Kings of the Pole: The Chaos of Bo-Taoshi

Japanese Sport a True Test of Teamwork, Strength and Determination



Because each game only lasts two minutes, Bo-Taoshi tends to get chaotic as the attackers and defenders struggle for victory. (WikiCommons/The Observer)

Forty-five, an inconspicuous number sandwiched between 44 and 46, carries an insignificant meaning for many of us. However, for cadets at the National Defense Academy of Japan, this number represents the difference between victory and defeat in the game of Bo-Taoshi (otherwise known as the pole pull down game).

By now, many of you reading this article may be wondering “what does the number 45 have to do with a pole game?” To answer that question, you have to understand how Bo-Taoshi is played. Pole pull down begins by splitting around 150 people into two equal teams, one attacking and one defending.

In the middle of the playing field is a telephone pole, which has to be guarded by the 75-man strong defending team. As the defense sets  their positions around the pole, one team member climbs on top of the pole to stabilize the structure at a 90 degree angle. While this is happening, the attacking team, which is stationed nearby, tries to intimidate their foes by chanting in unison.

The objective for both teams is simple but difficult. The attacking team’s mission is to charge the pole, using their speed and quickness to neutralize the pole’s defenders. Once the defense has been neutralized, the attacking team has to use their collective body weight to bend the telephone pole to at least a 45 degree angle, in order  win the contest.

On the other side, the defending team has to do the complete opposite. They must make sure the pole doesn’t bend to a 45 degree angle for two minutes.

Like a battle right out of a scene from 300, this violent, yet epic game, leaves us with images of determined  men going right at each other with no holds barred (there is no padding except for helmets) for “pole glory.”

Although brutal in its form, members of the Japanese military have praised the game for its focus on team work and instilment of  time-pressured situations. At Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), this weird but unique sport has been met with some interesting reviews among members of the student body.

Some thought the chaos and lack of protection just seemed too unsafe. “I wouldn’t try doing that; It seems like one of the easiest ways in the world to break your neck,” Evan McArthur, FCLC ’14, said.

Others were more appreciative, but still averse to playing. “I thought it was insane. These guys are very strong, especially the guy who was balancing on the beam,” Christina Markesinis, FCLC ’13, said. “But would I every try it? No way! I don’t need any broken bones.”

While students were in unison about the chaos, there were a few who felt the violence wasn’t all that new. “It seems kind of barbaric, but I don’t know how much more violent it is than hockey and football,” Matthew Ortiz, FCLC ’12, said.

Nevertheless, some some students expressed interest in trying out Bo-Taoshi. “First of all, if you’re limited to only men I think that you’re going to have a serious problem,” Sogand Afkari, FCLC ’12 said.  “I mean, this game looks amazingly fun. I would definitely play it.”

“If I had to play it, I would definitely be on the team trying to take the pole down,” Luciana Taddei, FCLC ’12, said. “It’s like a kung fu movie gone wild!”