In case you’re wondering what brought this on, I ran into Karam again. Those of you who follow along know that he is a twenty something Turkish guy from Germany. In San Manuel, that’s serious entertainment value.
Needless to say, I asked him if he was into Turkish oil wrestling.
This is a great sport. In that part of the world oil wrestling has been big for thousands of years. It only became a symbol of the Turkish people, however, after 1640, when two brothers who worked for the Sultan as bodyguards, or Janissaries, were wrestling for a reward of a new pair of leather pants. They both must have needed pants, because they wrestled each other to the death. When the Sultan came back a year later to commemorate them, he discovered forty springs of water had come up around their memorial.
Since then, athletes have been gathering there annually on the anniversary of their death, to see who is the greatest wrestler in Turkey. It’s like the World Series, with dancing girls, music, and roast lamb. In other words, a serious party.
THINGS ABOUT TURKISH WRESTLING
In Turkey they have their own way of doing these things.
First off, since the original prize was for a pair of leather pants, to be official you have to have leather pants. If you’re just at home practicing with a friend, you can just wear cutoffs, or even your Hanes. Moslems don’t strip down to their fundamentals, though. Big No no. All the books are very clear on that point. In fact, they belabor it strenuously, and I might add, suspiciously.
Second, one of the main ways you win a match is to pull your opponents pants, or Kispet, down, effectively immobilizing him.
Respect is really important. If a younger wrestler defeats an older, he’s expected to kiss his hand, as a sign of respect. That’s really cool.
Most traditional wrestlers take on an apprentice. It’s like a father son relationship. When the master dies, he passes the mantle on to the apprentice.
There’s a strong spiritual element to this. Shamans and medicine men in this part of the world were expected to be wrestling masters, just as in China there was a tradition of martial arts practice among monks and priests. Wrestlers in Turkey grew up and trained in “tekke”, or monasteries. The oil was partly a religious ceremony of anointing, or blessing, and partly just a way to protect themselves from the heat.
Every year, to commemorate those two guys who died fighting over a pair of pants, they compete to see who’s the best wrestler.
Ideally, I think in sports, the spiritual and physical are balanced. At these oil matches, the competitors oil each other up, and hang out together while they wait for their match. It’s really laid back. I suspect that, to a lot of these guys, it wouldn’t even make sense to them to ask if they thought it was gay, in the sense we use it here. That whole “gay or straight” business was invented in America during the 1800’s. Before the Civil War, there was no “gay” or “straight”. There was just “men”, and who you loved was your own business. Over there, they don’t care about our labels . They’re just men having a lot of fun. Myself, I think there’s a lot of guys who don’t care about labels, one way or the other. They just like to keep personal stuff personal.
And, in truth, when it’s all said and done, the best part is just hangin’ out with the boyz.
So now I’m off to my online shopping. I’m looking for for a pair of Kispet.