With big data insights, instant replay and other technologies enhancing live broadcasts of professional sports such as the MLB World Series, NFL, NBA and NHL, many sports around the world remain as engaging as ever despite being technological luddites.
Technology is rapidly changing how professional and amateur athletes train, recover and improve performance. For coaches, never has there been more analytic data collected by technology, giving them insights into free agents, opponents and in-game situations. And for fans, now is the best time to head to the ballpark or stadium because teams are sparing no expense when it comes to engaging their supporters and creating an experience that rivals the couch and TV at home.
But with all of the new technological advancements happening throughout many popular sports, there are still athletic competitions admired around the world for remaining pure, untouched by tech.
While we may be taking liberties with the word “sport,” somewhere in the world these 10 timeless, difficult and even absurd “sports” are enjoyed with extreme seriousness. Some can be played with zero prior training and most require no special equipment, at least none that couldn’t be found at a local grocery store.
10. Arm Wrestling
As perhaps the most simple sport on this list, arm wrestling requires two people willing to display public examples of strength…or weakness.
Arm wrestling at its highest level usually takes place between two very strong men or women who have worked to master the proper grip, arm angle and endurance techniques necessary to compete competitively.
The sport is governed by the World Arm wrestling Federation (WAF) which has more than 85 member countries.
John Brzenk is considered the world’s top arm wrestler and was named the greatest arm wrestler of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Brzenk takes a low tech approach to training, stating that pull-ups are his most useful training exercise.
9. Cup Stacking
The title of this sport says it all. Simply stack sequences of six, eight or ten cups as fast as you can.
Also known as Sport Stacking, Cup Stacking is an individual or team sport that actually has a governing body known as the World Sport Stacking Association, which has been around since 1985.
As simple as it sounds, players have developed lightning fast skills when it comes to stacking the official cups which are specifically designed to prevent sticking and allow faster stacking. There are more than 550,000 competitors worldwide and all of them can set the dinner table faster than you!
This one gives arm wrestling a run for it’s money in terms of the easiest and most basic sport on this list.
As we all know, it has traditionally been used to determine the winner of such dilemmas as who rides shotgun on a road trip, who gets the last slice of pizza and who gets to play with Yoshi in Mario Kart. But it has actually become a serious international sport that even has a world championship.
In 2002, the World Rock Paper Scissors Society created the official rules for international play and began organizing International World Championships.
And while you might think you only need hands to play this ultimate low-tech game, some pretty sophisticated algorithms figure out the best methods of winning based on an opponent’s second-guessing, triple-guessing and past history. Since 2012, researchers in Japan have created a nearly unbeatable robot hand. But a closer look reveals that the robotic fist and fingers rely on a camera and lightening fast algorithm to react – not predict – to an opponent’s rock, scissor or paper move. For that reason, we’re not considering this a real sport competition.
7. Shin Kicking
The next time you’re annoyed by a sibling, give him a swift kick in the shins and say you’re practicing for one of England’s oldest sports. Be a good sport about it.
Shin Kicking requires pain tolerance and absolutely zero technology.
Players hold on to each other’s shirt collars (white coats are traditionally worn) while leaning forward and trying to kick their opponent’s shin.
In today’s competitions, which can draw thousands of spectators in England, participants are required to wear soft shoes and stuff their legs with straw padding. However, when the sport originated in the 17th century it used to be much more painful because shin-kickers would wear steel-toed boots.
6. Tug of War
The ultimate battle of strength and endurance between two teams attempting to prove who is the strongest and who works together the best. No, not football or rugby, but Tug of War.
Tug of War is actually surprisingly old and therefore requires zero technology. Just a rope and, when played officially, two teams of eight competitors on each side. It was a competition in the ancient Olympics in 500 B.C. and was actually part of the modern Olympics from 1900 to 1920.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase “tug of war” originally meant “the decisive contest; the real struggle or tussle; a severe contest for supremacy”.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the phrase was applied to the sport we know now as two teams pulling on opposite ends of a rope with the goal of pulling the other team towards you.
Over Tug of War’s long history, there have been all sorts of crazy contests and variations of the sport. But make no mistake, it is a serious contest requiring precise teamwork (and coaching!).
This is hands-down the most athletic sport on this list.
Originating from military obstacle course training, Parkour’s concept is simple enough. Participants attempt to get from one point to another in the most efficient route possible. That said, these “points” that Parkourers choose are typically locations in urban areas, where ordinary people would never even consider reaching in the way that Parkourers do.
While non-Parkourers see Parkourers as want-to-be Spidermen, Parkourers see this sport as an art form that rethinks the typical ways of interacting with an urban setting. Translation: Normal people look at a fire escape and just see an emergency exit, but Parkourers see a high enough ledge to leap from to give them enough height to clear the adjacent rooftop.
Parkour simply requires energy, athleticism and extreme coordination when performed at its highest levels but is not for the faint of heart.
As a much older, and seemingly bizarre mixture of tag and Red Rover, Kabaddi originated in India and is the national game of Bangladesh and Nepal.
It requires two teams of seven players on a court that is about half the size of an NBA court. Each team takes a turn sending one “raider” from their team on to the opponent’s half of the court. It is the job of the raider to tag as many opponents as possible all while, get this, holding his breath.
But how do fans and opponents know if the raider is holding his breath? While trying to tag the opponents the raider must continuously chant Kabaddi for all to hear.
3. Cheese Rolling
Somehow, many countries participate in this truly weird sport that combines gravity and cheese in ways never before experienced. The pinnacle of the sport is an annual event called Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake held in Gloucester, England.
The sport requires a 9 pound round of double Gloucester cheese to be rolled down the hill as contestants race after it.
The first racer to reach the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. Technically, the participants of this cheesy race are aiming to actually catch the cheese but seeing that the cheese reaches speeds of 70 miles per hour when traveling downhill this does not happen often.
2. Chess Boxing
As the ultimate contest of brawn versus brain, Chess Boxing is as mentally taxing as it is physically brutal.
Chess is already hard enough when trying to compete at a high level but imagine doing so after completing five rounds of boxing!
A full match of this beautifully juxtaposing sport lasts 11 rounds with six of the rounds being three-minute chess games and the other five rounds being three-minute boxing rounds. The rounds alternate between chess and boxing and competitors have one minute between each round to change gear.
Chess rounds are won by checkmates or time running out and boxing rounds are won based on decisions from match judges.
1. Oil Wrestling
This sport is played exactly how it sounds. Wrestling plus oil. It is also called grease wrestling and it is the Turkish national sport. As ridiculous as it may seem, this is a very traditional sport.
The annual Kirkpinar tournament, held in Edirne Turkey since 1362, is the oldest continuously running, sanctioned sporting competition in the world. Prepare to bust out that factoid the next time you’re playing sports trivia!
Before matches start, two wrestlers cover themselves in a combination of olive oil and water. They then compete to see who can pin each other. There are a variety of ways to pin the opponent and all require lots of grease exchanges…
This sport has got to be the least technologically advanced sport in the world as it only requires, oil, water and two contestants.
Additionally, there are few gyms in Turkey and Oil Wrestlers do not lift weights or go through serious training regimens. Instead, they simply grow up wrestling all the time.
The best part about these 10 most tech-resistant sports is that you can play them all pretty much anywhere with minimal resources. All you need is your own body, a competitive friend, a wheel of cheese, boxing gloves and a chessboard, tough shins, a bunch of cups, the ability to hold your breath for a long time, a long rope and some oil and water.
That’s all you need for your next family outing. Now go win one for the Gipper!
Arm wresting image by Wikipedia.