Ashirma (Azerbaijan, Iran)

Ashirma (Azerbaijan, Iran)

  • Name of sport (game): Ashirma wrestling ( آشيرما )
  • Name in native language: Aşırma güləşi
  • Place of practice (continent, state, nation):

    Khoy, West Azerbaijan, Iran

  • History:

    The Ashirma wrestling is a traditional Azerbaijani style of wrestling which history goes all the way back to the glorious days of invincinble and all-conquering Safavid Empire. The ancient sport originates from the City of Khoy in the Khoy County of the province of West Azerbaijan where the old pastime of native residents of that region was widely practiced and preserved up to this day.
    The Ashirma wrestling is culturally unique to Azerbaijani people. The word "Ashirma", comes from the verb "aşırmaq" which in Azerbaijani language means "to throw over, to overturn, to topple".

    shah ismail hatai 
    Shah Ismail I Safavi, portrait by Gunay Kazimova (1990), National History Museum, Baku Azerbaijan.

  • Description:

    In the beginning of contest two men stand in front of each other and take a hold which has to be maintained during the struggle.
    Each man grabs a thick leather belt (which is worn by both wrestlers around their waists), with their right hands in a peculiar way, reaching over their adversary's back.
    The left hands of competitors are free, and can be used for catching any hold of the opponent's body (above and under the waist).
    To win the match a wrestler has to throw his opponent onto his back. During the struggle wrestlers are allowed to drop on their knees, but rolling on the ground is prohibited.

    Rural Sport & Local Games Federation of Iran, Rules of Ashirma Wrestling (2018).

    1. The wrestlers should hold the belt of opponent during the match and the head of wrestler should be under the armpit of the opponent.
    2. The match will be in two periods. Each period will be three minutes.
    3. Wrestler who releases the belt misses one point.
    4. Wrestler who put knee on ground, misses one point.
    5. Wrestler who goes out of the ground, misses one point.
    6. If wrestler put the back of the opponent on the ground, wins the match by Technical Fall.

    Weight Classes: -66 kg, -74 kg, -84 kg, -96 kg and +100kg (100 to 120kg)

  • Current status:

    In recent times, the overall development and growth of popularity of the sport of Ashirma wrestling has been observed. The Ashirma wrestling tournaments are being held systematically and not only local athletes but also representatives from the different regions of Iran, along with the guests, the competitors from Turkey and Azerbaijan Republic, regularly participate in them.

  • Importance (for practitioners, communities etc.):

    The Ashirma wrestling is an intangible heritage of Azerbaijani people.

    Mr. Rufat Turabov, our Turkic wrestling expert, reports that recently he was contacted by a 70 year old native resident of Gaziantep, Turkey named Mr. Juneyit Artantash who saw online this article on Ashirma wrestling and watched the video and decided to call him on the phone and share some information on this matter. The information he kindly presented is both very valuable and interesting. In his native region they also have a wrestling style which they call “Aşırtmalı” and that essentially is the same word as Aşırma. According to an informant they have two kinds of Aba wrestling, which is a sheepskin jacket wrestling. The Aşırtmalı (overthrow) Aba wrestling a jacket and belt style, and the Kapışmalı (fight, scramble) Aba wrestling a jacket only style. In Aşırtmalı Aba wrestling a draw decides who of the two wrestlers takes the “above hold” of the belt with his right hand, this hold is exactly the same hold as they use in Khoy (Azerbaijan, Iran). He cannot let go of this hold. With his left hand this wrestler takes any hold he wants. His opponent is free to take any hold of his opponent with his both hands. The winner of the bout is the one who succeeds in throwing his opponent flat (side, stomach, back) on the ground. Aşırtmalı Aba wrestling is for the most part an upright style of wrestling, though limited in time wrestling on the ground is allowed as well.

  • Sources of information :

    Information collected and provided by the Traditional Sports expert Mr. Ruslan C Pashayev and by an independent researcher, an expert on history of traditional Turkic styles of wrestling Mr. Rufat Turabov.
    All Photographs and the Video: Courtesy of Mr. Hooshang Azadi (Khoy, West Azerbaijan, Iran).


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