The Sport of Belly Jousting

"...a contest of skill and controlled violence..." - Binkie Braithwaite, The Independent

Honestly, I couldn't have made this up. This is one of those sports which seem unbelievable, made up for April Fools' Day. Imagine two ahem large people in a ring, using only their ample middles to oust their opponent - it seems too far-fetched for words. The truth, however is stranger than the fiction would have been.

According to Binkie Braithwaite, founder of the World Gutbargers' Association, it is "...borrowing from the traditions of Japanese Sumo. Basically it gives fat, drunken people the opportunity to excel..." Some have tried to place the origins in mediæval jousting tournament sideshows, but there can be no doubt that it is growing in popularity in this 21st century.

The rules seem to be quite straightfoward. The two combatants, stripped to the waist (male or female - there are no barriers here) face each other across a mat twelve feet by eight, and with bellies well oiled, attempt to force one another off the mat using only their gut. There are a number of moves which attract points. Two of the more colorful are the Full Johnny Turk (a single thrusting blow which propels the victim off the mat) and the Shunt or Full Blubber (a full-strength push over the line), each of which scores 15 Points. No contact is permitted other than the belly - arms are held out at the sides for balance, but no wrestling is involved.

The sport is taken semi-seriously by the athletes, the first championships being held in Trowbridge in 1988. Scotland seems to like the sport, and it has made its way into some Highland Games events, although perhaps viewed as less traditional than tossing the caber. Australia too, has organised events. 'Binkie' has even been called on to organise an event at the Royal Albert Hall, as part of the support for The Stranglers 20th anniversary gig.

There are already traditions, borrowed, as might be expected, from sumo wrestling. The combatants hurl Bombay mix (a spicy snack food) into the 'ring', face up and shout insults at one another, before being told to prepare for battle, with a cry of 'Guts Up' by the Balou (referee). At this point, the contestants adopt a position of readiness, their knees bent, shoulders back and guts out. On the command 'Meet' the contest begins, they meet in a cataclysm of blubber, grease and sweat, before one is hurled from the ring in disgrace. At least it is more exciting than darts.
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