After years of research, we have to admit that we still do
not know, that is, we do not know exactly. So far we have
accumulated information regarding as many as 8,000 indigeneous
sports and sporting games, of which more than 3,000
have been included in the present publication. These come
from various regions and cultures, sometimes very distant
from one another, such as Great Britain, Nigeria, Mongolia,
Korea, Japan, China, Arab countries, the Maori cultures, India,
the Innuits, and numerous others. This is an on-going project
and new entries are being added to our swelling database almost
daily as a result of correspondence with ethnographic institutes,
museums of sport, and individual scholars around the world.
Precisely defining what is and what is not a sport is no
easy task. In this book we consider sport as a form of human
activity (sometimes combined with the effort of animals or
using vehicles or various devices), the outcome of which is
determined by the physical, more than intellectual, effort.
This distinction rules out competitiveness as the sole or
even principal element defining sport and thus such activities
as board games (e.g. chess) or card games (e.g. bridge or
poker) are not included here, even though they have enjoyed
the status of sport for a long time. After all, we have chess
Olympiads and bridge world championships, the participants
of which compete against one another in order to determine
the winner. Although their physical, and especially psychophysical
abilities allow them to keep in shape during play, they are
not a direct competitive factor and do not immediately determine
a win or loss. An immense number of such games, as well as
their 'intellectual' (as opposed to 'physical') nature calls
for further research and a separate publication. This also
holds for games of chance.
This encyclopedia is quite a departure from all international
encyclopedias thus far published, which focused mainly on
well known, major or international sports, barely noticing
or completely neglecting the incredible cultural richness
and great multitude of indigenous, traditional, historical,
regional, and folk sports and games of various nations and
ethnic minorities, many of which are fascinating not only
for their differences, but as often as not, their similarities,
showing features common to all peoples the world over.
There are a number of handy specialized guides and dictionaries,
which present the tradition of individual countries, regions
or ethnic groups. None of them, however, are intercultural.
Spanish, Danish, Estonian, Basque, or Arab publications present
the richness of their own sports tradition and leave it at
that. British sport dictionaries and encyclopedias offer information
on numerous English, Scottish, or Welsh sports and pastimes,
but leave out Celtic and Breton sports, which must be searched
for elsewhere. There is no single publication discussing the
many fascinating sports of the Slavic, Arab, African, and
South American nations. No publication so far has brought
together such sports as Indian chungkee, Japanese hagoita,
Polish czoromaj, African zuar, Basque aizkolaris, Afgan buzkashi,
Mayan pokyah, Danish langbold fra anholt, Maori poi waka,
Chinese cricket fights, Mexican pelota purhepecha encendida,
Greek Orthodox cross diving, English Eton wall game, Flemish
krulbol, Turkish yagli güreş, Germanic agnon toss, Taiwanese
woodball, Hindu kabaddi, Scottish tossing the caber, Portuguese
jogo do pau, French decapitation de l'oie, Italian gioco del
ponte, Irish iomáint, Pakistani gulli dunda, Korean ssirům,
Swedish pärk, Breton gouren and Spanish castells, just to
name a few. And what about the extinct sports of ancient Egypt,
Greece, Rome, China or the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas?
Medieval and chivalric sports such as quintain, running at
the ring and its Croatian equivalent alka? The multitude of
animal sports like bear baiting, and the less cruel though
equally dramatic quagga, goat and pigeon races? Most of us
associate high jump with a horizontal bar, though in many
cultures participants improvise a bar, while in the Scottish
hitch and kick the object is to touch a suspended tambourine
or bell with one's foot.
This encyclopedia is bursting with breath-taking stories
which present the limitless richness of human cultures and
sporting activities from pre-historic to modern times, including
such relatively recent sporting extravaganzas as B.A.S.E jumping,
underwater football, sandboarding, kite skiing, zorbing and
horseball, among many others.
Including every last sport in the world has proved impossible,
but those herein discussed disclose endless human ingenuity.
Though there do exist certain sports that can be practiced
solo, the vast majority of athletic games require shared participation.
Humankind is indeed a social animal and sports are intrinsically
human. We hold out the hope that with this book readers will
begin to appreciate the vast number of sporting pastimes that
are common for people around the world.