Oil wrestling, aka grease wrestling, is a national sport that belongs to turkey. In fact, it is called that way because while wrestling, competitors cover their whole bodies, for tip to toe, with oil. Moreover, wrestlers are known as “pehlivan” which means “hero” or “champion”. They wear a sort of hand-stitched leather trousers that are called a “kisbet” or “kispet”, which are traditionally made of water buffalo hide, and most recently have been made of calfskin.

How Can a Match Be Won?


Unlike the usual wrestling, oil wrestling matches can be won by reaching an effective hold of the leather trousers. Moreover, the “champion” tries to control his rival by putting his arms through the other one’s leather trousers. If someone wins by using this move, he gets called “paça kazık”. In the matter of fact, the matches have no specific time, and sometimes, they go on for days until one opponent is able to win by establishing his superiority.

Changes in 1975


In 1975, the rules of the game changed when it comes to timing. The duration was changed so that the match lasts for 40 minutes for the baspehlivan category, and 30 minutes for the pehlivan category. However, if nobody wins, the match gets an extra time of 15 minutes for the baspehlivan, and 10 minutes for the pehlivan. Moreover, in order to determine who the winner is, scores are kept for as long as the match is happening.

Annual Tournament


If you are interested in watching matches in the annual tournament, or participating in one of them, it is held in Edirne in Turkish Thrace, and has been like that since 1362, making this sport the oldest continuously running, sanctioned sporting competition in the world. Additionally, oil wrestling festivals also take place in northern Greece in the Eastern Macedonia, as well as in West Thrace. In recent years, this style of wrestling has also become popular in other countries, particularly the Netherlands and Japan.