Zourkhane – a Traditional Sport in Iran – By Marc Wick


Iran is not the typical touristic hotspot, and within the last years – and now with the Coronavirus pandemic – it seems to have become much more difficult to discover this beautiful country.

But politics is the one hand, the other is the Iranian people. I was traveling alone three times in Iran and it was always a pleasure to meet these incredibly friendly and obliging people. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. You find many beautiful places of interest like the breathtaking Imam place and the amazing bridges in Isfahan, the ancient city of Shiraz or the bazaar in Kerman just to mention a few. Also Teheran is worth seeing and, of course, the northern regions with mountains as well as the Caspian sea. Well, you see, every region has some “must see“ places of interest.

When I was in Shiraz, I saw a small information sign for a sport I have never heard before: Zourkhane

I went there and asked for permission to get more information about this sport. Like always, the Iranian athletes were very friendly and they invited me to have a closer look to this completely strange sport.

What is Zourkhane?

It is an ancient sport (more than 1000 years old) which dates back to ancient Persia and was part of soldiers’ training. It includes several exercises, the most well-know is the training with the clubs.

When I was going down the steps to the gym, I heard loud music from a singer. The gym itself was a sunken 1m-deep circular pit in the center. Around this place was a section for the audience and one for the athletes. They do not wear typical sports clothes, their trousers remind me of the Bavarian “Lederhose“ which we put on on special occasions in my country. The trainer does not join the athletes, he sings ancient Persian songs and tabors to coordinate the rhythm for the different exercises. He determines the length and speed of the exercises with his tambouring and singing. A really very archaic atmosphere.

the chief coach who plays and sings ancient Persian songs to coordinate the rhythm and sequence of the exercises

The room is covered with old photographs from famous Zourkhane sportsmen.

Photos from former champions and heroes
Photos from former champions and heroes

The men start with exercises to warm up the body. Also push-up and static routines. It includes many exercises which you find nowadays in modern calisthenics. History is repeating itself.


Then they continue with weight training to strengthen the upper body by using the wooden clubs. The weight of the clubs differs and its use depends on the experience of the sportsman. The more strength and experience he has, the heavier are the clubs. They are up to 40 kg/club for one arm!

one of the athletes is choosing a club
One of the athletes is choosing a club

Very impressive was the “Sufi swirling“: one person in the middle of the gym is swirling very fast for several minutes. Just imagine this burden for the body. The master of this exercise was able to rotate in one direction for more than 4 minutes. For me a perfect exercise for designated astronauts (but not for me)

Stretching before using the clubs
Stretching before using the clubs
Exercises with two clubs
Exercises with two clubs
they turn the clubs very fast
They turn the clubs very fast
Sufi swirling

After one hour the session was finished and of course I was very impressed by the performance of these athletes. In almost every bigger city in Iran, you find a Zourkhane club. If you are near, just go there and have a look. You will not regret it!!

The photos very taken with a Nikon Df and a 24-70 zoom.

You can check out more of my work on instagram.com/wick_marc

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6 thoughts on “Zourkhane – a Traditional Sport in Iran – By Marc Wick”

  1. Thanks for this view into Iran. Putting politics aside for the moment, the Iranian people have always seemed to be interesting and welcoming.

    Side note: I almost lived in Iran in the 1960s when my father was in the Army. They sent him to the Army Language School to learn Farsi, with the intent of stationing him there. For some reason, that never happened, and we moved to Germany instead.

    1. This is a very interesting story Eric and thank you for your kind words. Looking to Iran is always necessary to put politics aside as you have mentioned it. Every tourist I know is overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Iranians. Something you will never forget. My grandfather was also in Iran in the 60ties and he liked it a lot.

  2. Thanks very much for sharing your project. It was a good read – and shot on the chronically underappreciated Dƒ no less! (I don’t think I’d ever part with mine)

    Iran is definitely on my list of ‘must visit’ countries and it’s good to hear your experiences there as a solo traveller, which is something I love doing. Hopefully you’ve got more Iran travelogues to submit for us all to read, and maybe by this time next year we’ll all be further ahead of the virus than behind and some travel restrictions have been lifted.

    1. Thank you very much! The Df was perfect with its high ISO capability in this dark area. If you have to go to Iran, do it, you will not regret it. Traveling alone is very easy. But unfortunately at the moment with Corvid-19 it is impossible. Lets hope that next year everything will be better!!

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