Jugger looks weird. Two teams challenge each other in a struggle for a dog's skull. And they fight with long staffs, clubs and even a chain! What are they doing?
This is Jugger.
Trailer of "Blood of Heroes", 1989
Roots: A movie
Originally, Jugger has been invented by the director/writer of the movie "Blood of Heroes", Dabid Webb Peoples, who told me about his intentions during my research for the Jugger book. In the movie, it was a brutal, post-apocalyptic sport, where the players fight for food and money: screw nuts (sex only seems to be the usual after-show party element, not, as it is often said, the goal of The Game itself).
The movie becomes a sport
Shortly after the movie had been released, Jugger was transformed into a real, playable sport in two places of Germany independently; these two cradles were Berlin, perfect with its post-apocalyptic look and fee during the early years after the fall of the Berlin wall; and a group of live Action Role Players, the Dilletanten, of Luebeck, Heidelberg, Hamburg and other cities. That other branch staged the first ever tournament in Hamburg in 1995. It was at around this time that Berlin and Hamburg learned of each other. A bit later, Jugger started to become inceasingly popular all over Germany. And so the German Jugger community was born. Over the years, new Jugger groups came up, partly inspired by the movie and documentaries about the active Juggers, partly after visiting the German Jugger site in the internet; some have been formed by juggers who moved to other towns. The USA transformed it as well, but with quite a different character, including it into their
Meanwhile, Jugger has become an official sport, with some 30 teams and about a dozend tournaments nationwide. But some Australians enjoy playing it since 2000 as well, and even some guys in Denmark, Spain and Costa Rica. A national Jugger league (the Jugger Liga) has been founded, and in 2006, we had seven tournaments. We also do have rules discussions at length, of course - see below. Right now, Jugger seems to go off like hell. The first German Open were held at Berlin in 2008, with Australia and Ireland playing along with 28 German teams.And the first book on Jugger has been translated and is available in English now: Jugger. A post-apocalyptic sport for all occasions.
Fighting for a dog's skull as a regular sport? Sure! The skull is made of a thick cellfoam, the clubs are well padded, the chain is made of plastic with a softball at one end. You don't hit your opponent hard, but try to touch him quickly. If You manage to touch him (except on the head), than he has to get down and wait for some seconds, before he can rejoin the game.
Two runners, so-called Qwiks (sic), do not carry padded clubs or staffs. They are the only ones who may carry the dog's skull and place it into the goal of the other team, which scores a point.
Quite unique is the combination of two elements, which are usually separate: That of a team sport like football, and that of duel sport like fencing or Kendo: It requires a fast and unusual teamplay, moves not unlike American Football or Rugby, and the mastering of the individual club/staff/chain. And it makes a hell of a lot of fun!
A little introductory video clip on German Jugger.
The German Jugger League (Deutsche Juggerliga)
The German Jugger League exists since many years. In February 2010, a council was held between nine of the most experienced cities (just like the "Nine Cities" in the movie, but that was coincidence). A League council has been formed and the League has been completely re-formed. League teams as well as League tournaments have to meet certain specifications, points are awarded following a new system, and a court of arbitration with three judges is now in existence. The system will be evaluated at the end of this years season.
Now, about the way Jugger is played in Germany compared to Australia.
We also have teams of 5 players - four enforcers who we call "Pompfer", and one Qwik commonly known as "Läufer" (="runner").
The padded "weapons" got the name "Pompfen" by the sound they make at impact. And here comes one difference: We have quite standartized Pompfen. These are: The Staff, the Q-Tip (a double-ended two-meter staff), the Long Sword (Langpompfe), all of them two-handed; Shield and Short Sword (Kurzpompfe); and the "single-line" Chain with a big softball at the end, of course. All Pompfen except the chain are made of a foam material which is usually used to protect household piping from freezing. So, they all do have a round diameter; blades are forbidden. Some make their Pompfen out of stripes of thermal mats; they also are round.
We don't use stakes. Instead, there are hollow-pointed foam pyramids or just circles. You stick the skull into the pyramid or put it in the circle - and it doesn't "hop away" - you happy one earn a point.
The German skull is a foam replica of a dog's skull. Some call it "Jugg", others "Schädel" (="skull"). Since we don't use poles, some do shape their skull quite ... realistic. Holes and spikes are avoided for safety reasons, however.
We usually count stones by hitting a drum or, in some cases, throwing stones against a metal plate. A player hit by a Pompfe gets down for 5, if hit by a chain for 8 stones.
A game lasts for 200 stones, finals 300 stones.
Each town holding a tournament usually offers a cup, or trophy, for the winner. Every trophy has a different shape: There is a painted, pitch-shaped shield with little Pompfen arranged on top of it and an artificial skull in the center, some kind of a huge wheel, a rugged flag, and others. The trophy is handed from one winning team to the next, each notig their name on it.
The annual "Ligarat" (Jugger League council) is a meeting where "national rules standards" are discussed. These core rules are modified by the Lokal Rules (see below).
While the core rules are aggreed upon by all towns (i.e. teams), many teams issue own "lokal rules" when staging a tournament, and the participants aggree to obey them. These rules may for example lengthen the "off"-duration from 8 to 10 stones when hit by a chain. These lokal rules add a special flavour to Jugger as a sport - The Game really remains individualistic.
A BOOK ON JUGGER
So, the first book I published about Jugger as a sport, with kind informal support of the director and informations from many of our teams (and the Australians), is not meant to be (and cannot be) a "standardization" of The Game. Instead, it is designed as a paedagogically enriched guideline for schools and youth projects who are interested in building their own team from scratch; this is because of the publisher. Originally it was written to compile and display the current state of Jugger here, and the history of the sport. It is available in English as well, as a free PDF download: Jugger. A post-apocalyptic sport for all occasions