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The World Eskimo Indian Olympics: Event – Kneel Jump. The current World Records are 67 inches for men and 55½ inches for women. Equipment needed to attempt World Record at Eskimo Indian Kneel Jump – masking tape, tape measure. Three jumps each. How hard can it be?
World Eskimo Indian Olympics? Missed it on the BBC this summer?
There’s Olympics and then there’s the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. Whilst many of the summer Olympics events appear far removed from their origins, the Eskimo Indian Olympics hold true to the many hunting and survival skills needed and valued by their community. There are many to try, but this one caught our eye – the Kneel Jump. Described as the “Ultimate Test of Core Strength” – we could not resist.
Kneel jump – how do I do it?
The athlete kneels behind the start line, with the tops of their feet flat on the floor. From there they lift themselves up and forward as far as they can go, landing flat on their feet. The distance is measured to the back of the heel closest to the start line.
First up was Instructor Adam Prout. Well-known amongst you as resident daredevil and tryer of training challenges, Adam was ready to have a go at that World Record. I laid out three sparring mats to provide some knee protection, a tape measure and taped a starting line, marked the World Record and the 2016 winning jump.
Go on then, Adam, jump.
“Kneeling down does not feel like a powerful position but submissive, meditative, calm. To launch forward from it is making my brain hurt. So let’s get rid of that first. The athlete is allowed to swing their arms and bounce their backside on their heels to gain momentum and this helps to break the mental block. So here goes!
First off, I had a go at just getting from the kneel position to a squat. My brain was failing to compute how to lever myself up as the tops of my feet don’t feel like they have any strength to jump from.
After a few tries I can get up into a squat, but it’s a whole new thing to propel myself forward. If you watched the Summer Olympic jump events they all start with a run up. So the forward and even the upward momentum come from a build-up of speed. But this is jumping from a standstill. And there is a good reason for this.
This could save my life. Really?
According to the World Eskimo Indian Olympics website, “Speed and agility are a necessity when out on the ice hunting. The practicality of this event comes from the quickness and control one has to have while out on the ice during break up.” So the kneel jump is a technique used when out on sea or lake ice that is starting to break up. Ice that is cracking is very unpredictable and dangerous. Standing up on it to jump could make it more unstable. Taking a run up could be completely out of the question. Not falling in the water is a matter of life and death not an in inconvenience. So a kneel jump could save your life.
Back to me. There’s not a lot of thin ice around in Southern England in August. So we made do with mats. At the actual Games you can see the athletes jumping from a wooden floor, but we decided to give ourselves a bit of knee protection. A harder surface probably gives them more upward lift, as the feeling of sinking into the mat contributed to the mental soundreel of “this is impossible”. However, a few jumps in and the realisation that this is a mid-air v-sit rapidly improved my forward momentum. The central part of the jump has similarities to the long jump, and my body flexes through two opposing curves. To come up off my knees I arc backwards. Once my feet are off the floor I have to use my core muscles to throw my whole weight forwards whilst bringing my feet under me.
Because the hard part doesn’t stop there – now we come to…
For the jump to count I have to land on my feet without stumbling, jumping sideways or putting my hands down. The best technique is to land in a squat, balance, and then stand up. So I have to kill all that forward momentum and turn it into a downward pressure at the furthest possible point.
And my personal best is…
So how did I do? Well, my three jump attempt at the men’s World Record of 67” gave me a personal best of 33” – not even half way (and nowhere near the women’s World Record). But I had improved on each jump by an average of 2 inches. I feel like I’ve made the easy gains, and now it would be down to working on refining the technique down to the smaller details of perfectly setting up my weight distribution when kneeling, timing my arm swing to the exact moment of take-off, and striking the balance on landing.
“How hard can it be?”
To answer the question, how hard can it be? Well, it was a deep deep core strength exercise, not one to do if you have a hernia. The whole body arches and then has to “ping” back like an elastic band with explosive power. Apart from the arm swing, all the momentum comes from the stable base and flexible core. And then just as suddenly you have to redirect the energy downwards to make a good landing. I may not need this for survival as I have no immediate plans to go ice fishing, but I think I might be adding this to my core strength training routine.”
Who else wants a go?
And we didn’t leave it there. Saturday training camp comes around, and here they all are at the gate – “Who wants to have a go at breaking a World Record?”. “What at?” Ask no questions, just say yes or no! And so a hardy little band of people had a go. Some could not quite get up off their feet, but others were soon beating Adam’s personal best. I have to admit I was curious to see whether physique – height in particular – would make a difference. But in reality it came down to technique. For those who could get to standing there was a rapid increase in length of jump up to a point, and then the gains stopped. So it would come back to improving technique. And they were still far short of those World Records.
World Record Notes:
MEN: Dylan Magnusen 5’7” 2013 NYO
WOMEN: Apaay Campbell 4’7½” 2013 NYO
(NYO refers to the Native Youth Olympics)
As a full-time Martial Arts Instructor, Adam is fairly fit, and he has done zillions of sit-ups and core strength exercises. However, I was interested to see whether physique has an impact in this event, and so asked Josh (seen in the main picture) and Femi (seen in pictures just above) to give it a go.
Adam: Height 170cm weight 68.6kg Personal Best (PB) Kneel Jump 33 inches
Josh: Height 193cm weight 88kg PB Kneel Jump 38½ inches
Femi : Height 175cm weight 78kg PB Kneel Jump 42 inches (he broke the PB shown in the photo above with more practice).
Femi scored the best PB at 42 inches. Josh improved his technique to reach 38½ inches, but his height was not an advantage. Adam is in his early forties whereas both Josh and Femi are in their early twenties. Is this the point of advantage? Come to camp and give it a try if you want to find out.
Additional notes from the World Eskimo Indian Olympic Website regarding the origin and purpose of their Games:
“Survival for the Native people of Alaska has been the name of the games for as long as our elders can recollect. When listening to them tell of their early life, it sometimes seems inconceivable they managed at all. These stories constantly reiterate the need to be disciplined physically as well as mentally, to share, cooperate, and to hold a reverence for the source which makes it possible to survive in an environment which is severe in every sense of the word. These people lived off what nature provided. They hunted, fished, and gathered plants for food, clothing, and medicinal purposes. In all of these instances they had to be strong and agile, and able to endure past normal limits of strength and pain. In winter or summer, one had to prepare to be tested at any moment, and to fail could easily be the difference between life and death.”