On their final day they were taken to see a game of cirit (pronounced ‘jirit’) a very old sport the Turks brought with them from Central Asia which is now rarely seen outside the northeast of Turkey.

On their final day they were taken to see a game of cirit (pronounced ‘jirit’) a very old sport the Turks brought with them from Central Asia which is now rarely seen outside the northeast of Turkey.

Cirit is a means of improving equestrian skills and involves two teams of horsemen, each armed with a dried wooden stick, these days usually of poplar wood, some 70 – 100cm in length and 2 – 3cm in diameter, with blunt ends.

The teams line up facing each other on the field, each player around 100m distance from the next.

At the beginning of the game it is traditional for the youngest player to trot towards the opposing team, and at a distance of 10 – 15 metres, toss his stick at one of the players. 
Simultaneously he turns his horse back and tries to reach the safety of his own team, pursued by the other player with a stick in his hand.

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This process of chasing and fleeing, while trying to hit an opponent with a stick, is the essence of the game which requires skill and sportsmanship.

To hit a horse instead of the rider, which is regarded as a sign of an inexperienced player, is against the rules and the offender is sent off the field.
 
Here you see the cirit riders flying the flag prior to the game.

And a shot of avoidance technique by one rider who is being chased by someone from the opposing team.
 
There don’t seem to be hard and fast rules about the number of players needed to form a team and the scoring is a bit of mystery to everyone except the retired cirit players who act as scorers.

However, a very exciting sport to watch – especially on a snow-covered plateau in north eastern Turkey.

Watch out for the final part of this series to see how one member of the Dance Group got his turn on a cirit horse!

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