UWEC’s Wide World of Sports

Knock the pole over to win — just try to avoid the 75 guys defending it

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April 1, 2021


Crouching on top of a pole might not seem like a sport, but, when there are roughly 75 guys trying to push someone off the top, it becomes a bit more complicated.

Bo-taoshi is a sport that is not widely played around the world. In fact, it is only played in certain circumstances in Japanese schools, like during sports festivals. 

The origin of bo-taoshi is a little unclear, however Sports Illustrated and The New York Times attribute it to originating at the National Defense Academy of Japan. 

Translating directly to “pole bring down” in English, bo-taoshi is known for its high injury count, causing its popularity in school festivals to decline, The New York Times said.

The teams in bo-taoshi are massive, considering that the total required players for a bo-taoshi match maxes out at 150 people per team. The offense has 75 people while an additional 75 people play on defense.

According to Culture Trip, the game starts with one defensive player crouched on top of the pole — this is the ninja. They must remain at the top of the pole and kick away other players from taking the pole down below a certain point. 

The ninja also can lean to counterbalance the offense’s attacks and keep the pole upright.

Surrounding the pole and the ninja are the rest of the defensive players, who are split up into a few different groups.

One group of the defense, called the pole support, try to keep holding the pole upright for as long as possible. 

Another defensive group is the barrier. This group converges around the pole and the pole support to protect them from the attackers.

The next group is the interference, who try to keep the attackers from reaching the pole in a more direct way than the barrier group.

The final defensive group is the scrum disablers. This group tries to disable the scrum of the other team so that they cannot use the scrum to springboard onto the pole.

The offense has fewer positions and is a bit less complicated. There are the support attacks, which are meant to distract the defense from the actual attacks.

Additionally, there are the scrum or springboard attackers whose sole purpose is to act as springboards for the pole attackers by standing in a way that the pole attackers can jump from their backs onto the poles.

Finally, there are the pole attackers, who try to drag the pole below a certain degree angle to the ground to win while trying to avoid a foot to the face. 

According to Mother Nature Network, the defensive team wears white while the offensive team wears their team colors. 

The rules say players cannot wear shoes on account of the likelihood of injuries; however, players often wear helmets to help keep the damage to a minimum, Sports Aspire said.

As the offense of one team is attacking a defense, the other team does the same. So, there are two attacks occurring at the same time — all in the span of a few minutes.

The game ends when the end of the pole that is not touching the ground is about 30 degrees perpendicular to the ground.

Spierings can be reached at [email protected].