Early 16th century (early forms)
Tug of war, also known as tug o' war, tug war, rope war or rope pulling, is a sport that directly pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. The term may also be used as a metaphor to describe a demonstration of brute strength by two opposing groups, such as a rivalry between two departments of a company. In this scenario, there is often a third party who is considered the "rope" in the tug of war.
The origins of tug of war are not clearly known, though they must be very old. It may have originally been a ritual or religious contest:
The origins of tug of war are uncertain, but it is beyond dispute that this once royal sport was practised in ancient Egypt and China, where it was held in legend that the Sun and Moon played Tug of War over the light and darkness.
Tug of war stories about heroic champions from Scandinavia and Germany circulate Western Europe where Viking warriors pull animal skins over open pits of fire in tests of strength and endurance in preparation for battle and plunder.
1500 and 1600 – tug of war is popularised during tournaments in French châteaux gardens and later in Great Britain
1800 – tug of war begins a new tradition among seafaring men who were required to tug on lines to adjust sails while ships were under way and even in battle.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the phrase "tug of war" originally meant "the decisive contest; the real struggle or tussle; a severe contest for supremacy". Only in the 19th century was it used as a term for an athletic contest between two teams who haul at the opposite ends of a rope.
Two teams of eight, whose total mass must not exceed a maximum weight determined for the class, align themselves at the end of a rope (approximately 10 centimetres in circumference). The rope is marked with a "centre line" and two markings four metres either side of the centre line. The teams start with the rope's centre line directly above a line marked on the ground, and once the contest (the "pull") has commenced, attempt to pull the other team such that the marking on the rope closest to their opponent crosses the centre line, or the opponents commit a foul (such as a team member sitting or falling down). Lowering ones elbow below the knee during a 'pull' known as 'Locking' is a foul, as well as touching the ground for extended periods of time. The rope must go under the arms, actions e.g. pulling rope over shoulders may be considered fouls. These rules apply in heavily weighted competitions. For example, if teams are competing to determine who goes to the world Championships, the rules will be much stricter. But in small entertainment competitions the rules are arbitrarily interpreted and vaguely followed.
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