Turkish Oil Wrestling: A Quick Explanation
Turkish Wrestling is probably the most misunderstood traditional style in the world. Bodies are covered in oil and the outfit is just a bare chest and leather pants. Add-in rules that necessitate a liberal definition of personal space and you can see how some prejudices arise.
Some help for those of you who want a little insight.
(The term) “kispet,” were first adopted by Muslim wrestlers for reasons of modesty. Weighing about 12 kilograms, they are leather, custom made for the athlete and have metal studs on the back, usually spelling out the pehlivan’s name and hometown. Before each class bout, athletes oil themselves down. Not a little handful of lotion, no indeed — they pour olive oil by the liter all over themselves, even down their pants; the athletes help each other so kindly you’d think each was the other’s brother instead of a fierce competitor. The legs of the kispet are checked for tightness around the bottom edges, to insure the difficulty of opponents’ getting a good grip there. They are now ready for their heroes’ march onto the field and the (hopefully) long tournament.
As the last of these groups were preparing their kispet and oiling down and the sunbeams were lengthening over the field, the crowd became very serious as well as excited, like the preceding six hours or so had been a blink. These were the big boys, the ones you see on the posters, the man-mountains. The pehlivanlar that day had been the epitome of gentle giant-hood and good sportsmanship; they had patiently posed with young boys for photographs, helped each other with their kispet and generally behaved like real heroes should act: humble, manly and calm. Now, as they performed their high-stepping slap dance of aggression and fear, they were transformed in the late afternoon light into shining mythic warriors, off to meet their death with noble stoicism.