The Art of Tug of War

The Art of Tug of War by Yombu
Yombu Post Author Seth Van Oudtshoon

Written by (Author):  Seth Van Oudtshoon
Last updated:  November 13, 2023

You may know it as a kids game where you pulled on a rope at a School fun day or sports event, but this ancient game has been played by gladiators in training, warriors in China and the Greeks. Although it is thought to have been invented in Ancient China where it was played as a test of strength and power, the true origins of this game are unknown. But as long as there has been a rope and two people willing to pull on it, people across the Globe have enjoyed testing their strength in the game of Tug of War.

Tug of War has been a competitive sport since the 1890’s, when the First World Championships were held in England. Initially a part of the Olympics, the sport was dropped from the Olympic Games after the 1920 Olympics and is no longer considered an Olympic sport. As a Birthday Party game it is right up there with our favorites and is the perfect way to encourage teamwork and fun. Here is how you do it:

1) How to Play Tug of War

  • Divide the Kids into two even groups. Try to balance out the teams so there is an equal ratio of older or bigger kids on each team.
  • Lay your rope out in the center of the playing area and have each team stand on opposite ends of the rope. *Pro Tip: Stand on the center of the rope while organizing the two teams so nobody starts pulling too early.
  • On your signal, both teams should start pulling on the rope as hard as they can in an attempt to pull the other team backwards.
  • The team that manages to pull the opposing group over a designated line is the winner. If a team accidentally drops the rope they have also lost the game.
  • You can play Tug of War multiple times with the same group of Children by mixing up the teams, playing girls against the boys or specific colored t-shirts against each other.

2) How to Win Tug of War (Best tug of war strategy)

Tug of War is usually won by the team that best manages to work together effectively by forming a unified pulling machine, but there are a few tips and tricks that can help you maximize your teams Tug of War abilities.

  1. Maintain a firm grip on the rope with both hands, keep your arms straight, use a crouching position and your body weight to help anchor the rope.
  2. Maximise your strength by using your body weight, planting your feet firmly and using your legs to generate the pulling power.
  3. Arrange your team with the strongest members at the back and front of the group.
  4. Communicate constantly with your teammates, so you can co-ordinate your pulling efforts.
  5. Some common Tug of War strategies that have been proven to work include using quick short pulls to try unbalance the opposition, and a long steady controlled pull to tire them out.

How to win tug of war without using strength? Winning tug of war doesn’t always require sheer strength; it can be about strategy, teamwork, and using your body effectively. To win in this classic game without relying solely on brute force, focus on the following techniques: First, establish a solid stance by planting your feet firmly and lowering your center of gravity. Next, lean back and use your body weight to create resistance against the opposing team.

Coordinate with your teammates, pulling in unison with synchronized tugs and releases. Maintain a steady rhythm, and as your opponents falter or lose their grip, use your technique to gain the advantage. When done correctly brains can indeed conquer brawn when executed with timing and teamwork.

Tug of War How to Play by Yombu
Tug of War
Tug of War Rope How to Play Tug of War by Yombu
Tug of War Rope
How to play Tug of War Kids Party Entertainers Yombu
More Tug of War

3) Tug of War Variations

For as long as Tug of War has been around players have been coming up with variations of the classic game. Although not all of these examples are appropriate for a Kids Party, some of our favorites include:

Tug of War on Water: Okay, so this is not technically played ON the water, but if you lose, you are sure to get wet! This fun variation is played by having two teams stand across a body of water (think paddling pool or an actual pool). Both teams tug on the rope until the losing team topples into the water. We highly recommend this for those hot Summer days.

Tug of War with Obstacles: This variation is best played with large obstacles that the players have to navigate while pulling – items like old tires, pillows and rolled up blankets add some fun to the game and won’t injure any of the participants.

The Art of Tug of War Yombu Events
Quality Kids Party Entertainment

Get all the

Bells & Whistles


Arrow Icon The Art of Tug of War Yombu Events

4) Tug of War Ropes

While you can play Tug of War with anything from a sheet to a clothing line, if you opt for a rope, you need to know how to find the best one, because nobody likes rope burn. Stay away from Nylon ropes, which cause friction or rope burn when sliding through the participants’ hands, and look for a natural manila fiber rope. General consensus agrees that the perfect size for a Tug of War rope is a diameter of 1.5 inches and a length of 10 – 15 meters.

Where can you get such a rope? We can highly recommend R&W Ropes who offer quick delivery Nationwide and a wide range of Tug of War ropes.

5) Tug of War Rules

There are two types of Tug or War the friendly backyard variant that we play at Kids parties and the stringent organised sport. Both types however have a general set of rules that participants must adhere to. Here are the important ones to keep in mind when organising or playing:

  • Team Composition: Both teams should have an equal number of participants. Make sure teams are balanced in terms of strength and size.
  • Hand Placement: Participants must grip the rope with both hands and keep their hands in front of their bodies. One handed pulling is not allowed.
  • Fair Play: No jerking of the rope or sudden tugs are allowed. Participants should pull steadily.
  • No Sitting or Kneeling: Participants are not allowed to sit, kneel, or lie down while pulling the rope. They must remain standing at all times.
  • Don’t Wrap the Rope: Wrapping the rope or tying it to any part of the body, including hands, arms, or legs isn’t allowed.
  • Loops & Knots: Creating loops or knots in the rope to gain a better grip or leverage is not allowed.

And there you go! A deep dive into Tug of War, how to play it, where to get a rope and a sprinkle of History of the game. We know that not everyone has the energy or patience to organize Tug of War with 30 screaming kids at a kids party, which is why Yombu has a whole bunch of Kids Party Games enthusiasts who would love to do this for you at your next party, and throw in some other games like sack racing, egg and spoon races or musical statues. See more info here.


Why is it called Tug of War?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “Tug of War” was originally used to describe a tussle or severe contest for supremacy. Only in the late 19th Century was it adopted to describe the game. In China and India, it was commonly referred to as “hook pulling”.

Where should the strongest members be placed?

The best spot to place the strongest members of your team in Tug of War is at the front and very back, in order to leverage their strength. But be sure not to group the weakest members together in the middle; mixing and matching is generally the best strategy.

What Did you Think?

Recent Posts

Like that post? You might enjoy these as well..
Plan A.

A monthly party planners newsletter.
Curated by humans - Not robots.