Obscure Sports Weekly: Bo-Taoshi

If you like capture the flag, take a look at this extreme Japanese sport called Bo-Taoshi, the pole-toppling game. Go ahead, open YouTube, and prepare to search for this game. Bo-Taoshi is played on an outdoor field with a pole stuck in the ground, and two teams combat each other with the objective of either defending the pole or bringing it down. Each team is made of 150 men on the field at one time, making a total of 300 competitors.

Players are assigned specific positions on the defensive and offensive teams. Offensive players are tasked with bringing the pole down, but the opposing defensive players create a wall to protect the pole, the “barrier,” or to keep the pole upright, the “pole supporters.” Four men called “scrum disablers” are given the position of standing on their fellow defensive players to better protect the pole. A final player, who is given the name “ninja,” is crouched on top of the pole. The ninja is the last defense in the game and kicks offenders away while clinging to the top of pole. When the ninja is no longer on the pole, the offensive team has made an advancement in the game, but it is not over until the pole is at a 30-degree angle from the ground.

Bo-Taoshi has a record of severe injuries. As a safety precaution players are not allowed to wear shoes because of the amount of face-kicking that takes place in each game. Also, players wear helmets to protect their heads.

The National Defense Academy of Japan (NDA) is known for using the game in their induction ceremony for new cadets every year, and all the established rules of Bo-Taoshi have been put in place by NDA. Bo-Taoshi has been considered by the Olympics for a number of years due to how entertaining onlookers find the game, but it has not been approved. While it has begun to be banned in more recent years, Bo-Taoshi is a traditional sport in Japan and was played during the school day.

There isn’t much information on the origins of the game and how it came to be, but Bo-Taoshi has begun to gain traction in recent years. It has been considered for the Olympics due to how entertaining it is, but has not yet been approved. If you have the time, take a few minutes to watch a round of Bo-Taoshi and keep your eyes open to see this sport possibly in the Olympics.

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