Mystic Ball

Since most of my American readers all pigged out yesterday, I thought I'd post something very physical to motivate us. A while back I stumbled on this documentary called "Mystic Ball."

This is Chinlone, the national pastime of Myanmar (Burma). Chinlone is played with a ball made of woven rattan strips (the word chinlone means "cane ball" in Burmese). The video shows both the team style, called wein kat or "circle kick," and the solo style (performed only by women) called tapandaing. Although the Burmese consider chinlone a competitive sport, it is more of a cooperative performance, with the emphasis being on the beauty and entertainment value of the play, as opposed to winning or losing. Each team of six consists of 5 supporters who pass the ball back to the center soloist, all done in time with music.

Dedicated chinlone players experience an intensely focused state of mind, similar to that achieved in meditation, which they refer to as jhana. The link between Buddhism and chinlone is well established, and for centuries the major Buddhist festivals in Myanmar have been celebrated with chinlone - sometimes by thousands of teams.

Chinlone is similar to football games played around the world. Takraw in Thailand, sepak raga in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, sipa in the Philippines, kator in Laos and da cau in Vietnam are all similar, and probably have a common ancestor lost to history now; possibly the ancient Chinese game of cuju, which FIFA recognizes as the oldest form of soccer, or the similar Japanese game known as kemari.

For those more inclined to keep score, there is a competitive version of the game played over a net, called sepak takraw in Malaysia. It is considered one of the most physically demanding games on the planet, and in this video you can see why (no sound on this one).

Chinlone is also related to the family of sports played by kicking a shuttlecock, know as jianzi in China and Taiwan, and jegichagi in Korea.

There is some evidence to suggest that a variation of these games traveled across the Bering Straits and influenced Native Americans, who also played a variety of games keeping a ball up with the feet. These games are thought to be the origin of footbag, also known as hacky sack. Hacky sack has gone to some insane complexity in the last two decades. Observe:

I don't know about you, but I feel really fat, lazy, and uncoordinated now...


His Sinfulness said...

Wow. No love for the amazing foot skills?

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