have you heard of these obscure sports?

by chris brewster
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sepak takraw aka malaysian kickball is a sport where opponents volley a wicker ball over a net without the use of hands. nobody is really sure when this sport originally got started but the first recorded instance in history was during the 15th century when the son of a sultan named Raja Muhammad got hit in the head with one of the balls and stabbed the offending ball-kicker to death on the court. 

Back then the game was more like hacky sack rather than the volleyball-hands+meth combination it has become. Some say it borrowed elements from chinese military team building exercises in the 1600s where guys would try to keep a ball in the air as long as possible.

Official rules of the game were introduced around 1895 and the net was introduced 4 years later. The superbowl of sepak takraw is the King’s Cup Sepaktakraw World Championship where international participants compete for this trophy:

Each team has 3 players and they score points ping-pong style playing to 21. The ball is traditionally woven out of rattan which i think is basically a long ass stick.

Nothing I write here will be better than watching videos of it being played, these dudes can backflip and kick a ball out of the mid-air and make it spin around and go over a net with less effort than it takes for the average american to produce a bowel movement.

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equestrian vaulting is a sport where participants preform a gymnastics routine on the back of a trotting horse on a leash. Vaulters compete as individuals, pairs (or pas-de-deux), and teams preforming required moves and choreographed freestyle exercises done to music. 

there are six moves you always have to do: the basic seat, the flag, the mill, the scissors and the crowd pleasing stand and flank. each exercise is scored on a scale from 0–10. Horses also receive a score and are judged on the quality of their circular trot.

Some people think vaulting was first popping up in the Roman games with acrobatic displays on cantering horses. Others are all, nah fuck that the roots lie with the bull dancers of ancient Crete. either way, motherfuckers have been performing acrobatic and dance-like movements on the backs of moving horses for more than 2,000 years AT LEAST! The first known .jpg of vaulting is this stone painting, as old as 1500 BC, with Scandinavian riders doing compulsory exercises and choreographed freestyle exercises to music.

this vaulting stuff got pretty popular in the middle ages and Napoleon even created an elite group of soldiers know as Voltigeurs who were trained to do gymnastics on the asses of cavalry horses in order to advance more quickly on the battlefield.

Modern vaulting developed in post-war Germany as part of set of exercises for improving general riding. Cavalry officers introduced the art at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp as “Artistic Riding,” although it was not continued in the Games. I reckon nazis did this for fun.

Vaulting is still much more popular in Europe, where it is still included in dressage training, than it is in other parts of the world, though vaulting is expanding in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and, since 1966, in the United States.

A handful of scattered competitions have been held, European Championships were first held in Ebreichsdorf, Austria in 1984, and the first FEI World Vaulting Championships were held in Bulle, Switzerland in 1986. Vaulting was included in the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm in 1990 and in all subsequent editions of the games. It was demonstrated as an art at the 1996 Atlanta Games and at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA.

It has been included in the Inter Africa Cup since 2006 This year we celebrated the making of history with the first World Cup Vaulting competition, held in Leipzig on 29–30 April 2011.

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Sauna Endurance Competition is an obscure sport where people sit in a sauna until they feel like leaving. Whoever stays in the sauna the longest wins. Championships were first held in 1999 in Finland and last held in 2010 when some dude actually fucking died.

The saunas are kept at over 110 degrees celsius or 230 degrees F with water dumped on the hot-ass rocks every 30 seconds and if you have long hair you have to put it in a ponytail. People can only sit there for like 6 minutes before their skin begins to cook.

Unfortunately professional iterations of the sport have been defunct since the untimely demise of Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy so if you think you are the best at sitting in a sauna everyone will just have to take your word for it.

Champions for the 11 year lifespan of the sport are overwhelmingly Finnish.

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Ice Sledge Hockey is a version of hockey designed for cripples. Participants use two specialized hockey sticks fitted with mini-crampons to scoot themselves around on a metal sled. Even humans missing their lower bodies can play.

Ice sledge hockey draws it’s minimal fan base by being the only socially acceptable place left to cheer at handicapped people fighting. Countries assemble their most athletic genetic riff-raff and fly them around the world to compete in the Winter Paralympic Games Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships.

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In 1992 a washed up old stock car race driver named Ricky Dennis was drinking heavily at a minor league hockey game, trying to forget that he would never measure up to his father, NASCAR’s 1970 Rookie of the Year. Bored by all the ice dancing and haunted by his failures as a professional driver he decided to spend the next 10 years pursuing his dream of converting hockey rinks into miniature stock cars races around a really small track. In 2002 the Dennis junior saw his fantasies realized when Arena Racing became a legitimized professional sport. 

People race tiny cars around a 1/10 of a mile track the same size as a hockey rink. Races are held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hampton Roads, Virginia and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The official website says If you want to participate in Arena Racing all you need is $16,000 and a proficient go-kart driver.

The cars can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or if you are in the metric system they go like 160 kiloms per hour.

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Robot Combat is a sport where humans build robots and make them kill each other. The robots, fitted with dangerous weaponry or angular sheet metal are controlled remotely by their creators. The goal is to destroy the opponent’s machine by crashing into it repeatedly.

Since the first official organized Robot Combat competitions began in 1987 the sport has garnered moderate popularity. In San Francisco 1994 a dude named Mark Thorpe founded Robot Wars, the original robot-fight-as-spectator-sport organization, to make money off toys. On his website he says he got the idea when he was 8 while playing with a vacuum.

One day I took the vacuum off the tank and as I looked at it, the 8-year-old boy in me envisioned its potential as a dangerous toy with battery powered tools mounted on it. I had a vision of it cutting its way through a wall. That reminded me of my fighting vehicle toy concept which bought forth the entrepreneur part of me as it was instantly clear that this was to how to make the idea work: I could stage events and invite to competitors to build their own vehicles to compete in them. Merchandising revenue from licensing would be the principle revenue stream i.e. toys. Robot Wars would own the licensing rights to mechanical athletes that others would build to enter the competitions. This was the Star Wars model of an entertainment property generating merchandising revenue. -Mark Thorpe

Mark eventually sold the rights to Robot Wars to a British company that produced a TV series of the same name. U.S. robot fighting competitors had nowhere to go after Mark sold them out so they organized a new competition called BattleBots. The remote controlled carnage had such mass appeal that the championship even aired on pay-per-view.

You may be familiar with the television show BattleBots ft. Bill Nye The Science Guy which aired weekly on the basic cable network Comedy Central from 2000 to 2002. McDonalds once made some happy meal toys of the robots.

Robot Combat is responsible for the most violent arbitrary technology in the world. Some robots use pneumatic icepicks on levers, others flamethrowers and one called Rhino Halon even sprayed Halon gas, an extinguisher that smothers internal combustion engines. There have been flying robots, robots that shoot nets and some that catch other bots with magnets. 

Weight classes range from Fleaweight to Super Heavyweight. Some other robot weight classes are: fairyweight, kilobot, antweight, beetleweight, mantisweight, and hobbyweight. A BattleBots videogame was in development for the Nintendo Gamecube but development was unfortunately cancelled along with the television show.

The robots are always named badass names like Vlad the Impaler, Alcoholic Stepfather, Biohazard, Orb of Doom, and Suicidal Tendencies

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Noodling is a sport where american rednecks competitively shove their forearms down the throats of catfish. The redneck that fists the biggest fish into their boat wins.

Invented by native americans and perfected by poor white folks during the great depression noodling is the ultimate badass redneck obscure sport. It combines the possibility of getting hurt with killing animals, wrestling, boating and the american south.

Since noodling is a backwoods activity it has come to be known by a boatload of other names like catfistin’, grabblin’, gravelin’, hoggin’, doggin’, gurglin’, ticklin’ and stumpin’.

To noodle is to be fearless. You have to swim to the bottom of an opaque river and shove your arm into a deep hole where there might be a gator or a snapping turtle to relieve you of a digit or several. Even if all goes well the struggle of bringing a behemoth catfish to the surface can be enough to drown even the most practiced of catfisters. 

Noodling has been featured in various media and was the subject of a cover feature article of the new york times news paper and an integral portion of the pilot of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on Discovery Channel.

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Tchoukball is a sport invented by a Swiss biologist who hated sports injuries. He wanted to combine squash, handball, volleyball and basketball into one harm-free competition burrito. 

To score points players chuck a ball against a tilted trampoline and hope it hits the ground. The defending team tries to catch the ball but it is boring because there is not enough violence. 

There are Tchoukball clubs all around the world and sometimes kids play it in gym class because all you need is a ball and an angularly propped trampoline with a halfmoon no-zone around it. Tchoukball organizations claim that there is no sport similar and I claim that this is because it’s lame. If you brought your Tchoukball trampoline and kneepads to a Buzkashi match the Afghanis would probably cut your head off and use you as the goat! LOL!

If you hold the opposite opinion you can check out more tchouk-tastic action at the website called YOUtchouk.com I tried to watch the videos on YOUtchouk.com and it said that there was No plug-in available to view this content so i am not sure wether to warn you if it is NSFW. It could be topless extreme beach tchoukball championships for all I know.

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Artistic Cycling is a form of competitive indoor bicycling which is half gymnastics and half courier delivery service. People do flatland tricks on fixed gear bikes to plesant songs in six minute heats. Judges judge the tricks based on how gracefully they are preformed and award points accordingly. 

Routines are preformed with 1, 2, 4 or 6 cyclists at a time. The first unofficial artistic cycling competition was organized by German-American Nicholas Edward Kaufmann in 1880 so he could show off his badass fixie skills.

This is a historic photo of Kaufmann’s oft-old-timey-ho-surrounded bicycle. 

The bikes are specially designed with tiny wheels to make popping wheelies easier.

If you can find a video of 6 man artistic cycling please email me at obscuresportstumblr@gmail.com because i can’t find one anywhere.

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Pesäpallo is the de facto national sport of Finland. It’s similar to baseball except the batter and the pitcher face each other at home base on opposite sides of a circular plate and the pitch is delivered by throwing the ball directly upwards above the plate to a height of at least one meter over the head of the batter and, according to wikipedia, “the ball is in play even if it has bounced to the river near the field.” Also everyone has to wear a helmet/earmuff combination.

The field is weird. First base is on the left instead of the right and the bases are placed in a zig zag formation. The whole offense stands behind home plate in case they are needed to raise both arms vertically for celebration.  

The manager is always hanging out behind the plate too, bossing around the players with a colorful fan.

It may appear that colored folk are forbidden to play Pesäpallo but there just aren’t that many in Finland.