How the Almost Naked Athletes Conduct Themselves In the Arena.
According to an article in Current Literature, the contests take place in a huge amphitheater, much like a large circus, sheltered by a bamboo framework covered with matting to keep out the people who do not pay to go in. The top is unroofed. Tiers of boxes of a primitive description line the sides, being reached by ladders from the front. A ring of rice bags incloses the sanded arena, some dozen feet in diameter, in which the combatants meet. The center is occupied by the umpire, a person of much distinction, dressed in an old brocade costume, picturesque enough to Europeans and reminiscent of feudal times. Four judges are also in attendance in case the umpire's decision should be disputed.
The umpire stretches out his fan and shouts something in a strident voice. At this behest the first couple of combatants appear. The dress is scarcely conventional according to occidental ideas. Indeed there is practically no dress at all. Beyond a strip round the loins absolutely nothing is worn. They stride into the ring amid the plaudits of thousands, take a draft of water from a bucket in the corner, sprinkle themselves with the fluid and are ready for the encounter.
Two mighty men are they, with limbs and trunks that would not disgrace Samson. Mountains of muscle some, others mountains of fat. Good humor gleams in their faces. They slap their thighs and stamp their legs like restive horses and then crouch ready for the spring like beasts of prey. The umpire gives the signal to commence, and they bound into each other's embrace. Perhaps the feint is parried, so that we have it all over again.
It is a Homeric moment as the champions struggle and sway this way and that until with a final effort one is thrown to the ground. In one instance a heavy man was hurled right over the rice bags by a wiry opponent and would have had a nasty fall off the stage but for the intervention of an attendant placed ready to prevent accidents.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008