Unicycle Sumo (Gladiators, Demolition Derby, UniDerby, Dogfightin

This grows from the messages under the subject of unicycle jousting. I’m
repeating my Unicycle Sumo rules here for all to see!

> I personaly feel that dogfighting (i prefer unidurby)is the absolute
> most fun i have ever had on a unicycle.

For me it ties with a few other things, but it’s definitely loads of fun
with no special equipment.
Where did you get the name Dogfighting? That’s what Bradley Bradley and I
used to call it when we did it long ago on our 6 footers, because we were up
in the air. That was stupid, by the way, but we did have fun until some
spectacular pileups where we got bruises in weird spots and pedals in body
cavities where they had no business being. :slight_smile:

I like the name Unidurby, though I think you mean Uni Derby. We used to call
it Demolition Derby when there were more than two riders. In England/Europe
(don’t know where it originated) they call it Gladiators. In more recent
years my friends and I had settled on the name Sumo for various reasons:

  1. Even if you have a group, doing 1-on-1 gives people a chance to rest
    (though you can still do a free-for-all if you want)
  2. Sumo is a somewhat similar sport that already exists
  3. Our rules are similar to Sumo
  4. The Sumo name implies that you actually have rules, and some sort of code
    of honor in the game. (it also implies big fat guys with skimpy underwear,
    but we ignore that)

I don’t think I’ve ever written down my Sumo/Gladiators/Demolition
Derby/Dogfighting rules. Part of this was due to concerns about liability,
and part due to so many other projects on my plate all the time. But since I
just finished the July issue of On One Wheel (at 2am), I’m going to take
some time to do this. I will post this again with a different subject line
so it doesn’t get missed by the Sumo crowd.
At the last two UNICONs, Steve Dressler and I have hosted very informal Sumo
tournaments. We had lots of fun, and yelled ourselves hoarse officiating
round after round, and explaining the rules. So here they are, for maybe the
first time ever in detailed writing:


This set of rules was developed by myself and the people I used to ride with
in the 1980s, in Michigan and New York. The rules were modified and changed
over the years to allow greater safety, less ripped clothing, and better
flexibility for different conditions. Example: In the early days, we didn’t
allow people to grab seats, because we couldn’t defend against it. Later we
got better, and allowed it. This rule can be optional, depending on who’s
playing (long as you set it in advance).

There are four basic variations on the game that I can think of off the top
of my head:

  1. 1-on-1 with boundaries (standard Sumo)
  2. 1-on-1 without boundaries (Gladiator style?)
  3. 3 or more players with boundaries (group Sumo?)
  4. 3 or more players without boundaries (Demolition Derby)

Since this game has never been played formally, your boundaries should be
whatever’s convenient. In a gym, pick out some lines painted on the floor.
Outside, use parking spaces or cracks, or any way to determine your playing
area. The size of the area should allow room to move around, but not enough
room to pick up any high speed. You don’t need that much room. At UNICON X,
we taped out a circle that was about 5-6 meters across. For the finals (at
the closing ceremonies) we used the inner Standard Skill circle, which is 4
meters. You can see some pictures in my UNICON X Ofoto album by scrolling
most of the way down: http://tinyurl.com/b8y

Rectangles work as well. The shape is not important, but if you are using
boundaries it’s important that they are somehow marked on the ground so you
can see when a tire goes over. Unless you’re playing without boundaries, in
which case you don’t need any.

When playing standard Sumo, the object is to either push your opponent out
of the circle or knock him or her down, while staying up and inside the
circle yourself. When playing without boundaries, it’s just the knocking
down part. When played with a group, the object is to be the last one

We play the game with multiple rounds. Each round ends with either a victor,
or in a draw (see below). The victor gets a point. You can play for points,
or best 2 out of 3, or whatever you choose. In the UNICON IX tournament
(Germany), we counted how many rounds a person won in a row. The highest
number was the champion. This works if all players are present at the time,
but is not accurate if people come and go. At UNICON X there was more of a
turnover of riders, so we kept pitting individual riders against each other
to see who was having the best averages. The top four players were Jose
Roman (Puerto Rico), Jamey Mossengren (USA), Lars Lottrop (Denmark) and a
guy named Lau(?), also from Denmark. The reigning world champion of Sumo
(unofficial, of course) is Jose Roman.

Riders must be on their unicycles, and inside the boundary (if any). When
ready, the players should first bow to each other (indicates politeness and
also that you are both paying attention). If a referee is used, the referee
then indicates the start of play by shouting “Kill!” or whatever suits his
fancy. In group games, all riders must ride out somewhere into the middle of
the playing area at the beginning of the round. We employed this rule to
keep people from hiding while other riders eliminated each other.

A rider is out of bounds if his or her tire touches the ground outside the
line. It’s all in the tire (unless your foot touches outside the line, which
would also count as a dismount). So you can be on the line, but the round is
only over if you touch outside it. For dismounts, any body part touching the
ground with weight on it counts as a dismount. So a toe-touch to the ground
is a dismount, but a hand brushing the ground is not.

If both riders dismount, the round is a draw and no points are awarded.
After one rider is defeated by dismount, the other rider must remain up and
inbounds for at least three seconds. Riders dismounting may not try to drag
their opponents down with them. Once they have touched the floor, dismounted
riders must let go. On boundary victories, the round is over as soon as one
player’s tire touches outside the line, so the victor does not have to ride
the 3 seconds.

When defeated, players in multiple rider games must exit the playing area as
best they can without interfering with mounted riders. Sometimes this means
holding still momentarily while waiting for them to move away. While still
in the playing area, defeated riders may be used as shields, props, or
obstacles. Players should note, however, that the defeated rider has no
obligation to you and is supposed to be getting out of there as quickly as
possible. This is a gray area I don’t have more detail on due to lack of

This is the area where the most attention must be paid, and where we made
the most rule changes over the years. The overall goal is to have fun while
avoiding injury and damage to clothes and anything else. The basic ground
rule is that you are mostly doing pushing and pulling on the larger body
parts, or directly on the unicycle if you can grab it. Details:

  1. Remove earrings, watches, other jewelry, and anything else that could get
  2. No pulling on clothes. It’s easy to grab a piece of a shirt and pull, but
    then you end up with a ripped shirt. This tends to make the game too
    expensive. If you realize you are holding nothing but clothing, you must let
  3. No inflicting of pain. This is not very concrete, and must be interpreted
    with care. The basic idea is that pain is not one of the tools of the game.
    No poking eyes, pulling hair, twisting arms, bending fingers, etc.
  4. You may not push riders faster than they can go. This applies to larger
    playing areas, where a rider is trying to escape and picks up speed. A
    faster rider can easily give this rider a push from behind, which could
    result in a nasty fall. This is, in part, why the playing area should be
    kept to a minimum.
  5. No high lifting of riders’ feet. This means, for example grabbing the
    opponent under the knee and lifting way up. This can cause the rider to fall
    backward. It’s okay to lift the riders’ foot off the pedal, but not to keep
    lifting after it’s off.

Used properly, these five main safety rules will allow for round after round
of play with no serious damage to players or personal property.

When my friends and I first played this game and thought about rules, some
of us had easy-to-grab Miyata seats while others had hard-to-grab Schwinn or
other seats. Plus, getting hold of the seat usually meant the round was over
for the grabee. So seat grabbing is a rule you should decide if you want to
use. The rule is that you can’t grab your opponent’s seat. We always allowed
grabbing of the seatpost, however. Later we allowed the seat as well. We
found that you can break away from this, and also that if you let your
opponent get a grip on your unicycle, you deserve it anyway.

You can’t have a good game with a child vs. an adult. In our UNICON
tournaments, kids wanted to play too. So we took turns between sets of
lightweight and heavyweight (expert) riders. If a lightweight rider was
doing too well against the other kids, we let them try their hands against
the experts as well. The sport can be divided by weight, or by skill level.
When everybody has a good skill level, it should be by weight. Age should
not be a factor.

Bad idea. It’s only a matter of time before you fall, on your back, on top
of your unicycle. Can you say pedal-rectal? Been there, not going back. I
highly don’t recommend it. Suffice it to say that it only took one of those
really bad landings to stop us from ever doing it again, and that was way
back in my first year of riding.

So I hope you like the rules. Feel free to chime in with questions or
comments. We’ll clean it up into something that will eventually be added to
the IUF Rulebook.

Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
Sumo expert

Howard Stern: “How many wheels does a unicycle have?”
The beautiful but vacant, recently-crowned Miss Howard Stern: