Whenever I give students a break during class or sometimes even before class begins, a group of kids, mostly boys, play a game they call Ninja. They stand in a circle or a loose circular clump and strike a stationary pose. One at a time they try to “attack” the next person’s hands while that person pulls away, at least one foot staying put in the same position. If a hand is touched, it is placed behind one’s back. When the other hand is touched in another round, that person is out. The “ninjas” pull their upper body away to deflect any movement toward them. The offensive movement is based on the attempt to tag another person’s arm. The defensive movement is averting the “touch.” Both movements end in freezing the pose. The object of the game appears to be to not be touched by any other player.
I haven’t described this game very well. I’m not sure anyone can. I’m not even sure of its origin. I have tried to play but was “touched” immediately and found myself out. It is a game of nuanced movement, perhaps even meditative, and requires full concentration.
I am fascinated by this game and have been since the beginning of the year. Each person is only allowed one movement at a time, which actually looks like a movement into another “pose.” Viewed by an observer, it looks more like a sequential T’ai Chi or Qigong as the movements pass from one player to the next. Others are fascinated too as each game acquires groups of observers.
I love watching this choreography and have often let a game go on a bit longer than any typical break. The choreography directed at another’s position and the reactive movement based the attack, somehow completely holds my attention. Though clearly somewhat stylized and formal, its gracefulness and elegance of movement is a mesmerizing dance of offense and dodging, of assault and evasion, of conflict and resolution. It is kinesthetic dialogue. An engaged energy I wish I could capture in the required work we explore in the classroom.