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  isdy(2005-03-22 10:24:25, Hit : 23446, Vote : 3281
 The context of an Inuit game ? The cultural approach

We start our intellectual inquiry by the question whether the Inuit game of mouth pull is a sport or could become a sport in modern understanding.
Similar other Inuit games and activities "like ?Eskimo boxing""as well as competitions of pull and tug in other nonWestern cultures have typically been categorized as ?sport"by sport anthropologists. And likewise, sport historians have presented Old European popular pastimes like Fingerhakeln, finger pull, as early forms of ?sport?. In fact, at a first glimpse, mouth pull will appear as a bodily action, which is competitive and oriented towards performance. With these three elements, mouth tug fulfils the criteria of sport, as they were proposed by erudite sociologist analyses "defining sport by bodily action, competition and performance.

On the other hand one might doubt: Is tugthemouth really sport"There is no Olympic discipline of mouth pull, nor will there ever be one, probably. Our doubts reinforce when we have a closer look at the cultural context of the game.
Mouth pull was practiced in the traditional world of the Inuit, the Arctic Eskimo. During the long, dark winter season when the sun remains below the horizon during weeks or months, people draw closer in their communal long houses where every family disposes over a sort of cell with sleeping bank and an oil lamp, while the communal life determines the daily life. In the dance houses, kashim, the drums are booming and rumbling for permanent festivity. The drum dance, ingmerneq or qilaatersorneq, makes people high and provokes their laughter. The shamans, angakoq, practice their ecstatic healing displays, putting their settlement fellows into states of changed consciousness. In this atmosphere of social warmth and intensity it happens that people challenge each other, especially the strong men. Besides fist combat and competitions of lifting and balancing, a lot of pull and tug games are practiced "to tug the stick (arsaraq or quertemilik) or the match stick, to pull the rope (norqutit) or the smooth seal skin (asarniuneq), arm pull, finger, wrist or hand pull, neck, ear or foot pull, elbow pull (pakasungmingneq) and wrist pressing (mumigtut). For competitive pleasure, people may tug or turn each other's nose or ear "or even the testicles (Mauss 1904/05; Jensen 1965; Joelsen in: Idrætten 1978; Keewatin 1989).

During the summer time, the traditional Inuit society changed its social character fundamentally. It dissolved into nucleus families forming smaller groups of hunters and collectors. They met, however, again to summer festivals, aasivik, where drum dance and competitions again played a central role.
One of these summer events was portrayed by the famous Greenlandic painter Aron of Kangeq (18221869), showing one of the most eccentric pull exercises "pulling arse. In an open air scene, one sees a group of ten Inuit assembled around two men competing with trousers down. Jens Kreutzmann (18281899), collector of popular stories and traditions, described in more detail how people used a short rope with two pieces of wood fastened at the ends. They put these pieces into their backsides in order to tug the rope by their back muscles (Thisted 1997, 152154).
Sport or not sport"The particular case of pull and tug and its problem of definition opens up for some more comprehensive questions: What is sport "what is play in human life "what is the human being in movement"From the concrete play, the way leads to fundamental philosophical questions of human movement and human existence.
    
    Pedagogy of ?the unserious""actual experiences
These philosophical reflections are also stimulated by actual experiences with play and game in pedagogical practice.
Since some years, the International sports playground in Gerlev has worked practically and pedagogically with this challenge. It resulted from some fundamental considerations about the place of play and game in the pedagogical world of sport. Game and play are generally regarded as important aspects of sports, though they tend to be neglected in practice in favour of disciplinary training. In sport, play and games are considered to be educational entertainment for children and are used as warmup, i.e. as marginal in relation to the central process of achievement. On the ideological level, reference to play and game is often made in Olympic rhetoric. However, play is more than that, also in relation to sport. It is experimentation, role game and challenge of one?s own identity, revolt, team building, flirtation, contest and competitive engagement, processing of fear and anxiety, background for a good laugh... If play was to be taken seriously, a new approach was required "play and games as experimentarium.

The International sports playground, which opened in spring 1999, covers an area of three hectares and offers fine views towards the Great Belt. The playground is composed of different sites. There is a ?natural site"with a lake, a brook, shrubbery and a swamp. An ?urban site"features an asphalt rink for skating and street games and will later on also include a climbing tower. Pavilions around a "market place" form the "village site" with equipments for numerous Danish, Swedish, Breton and Flemish games as well as other games. Visitors may test their abilities in about fifty or hundred games within the playground area (Møller 1997).
Among these games, which are also described in some handbooks (Andkjær/Møller 1992, Møller 2000), a certain group is organized around the process of pull and tug:
Trækkekamp "Pull competition. Two competitors try by pulling and other bodily actions, foot against foot and arm against arm, to get each other out of balance
Trække stok or Svingel "Pull the stick. Two opponents, sitting feet to feet, seize a short stick and try to pull each other out of the sitting position.
Trække okse "Pull the ox. The same is done by two competitors, who lie backwards on the back of two helpers. The helpers help pulling by crawling from each other, pulling the pullers from each other.

Trække sømandshandske "Pull the sailor?s glove. Again, two opponents try, sitting feet to feet, to pull each other from one?s position. This time the fingers are used as a hook, hand in hand.
Stikke Palles øje ud "Cut out Palle?s eye. Two competitors seize a long stick, which is placed between their legs. Backside to backside, they try to pull the opponent towards a certain place, often a plug in the ground. ?Palle?s eye"may also be a burning candle, which shall be extinguished by one?s own end of the stick.

Grænsekamp "Pull over the border. Two teams challenge each other over a marked line on the ground, trying to pull single persons from the other team to one?s own side. One may form chains to hold each other on the own team.
Tovtrækning "Tugofwar. This is the wellknown team competition, which one has tried to transform into modern sport.
Trække kat "Pull the cat. The two competitors put the rope around their body, placing themselves on the opposite sides of a brook. They try, backside to backside, to pull each other into the water.
Snøre vibe "Tie up the pewit. Two competitors tie their feet to each other by a crossed rope. By pulling from foot to foot, one tries to get the opponent loose the balance and stumble to the ground.

Firtræk "Four men?s pull. Four persons hold a circleformed rope and try to pull their opponents into their respective directions, so that they can reach a certain plug on the ground. This includes the tactical element, by in cooperation to hinder the others in succeeding so.
Troldehoved or Balders Bal "Head of the troll or Fire of Balder. The players stand in a circle, hand in hand, around a circleformed rope lying inside. They try to pull each other into this inner ?fire?, and who steps over the rope, is ?out?. The hands may not be loosened.
Games of pull constitute, thus, a considerable group side by side with the other main groups: games of runandcatch, ball games, skittle games, competitions of force or agility, single combat and table games. In relation to modern sports, they balance between the possibility of becoming sportized or not. Many of the arrangements have grotesque elements, displaying the body backside to backside, not unlike the Inuit arse tug, and making the spectators and the competitors laugh.

By this ?experimentarium"of play and games, a lot of practical and educational experiences have been collected "about laughter and the ?nonserious"of games, about gender, about violence… The transfer of experiences from action research and participant observation to structured results in theory, is, however, a difficult process, which will take some years. So far, the telling of history and comparative culture studies will continue to dominate our knowledge in this field.




Three dimensions of pull & tug by Dr. Henning
Evolution and disappearance ? Historical approaches

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