The Swing Kicking Game – Sioux
This is an excerpt from Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons: Understanding the World of Boys. This is from a section on boy’s play and how it differs from girls.
In cultures that need to have the men protect borders from attack, the games they encourage young boys to play will often include physical combat. An example is the Sioux tribe in North America. One of the games the boys would play is the Swing Kicking Game. This game lined the boys up in a row facing each other. The game begins when the question is uttered “Shall we grab them by the hair and knee them in the face until they bleed?” At that point the boys started swinging and kicking with the object of
getting their opponent on the ground and then kneeing them in the face. The boys who took a knee to the face would continue fighting bloodied or not. After the game, according to one report, the boys would laugh and talk about it with few ever getting angry.20 These same skills would be later used by the boys when they would need to protect their tribe’s boundaries and fight off intruders as a coalition. This sort of practice along with knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their compatriots on their team would help them later in a real battle. Their play was preparing them for later danger. In cultures that do not need to have the men guard perimeters, boys are discouraged from rough and tumble, violent games. Interestingly, boys seem to gravitate and find ways to take part in rough and tumble play even if their culture discourages it. Having rough males who can protect your borders has been a very positive thing for cultures to have. Without it, many cultures would likely have died off.
The male capacity to protect has a number of benefits in keeping cultures alive and the inhabitants safe but it also has some significant drawbacks. The number of male to male murders that take place are about thirty to forty times the number of female to female murders that occur.21 These male on male murders are usually not related to other crimes, but to disputes over status or a girlfriend. Again, it is hierarchy and competition setting off disputes that can be lethal. They usually occur in males who are fifteen to twenty-five years old and are more likely to occur if the male is unmarried.22 Think dominance hierarchy and status. When a young man’s status is questioned it can lead to great trauma especially if he is limited in maturity, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or mentally ill. The vast majority of men are able to contain this power without being inappropriately violent. A few cannot.
20. Hassrick, Royal B., Cile M. Bach, and Dorothy Maxwell.
The Sioux: Life and Customs of a Warrior Society. Norman,
OK: University of Oklahoma, 1964. Print.
21. Geary, David C. Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex
Differences. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association, 2010. 414-415. Print.
Tom Golden is the author or three books, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, The Way Men Heal, and Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons: UnderStanding the Unique World of Boys. Tom was the creator of the youtube channel Men Are Good and served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health. He has been a therapist in private practice for over 30 years.