Obscure Sports from Around the World?

That’s such a cool story.

Kabbadi! I invite you to watch a game with the sound off, and try to figure out what the rules are.

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Also… Pesapallo, Finnish baseball:

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Strange sports was a fruitful topic for projects with multinational students I met and taught here in the UK last summer! (Fruitful in terms of both teaching English and in learning about wildly diverse cultures!)

I tried to teach a few of them how to play cricket (a highly obscure sport if you come from a non-Commonwealth country) and crafted some classroom language learning around it. What was even weirder and more entertaining was a project where students had to research unusual sports and competitions from around the World. It was a lot of fun and we all learnt a lot about such unique activities as sumo baby crying contests and a sorta-kinda one-legged hopping Omani variation on sumo shoving.

As for obscure sports that I’ve actually got experience of, we had a PE teacher at high school who made us play his version of Danish Longball. A hybrid of rounders, dodgeball and British bulldog, two teams take it in turns as the batting side and the catching/fielding side. At either end of the active playing area there are two safe zones and the bowler (pitcher) and fielders stand in the middle. (We played this in a school sports hall, so the playing area was enclosed by the walls that ran down both sides. It turned into something of a cauldron or like a corridor you have to fight your way down.)

The batter steps up and hits the dodgeball-style ball thrown at them by the bowler with their hand. If it’s caught without bouncing, they’re out. Otherwise, the challenge is to hit the ball and then run to the other end of the playing area. If they reach that safe zone without a fielder getting the ball, throwing it at them and hitting them (dodgeball style) under the neck then they’re safe. If they are hit beneath the neck, they’re gone. They then have to either stay in the safe zone or run back to the other side, where they can hit again when they’re up on the block. This continues until there’s no one standing ready to bat or until everyone has been caught or hit out.

If I remember rightly, that’s how we played it but Wikipedia suggests a game with many differences. (For a start, they have actual bats!) Regardless, it was a lot of fun in spite of the fact that it was brutal and intense! Hormone-raging high school teens given an excuse to throw stuff at their peers will inevitably take no prisoners…

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Do drinking games count?

I guess if it’s a sport, which I’m sure some people consider them.

Then I give you… Hammershlagen. An old German game/sport updated converted to a drinking game.


I apologize in advance for the cringe inducing bro level of this video. It was the best one I could find that combined both rules and gameplay footage.
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Reiska World Championship 2019 in Vesanto, Finland – “football with slippers on”.

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I’m sure how obscure it is, especially in Afghanistan, but Buzkashi is an amazing sport with very few rules except in the Olympic version. Picture a large field with dozens of people on horse back all chasing after a goat carcass, whipping both the horses and other riders; the winner gets $10, and then the chaos starts over again. Spectators and concession stalls alike run out of the way when the horses head your direction. It’s free to enter, but it’s one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

I watched a match in January, and had no idea what was going on most of the time but it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

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Flaming puck unicycle hockey! Invented in Toronto, Canada (of course!) by Darrin Bedford, it’s a summer hockey game played on unicycles on pavement w/a special puck that’s dunked in a flammable fluid and set on fire just before play. (The flame makes a nice blue flame line as you hit it to start the game). Regular ice hockey rules apply–sticks down, etc. We played this game at NAUCC some years ago, and it’s crazy fun on a unicycle! Video by www.justonewheel.com https://youtu.be/AoVJBWW_Q7c Also: https://images.app.goo.gl/DNSCVJuJF21UgUqb7flaming%20puck%20unicycle%20hockey

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In South Africa they play a sport called Jukskei Jukskei is a 270-year-old folk sport ( Jukskei is believed to have originated around 1743 in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa,[1] developed by “transport riders” who traveled with ox-drawn wagons.[2] They used the wooden pins of the yokes (Afrikaans: Skei ) of the oxen to throw at a stick that was planted into the ground. The game was also played during the Great Trek.[3] It was also played by the farmers from the Boland on beaches.

Jukskei became an organized sport around the year 1939, when the first unions were established and rules were formalized.[1]

Today[edit]

The sport is traditionally associated with the Afrikaners and in 2001 it was chosen by the SA government as one of the sports to be included in the Indigenous Games Project.[2] Since then the game has started to gain popularity with young people of all cultures.[4] There is usually a team of 4 players, of whom one is the captain, but it can also be played in pairs or singles. Jukskei in South Africa is played at schools, club and provincial level, and there is an annual tournament in Kroonstad in the Free State.[5] Jukskei is also being played in Namibia and the USA. The three countries are affiliated to the International Jukskei Federation (IJF).

Basic rules[edit]

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Dimensions of a Jukskei field - distances given to closest pin; 9m between pins

The object of the game is to knock over a peg that is planted in a sandpit over a distance of between 11 and 16 m (depending on age and gender). It is played in teams with usually four members each. Each member has two skeis (and thus two turns). The playing field consists of two pits juxtaposed in opposite directions, so that play can take place in both directions. Each time a team member knocks over the peg, he gets three points. If the peg wasn’t knocked out, the team lying closest to the position of the peg, scores as many points as they have skeis closer to the peg than their opponent’s closest skei. The first team to get exactly 23 points first wins the game. If the team gets more than 23 points, they start from 0.[2][Afrikaans] and the forerunner of American [horseshoe pitching]

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Up here in Vermont (and more recently in New Hampshire and upstate New York) a few of us compete in primitive biathlon. You might know about Olympic biathlon - people in spandex on skinny skis with precision .22 rifles skiing and shooting. Like that, only with wooden snowshoes and muzzleloading rifles, 18th/19th century style. There are three events in Vermont and a couple each in upstate NY and NH.

The courses are generally 1-1/2 to 2 miles, with 9 steel gong targets of all sizes and shapes spread out along the course. Each hit takes five minutes off your running time. The challenges are that 1) moving at any decent speed on snowshoes makes your pulse and breathing skyrocket, so holding still is hard, and 2) keeping an old style firearm working in sub-freezing temperatures is an issue.

Some people dress the part, and others for cold weather survival. There’s a festive atmosphere; very few people are deadly serious about it. People encourage each other and help each other out.

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Boomerangs Boomerangs and More Boomerangs. The United States Boomerang Association (USBA) is but one organization of a worldwide sport. I had the great pleasure to compete in one competition. Throwing a boomerang is a combination skill, a little luck and a keen understanding of the attributes of the particular ‘rang’ you are throwing. Yes they do come back! Accuracy of returns and distance are the core attributes of the sport which I embraced. One can make your own boomerang or purchase one in many shapes and sizes. Each performs very differently. Think of boomerangs as a sport like golf, the wind is a core element, angles of release, power of release, and layover all contribute to the accuracy of the throw. Unlike golf, the equipment is minimal and all you need is a big open field. No little ball to chase, just a stick – if it does not return. But like golf - you’re going to do a lot of walking until you get really good. Try it out today.

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For years I’ve been haunted by a ridiculously fascinating British military sport called the Royal Navy Gun Race where teams race to get a full cannon and ammo across a chasm. I am transfixed on many levels, not least of which is that it still survives! For a guy who hates war, guns and guys acting all macho why do I love this sport so much?? Check it out!

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I have been fascinated with Hurling ever since I saw it. Few outside of Ireland know about it, but it is perhaps the most ancient team sport still played in Europe. The game appears in some of Ireland’s most ancient legends. It is fast paced and can be brutal, but it is sure fun to watch.

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I used to play jugger, it’s a lot of fun. Based on a movie starring Rutger Hauer, it’s basically rugby with a side of LARP - have a documentary explaining the whole thing.

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Oh wow. This is really cool!

RIP Rutger Hauer. This sport looks pretty incredible.

Lacrosse is probably the best-known sport based on games played by Indigenous peoples of the Americas, but (likely) before it there was… Mesoamerican ballgame.

While it never truly went away after Spanish conquest, it has had something of a recent revival under the name of ulama. There are variants to it, but the most unique is where the players can’t use hands, legs or feet to strike a hard rubber ball. What do they use then? Hips. It’s all about the hips.

Headdresses are usually optional, but loincloths are standard. Like this article mentions, the sport owes some of its revivalist popularity to the show in theme park Xcaret.
https://www.npr.org/2018/09/16/646756260/an-ancient-ballgame-makes-a-comeback-in-mexico

The purépechas of Michoacán state had their own game which is also still played and due to the good ol’ “wow factor” of fire, is also a highlight of the same show. Called uárukua chanakua, it’s also known by the slightly-less-of-a-mouthful name of pelota purépecha. Video should skip to 3 minutes in, when the game actually starts.

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Here’s an obscure sport that apparently only exists in my hometown, Racine, WI. It’s called Kankakee Bowling, so I guess it must have originated in Illinois. The Racine Journal Times describes it as “a quirky form of (bowling) that involves five regulation-size pins, bocce ball-sized balls without fingerholes and a human pinsetter.”

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