Chinese Jump Rope is a rope skipping game that is popular around the globe. Central European children call it gummitwist, while kids in Great Britain and New Zealand call the game “Elastics.” Truly a universal game, it is popular in Austria, Italy, Germany and Austria, among many other countries.
One reason for the worldwide popularity of Chinese Jump Rope is the fact that although the moves can be quite challenging, the game itself is very simple. There is no need to buy expensive equipment since all players need is a strong piece of rope, some stamina, and good hand-eye coordination.
Chinese Jump Rope can be played by as few as three players, even though more people can participate and large groups can make the game even more of a social activity. To play this jumping game, a ten-foot (three-meter) piece of rope, elastic string or cord must be tied in a loop. Two players, referred to as “holders” or “enders,” place this circle of rope around their ankles and spread their feet far enough apart so that the rope is taut and doesn’t touch the ground. A third player, called the “jumper,” must then complete a specific pattern of jumps without making any mistakes.
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Before starting a round of Chinese Jump Rope, the players must choose which jump pattern should be followed. There are a variety of jumping patterns, most of which have a specific chant assigned to them. In the basic level of Chinese Jump Rope, the jumper first jumps so both feet land inside the rope, then with both feet straddling outside the ropes on either side. The jumper then alternately straddles the single rope on each side, then places both feet back inside the rope, and then straddles the rope again. The final jump finds the left foot atop of the left rope and the right foot on top of the right rope. To help them remember the pattern, jumpers usually chant "in-out-side-side-in-out-on."
There are numerous variations on this basic level. Two popular variations include "skinnies," where the holders hold the rope with only one foot so there’s little jumping space between the ropes, and "wides," where the holders spread their feet as wide as they can so the ropes are far apart. Another common version is "diamonds," where the holders hold the rope with just one foot while the jumper moves the feet to form a diamond pattern.
One of the more complex jumping patterns is called "scissors." The jumper starts with both feet straddling the rope, and then crosses her legs while dragging the ropes so they form a scissor shape. In a variation of scissors, the strings are criss-crossed in an X pattern, and jumpers move their feet into various parts of the X.
Whatever jump pattern the players decide upon, the jumper must complete the moves in one fluid motion with no missteps, pauses, or interruptions. For each successful rotation, the rope is moved further up the body. The common progression is ankles, mid-shin, knees, mid-thigh, hips, armpits, and neck.
However, if the jumper fails to complete the pattern for any reason, then she or he is out. The players then rotate their positions and the next player becomes the jumper. Once a player is finished, that person switches with one of the other people, and so on, until everyone has had a chance to play.
The earliest documented evidence of Chinese Jump Rope dates back to the seventh century when the children of China were seen playing the game in the streets. Rediscovered by American children in the 1950s, it remained a popular game through the 1980s.