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The ancient tournament of Kirkpinar has drawn fans of Turkish oil wrestling for more than years. Two decades ago author Aydin Bengisu and renowned gay photographer Ron Amato attended the annual festival to document and better understand the male-bonding physicality of the sport. On the 20th anniversary, Amato shares this exclusive gallery of photographs perfectly complimenting Bengisu's lyrical description of the sport, its history, and the fascination it continues to hold. In the summer ofwhen the world was a different place, I set out to capture a piece of my heritage. As a boy, I had heard about a Turkish homeland from a father who always had one foot firmly planted there.
I absorbed these stories over hot cups of Turkish tea as snow piled on the pines, maples and mountain ashes of our wild backyard in Southeastern Michigan. Two decades later, I persuaded my friends Ron Amato, a photographer, and Degen Pener, a writer, to fly with me to Turkey to experience Kirkpinar—a sport that has been held annually since roughlymaking it the longest-running athletic event in the world. The nd Wrestling Games were about to become my very first.
It stands as one of the best examples of Islamic and Ottoman era architecture. The city of Edirne, located near the Bulgarian and Greek borders in Western Thrace, is way off the beaten tourist track. Once known as Adrianopolis, after the Roman emperor Hadrian, who founded it around A. Once over the bridge, the frenzy begins. Musicians, travelling spectators and vendors of all kinds engulf the area around the stadium.
As the sun beats overhead and the last of the morning dew burns off the grass, teams of wrestlers begin to flow into the arena: shirtless, oiled and ready to go at it with their comrades. Several legends surround the beginnings of the Kirkpinar matches.
The Turks ascribe the sport to Ottoman soldiers. One night, Turkish oil wrestling stories of the soldiers were locked in a match so intense they both died. Their comrades buried them under a fig tree near the spot where they had wrestled and then continued on toward Edirne. Legend has it that the Anatolian people modern-day Turks discovered that spreading olive oil on their bodies protected them from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Still other historians point to a direct connection with the athletes of ancient Greece, who oiled their bodies prior to participating in games. However, there is also much evidence linking the sport to ancient Iranian and Indian wrestling styles. In terms of its size and prestige in Turkey, Kirkpinar is the Superbowl of wrestling. Instead of two teams, however, hundreds of amateur wrestlers from various parts of the country converge on Edirne for three days in the summer.
The event is the culmination of many regional matches. Only the best are invited to compete. Wrestlers are grouped into eleven and classed by height — not weight — from toddlers up to the forty-member pehlivan hero in Farsior warrior status. It is estimated that two tons of olive oil is used each year during the event. While the oil serves to both establish an even playing field and complicate the act of wrestling, wrestlers also say that it helps to heal their wounds more quickly.
Rules are few save for the "40 minutes per match" limit. The goal is to get leverage. A younger champion who defeats an older champion kisses the elder's hand. Kirkpinar is at once modern, yet very much steeped in time. Amato has framed the photographs in a way that transcends the obvious physical gesture and brawny exterior of the wrestlers.
His artfully crafted photographs seem to breathe. And his intuition guided us to some very unexpected moments led by a force beyond himself. For a westerner — even a Turkish-American like myself — the warmth and ease with which the athletes touch each other is confusing, because it does not have a contextual precedent in the United States. The pat-on-the-butt gesture seen Turkish oil wrestling stories uniformed American baseball players, for instance, seems much less physical when compared to the shirtless, oiled bear hugs and kisses the wrestlers regularly bestow on each other.
We began to see that the affectionate gestures were s of camaraderie. Boys hugging boys and men hugging men became a symbol of sportsmanship and good intention. In essence, Kirkpinar represents brotherhood in its truest sense.
He has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally. His seminal exhibition of sexual self-portraits in NYC inestablished Ron as a leading queer artist. While writing has always been a part of his life, since Aydin Bengisu has been a d practitioner of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine. He utilizes a highly effective holistic approach emphasizing customized herbal formulas and advanced acupuncture treatments for many health challenges.
His passion is to strategically support his patients utilizing evidence-based current science and time-tested approaches developed through years of education and clinical knowledge working with masters in the field. He is among a handful of internationally certified Chinese medicine practitioners in the highly specialized field of herbal dermatology. He also offers treatment for many people in the areas of addiction, autoimmunity, gastrointestinal health, supportive oncology and pain management.
He aligns with his patients, becoming both an advocate for their health and encouraging them to develop their own voices. All Rights Reserved. Turkish Oil Wrestling The ancient tournament of Kirkpinar has drawn fans of Turkish oil wrestling for more than years. The Roots of Kirkpinar Several legends surround the beginnings of the Kirkpinar matches. Rituals In terms of its size and prestige in Turkey, Kirkpinar is the Superbowl of wrestling.Turkish oil wrestling stories
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Turkey: Oil wrestling fans remember legends