Jianzi (chin.: Jiànzi 毽子), Ti Jianzi (chin.: tījiànzi 踢毽子) or Jianqiu (chin.: jiànqiú 毽球) is a traditional Asian game in which players aim to keep a heavily weighted shuttlecock in the air using their feet and other parts of the body (but not hands, unlike the similar games peteca and indiaca). The game, which goes by many different names, may be rules-based on a court similar to badminton and Volleyball, or be played artistically, among a circle of players in a street or park, with the objective to keep the shuttle ‘up’ and show off skills. In Vietnam, it is known as đá cầu and is the national sport, played especially in Hanoi. In recent years, the game has gained a formal following in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. In English, both the sport and the object with which it is played are referred to as “shuttlecock” or “featherball”. No racquets are used.
History of Shuttlecock
The first known version of jianzi was in the 5th century BC in China. The name Ti Jian Zi (chin.: tījiànzi 踢毽子), means simply ‘kick shuttlecock’ (‘ti’ = kick, ‘jian zi’ = little shuttlecock). The game is believed to have evolved from Cuju (chin.: cùjú 蹴鞠), a game similar to football that was used as military training. A lot of famous generals in the Chinese history used this game in order to relax and exercise their troops. Over the next 1000 years, this shuttlecock game spread throughout Asia, acquiring a variety names along the way. Jianzi has been played since the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), and was popular during the Six Dynasties period and the Sui and Tang dynasties. Thus the game has a history of two thousand years. Several ancient books attest to its being played. Since the Song Dynasty (960-1278) the game was renamed to Jianqiu (chin.: jiànqiú 毽球), from the Chinese word for “arrow” that sounds precisely as the word “shuttlecock”.
The first national competition of Shuttlecock took place in 1933 in China . In 1933, in Nanjing in the fifth National Sports meeting, playing Jianzi, wrestling, and so on were defined as the National Sports formerly. And in June, 1961, a movie called “The flying feather” was finished by the central news movie company. The movie was so successful that it is gained the International movie festival gold metal of movies. Since 1984, shuttlecock is an Official National Sport. In 1984, an enthusiastic team of fans founded in Hong-Kong, the Amateur Union of Shuttlecock. In 1994, this union was reformed and renamed to “Hong Kong Association of Shuttlecock” (HKSA).
Shuttlecock, came to Europe before the 2nd world war, when a Chinese athlete from the province of Jiangxu performed a demonstration in the Olympic Games of Berlin in 1936. Germany and other countries were so impressed, that they began to learn and play the demonstrated sport. The championships of the World Shuttlecock are an annual event since the founding of the International Shuttlecock Federation - (ISF) in 1999. Since then, the countries were undertaking voluntarily the organisation of championships, in turn. Hong-Kong organised the International Championships of Shuttlecock in 1995.
Day by day, the sport receives a greater recognition, since it has been included as a sport in the southeastern Asiatic games of 2003. The members of ISF are China, the Chinese Taipei, Finland, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Laos the Vietnam, Greece, France, Romania, Serbia, etc. Among them, China and the Vietnam are considered as leading teams in ranking, while for Europe, Hungary and Germany are considered the Best Teams. Finally, on August 11th 2003 delegates from Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Serbia founded the Shuttlecock Federation of Europe (S.F.E.), in Ujszasz (Hungary).
Shuttlecock history in different countries
In Germany shuttlecock was discovered by Peter von Rüden, a German engineer while he was travelling in China.He saw some people play it in a park. Some of them were 60 or 70 years old. He was fascinated by this sport. He was presented a ball and he showed his friends how to play. Since that time his life is dedicated to popularizing shuttlecock. He founded FFC Hagen on 1 September 1991, the first European shuttlecock club.
He organised the first German Open on November 25-26 1994, on which Hungarian teams took part. As a result of Peter von Rüden’s popularizing activity, several countries introduced shuttlecock eg.Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland,Switzerland, Ireland and Hungary.
Peter von Rüden had a shuttlecock show at the Travel ’92 exhibition in March 1992. A P.E. teacher, Butor Klára happened to see this show and she liked it a lot. She is the programme director of the Hungarian Pioneer Association. She bought a lot of balls and popularized shuttlecock within the Pioneer Association.The first Hungarian competition was held on 29 May 1993. During 1993 and 1994 several friendly tournaments were organised. On 11 March 1995 the Hungarian Shuttlecock Association was founded in Újszász. The Founding President is Butor Klára and the General Secretary is Fehér János.After the foundation of MLTSZ, the system of championships was worked out and international connections were developed. MLTSZ have been organising an international championship yearly since 1996. It is called the Hungarian Open. Besides the system of championships, students’ Olympics is organised since 2000.
The Shuttlecock game was introduced in Greece by Mr. Jordan Stavridis, instructor of Chinese Martial Arts, graduate of Gymnastics Academy of Martial Arts in Luoyang, in Henan province of People’s Republic of China. Mr. Stavridis was using the feather-ball as the basic exercise of his students, since 1986. By practising that “game”, his students reflexives, concentration and speed were improved. This enjoying way was totally unknown to Greece that time.
In 2002 creates the Greek Federation of Shuttlecock and the first Greek Teams. He comes in contact with the ISF and makes Greece a member of the International Shuttlecock Federation. The first Greek competition was held on 18 April 2004.
The story of shuttlecock in France really started in 2002 with the curiosity of Guillaume Destot. The father of his wife, of Vietnamese origin, had shown him how he made shuttlecocks out of pigeon feathers and stacked, cut-out bottoms of plastic water bottles. He played this with his daughter, Guillaume’s wife, named Kim-Da.
Kim-Da, though, had always played it with the hands rather than the feet. Guillaume wanted to find out more about the game. On the internet, he not only found that the game was played with the feet, but also that it was developing in Europe, especially Germany and and Hungary. Guillaume was instantly fascinated by this original game. He wanted to create a club in France. Thanks to a friend of his, he got in contact with an association of Vietnamese in France, and united with their sports section to create a shuttlecock club.
The first training sessions, mostly improvised and outdoors, took place in the summer of 2002. Guillaume contacted the Germans, and very soon, Peter von Rüden, Karsten Thilo-Raab and Pasquale Salimbeni were kind enough to come show the French a few techniques In the autumn of 2002. After a few training sessions only, a French team took part in the 2002 World championship in Hagen, along with Hungary, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Taiwan and Finland. The French team was composed of Kim-Da Destot-Vong, Anh Mai Chau Van, Yohan Vinchon, Brian Valès, Guillaume Odin and Guillaume Destot. This experience was very precious for the French, who then started to organise the sport at home. They used the term “da cau”, the Vietnamese word for shuttlecock kicking, to refer to the sport, as a tribute to the Vietnamese, who had shown the sport to them. After initial difficulties, for obtaining training time in sports halls and recruiting players, more French clubs have been created now. The pioneers of the sport in France are Anh Mai Chau Van, Kim-Da Destot-Vong, Anne Bizet, Yohann Vinchon, Guillaume Odin, Brian Valès, Yannick Hougardy, Alexandre Mariottini, Yoram Abitbol, Cédric Manfredi, Samuel Le Bihan, François Grignard, Florent Maurel, and of course Guillaume Destot, who founded the first club and took the first team of French players to international competitions.
Thanks must also go to Jean-Baptiste Vong, Guillaume’s father in law, who was the first to show him the game, and to Peter von Rüden, whose help along the years has been invaluable.
The royal family of Malaysia introduced the “Sepak Takraw”, about 500 years ago. The origin of the name comes from two languages. Sepak, means “kick” in Malay, and Takraw, means “ball” in Thai. The original name of the Shuttlecock game is Sepak Bulu Ayam.
“Kemari” in Japanese means, “strike the ball with the foot”. This game came from China sometime around the 7th century. It quickly became very popular because it was a skill that could be acquired by everyone regardless of one’s social class. Nowadays, the game takes place in three variations as honokemari, tanabatamari and osamemari. But the only known reference to foot shuttlecock ever being played in Japan appears in a book, published in 1975, entitled “Games of the World” by Frederic V. Grunfeld. The following is an extract: ” The game of shuttlecock, in which a small feathered ball or disc is kicked from player to player, has been played in China, Japan and Korea for more than 2000 years. In ancient Japan, the game was used to train the militia: It was believed that a soldier’s physical abilities would be sharpened by this sort of play. Officers formed clubs where the game rules were standardized.”
In Korea the Shuttlecock game is called “Jeigi” or “Jeigi-chagi"and it is one of the most widespread and beloved game. The Koreans played this game, centuries before the Japanese. Today Jeigi-chag is a children’s game and even though a declining number of them play it, it has not entirely died out. Evidence for this can be found in many modern photographs of children dressed in their colourful national dress enthusistically kicking their shuttlecocks.
The traditional Shuttlecocks were made of a strong white paper wrapped around a coin at the base to give it weight in the appropriate area. The paper above the coin would then be cut into strips to serve the same purpose as feathers in a convential shuttlecock.
From enquiries made, it seems that the practice of kicking the “Chiquia” has now disappeared from this Portuguese colony, but Macau is due to be handed back to Mainland China in 1999 so maybe, in the fullness of time, the game could well be revived at some time in the future.
Pictorially the game has not been forgotten, because on 31st July, 1989 Macau issued a postage stamp showing a “chiquia” in the foreground and in the background a circle of four men playing the game.
Here the game is called “Da Cau” and it’s the national game of Vietnam. The game involves kicking a small ball back and forth, a “cau”, which is similar to the ball used in badminton. In the past, the featherball was made of metal coins and feathers. Now they are fashioned out of rubber and plastic. The feathers are colored cellophane ribbons. The bright fringes allow the players see the ball more clearly and indicate the bird’s potential speed.
Historic annals mention kickball tournaments as far back as the 11th century. Wood carvings of shuttlecock players have been found on the 17th century Vietnamese temples.
Shuttlecock was neglected in Vietnam during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. After 1975 a well-known Hanoi pediatrician Dr. Nguyen Khac Vien campaigned to revive the sport. Recognizing games as a universal need, especially among children, he organized teams of players and facilitated the production of inexpensive shuttlecocks.
A birdie and a ready foot are all that is needed to play the most popular street game in Hanoi and Vietnam’s national sport.
In Indonesia, the Shuttlecock game is called “Bola Bulu Tangkis”. It’s similar to the one that is played in Vietnam. The game is known since the 10th century.
The Shuttlecock game in Philippines is called “Larong Sipa”. Known and played by all age groups, especially by the elders, for many centuries. The Larong Sipa game has three categories, the women’s, the men’s and the team category. In the women’s category, the ball is required to be kicked with the outer side of the foot and the goal is a high score. For each successful kick, that is, without the featherball touching the ground, a point is scored. In the men’s category, the ball is required to be kicked with the inner side of the foot. In the team category, men and women play together, both inner and outer foot kicks are allowed.
In Singapore the game is called “Chapteh”. It has been played for centuries and it is very popular. The game is played with a small variation, without a net. The players make circle and they play until the ball falls on the ground. The player who missed the ball leaves the circle. The two last players play by themselves separate trying to keep the ball in the air. The winner is the one that last more.
The game is still played by children in Singapore and the chapteh can still be bought in shops there. On the 21st February, 1997 Singapore Post Office issued a set of four stamps depicting Traditional Games. The upper half of the 22 cents value stamp pictures a boy kicking a shuttlecock and the bottom half, a close up of a chapteh.
In Brazil the game is called “Peteca”. It has been played for centuries and it is very popular. The only difference from the other countries is that the “Peteca” is played with the hands and the net is quite high. It is believed that the game has its roots from the tribe Xavante, which was the basic game of the children of the tribe. The ball consisted of a species of grass, as garlic with the root and its leaves.
A game with a ball of feathers is something, which is very often found in the tribes that live in the Northwestern coasts. The tribe Zuni, played with a ball made from a piece of corn stalk tied up with feathers from various birds. The game was played with hands and feet. The game with the hands was called “Po ke if”, while the game with the feet “Po-ki-nanane”. The existence of this game in the region is known from murals that were found in caves in the Chelly canion. A similar game was played among the Piman tribe of Arizona, which was called “Kwaitusiwikut”. The native Salish of the British Columbia and of Washington played the game striking a ball, which was made from a piece of hard timber and had three feathers tied on it with a wide piece of wood. This game was called “Kwakiutl” or “Quemal”.
In India, the game existed before 1500 B.C. and was called “Poona”. It was named “Poona” because of its region of origin, which was city “Pun”. It is said that “Poona” means “the game of the city Pun”. Initially the game was played with the hand, using him palm as a racquet. Later on, the hands were replaced with the legs, something that made this game popular among Indian men but extremely difficult for the Indian women. Thus, it was separated in a men and a women game. In 1870, British officers that served in India brought with them back to the country the game Poona. Duke of Beaufort, the Father of Badminton, was great supporter of the game, which he played very often. However, this game was quite primitive for the elite of the English society. Thus, he was pleased in playing the woman’s version of the game of Poona with his friends and his daughters in his villa at the village Badminton of Glouschester.
One day, as he was playing in the garden of his villa, it began to rain. Without hesitation, he emptied his dining room so to continue the game there. This was also the beginning of the sport known as Badminton.
This article is based on a research made by Mr. Stavridis.