January 11th, 2009 No comments

Yachting has been an Olympic sport since 1900, although with a name change to Olympic sailing in 2000. All Olympic races are held by class in which competitors race each other in identical boats in a fleet race. Generally, the smaller and simpler boats are the least expensive, and so have the larger world following, leading to larger Olympic fleets. Sailboard fleets have had over 50 countries competing.

The first Olympic yachting races held were in 1900, in France, at Meulan and Le Havre, when seven classes (1/2, 1/2-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-10, 10-20 tons, and open) were raced. Only six nations (France,  Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States) competed,perhaps because the events had been announced only four months before the Games. No yachting events were held at the 1904 St. Louis Games, but the sport was back on the program in 1908 and has remained an Olympic sport ever since.

In 1908,most Olympic events were held in London, but sailing venues were Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, for most classes, and on the Clyde in Scotland, for the 12- meter event. Five classes were used (6, 7, 8, 12, and 15 meters) and five nations took part. There were no entries for the 15-meter class; only one 7-meter entry, which had among the crew Frances Rivett-Carnac,who thus became the first Olympic yachtswoman; and both 12 meters had British crews. In 1912, races were held for 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12-meter boats, with a total of 21 boats from five nations.

In 1920, Olympic yachting began to have small boat (dinghy) racing, which has continued in some form ever since. An astonishing 14 classes raced. Seven classes had only one entrant, and this created a major move toward the use of one-design classes (where all boats in the fleet are of the same type and exactly alike) from 1924 on. In 1924, a 12-foot Voetsjol class became the first Olympic single-hander, and 6- and 8-meter boats were also raced.

In 1932, in Los Angeles, the Star class was raced for the first time. It remained an Olympic class until 1996. Other classes were the Snowbird (a single-hander, each of which was provided by the organizing committee, and exchanged after each race among the 11 competitors), and the 6 and 8 meter. In 1936, in Kiel, the Olympia-Jolle replaced the Snowbird as the singlehander. A total of 26 nations raced 59 boats.

Following the canceled Olympics of 1940 and 1944, the 1948 Games began to look more like modern racing. The classes were Firefly,Dragon, Star, Swallow, and 6 meter. The courses were, for the first time, started into the wind. Seventy-five boats competed.

In 1952, the Finn made its first appearance as the single-hander, replacing the Firefly. Finns remain an Olympic class to this day. The same classes (Finn, Flying Dutchman, Star, Dragon, and 5.5 meter) were used in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

Communication with onshore coaches (whether by shouting or over radio) was banned in 1964, and semiprofessional sailors-people who made their living as sail makers-began to dominate events. In 1972, the Soling and Tempest joined the competition classes,and the 5.5 meter was dropped.

The lack of correlation between Olympic classes and classes most popular with the general public showed some correction in 1976 when the classes raced at Kingston on Lake Ontario, Canada, were Finn, Flying Dutchman, 470, Soling, Tempest, and Tornado (the first catamaran raced in the Olympics). The Star came back in 1980 to replace the Tempest, but yachting was more seriously affected than most sports in the boycott of that year because the events were held at Tallinn, in Estonia, which several countries refused to recognize as being part of the Soviet Union. The number of boats, 53,was the lowest since 1956.

In Los Angeles in 1984, an entirely new type of sailing was added: sailboarding. Other classes remained the same. This idea was extended to a women-only class of sailboarders in 1992 and a women’s single-hander, the Europe,was added to the men’s Finn. For 1996, the classes were Europe (women), Finn (men), Laser, 470 (men), 470 (women), sailboard (men), sailboard (women), Soling (men and women), Star (men and women), and Tornado (men and women). Of the eight different classes, two are keelboats, one is a catamaran, one is a sailboard, and four are centerboard dinghies, which closely approximates to world popularity of the various types of racing boats.

The large number of recreational boaters suggests that yachting, as an Olympic event or other race, will remain popular.

Categories: Y


January 11th, 2009 No comments

Sailboarding, also called boardsailing and windsurfing, has grown from obscurity to full Olympic status within 20 years. It is a mix of surfing and sailing, and its appeal is that it is relatively inexpensive, easy to play, and flexible.Most sailboarders cartop their sailboards to wherever the wind best suits their level of skill, and in perhaps 30 minutes can assemble them and be in the water. Changing sail size keeps sails manageable over a wide range of wind strengths. Some people also like the social side of the sport.

The invention of sailboarding is a most controversial aspect of the sport,with claimants in the United States, England, and Australia.Wherever its origins, the sport grew slowly in California and very quickly in Europe in the 1970s. Because the sport was new, board designs changed swiftly to test the limits of the possible. In 1977, Larry Stanley developed footstraps while sailing Hawaii’s big waves. Footstraps, along with shorter boards,made aerial maneuvers possible.

Unfortunately, stability and flotation decreased as board length and maneuverability increased, and expert-end boards became so small they sank when stationary. The 1980s brought funboards that tried to combine the best of both. This backfired in one sense; mass numbers of sailboarders began trying to perfect advanced techniques: water starting (using the wind to pull the sailor up and out of the water and into the sailing position), footsteering, and various turning maneuvers. High-performance boards have fully battened sails (sails with fiberglass strips inserted into pockets stretching from the leech,or back edge of the sail, to the mast); its semi-permanent curve makes it behave more like an airplane wing, and the airfoil shape increases speed.Harnesses, first designed to fit around the chest
and later to support to the hips, compensate for limited arm strength.

A mast is attached to a board via a universal joint. This makes the rig (mast, sail, and boom) movable in any direction. The sailor stands and supports the rig by holding onto a wishbone-shaped boom and steers by adjusting sail position and shifting weight on the board.

Rules and Play
Sailboarders need board, sail, mast, and boom, plus a wetsuit in all but the warmest water.
Beginners first learn to balance on the board before adding the sail.For the easiest start, the board should be positioned across the wind with the mast pointing away from the wind. The sailor stands on the board and slowly pulls the rig up from the water (called uphauling) until the boom is reached. Steering is performed by raking the rig. Leaning it back pivots the boat more toward the wind, and leaning it forward turns the boat away from the wind. Carry either of these maneuvers on long enough, and the board will eventually turn completely around; the former is called coming about, the latter jibing. More advanced sailboarders let the wind pull them up, out of the water, and into sailing position (waterstarting) and steer by banking the board with their feet.

Sailboards are categorized by design. Some are designed for racing, in which competitors jockey for position at the starting gun (or start off the beach) and then sail around a series of buoys in a predetermined order and direction.Rules are based upon sailing rules. Division I boards are flat bottomed; division II boards have round bottoms. One-design classes feature identical boards. There are also slalom races and marathon events; the most notable marathon occurred in 1981–1982 when a Frenchman, Christian Marty, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Dakar, Senegal, to Cayenne, French Guiana, eating and sleeping on board.

Olympic sailboarding for men and women was first held at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, with 38 countries participating.Another major sailboarding competition is the Pan Am Cup sailed off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Speed sailing is another branch of the sport, and sailboards have held the world speed record for all forms of sailing craft.

Other sailboards are designed for freestyle sailing, in which performers attempt very intricate maneuvers. Sailboard jumping, both competitive and recreational, is a branch of freestyle. People now sail indoors, using jet engines to provide wind, and there is a professional indoor circuit. The sailboard principle is also used for both ice and land versions of the sport.

Tandem sailboards, with two sails and two sailors, as well as three-sailed tridems, also exist; for both, sailors must cooperate completely to steer. The sport demands more balance and skill than pure strength, and men and women of all ages enjoy the sport in its many variations.

Categories: S

Race walking

January 11th, 2009 No comments

Race walking is a sport in which some part of the foot must always be in contact with the ground.An Olympic sport since 1906, it is now practiced for fitness and recreation as well.

Race walking began in London in 1897. Since 1906, walking races have been a part of the Olympic trackand- field program and in 1919 the London-to-Brighton walking race (about 86.1 kilometers or 53.5
miles) had become an annual event, with women first participating in 1932. In the 1950s and 1960s a walking craze swept Great Britain, and hundreds of people, sometimes individually or in sponsored competitions, raced the length of the country.

The race walking world championship, the Lugano Trophy, was instituted in 1961. This biennial contest awards points to the first three walkers (from teams of four) in both the 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) and 50- kilometer (31-mile) races, and the point total determines team position. Race walking has long been plagued by the problem of “lifting,” that is, the competitor’s failure to keep at least one foot in contact
with the ground throughout a race. Between 1956 and 1984, a series of controversies and disqualifications resulted.

Recently, race walkers have taken to ultramarathon distances. Malcolm Barnish’s 1985 feat of walking 663.17 kilometers (412.08 miles) nonstop set a world record. It took him 6 days, 10 hours, and 32 minutes. From 10 June 1970 to 5 October 1974, American David Kunst walked and walked and walked. He became the first person to circumambulate the globe.

In the 1990s, the old-fashioned sport of race walking became part of the fitness fad because of its use in cardiorespiratory conditioning.

Categories: R


January 11th, 2009 No comments

One-wall paddleball and four-wall paddleball are the names given to two related but different games. Onewall paddleball, played almost exclusively in the five boroughs of New York City, is much like handball, only played with a wooden paddle. Four-wall paddleball, invented in this century, differs significantly.

One-wall paddleball is essentially the Irish game of court handball in the United States. By 1940, some 95 percent of all New York City parks offered one-wall handball facilities. At some unknown point thereafter, innovative players began to use wooden paddles instead of bare hands.

By 1980, New York had an estimated 200,000 paddleball players, whose main difficulty was finding courts. None of the three “associations” in the city survived; one-wall paddleball’s popularity is matched by its resistance to formal regulation-a principal charm for aficionados.

Four-wall paddleball, in contrast, was invented by Earl Riskey in 1930 at the University of Michigan,probably inspired by his observation of tennis players’ offseason practice on indoor handball and squash courts. Some used regular tennis rackets, some made do with wooden table tennis paddles. Riskey envisioned a new game, which combined elements of tennis with a handball-style court and regulations.

When Riskey inaugurated the game,he found a regulation tennis ball too heavy and too sluggish. Experimentation revealed that he could remove the fuzzy covers of tennis balls by soaking them in gasoline, which yielded a core with the appropriate weight and action. Piercing this core with a needle reduced the pressure to produce an appropriate action. A more sophisticated version of the ball was being commercially produced by 1950.

Four-wall paddleball was energetically promoted by its inventor and enthusiastically taken up by many at the University of Michigan. During World War II it was designated as one of the activities under the U.S. Armed Forces Conditioning Program.After the war, the game was taught at many sports and youth clubs that were either exclusively devoted to the sport or to a variety of the “lesser” racquet games.A National Paddleball Association was formed in 1952. That association, still extant, sponsored a national tournament in 1961, and by the 1970s tournament play was regularly scheduled.

Rules and Play

One-wall paddleball can be played against any available wall fronted by a hard and level area. The “regulation” court is 10.4 meters (34 feet) long by 6.1 meters (20 feet) wide. The wall against which the ball is hit runs (16 feet) high along one end of the court. Custom is loose with regard to the paddle used in one-wall paddleball, though it is generally 20 centimeters (8 inches) wide by 40 centimeters (16 inches) long. Paddle surfaces may be taped; rough surfaces are discouraged. Any number and size of holes may be bored through the paddle. A player wins with 21 points unless his opponent has already scored 20, in which case the game continues until one player wins by a 2-point margin.

The four-wall paddleball court is identical to a racquetball court: 12.2 by 6.1 meters (40 by 20 feet), with front and side walls 6.1 meters high. The back wall is no less than 3.7 meters (12 feet) and the ceiling provides a fifth playable surface.  Four-wall paddleball may be played by two, three,or four players. A two-player game is a “single,” a threeplayer game-with each player rotating against the
other two-is called “cut throat,” and a four-player game “doubles.”

One-wall paddleball, like handball, has preserved its raffish, urban character. All of the city’s ethnic groups play, though currently the best players are said to be Hispanics and African Americans. Facilities are available, though urban problems have taken their toll on upkeep, and few commercial indoor courts exist for winter use.

Four-wall paddleball has not thrived numerically; probably fewer than 10,000 four-wall paddleball players practice in the United States, far below the 200,000 playing one-wall paddleball in New York City alone.The major obstacle to the flourishing of four-wall paddleball was most likely the rise in popularity of racquetball.

Yet the devotees of four-wall paddleball remain and, as with many of the “smaller” sports, its tournaments exhibit what one player calls a “family reunion” spirit, more dependent on sociability and shared history than on competitive or commercial aspiration.

Categories: P

Maccabiah Games

January 11th, 2009 No comments

The Maccabiah Games, held in Israel every four years, is a sports competition with cultural and educational activities for Jewish athletes. While other all-Jewish games-gymnastic tournaments in Europe as early as 1903-preceded the Maccabiah Games, these games remain the only exclusively Jewish global sporting festival. Regional Maccabiah Games, organized by the MWU, are also held throughout the world.


The Maccabiah Games were proposed at the Maccabi World Congress of 1929 as an in-gathering, or Aliyah, of Jewish athletes every three years in what is now Israel (then the British Mandate of Palestine). The first Maccabiah Games, held in 1932, were founded by the Maccabi World Union (MWU). In the face of immense obstacles-no facilities or funding-money was found to build Israel’s first sports stadium. Three hundred and ninety athletes from 14 countries took part in the games. The second Maccabiah, held in 1935,was also in Tel Aviv. One hundred and thirty-four German athletes
defied the Nazi ban on sending a delegation, managed to obtain visas, then registered their protest against the Nazi government by refusing to hoist their country’s flag in the opening ceremonies. The games took place when Jewish immigration was greatly restricted, causing many athletes to remain in the country. The worsening political situation in Europe prevented the third Maccabiah Games, scheduled for 1938, from taking place.

When the games resumed in 1950, they were the first major sporting event to be held in the sovereign state of Israel. The Holocaust had reduced the number of participants to 800 athletes from 19 countries. The fourth Maccabiah (1953) introduced the torch run from Modi’in, the burial place of Judah Maccabiah, to the stadium.

Subsequent games saw increased participation and expanded facilities.By the 14th Maccabiah of 1993,delegations from Eastern Europe took part for first time since the end of World War II. A South African delegation also participated for the first time in 20 years after an international boycott (prompted by apartheid racial policies) was lifted.

Events and Sports

The events at both the Maccabiah Games and the regional games are track and field, badminton, basketball, cricket, football, mini-football, gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, golf, handball, field hockey, ice hockey, judo, karate, half marathon, lawnbowls, netball, rowing, rugby, rugby 7, sailing, shooting, softball, sports aerobics, squash, swimming, tae kwon do, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, beach volleyball, water polo, wrestling, and weightlifting. Also included in the games are chess, bridge, and backgammon.

The MWU has also sponsored many games throughout the world. The Maccabiah Winter Games were held in Banska Bystrica, Zakopane, in 1933 and the Baltic Maccabi Games in Lita in 1937. Permanent
regional games are flourishing, including the European Maccabi Games and the Pan American Maccabi Games staged in Montevideo, Uruguay, both held in 1990; the North American Maccabi Youth Games in Detroit in 1990, the Maccabi Sports Carnivals in Australia and South Africa; and the Maccabi Games in Colombia.

Categories: M


January 11th, 2009 No comments

Karting is a motor sport that is also known as “go-karting.” Karts are four-wheeled vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines.The frame is often uncovered, and karts seat only one person.While their size, power, and mechanical complexity do vary, karts are essentially small and simple.

Karting originated in southern California in 1956, when Art Ingels, a professional racing technician, constructed a tiny kart for his own amusement. Although karts have become larger and more sophisticated since then, Ingels’s design has remained the basic prototype. Ingels first ran his tiny kart as a hobby, then started a business named Caretta to manufacture karts commercially. The karts attracted public attention, and soon other companies began making them. The Go Kart Club of America was formed in 1957, and the first sanctioned kart race was held that year.

Interest in karting quickly spread in the United States and to Europe,Asia, and other parts of the world. Initially, it was a fad. The overall level of interest eventually subsided, but karting has remained a popular sport. Karting is especially competitive in Europe. In the 1990s there was a renewed level of interest in the United States.

Rules and Play
Most karts average in length from 1.5 meters (5 feet) to slightly over 1.8 meters (6 feet), and they are generally under 63 centimeters (25 inches) tall with a 100 centimeter (40 inches) wheelbase (width). The kart body is usually open,with railings for bumpers. Some karts, however, do have covered bodies that resemble larger race cars. Karting vehicles and events are divided into several classes, including special classes for young drivers. Classifications are also based on the specifications of the karts.

Karts are classified by whether they have a directdrive system (in which the engine is connected to the wheels by a chain) or use a gearbox. The basic kart has a single, rear-mounted engine.However, karts may also have side-mounted or twin engines. There are numerous sizes and categories of kart engines. Most karts have small two- or four-stroke motors that resemble lawnmower engines. Nevertheless the fastest karts are able to reach speeds of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour) or more.

The driver sits with legs extended or bent in front, and his feet operate the gas and brake pedals. In many karts, such as Sprint-type racers, the seat back is upright. In Enduro karts the seat is angled very low so the driver is reclining to reduce wind-resistance. Karts have extremely sensitive steering, so concentration and fast reflexes are important. In addition to the steering wheel, the driver shifts his weight to assist in turning. The sense of speed often seems more intense to the driver in karts than in larger vehicles.

Karting is an amateur sport.Young people who have access to suitable land often drive karts for fun or to practice their driving skills. More serious young karters and adults also participate in competitive events, including informal rallies and more formalized, sanctioned karting races. The guidelines for these are established by regional or national karting organizations. Among the largest such groups in North America are the World Karting Association and the International Kart Federation.

The specific rules and standards of karting differ from country to country. Most kart races are held on closed, round tracks, which are generally a mile or less. A popular form of racing includes short races with large fields of drivers running a series of laps for a designated distance or period of time. In longer, endurance contests, the drivers make many more laps. Karting appeals to all ages and is accessible to large numbers of people. Its glory days as a fad have passed, but it seems likely to retain its loyal participants.

Categories: K

Jai Alai

January 11th, 2009 No comments

Jai alai owes its unique development to the Basques, inhabitants of a small territory of southwestern France and northwestern Spain that borders the Bay of Biscay. Jai alai-cesta punta in Spanish-is the most exciting offspring of Basque pelota, the large family of games utilizing a hand or instrument to propel a ball. Jai alai is almost exclusively played professionally.


Jai alai means “merry festival” in Basque and was the original name of one of the greatest courts ever constructed for the game, Fronton Jai Alai, built in 1887 in San Sebastian, Guipuzcoa, Spain.

The novel element of jai alai, and what makes it uniquely Basque, is the basket, or chistera, used to toss the ball. This apparently replaced a long leather glove with a deep curve created in the 19th century that pelota players used. The size of the new gloves allowed players to hold the ball for an instant before hurling it back against the wall or to the opposing side. This stroke, known in Basque as atchiki (to hold) was a stronger and more accurate stroke. This made for faster,more spectacular games, but nevertheless led to a decline in playing; the games were more demanding and the new glove costly.

Numerous references point to a youngster named Juan Dithurbide, from the French Basque village of Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle, as the first person to use a basket with which to play pelota. The chistera (French) or cesta (Spanish) was an oblong, shallow wicker fruit basket used by peasant farmers for gathering beans and fruit. According to the references, the boy, on impulse, picked up the fruit basket and struck a few balls against the wall of a barn. Realizing the importance of his invention, Dithurbide began constructing chisteras in 1857 in order to sell them.His design was shorter and straighter than current chisteras and very similar in size and shape to the leather gloves. At first, the chistera was used mainly by the local children, but it soon caught on among adults. It was extremely similar in size and shape to the old leather glove, except that it was constructed from wicker.The use of the basket was enhanced by the simultaneous appearance of a rubber-cored ball.

The new games spread to Cuba, North and South America, and the Philippines. A Basque player in Argentina created a more advanced chistera in 1888 to compensate for residual weakness after he broke his wrist. This very long and curved chistera allowed players to propel the ball forward two-handed with a rhythmic upward and forward heave from the backhand side. This new way of swinging the chistera revolutionized the game.

Rules and Play

This new game, almost exclusively professional, came into being as cesta punta. The courts that jai alai is played on are known as “frontons.” They may be open or enclosed,but all have a front wall,back wall, and leftside wall. The right side usually has a tiered terrace for spectators. The object of jai alai is to hurl the ball against the front wall with so much speed and spin that the opposing player can’t return it. The ball can touch any wall, and it remains in play until it bounces on the floor twice. Traditional games in the Basque country are still played to 35 or 40 points.

The vogue of jai alai as a spectator sport and pretext for gambling affected the game adversely at the beginning of the 20th century. Popularity declined with increased professionalism and the rapid spread of soccer (association football). In 1921, the Fédéracion Française de Pelote Basque was formed, codified the various pelota games, wrote rules, classified players, and generally gave the game a responsible and coherent authority. Organizations in Spain and various South American countries followed suit. An international organization, the Fédéracion Internacionale de Pelota Vasca, in 1945 standardized an international code of rules for playing and umpiring. In 1952 the federation organized its first world championship in San Sebastian, Spain,with eight nations competing.

Professional jai alai entered the United States in 1904 as pelota. A fronton was built during the World’s Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri. Although the fronton closed just two months later, professional pelota then moved on to Chicago and New Orleans, where it permanently assumed its new name of jai alai, mainly through the efforts of promoters who wanted to give it a more exotic sound.

The game declined in popularity due to the prohibition of alcohol, the illegality of gambling, and the economic hardship of the Depression. Miami, Florida, where pari-mutuel betting was legal,was an exception; in 1924, the organization World Jai Alai built a fronton and the game was an immediate success as a tourist attraction. Nevada followed Florida in legalizing betting, and a fronton opened at a hotel there in 1974. Other frontons opened later in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Jai alai is now played everywhere in the world with a Basque population.While the method of scoring has been radically transformed to a round-robin type of play, the games still call for a great deal of strength and stamina, highly esteemed values in Basque society.

Categories: J


January 11th, 2009 No comments

Iaido is the Japanese martial art of drawing and cutting in the same motion, or “attacking from the scabbard.” Iaido is considered a method of self-development but is also practiced as a sport, with two competitors performing side by side, and a panel of judges declaring a winner.

The idea of cutting from the draw may have originated as early as the 11th century, but modern Iaido dates to about 1600. Iaido is practiced solo with real blades, in set routines called kata.Most styles trace their origin to Jinsuke Shigenobu (ca. 1546-1621), whose followers developed hundreds of different styles,dozens of which are still practiced. Today the two most popular are the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and the Muso Shinden Ryu.

In the mid-20th century two major governing bodies for iaido were formed; the All Japan Iaido Federation, and the Iaido section of the All Japan Kendo Federation. Both organizations developed common sets of kata to allow students of different styles to practice and compete together.Although not overly common even in its country of origin, iaido has followed the Japanese martial arts around the world.

Rules and Play
The art has had many names over the years, but iaido was accepted about 1930. The “I” comes from the word ite (presence of mind) and the “ai”from an alternate pronunciation of the word awasu (harmonize) in the phrase kyu ni awasu (flexible response in an emergency).

The art is a Japanese budo and as such is intended mainly as a method of self-development and appeals to those looking for something deeper than a set of fighting skills. The concentration and focus needed to perfect the movements of drawing and sheathing a sharp sword while watching an (imaginary) enemy benefit the mind. The art also demands excellent posture and the ability to generate power from many positions. For many years iaido was considered esoteric, and it was often assumed one had to be Japanese to fully understand it. In the past decades that thinking has changed and iaido is now practiced around the world.Apart from its exotic look, iaido does not generally appeal to spectators, being restrained and quiet in its performance.

The main practice is done alone, and iaido kata contain four parts, the draw and initial cut (nuki tsuke), the finishing cut(s) (kiri tsuke), cleaning the blade (chiburi), and replacing the blade in the scabbard
(noto). The swordsman learns many patterns of movement for dealing with enemies who may attack alone or in groups from various angles.

One of the simplest kata is as follows: From a kneeling position the sword is drawn from the left side and a horizontal cut is made from left to right while stepping forward. The sword is raised overhead and a twohanded downward cut is made. The blade is then circled to the right and the imaginary blood is flicked off while standing up.The feet are switched while checking the opponent, and the blade placed back into the scabbard while kneeling.

Various styles of iaido may practice with the long sword (over 60 centimeters [about 2 feet]), the short sword (30-60 centimeters [1-2 feet]), or the knife (under 30 centimeters [less than 1 foot]).Many styles also include partner practice in the form of stylized kata performed with wooden blades for safety.

Iaido has grading systems administered by two governing bodies. The All Japan Kendo Federation (and the International Kendo Federation) bases its curriculum mainly on a common set of 10  techniques, while the All Japan Iaido Federation has a set of 5. The swordsman must perform various techniques from these common sets. For the senior grades, techniques from an old style (koryu) must also be performed. A judging panel observes the performance and passes or fails the challenger. Both organizations use the Kyu-Dan system of ranking, with several student or kyu grades and 10 senior or dan grades.

Some older styles of iaido never joined a major organization. They argue that an organization containing several styles and a common set of techniques will lead to a modification or dilution of the pure movements of the individual style, and that all styles will eventually come to look alike.

Iaido competitions are becoming more common outside Japan. The usual format consists of two competitors performing several kata side by side, with a panel of judges deciding on the winner, who then
moves on to the next round. The major organizations hold a number of competitions each year, and the International Kendo Federation is considering a world championship for iaido.

As in many martial arts, there is an ongoing discussion about whether competition is good in an activity intended to improve the practitioner. Those in favor of competition will point out that all sports benefit the players. Their opponents will suggest that the benefits of martial arts are quite different and incompatible with the benefits derived from competition.As is also true of other martial arts, the dispute is not likely to be resolved soon.

Categories: I


January 11th, 2009 No comments

Falconry is a form of hunting in which birds of prey are trained to find and kill game for their human owners. It is an ancient sport that was once extremely popular, and although it is far less prevalent today, it still has numerous enthusiasts in many parts of the world.An important element of falconry is the training of the birds-a slow, complex process that requires patience, skill, and careful attention to detail. For many falconers this aspect of the sport, together with the appreciation of watching the magnificent birds in flight and the opportunity to preserve and display the birds for others, is just as important as the actual hunt.

Falcons are members of the Falconidae family, a category of hawks.They are powerful, fast birds of prey that swoop down and catch their quarry in their claws and talons. Eagles and other birds of prey are also used in the sport on a more limited basis; however, technically, falconry refers specifically to the use of falcons. When other species of hawks are used, the sport is called hawking. Nevertheless, people often refer to the general use of any of these birds as falconry.


Falconry is believed to have started in Asia and the Middle East, possibly as early as 2000 B.C.E. Falconry spread to Europe in the centuries following the death of Christ. It became especially popular in the British Isles during the Middle Ages. The wealthy often had prized collections of birds, and they employed staffs of skilled trainers to manage them. In Europe, falconry was among the sports governed by feudal laws in the Middle Ages that restricted hunting and the ownership and use of sporting animals based on social class. These became known as the Forest Laws. These laws were relaxed in the following centuries, but vestiges remained into the 19th century.While all people could participate in falconry, specific types of hawks and falcons were designated for each class. Only members of the royalty could own gyrfalcons, the largest falcons.

Interest in falconry diminished around the 17th century, as the emphasis in hunting shifted more to the use of guns and to other hunting animals such as dogs. The sport, however, has been carried on by individual falconers and by regional and national organizations, such as the North American Falconers Association. In the mid-20th century, development significantly reduced the amount of open and accessible countryside necessary for falconry and many species of birds were in danger of extinction from chemical pesticides and other environmental threats. Their use became carefully regulated, and breeding programs were initiated to rebuild the population. In the 1990s, these programs have shown signs of success, and once-rare species are becoming reestablished.

Rules and Play

There are approximately 40 individual species of falcons, ranging in length from about 15 centimeters (6 inches) up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) or more. Several different falcons can be trained for the sport of falconry. The gyrfalcon is among the largest species of falcon used. The peregrine, another large falcon, is considered one of the world’s fastest animals,with a flying speed as fast as 320 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour). Merlins are smaller peregrines that are typically used in falconry. Kestrels are small, long-winged falcons that live primarily in woods and grassy areas. They are among the most common species of falcon and are considered easy to train.

During a hunt, the falcon is brought to a site attached by leather leg straps to a special perch or to the hand of the falconer, which is protected by a large leather glove. The bird is released to fly after its quarry, which may be other airborne birds or ground-dwelling animals. Many kinds of game animals are hunted in the sport of falconry, including rabbits, ducks, pheasants, grouse, and squirrels. After the kill, the bird is trained either to fly back to the master’s glove, return to the perch, or stay with the dead prey until it is retrieved by its master. Small bells or radio transmitters are attached to the bird so it can be easily located in the field by sound or radio signal.

The sport’s heritage is a basic element of its appeal for many falconers. Etiquette, methods of training, and care date back to the earliest days of the sport. These grew out of the very specific demands that are required to care for the birds, as well as a respect for the traditions and values embodied by the sport. Falconry’s extensive vocabulary of specific terms for equipment, training, hunting procedures, and other facets of the sport date back to its early years.

Falcons and other predatory birds are difficult to breed in captivity. Traditionally, very young birds, or eyasses, are taken from their nests (eyries) in the wild soon after their birth,before they can fly or leave the nest on their own. They are also captured in their very early stages of flight or when they are migrating during their first year. Capture of wild bird species is now regulated. Many localities require falconers to obtain special permits prior to capturing the young birds. Falconry is also subject to laws covering the game that is hunted by the trained birds.Many areas have specific hunting seasons for falconers, similar to those for other types of hunters. Hawks of all types have an instinctive fear and mistrust of humans, so their training is undertaken very carefully. The exact procedures vary for different species, to reflect differences in their habits and temperaments.

The first basic step in training is adapting the wild bird to captivity and the presence of people. This process, called manning, takes place indoors in special houses called mews. The trainer gradually makes the bird accept him by visiting it regularly and feeding it by hand. Once a degree of trust has been established, the bird is trained to perch on the falconer’s gloved hand. During training and at other times, the bird’s legs are attached to leather straps, called jessups, to restrain it from flying away. In its early captivity, or later when a bird in training is being moved from its usual perch to another location for training or hunting, the head is often covered with a hood to keep it calm. In the past, the eyes of young birds were temporarily sewn shut.

Eventually the bird is taken outside to become readjusted to the open air, a process known as weathering. During this phase, the birds are attached to outdoor perches for regular periods during the day. Then they are allowed to fly while attached to leather straps. The birds are trained to hunt with the use of meat attached to lures and string,which are swung out for the bird to catch. Gradually they are trained to fly loose and hunt without flying away permanently from their demarcated territory, or from the master’s control when taken to another location for a hunt. Unfettered birds sometimes do fly off,no matter how well they have been trained. Falconers accept this as inevitable. A small but dedicated cadre of enthusiasts will continue practicing falconry, losses notwithstanding.

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January 11th, 2009 No comments

Darts is a recreational activity and sport that evolved in the 20th century from military training and a  historical legacy of soldiering, combat, and armed engagement. Darts are now played virtually all over the world with the most competitive play often taking places in taverns and pubs,where in some nations, such as England, regular dart leagues meet several evenings per week.


Darts or “dartes”were in use as early as the Middle Ages. Archers used heavily weighted hand arrows in close combat and threw them at archery targets for recreation. Anne Boleyn gave a set of darts to her husband Henry VIII and, in the 16th century, a popular children’s game was “blow-point,” in which a type of arrow was forced through a pipe and directed at a numbered target. The Pilgrims shipped darts on board the Mayflower.

Darts as a sport is primarily a modern, 20th-century activity.The sport took off as a result of one of the most celebrated cases in “sports law.” In 1908 at Leeds Magistrates’ Court, England, the judicial system focused on the nature and function of darts. Was it a game of chance or skill? If the former it would be prohibited from the domain of licensed premises. However, if it could be proved that the key ingredient was skill then it would be legally admitted into pubs. In a dramatic moment, “Foot” Anakin, the publican who had allowed games of darts inside his pub, turned in a bravura performance. He put three darts in the single 20 and followed this up by throwing three double 20s. The case against Anakin was dismissed and darts in British pubs became not only legal but also the premier pub sport.

The National Darts Association of Great Britain (NDA) was founded in 1953. The country’s first major competition was inaugurated in 1938-1939 and players sought the Lord Lonsdale Trophy. Since 1962 the NDA has supervised this trophy competition as well as three pairs championships (men’s, women’s, and mixed) and two individual championships (one open, the other for women). The World Darts Federation World Cup was inaugurated in 1977. A year later that same body instituted the Europe Cup. Both championships are held biennially.

Darts is regularly played by 6 million people in Great Britain, making it the country’s leading participation sporting pastime. There are pub and club competitions, and tournaments at league, super league, and professional levels.

The traditional setting of darts-a closed space in which alcohol flows freely and smoking is not discouraged- has created several misconceptions about the sport and its participants.Darts players are serious and intense, though the returns for success are slight compared to other sports. Rhythm and confidence are said to be the keys to success.

Rules and Play

Dart boards are made of bristle, cork, or elm wood.The standard match board is numbered 1 to 20 in the following clockwise sequence: 1, 18, 4, 13, 6, 10, 15, 2, 17, 3, 19, 7, 16, 8, 11, 14, 9, 12, 5, and 20. The board is split into 20 triangular sections, which meet two center rings. The outer ring scores 25, and the inner ring (the bull’s-eye) scores 50. The dart board design suggests that the ends of tree trunks were the probable model for dart boards.

The outer ring is divided into sections called “doubles.” A dart landing in one of these sections scores exactly double the value of the respective triangular section. This is also the traditional finish to a game of darts. Each player must conclude on an exact double of the number required to win the game. The only exception is if 50 is needed, when a “bull’s-eye” counts as double 25.  The inner ring is known as the “treble.” All darts landing here score three times the value of the respective triangular section. All the other areas of the triangular sections of the dart board, between the double segment and the treble segment, and between the treble segment and the outer ring score the relevant number.

A standard dart board has a diameter of 45.7 centimeters (18 inches). Each player is allocated three darts. The average length of a dart is 15.3 centimeters (6 inches) long. While the point is made of steel, the barrel or midsection of the dart is plastic, wood, or brass. The tail portion is of feathers, paper, or plastic. Dart players search fastidiously for the perfect amalgamation of weight and balance in a dart.

In competitions the board is hung so that the center is 1.72 meters (5 feet, 8 inches) above the floor. The darts are flighted in, and fired from, a distance of 2.43 meters (8 feet), 2.59 meters (8 feet, 6 inches), or 2.74 meters (9 feet).

Games begin with a high number and go to zero with competitions opening (and closing) with a double. Standard starting totals are 1001, 501, and 301. Variations on the standard game include “Darts Baseball,” “Fives,” “Halve It,” “Closing,” “Scram,” and  “Shanghai.” A traditional pub favorite and one that lends itself to an informal recreational activity rather than a “serious” sport is “Around the Clock,”which can be played with an unlimited number of players. Players take turns, after scoring a double, trying to place a dart in each sector beginning at 20 and working their way down to 1.

World Darts

Although primarily a British sport, darts enjoys some cosmopolitan exposure, especially in Commonwealth countries. The Australian Darts Council was founded in 1927. The Darts Federation of Australia was created in 1976 to facilitate Australia’s entry to the World Darts Federation, which had been set up in 1975. Australia hosted the World Cup in 1985 and has won the Pacific Cup four times. Over 100,000 “darters”practice in the United States,  Puerto Rico, and Guam.The American Darts Organization hosted the 1979 World Cup (the first major championship held outside of the United Kingdom) and controls a circuit of professional tournaments worth over $1 million a year in purse money. Darts organizations continue to lobby for acceptance of darts as an Olympic sport-so far without success. Perhaps there is still a question whether darts is truly a sport or merely a pastime.

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