Boys Turkish Oil Wrestling

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Coach Harun Doğan was gracious in allowing me to spend half a day shooting his boys training and demonstrating a Turkish Oil Wrestling match in a field nearby.  The students train at Antalya Büyükşehir Asat Spor Kulübü, an outstanding sports academy on the Asian side of the beautiful city of Istanbul.  The school trains youth and adults in a variety of sports disciplines, including football (soccer) for amputees in addition to the boys Turkish oil wrestling.

Oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş in Turkish) is the national sport of Turkey.  Wrestlers called pehlivan douse themselves in olive oil prior to competing.   The term “Güreş” is shared with other forms of wrestling practiced by Turks as well.  The wrestlers, known as pehlivan (hero), wear a type of hand-stitched leather trousers called a kisbet.

Oil wrestling matches may be won by achieving an effective hold of the kisbet. Thus, the pehlivan aims to control his opponent by putting his arm through his opponent’s kisbet. To win by this move is called paça kazık.

Turkish oil wrestling team photo

Team photo inside the small gym.


cute boys in gym attire

Playful teammates outside the gym.


child and teen boys shirtless outside a gym in Istanbul, Turkey

Boys relaxing outside the gym.


a group of boys outside of a turkish oil wrestling gym

All of the younger boys sitting outside the gym for a stylized team portrait.


shirtless boys running through a field

A warm up run before the match.


Teen boys preparing their kisbets for the match.

Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys preparing for a match


Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys

Applying oil to the kisbet prior to a match.


Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys

Cengizhan Doğan, left is undefeated in his age group.  


Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys

Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys

Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys

Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys


Turkish oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş) teen boys

Team portrait in the field.


shirtless boys playing in a junkyard

Couldn’t resist some stylized portraits at a junkyard near the school.


shirtless boy playing in a junked truck in a scrapyard in Turkey

Posing in an old van.

About The Author

Christopher Ryan is an international photographer specializing in conceptual portraits in unique environments, such as abandoned buildings and picturesque landscapes. His work breaks the barriers of race, age, and geographic location, capturing the energy and exuberance of the human form. He was influenced by his unusual upbringing in the American South. He seeks to retain the virtues of Southern Charm while abandoning pre-conceived notions of prejudice.