Rope Jousting

Rope Jousting

Rope Jousting is a sporting competition between two jousters, that resembles a Tug of war. In this event, two Cinder blocks are placed a distance apart. The two jousters stand upon the blocks with a rope stretched between them. The objective for each jouster is to either a) cause their opponent to fall off their block, or b) to take their opponent's end of the rope from them.

Two Primary types of Jousts

Jousting "dans dehors" indicates that the combat takes place in an outdoor setting. Jousting "à l'intérieur" takes place indoors. Usually the type of joust being performed determines the length of rope to be used, and therefore the distance between the two jousters.


Rope jousting was invented by a group of individuals who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Specific identities were not available to further define its history. It has since spread to many other college campuses (most notably Texas A&M University), and is now not an uncommon activity for college students to watch and participate in.


The Blocks

Two standard Cinder blocks are used. These blocks need not be, but are preferably different colors so that the jousters may be referred to by the color of the block upon which they stand.

The Rope

Depending on the type of joust and the amount of space available, a different rope should be used. While jousting "à l'intérieur" typically a Nylon synthetic rope of 30 to 50 feet is preferred, although a natural fiber rope may be used. Jousting "dans dehors" uses a dynamic climbing rope of around 60 meters in length, and can be made of Spectra, Nylon or a myriad of other synthetics. The dynamic climbing rope differs from others in that is has a certain amount of stretch built into it, which come into key play during a rope joust. Synthetic fiber ropes are generally used as a protective measure as they tend to cause less rope burn than ropes made from natural fibers such as hemp.

etting up

Regardless of the type of joust setting up begins the same way. The two blocks are set up with their flat side facing up, and pointing lengthwise towards each other. The midpoint of these two blocks is them marked in whatever way seems fit, usually a heavy object, or stake. The rope is then stretched between the blocks with the center of the rope corresponding with the marker indicating the midpoint of the blocks. All excess rope is coiled, or set, neatly on the ground to the side of the blocks. Each jouster holds their end of the rope at what they deem to be the appropriate length, with the excess remaining on the ground so that the rope between the jousters is taut.

Jousting "dans dehors"

Whilst outdoors, a spacing of approximately 40 meters is used between each block. This allows for roughly 30 feet of excess rope at each end. When choosing a location outdoors, one must be cautious of the terrain. Excessively sloped land will cause uneven footing for the blocks, and can give an unfair advantage to one jouster. Also, with such a large length of rope, care must be taken that a location is chose in which onlookers/passers-by will not be bothered. For example, stretching the rope across a sidewalk is considered bad form, but stretching one parallel to a sidewalk not only does not interfere with commuters, but allows a front row view of the action.

Jousting "à l'intérieur"

When jousting inside, generally a long hallway is chosen, with the blocks 20 to 25 feet apart. This spacing causes a much different atmosphere than Jousting "dans dehors".


Veteran rope jousters will attest that this sport is more a contest of skill and cunning than of strength. Balance is essential, and good strategy revolves around the timing of controlled tugs or yanks on the rope, or "attacks".

By attacking, a jouster may pull her opponent "forward" off of his cinder block, but only if the opponent is grasping his end of the rope tightly. Alternatively, if a jouster attacks and her opponent is not grasping the rope tightly, then the force of the attack is likely to upset the jouster's balance and send her "backwards" off of her own cinder block. If both jousters attack at the same time, they may both fall.

Therefore the skilled jouster is not always clinging tightly to his end of the rope. When his oppenent attacks, a jouster may let his opponent have slack in hopes of sending her toppling backwards. However, a jouster cannot always play defensively or he will end up surrendering his end of the rope to his opponent and losing the match.


In its original form, each jouster would start with one end of the rope in their hands, and upon an appropriate starting signal would begin to furiously pull in as much slack as they could before the rope became taut, thus attempting to start off the joust with more excess rope than their opponent. This variant is still commonly used while jousting "à l'intérieur".

When two expert rope jousters compete, they may choose to place their cinder blocks upright, such that they are resting on their smallest side. In this configuration the cinder blocks are less stable, and the area that the jouster stands on is significantly smaller. This version can be dangerous due to the instability of the blocks.

ee also

* Tug of war

External links

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