These centers bear a striking resemblance to the Zurkhanes
of Iran. This could explain the abundance of Persian terms in oil wrestling. Since competition
without the harmony
of matter and spirit would be detrimental to the development of good character, wrestlers oil one another prior to matches as a demonstration of balance and mutual respect. Equally, if a younger man should defeat an older man, he kisses the latter's hand (A sign of respect for elders in Turkey, similar to a Japanese bow).
Matches are held all over Turkey
throughout the year, but in early summer the wrestlers gather in Kırkpınar
for the annual three-day wrestling tournament
to determine who will be the baspehlivan
(meaning "chief wrestler", and similar to "yokozuna
" in sumo
wrestling) of Turkey. Every year, around 1000 wrestlers attend the tournament. Ottoman chroniclers and writers attest that the Kırkpınar Games
have been held every year since 1362, making them the world's oldest continually sanctioned sporting competition. Only about 70 times were the Games cancelled. The matches have been held there since 1924, where they were moved after the Balkan War
. The original site had been some 35 kilometres distant.