To the Extreme

Discover your internal daredevil

By Jason Santerre

Yagli Gures

Oiled up men writhing on the ground, grabbing each other by their leather pants. Homo-erotic daydream? Yes. And no. It’s part and parcel to a mucho macho match-up that just happens to be Turkey’s national sport. Yagli Gures, or oil wrestling, is serious. Anything that’s 700 years old and a descendant of an elite brigade of soldiers during the Ottoman Empire is serious.

Oiled-up fighters line up along one side of a field and are introduced by the Cazgır, or the master of ceremonies. After lots of pomp and circumstance, the Cazgır summons the combatants to join hands. The men grapple and clutch via a variety of moves and tactics in order to gain purchase. The object is to turn opponents onto their back with the navel pointing skyward, to god.

Imagine how tiring this must be with both men covered in olive oil (said to be treated with herbs in order to keep mosquitoes at bay back in the old days). Even their traditional leather trousers known as a kispet are soaked in the viscous liquid. Wrestlers can grab a hold of the waistband to try and turn their opponent. And here’s where it gets weird: wrestlers insert their arms into the kispet as leverage to flip foes onto their backs.


It’s one part brain and one part brawn. It’s like Bobby Fischer meets Muhammad Ali. You need to float on brainpower of a chess nerd and sting with the brute force of a boxer. Indeed, chessboxing is the ultimate challenge for both body and mind. And yes, it’s a real thing. It even has its own governing body: The World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO).

A chessboxing match is fought in 11 alternate rounds of chess and boxing. The match begins with a chess game, lasting three minutes. The chess game is interrupted by five bouts of three-minute boxing rounds. Fighters can win by knockout in the ring or by checkmate on the chessboard. The first chessboxing competition took place in Berlin in 2003. What’s next? Monopoly gymnastics?

Sepak Takraw

Think volleyball meeting soccer. Teams on either side of a net square off on a court like volleyball but strike the ball with their feet, like soccer. The name is a marriage of the Malay word sepak (meaning “kick” or “smash”) and the Thai word takraw (the original rattan ball used in the sport).

The object of the game is to deliver a ball over the net and make it so the opponent can’t return it. Each time this happens, the last team to hit the ball gets a point. Three sets go up to 21 points. On-court players include a striker, a server, and a feeder, each having distinct tactical roles and skillsets to offer. The pace is fast and the agility and acrobatic prowess of the top players is truly something to behold.


Summer 2017, Vol 9 N°3

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