The behavior of the athletes who attend zurkhaneh workouts is expected to follow moral virtues like fairness, sacrifice, piety, modesty, politeness and cheerfulness. Thus, a zurkhaneh athlete is supposed to adhere to a series of customs and traditions as soon as he arrives:
1. Early Risers:
Rising early is one of the oldest traits of zurkhaneh athletes. This custom arises out of Iran’s ancient traditions, its people’s cultural background and also the Islamic culture of worship and praying early in the morning. Xenfon and Strabon have stated that Achaemenid youth and adults rose early to exercise.
A wake-up bugle would summon them, and they all gathered at a certain place before dawn. Then the young men would be divided into groups of 50, and each group, led by its own leader would run 40 ostads (each ostad was 180 meters), over 7 kilometers.
2. Expressing Modesty and Humbleness on Arrival:
On entering the zurkhaneh, one must lower one’s head and express modesty and humbleness. That is why the entrances in zurkhanehs are quite low; that makes anyone who arrives bow his head - a reminder of the importance of modest, dignified and gracious behavior.
3. The Formalities of Greeting and Respecting Others:
The procedures used for paying others respect are:
• If a group is entering the zurkhaneh, they should offer each other to go first.
• Those who are older or more experienced in zurkhaneh sports have higher priority and should enter first.
• The most important or famous visitor is to be seated on the highest place of the steps surrounding the
• In the past, this seat for the most distinguished was situated beside the sardam, next to the morshed or the veteran. Nowadays, however, the best seats are across from the entrance or the platform opposite the sardam.
• Anyone in the gode or outside it is expected to give his seat to a visitor more experienced or older than him.
4. The Morshed’s Formalities:
The morshed’s duty is to go through certain formailities for anyone entering or exiting the zurkhaneh depending on his experience or rank:
• On the arrival of an experienced, developed athlete, the morshed calls out “Welcome!” and asks everyone
present to chant a salavat in his honor.
• Of the person entering is a veteran athlete, the morshed says, “Your arrival is most prosperous and delightful!” and, asking everyone present to chant a salavat in his honor, does a quick beat on his drum.
• On the arrival of a champion, the same procedure for the veteran athlete is carried out plus a ringing of the bell.
• Sometimes the morshed also chants poetry on the arrival of a champion or a distinguished guest after he does the usual formalities.
A few important notes
The only point of priority and superiority in the zurkhaneh is how experienced an athlete is, and this merit of priority and superiority is never to be violated. No new athlete should expect a veteran to ask him for permission, even of the veteran has a lower job or financial status than him outside the zurkhaneh.
• The morshed is responsible for carrying out all the necessary each athlete is due.
• When an experienced athlete is turning around, he must ask those present to chant a salavat, and when a champion is doing it, he should also ring his bell besides the salavat invitation.
• As each experienced athlete, veteran or champion enters or leaves, the morshed is to ask for salavats for the former, also a drum beat for the next, and a bell ring added for the latter.
5. Inviting to Start the Workout:
The zurkhaneh servant is responsible for present each athlete a folded towel as soon as he takes his seat - a sign that serves as an invitation to do the workout.
6. Asking the Elders for Permission:
• When an athlete intends to begin his workout, he must ask the elders present for permission to do so, by saying “hazeran, rukhsat!”
• If an athlete wishes to exercise alone, he must ask the elder athletes or the morshed for permission by
saying, “Rukhsat!” The response will be, “Fursat!” (a “chance”)
7. Paying Respect to the Sacred Gode (arena)
As soon as the athlete enters the gode, he should bend down, touch the ground of the gode with the fingers of his right hand (a tribute to the famed Iranian champion Poorya Vali) and then kiss his fingers.
8. The Myan-dar (leader)
During the workout, the myand-dar - the leader of the athletes - usually the most experienced of them, stands in the middle of the gode, and leads the athletes. He follows the morshed’s beat, and the other athletes follow him.
• Before the myan-dar takes his position in the middle of the gode, he must ask the elders present or the morshed for permission to do so. He should also offer another experienced athlete to do the job.
• All athletes are to obey the myan-dar.
• If an athlete does something other than what the myan-dar is doing, or if he just stands in the gode doing nothing, he has in fact disrespected the myan-dar.
• No one is allowed to leave the gode during a group workout without asking the myan-dar for permission.
• It is considered as impolite to speak or leave the gode while the myan-dar is praying.
9. The Athletes’ Positions in the Gode:
• Athletes enter the gode from the lowest part - opposite the morshed - and exit it across from the sardam.
• Each part of the gode has its own specific level and rank, and each person should take only his own designated position.
• The myan-dar stands in the middle, across from the morshed.
• First the sadat (those whose ancestors lead to the Holy Prophet Muhammad) take their positions, then the more experienced athletes, and finally the newer athletes take their positions at the myan-dar’s side.
10. Entering the Gode in shoes or Working Out in Street Clothes is not Allowed:
It is not allowable to enter the gode in regular, unsuitable street shoes .
11. No Fooling Around, Badmouthing, Smoking, Drugs or Alcohol:
In the zurkhaneh, it is forbidden to fool around, laugh out loud, accuse others falsely, smoke, drink, badmouth or talk behind others’ backs.
12. Nobody Should Exercise Alone Outside the Gode When Group Workouts Are in Progress
Those entering the zurkhaneh, especially the gode, should preferably have the ablutions needed for saying prayers. Athletes are to be both hygienically and religiously clean. Most renowned athletes never came to the zurkhaneh without the ablutions.
14. Kissing the Takhteh Shena (the Push-up Board) and the Kabbadeh:
Athletes customarily kiss the push-up board or the kabbadeh chain as a sign of respect before starting their workout.
15. The Sequence of Equipment Use in the Gode:
• Athletes begin using the push-up board and the meel according to age, starting from the eldest down to the youngest. The kabbadeh is passed on, however, from the youngest up to the eldest.
• When picking up the meel, the younger athletes should not precede the elder ones. First the sadat, then the more experiences athletes, and then the newer athletes do so.
16. Turning Around:
• First the younger athletes begin their turning-around workout, then the more experiences, and finally the sadat.
• Beginning athletes are to do their workout at the lower two sides of the gode.
• More experienced athletes begin their workout from the lower two sides to the eastern and western
sides of the gode.
• The experienced champion begins his workout under the sardam, the highest part of the gode.
• The morshed asks everyone present to chant a salavat (greeting to the Holy Prophet Muhammad and
His Progeny) when the experienced athletes begin their workout. He also rings his bell when the champion gets to work.
17. Encouraging the Athletes:
Providing the athletes with support and encouragement, especially during workouts with the meel or whirling around is another duty of the morshed’s. The myandar (the leader of the workout) and the most
experienced veteran may also join in.
18. Being Considerate toward Strangers Coming for a Workout:
If an athlete visits from another town, he must be paid the highest respect and fairness, even if he is not superior to the athletes present in experience or prowess. The visitor is offered the position of myandar;
if he does not accept, he is given the highest part of the gode to stand on, and he is always invited to go first in every activity.
19. Considering Others’ Superiority in Taking Turns:
If a veteran or an experienced athlete intends to - out of modesty and humbleness — waive his right and give his turn to others who should not go before him, the other athletes present are to interfere, and - cheerfully and politely - prevent a turn taken undeservedly.
20. Kabbadeh Zadan (Using the Kabbadeh):
Kabbadeh workouts also begin with the youngest athletes, then the elders do it, and finally the sadat (those whose ancestry leads to the Holy Prophet of Islam).
Each athlete must begin his workout and also end it by kissing the kabbadeh. At the end of his workout, he should hand it to the athlete higher than himself. No whirling around or other movement-full activities
are allowed while kabbadeh workouts progress.
21. The Morshed’s Counting:
When a champion is busy doing a kabbadeh workout or whirling around, the morshed accompanies him with his drumbeat and also counts. This is the highest respect he can pay the athlete.
22. Epics and Words of Wisdom:
It is the morshed’s duty to chant poetry containing rich words of wisdom in order to educate the athletes or remind them about great virtues in an understandable, clear voice. This used to be a quite significant part of youth education in the past.
23. Appropriate Chants to Encourage the Athletes:
Traditionally, the morshed uses faster drumbeats or chants appropriate to the age or the experience of the athletes in a loud and clear voice when the more demanding moves are to be done, like the whirling
around. Some of these chants are:
• To a skilled athlete: Masha-allah! (This is what God intended!)
• To an experienced, elderly athlete: The Commander of the Ahl-ebeit!
• To the strong, middle-aged athlete: Sepah-salar-e-Hussain (Imam Hussain’s main warrior), Abbas ibn Ali!
• To an experienced, elderly athlete: Ali’s Sepahsalar, Malik Ashtar!
• To a highly religious, worshipful elderly: Peer-e-sahar kheezan (the master of the early risers)
• To an old man: Habib ibn Mazaher!
• To soldiers and military men: O soldier of God’s path! May the Eighth Imam be with you!
• To an undisputed champion: Ali, the Lion of the Najaf Desert, Be Damned Anyone Who Denies This!
• To youth: Ali Akbar, son of Hussain
• To youth: Qassem ibn Hassan
• To a veteran athlete: Rustam, the Iron Man from Zabul!
24. Preventing Athletes from Catching Colds:
The masseur (also the servant/janitor of the zurkhaneh) wraps the sweaty bodies of the athletes standing and waiting for their turn to work with the kabbadeh or meel to prevent them from catching a cold.
After the workout and the praying, the myandar turnsto the elders or the highest figures present and asks, “What should we do now? If wrestling is on the schedule, the answer is “Wrestling.” If not, the answer is “As you wish.”
• In wrestling competitions, the residing champion or other veterans carefully observe the two wrestlers after they shake hands. If the match takes too long and no opponent succeeds in defeating the other - in other words, if the wrestling match “ties up” - stop the match. They also tell them to shake hands and kiss
each other’s cheek right away to prevent any grudges or adversity arising between them.
• Sometimes a champion may be confident in his power and want to wrestle. Customarily, after the workout and prayers are done, he reaches his hand out to every athlete present in the gode, and any athlete who wishes starts wrestling with him.
• When a rookie wrestles with an experienced champion, he puts his knee to the ground or kisses the champion’s shoulder as to show respect. At championship wrestling bouts, when the two wrestlers shake hands, the morshed chants the traditional “flower of wrestling.”
• The myandar, having asked the elders or veterans for permission, announces the workout session to have adjourned.
26. Respect for One’s Opponent:
Opponents are to be loved and cared for; without them, there would be no room for competition at all. It is important never to humiliate one’s opponent in public. The true, fair athlete would always let others go first.
27. Golreezan (Pouring Flowers):
“Golreezan” (Pouring Flowers) is an old zurkhaneh custom which follows occasions like wrestling matches between two well-known champions or having two veteran athletes make up and become friends again. This tradition consists of collecting charity funds spent to aid the needy, or on emergency relief for natural disasters, promoting local sports, giving visiting champions from other towns a reception, opening new zurkhanehs, or other zurkhaneh expenses.
• At “Pouring Flowers” ceremonies, sports-loving social figures, the rich and trustees of the people often donate considerable amounts to the charity fund.