Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Manly Boys

We were in Year 11 (5th Year), and as such were accorded certain privileges due to our elder and supposedly more mature status. One of these privileges was being allowed to stay in your tutor room at lunchtime to eat, which the rest of the school wasn't allowed to do. They had to go to either the canteen or the school hall to eat their lunches, whereas the 16-year-olds were believed to be able to clear up their own mess and be responsible.

We got bored a lot of the time (there's only so much Snake you can play on these new fangled 'mobile' phones), which led to the creation of a number of games. Whether we created them from nothing or they were already in existence, passed down from year to year is something I sadly can't be certain of.

Most of these games were played solely by the male population, and as such involved such manly things as pain and blood. You're 16 years old, you've got a point to prove. You don't have a salary or a penis extension luxury car to do it with, so a higher than average pain threshold is one of the ways you can prove your blossoming masculinity.

Here are a couple of the games we played.

The Pound Coin Game
This was my personal favourite, and was usually the only one to guarantee a bit of blood on show.

To play this game, you needed two willing players, a table and a pound coin. For those non-British amongst you, a pound coin is a particularly thick round coin. Its diameter isn't huge, but it's the thickness which mattered with this game. The only Euro coin this game could be played with is a 2euro one. I don't know an equivalent American coin, but go for the thickest one you can find.

The two players sit either side of a table, on the long sides. You don't need a big gap between you for this one. The first player takes the pound coin and spins it on the table.

The second player then takes his hand and puts his fingers in such a position. The important thing is that the thumb and index finger never seperate. They must always be touching. The middle finger does the work here. He then attempts to stop the spinning coin between his index and middle finger, like so.

He only gets one attempt at this, and must do it before the coin stops spinning. He must be able to lift his hand off the table with the coin trapped, to show that it has in fact been caught. It's actually surprisingly difficult to do this, especially since you know what will happen if you don't catch it.

If you don't catch it, you receive pain.

You have to stand up and put your fist on the table, with the middle knuckle pressed down onto it. Just like this. It's important that as many knuckles are touching pressed down onto the surface as possible. Well, important for your opponent, at any rate. Any attempt to hover just above the surface is frowned upon.

The first player then puts his hand flat on the table, with his middle finger touching your middle knuckle and his thumb stretched back as far as it goes. He puts the pound coin under his thumb. The trick is to stretch your hand as wide as you can get it, because what happens next depends on how much acceleration you can give to the pound coin. It should look something like this or this, depending on your perspective.

In case you haven't figured out what happens as punishment for being unable to stop the spinning coin, what happens next is that the first player flings the coin as hard as he (always a 'he') can at the middle knuckle of his opponent. Direction is given by placing your middle finger up against his knuckle and then lifting it as you accelerate the coin with your thumb.

You see why it's important to make your hand span as wide as possible? The greater the distance the coin has to travel, the more force you can give it by moving your thumb as quickly as possible. It's all about speed.

The coin usually impacts right on the middle knuckle of your opponent. This is where the thickness of the coin comes in: if the coin was thin, it could slide underneath the curve of the knuckle and inflict less (or, heaven forbid, no) damage. With a thick coin, it is guaranteed to make a nasty impact with your opponent's knuckle.

It can take a couple of hits to break the skin, but if you're good (I was) or playing a haemophiliac, it can be quicker. My personal favourite was making a friend of mine bleed quite nastily (well, as nastily as a small wound on the knuckle can bleed...) with the first hit. That was a proud day in my pound coin gaming career.

We would all be sitting there in afternoon classes sucking on our knuckles, hoping the redness would be gone by the time we got home. Usually it didn't. The worst thing about playing was when you played every lunchtime for a week, and had the same cut reopened every day.

Nasty stuff, but this is what we did. As I said in my last post, boredom is a terrible thing.

Another game which involved making your knuckles as raw as raw can be.

Again, two players who sit (or stand) opposite each other. Each puts out their right hand in a fist, and they bring their knuckles together. The first person then attempts to hit the other person on the knuckles with their closed fist. If you hit, the game continues and you can keep trying to hit the other person. If you miss, because the other person moves out of the way, the play swaps to let the second person try to hit the first.

The interesting part comes with the rules concerning flinching. As I said, the second player can move his fist to dodge any incoming strike, in an attempt to win the strike from the first player. If he flinches, however, things change.

A flinch is when the recipient breaks the contact of the fists before the striker does. For instance, if the striker rotates his wrist slightly, but doesn't move his fist back, contact is still there, and it will be a flinch if the recipient jerks his wrist away. The game thus becomes one not only of reactions, but of gamesmanship and tension.

If the recipient flinches three times (it can be two, but three is the more usual number), the striker gets a free hit. This means that the recipient cannot move his fist whatsoever, and the striker is allowed a hell of a backswing. These hurt. A lot. There's nothing you can do as you see the other guy's fist raise up to his shouder and crack down on your knuckles. He can miss, of course, but he never does.

The game continues until the first person wimps out. Unfortunately, the whole game can swing on the first couple of hits, because it's harder to use your fist when your knuckles hurt. You're also more likely to flinch if your knuckles are throbbing, which leads to more free hits and more pain. It's a bit of a vicious circle.

There is a bit of skill involved, such as your ability to make quick hits with barely any backswing, and the ability to make a number of hits in a row. Mostly, however, it's about pain threshold.

Ug, man.

Similar to Knuckles, but with a different position of hands.

This time, instead of fist-to-fist, it's praying-to-praying. The hands are put into a praying position (you use both in this one), and then put horizontally in front of you. Your opponent does the same, and the correct position is to have the tips of your middle fingers touching his, with thumbs on top of the hands.

Instead of going for the knuckles, this game is about slapping your opponent's hands as hard as you can. Hence the name. The same flinching rules apply, as do the rule for exchange of strike when a miss occurs.

This game is a little different in that it's more about multiple hits. If you're half-decent, you can use your left and right hands for an old 1-2 strike. I've been on the receiving end of a 1-2-3-4-5-6 strike a few times, and they make your hands red, I can tell you.

Again, this is a last man standing game. Great fun!

Card Knuckles
Exactly like Knuckles, but the striker uses a full deck of playing cards instead of his fist to do the hitting. Unfortunately, they don't also receive the strike. Cards in this number are painful.

And that's about all I can remember right now. There was a non-pain game that we played, a variation on shove ha'penny, but it had a very complicated scoring system. Try these out and see how much 'fun' we used to have at lunchtimes.

Of course, a few years later we discovered the joys of drinking, but that's another story...