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Russian Slap Fighting: The Niche Sport You Never Knew About … and It’s Coming to the U.S.

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 15, 2020

Yes, some sports have been able to survive through COVID-19. Esports is one of these. College bass fishing tournaments where competitors e-mail a photo of their catch being measured on a bump board (with the largest fish, inch-wise, winning) is another. Then there’s the plethora of virtual events where individuals could take part by running or cycling either at home or outdoors (preferably alone).

But something else that has gone on despite the pandemic, despite all other precautions being taken, is Russian Slap Fighting, the sport where grown men take turns slapping one another across the face until one of them fouls out or passes out. Yes, it's a contact sport. Yes, it's a spectator sport. And yes, it's drawing the crowds (and no, they're not doing the social distance thing).

It’s as strange and testosterone-fueled as it sounds. (Need to see it? Here’s a video link link). And by the way, there are plenty of other videos on YouTube, some narrated in English by a spectacularly profane announcer who uses the handle of Penguinz0. He’s an admirer, not a slapper, but he can still explain what’s going on.

The contestants in a slap fighting contest wear no special equipment – no gloves and no helmets (obviously). To maintain balance after being slapped, competitors hold on to a stand (some sturdier than others) that has been placed between them – although many require assistance to stay on their feet after being struck.

And there are rules, at least in the Russian form of the sport. Only the upper part of the palm can be used to strike only the cheek, without touching the jaw, temple or ear of the opponent – if you hit those, it’s a foul. Evading the slap (including merely flinching to one side) is also a foul. So is using any part of your hand other than the upper part of the palm. If a competitor commits two fouls, he loses the match.

Each man gets five slaps at his opponent. Assuming there are no fouls, a judge decides who fared better, and the winner proceeds to the next round. Occasionally, both contestants split the prize if neither has committed a foul and both have done well.

And yes, medics are on standby – and they are often needed to clean up wounds, revive unconscious patients and make the decision that someone has sustained an injury too severe to allow them to continue (no matter what the contestant might think).

“Anyone who is willing to take part can do so, but the person must understand that it is not fun, it is fun on the one hand, but it carries a high risk to life, risk of getting injured,” explained competition owner, Denis Kiyutsin, in an interview with a news program. “We explain it to everybody, we get everybody together, to explain the rules, what can and cannot be done, like a short briefing, there is at least one judge who is watching that the rules are followed, because people sometimes are cheating, deliberately breaking some rules, but this can lead to serious traumas with their opponent. Every person, by all means, should be aware that it is dangerous that there is risk to life, so every person signs an acknowledgment that he is aware of this,”

Oh, and by the way, this also takes place in the U.S.; one popular YouTube video shows a competition held in Branson, Missouri, where two individuals, known as Hillbilly Hippie (from Mountain Home, Arkansas) and Crazy Hawaiian (who hails from the islands of his namesake), went head to head for nearly 15 minutes before Hillbilly became too concussed to continue. If you want to see a video, it's here.

Slapping contests can be standalone events; in Russia, they began as an add-on to the weekend-long Siberian Power Show—which included bodybuilding, powerlifting, dance offs and a dumpling eating contest. 

“There have always been interesting fistfights in Russia. It happened spontaneously and was interesting. We were sitting and thinking how to diversify our (our event), we are looking at how to make sport more interesting, we have sports zones, and entertainment zones and slap competitions started with a spontaneous idea, why not try?” said Kiyutsin.

The undisputed superstar of Russian slapping is Vasily Pelmen who goes by the remarkable nickname of Dumpling. The mountain of a guy knocking his opponents out with one slap that you at the beginning of this blog? Yeah, that’s Dumpling.

Whether the sport catches on in the U.S. as anything more than a novelty remains to be seen. And it’s unlikely that it’ll ever need special facilities or equipment (other than perhaps punching bags or similar items). The sport’s sponsors tend to be dietary supplements and the commercials (you’ll see one in the first clip) show musclebound weightlifters.

But as mentioned previously, it’s one sport that, in Russia, at least, seems to have a blatant disregard for the pandemic.

“Sports are closed everywhere else,” says Penguinz0, “but in Russia, they’re still slapping each other around. The virus is probably afraid of slap fighting.”

Tags:  American Sports Builders Association  arenas  boxing  combat sports  combative sports  fieldhouses  fighting sports  hand to hand combat  hand-to-hand combat sports  indoor sports  indoor sports facilities  Russian Slap Fighting  wrestling 

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Why a Demand for Climbing Gyms Will Increase Once COVID-19 Restrictions End

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 13, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

While COVID-19 has continued to wreak havoc on the sports calendar, it is useful to examine some trends of interest in specific sports that will be influencing the sports facility construction industry when the threat has passed.

One specific sport that was seeing enormous upticks of interest (prior to everything grinding to a halt) was sport climbing, which makes its medal debut at the summer Olympics next year. The sport has already established a place for itself on the international level in the World Games and interest continues to grow. Stateside, the sport is already seeing huge growth. In fact, to hear industry experts talk about it, it’s the darling of the Millennial demographic.

According to the most recent State of Climbing report from the American Alpine Club, that age group is not only trying out the sport, but they’re buying into it and prior to COVID-19, was taking out membership in the growing number of rock-climbing gyms around the nation. Also seemingly showing interest in climbing are functional fitness aficionados (i.e. the CrossFit contingent).

And climbing is social media-friendly, something else that appeals to Millennials. According to The Cut, “bouldering is very Instagrammable — the 2.7 million Instagram posts currently tagged #bouldering depict walls covered in bright, rainbow-colored lumps, and bodies which look inherently athletic, even virtuous, for attempting to navigate them.”

Back in the fall, The New York Times, which did an in-depth study of climbing among Millennials, noted, “Young professionals flock to [rock climbing gyms] after work because the exercise is intense, unstructured and sociable; the gyms may be one of the last urban locales where talking to strangers is encouraged."

And there's still going to be plenty of exposure for the sport, despite the stay-at-home restrictions. There are movies about climbing as well as multiple videos online about the sport, as well as at-home workouts to help individuals hone their strength in lieu of actually climbing -- meaning it's likely the interest will stay strong.

Many states have large population centers but still lack climbing gyms. And the success of the gyms in places without as many areas to climb actual rock formations (in other words, those not in mountainous or hilly areas but in the flatlands) has proven that people don’t need to be training for actual outdoor climbing in order to want to buy into this as a form of fitness. So it may be that sports builders serving indoor facilities as well as manufacturers of climbing walls will see an uptick once restrictions loosen.

In its 2018 Industry Report, the Climbing Wall Association projected revenue growth percentages well into the double digits for both 2019 and 2020, with the indoor climbing industry poised to break the billion-dollar mark in 2021. Gym operators were reporting strong growth in both membership and program offerings. Obviously, this was before the advent of COVID-19 and its restrictions – but it is likely business trends will begin to resume when the fitness economy opens back up.

So according to the experts, we can expect to see a demand for climbing gyms – or even just climbing walls in existing gyms – skyrocket when gyms reopen. And here too, there could be advantages. It may be that when facilities do start operating again, they may be limited to a lower capacity in order to allow individuals to keep a healthful distance from one another. By getting individuals to make appointments for use of both the wall and a belayer, the chance of overcrowding would be decreased – and an additional revenue stream could be realized.

Tags:  bouldering  climbing gyms  climbing walls  CrossFit  cross-training  functional fitness  gym membership  indoor recreation  indoor sports facilities  Olympic climbing  Olympic sport climbing  Olympic sports  outdoor recreation  rock climbing  sport climbing  sports in the age of COVID-19 

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