Japanese Cadets Take Part in Annual ‘Topple the Pole’ Competition

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Hundreds of members from Japan’s National Defense Academy took part in one of the country’s biggest and greatest spectacles – the “Topple the Pole” event Sunday. 

“Topple the Pole,” which is known as Bo-taoshi in the country, is over a century old and combines elements of sumo wrestling, martial arts and rugby scrums as cadets battle one another to defend or attack a pole.

Bo-taoshi is designed to promote teamwork, toughness and strength. The teams are made up of 150 people and divided into two squads – one for attacking, another for defending. The defending team holds up the pole, which ranges in height from 10 to 16 feet, with a man on top of it, as the attacking squad tries to topple it.

In order to win, the pole must be lowered to a 30-degree angle off the ground. 

Players wear little to no protection; one of the more common types of protective gear is a rugby scrum helmet. Severe injuries are common and some schools have even banned the sport from being played. 

There is no trophy or monetary prize, just bragging rights.

Sunday's event saw no injuries, though the academy had medical emergency staff waiting in the wings just in case. 


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