Tug of War is one of the popular exercises in TBAE’s Boeresport Games team building activity. The Boeresport Games activity was designed to bring back old memories with a combination of traditional games where teams compete against each other with a variety of different exercise. In this blog, we will focus on Tug of War as one of those exercises.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes the original meaning of the phrase Tug of War as “the decisive contest, the real struggle or tussle; a severe contest for supremacy”. Tug of War has evolved into a competitive sport, team building exercise or popular recreational activity. Although there is no definite record of where Tug of War originated from, there is evidence that a form of Tug of War was practiced as far back as the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century BCE to 5th century BCE.
Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty is recorded as promoting mass Tug of War games with ropes up to 167 meters in length. Teams consisted of as many as 500 people, with each team having their own set of drummers to cheer them. Tug of War type games were also popular in India as far back as the 12th century AD. There are also stories of Viking warriors, from Scandinavia and Germany, pulling animal skins over open pits of fire as an exercise to prepare them for battle. It is only from the 19th century onwards that the term Tug of War became used for athletic contests between two teams at the opposite ends of a rope.
Formal competition rules for Tug of War requires that there must be two teams of eight people each. Teams are classified into different weight classes that compete against each other. The rope used in formal competitions is usually around ten centimeters in circumference and marked with a center line. On either side, four meters from the center line, there is another marking on the rope. The pull starts with the center line directly above a line marked on the ground. The winning team is the team that pulls the other team’s marker over the marking line on the ground. A team will also win when the other team commits a foul such as one of the members falling or lowering an elbow lower than the knee. Other possible fouls include touching the ground for an extended period or not keeping the rope underneath the arms. When used in team building or as a recreational activity, these rules will most likely be more loosely adhered to in keeping with the spirit of the activity.
There are many Tug of War clubs all over the world where men and women participate in this sport. It was part of the Olympic Games from 1900 to 1920 and is still contested in the World Games. The Tug of War International Federation organizes biannual World Championships for nations to compete. These competitions take place indoors as well as outdoors.