Gladiatorial competitions as a leisure sport – according to the rules from a film: that’s the Jugger game! In this crazy sport, 2 teams compete against each other in a thrilling battle!
I have rarely seen anything as crazy as the Jugger game. At first glance you think, why are grown people going at each other with huge foam weapons and what the hell are they doing with this foam skull?!? The ball looks like an animal skull and the aim of the game is to put it in the opponent’s nest. In fact, the Juggers are engaged in a competition – which is completely harmless, even if it looks rather archaic. After all, the juggers put their heart and soul into it. And the whole fun is based on a film – hence the skull, the nests and the foam weapons. Sounds crazy? But cool!
Each team consists of a runner who is the only one allowed to pick up the skull and stick it into the opponent’s goal. His teammates – who are equipped with the foam weapons – try to make that possible for him as best they can. They block, wrestle, fence and brawl with their opponents.
In fact, director and screenwriter David Webb Peoples invented Jugger game as a game for a science fiction feature film. And this film (Jugger – Battle of the Best)* appealed so much to some that they started playing Jugger themselves in 1993 as part of a live role-playing game. Today there is even a German Jugger Championship and tournaments all over Germany.
And this is how the professionals play Jugger:
Right up front: if you want to give jugger a try, it’s best to borrow the equipment! All those who have already tasted blood can either build, buy or borrow the appropriate equipment themselves.
Two teams of up to 8 players – the Juggonauts! – compete against each other in Jugger on a painted playing field. The aim is to collect as many points as possible by putting the game ball (Skull) into the opponent’s goal (Mounds). Only a maximum of 5 players of one team are on the field during the game. One of the players is a runner (Qwik) and wears no weapon, the others are Juggers – they are equipped with weapons.
At the beginning, the skull lies on the mark in the middle of the playing field. The teams each stand behind the line of their pitch and may run onto the pitch after the command 3-2-1-Jugger! Run onto the field. Now the runners try to pick up the skull – they are allowed to wrestle with each other – and stick it into the opponent’s goal to get a point for the move. The juggers use their weapons to allow their runner to do this and fight with the opponents, trying to stop them, block them and allow their runner a clear path.
Only the runner is allowed to pick up the skull, carry it and put it into the opponent’s goal. The other players do their best to enable him to do this and are only allowed to hit the skull with the weapons, but not to carry it. They are allowed to choose a weapon as their sports equipment and try to block the opposing players with it, obstruct them, protect the runner and enable him to reach the opposing goal.
A hit is any valid strike with the weapon – whether by your own teammate or by a player of the opposing team. When hit with the weapon, the hit player immediately kneels on the ground for 5 stones (7.5 seconds) and lays his weapon flat beside him. If the chain hits the player, he must sit out 8 stones (12 seconds). The runner puts the skull on the ground so that the opposing runner can take it.
Valid hits are all correctly executed hits – for example, some weapons may only be used with 2 hands – with the weapon on the body excluding head, hands and neck. An exception is a hit with the chain on the hands – it is also valid. If the runner is hit by a weapon on the hands or the skull, these are also valid hits – he is the only player who cannot deflect hits. If 2 players hit each other at the same time, both must serve the penalty time.
A player kneeling on the ground and sitting out can be pinned by another player. That is, he puts his weapon hitting surface on a valid hitting zone for him. This means the player is blocked and does not take part in the game until he takes the weapon from its hit zone and the player is allowed to continue playing after the penalty time has counted down.
A game consists of two halves and lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes. The time is measured with stones – because in the film, one stone is thrown against a gong for each unit of time. In tournaments, a drum beat every 1.5 seconds indicates the passing of a stone.
Jugger is played on a level playing field, preferably a meadow if you do not use knee and elbow pads. Simply mark out the playing field with spray chalk. It has the shape of an elongated, i.e. rectangular octagon and should be about 40 m long and 20 m wide and cut off at the corners with 10 m long diagonals. Mark the centre of the playing field with a dot – this is where the ball will be placed. The goal (Mounds) of each team is 2 m in the middle of the pitch on each side.
There are different variations of weapons, between which the Players can freely choose. The 1.80 m long stick is held with both hands with a hitting surface at the top. The Q-tip, on the other hand, has two striking surfaces at both ends and the long weapon is 1.40 m long and may only be used with both hands. The chain is over 3 m long and must be well padded, but may be used with one hand. Short weapons are about 85 cm long and they may also be used with one hand. Only round shields are allowed because of the risk of injury!
Weapons can be made by yourself! There are workshops for this with expert instruction, such as here in Berlin. There are also great instructions to follow here!
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