H. B. Paksoy

     First published in Aspects of Altaic Civilization III. 
     Denis Sinor, Ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University
     Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 1990)
     Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, Volume
     145.  Pp. 187-196.

Chelik-Chomak among the Kazakhs and elsewhere[1]

     The game derives its name from the Turkish words: Chelik
(rod); and Chomak (stick, or, bat).  It is popular among children
and adolescents, particularly the males.  The contest requires
more skill than raw power and calls for motor coordination and
helps develop it further.
     The game of Chelik-Chomak can be played between two
individuals or teams.  The batting side drills a cavity in the
ground, usually no more than 15cm. in diameter and five to ten
cm. in depth.  Alternatively, this aperture in the soil can take
the shape of a miniature slit-trench with similar dimensions. 
This will be the "home" for scoring purposes.  The Chelik is
placed on the opening so that its ends remain on the surface of
terra firma.  This prevents the Chelik from falling in, while
leaving more than half of its underside exposed and accessible
from above.
     The dimensions of both the Chelik and the Chomak depend on
the relative sizes of the participants in the game, the younger
children opting for smaller variants than their elder brothers. 
However, the Chomak or bat rarely exceeds the height of a
contestant.  Usually, it is no longer than three quarters of the
height of the player.  In proportion, the Chelik is approximately
one fifth to one seventh of the length of the bat, and entirely
cylindrical.  The diameters of the Chelik and Chomak tend to be
equal to each other.  Both are cut from hardwood trees, since
they will have to withstand the force of sudden shocks.
     The batsman will "serve," holding the Chomak with both
hands, arms stretched out, the balance of the body maintained by
standing legs apart.  The other end of the Chomak will be
inserted into the orifice, under the Chelik.  With an upward
thrust, the Chelik will be sent flying high and forward  into the
plains.  The receiving party will attempt to catch the Chelik in
flight, before it makes contact with ground.  If the defender is
successful, the sides will tarde places, the original receiver
becoming a batsman.
     If the receiver cannot stop the Chelik while it is in the
air and the Chelik hits the ground, the receiver has one option. 
He will try to hit the Chomak --now placed on the "home,"  where
the Chelik was--  by throwing the Chelik at it.  If the receiver
is successful in accomplishing this task, the sides will change
     However, if the receiving side fails to hit the Chomak with
the Chelik, the batsman will begin the game.  This time he will 
--from the "home" spot--  attempt to tip the Chelik up without
the use of a slit or orifice in the ground.  He will hold the
Chomak firmly in his hand, face the Chelik and place the opposite
end of the Chomak over the Chelik, making tight contact.  Pulling
the Chomak towards himself, he will roll the Chelik on the ground
for a distance of few centimeters.  In a sudden move in the
opposing direction of the initial "roll", the Chomak is thrust
under the Chelik lifting it from the ground.
     The Chelik will rise just about the height of the batsman,
or somewhat higher.  One the Chelik tipped into the air, the
batsman will aim to strike it in the middle.  The object of the
batsman is to send the Chelik over the head of the defending side
and as great a distance as possible.  He will repeat the process
three times, if successful in each turn.  Then he will count his
steps back to "home" to keep score and start, once again,
     If the Chelik  --batted by the batsman--  is caught in
flight by the defending party, or the batsman fails to get the
Chelik airborne three times in a row, this will constitute an
"over"  (or, "inning").  The sides will change places and go back
to the orifice and "serve" to determine whether the party
"serving" will get to bat, by means of the process described
     The score is kept by measuring the distance between "home"
and the spot where the Chelik was caught, or the place from which
the batsman failed to get it airborne.  This is accomplished by
counting the steps it takes to reach "home" from the point where
the Chelik was caught, or the place from which the batsman failed
to get it airborne.  This is accomplished by counting the steps
it takes to reach "home" from the point where the Chelik was
either caught or "died."  The game will come to an end when the
first side reaches a predetermined sum, such as a count of 500
paces or points total.
     An almost identical game, under the designation "Tip-Cat,"
was apparently once popular in the British Isles between the 17th
and 19th centuries:
     A short piece of wood tapering at both ends used in the
     game, in which the wooden cat or tip-cat is struck or
     "tipped" at one end with a stick so as to spring up,
     and then knocked to a distance by the same player.

In fact, the game was so popular that:
     In the nineteenth century there were repeated
     complaints that the pavements of London were made
     impassable by children's shuttlecock and tipcat.[2]

These references require further attention to the historical
origins of the game.  Where was it first played?  Which way did
it travel?  Kashgarli Mahmud in DLT (c. 1070 AD) provides a clue:
     Also in the game of tipcat striking one stick with
     another to make it fly... you say "taldi."[3]

Therefore, it appears that the game of Chelik-Chomak was known
prior to Kashgarli Mahmud.  It is still alive and well, not only
in various locations in Central Asia, such as Kazakistan,
Ozbekistan (where it is called Chillak)[4]  but also in Asia
Minor.  In the latter setting, as in Kashgarli Mahmud's
description, the act of "tripping up the Chelik," ("taldi") as
described above, is known as chelmek, hence chelik (tipped-up).

Jirid Oyunu in Asia Minor and Elsewhere:

     The rules of scoring of Jirid Oyunu are even simpler than
those of Chelik-Chomak.  The same cannot be said of the game's
ultimate purpose and the concentration and skill the exercise
demands.  Skills required in each, however, are not unconnected.
     Two rows of equal numbers of horsemen assemble in the open
field.  Each member in one row has a partner, a "team-mate" in
the other.  The cooperation of the partners is vital, for only
one pair will win the game.  The members of the First Row, upon
the signal of the Aksakal judges, start to move away from the
Second, at full gallop.  After the lapse of a predetermined
period, usually approximately ten seconds, the Second Row gives
chase, again at full gallop.
     The Second Row of horsemen are the ones who are carrying the
Jirid, which is a short wooden lance of approximately 150 cm in
length.  The diameter is not critical and can be about 12 cm. 
(But the wood cannot be very dry, or else it will lack the
necessary mass).  With the signal of the leader, the Second Row
collectively heave their individual Jirids simultaneously, toward
the First Row, which is still galloping away from the Second Row. 
The task of the First Row, then, is to catch the Jirid in flight
without stopping.  When the First Row catches the wave of Jirid
hurled at them, the entire row  --upon the command by the leader-
-  rotates 180 degrees.  Observing this turnabout, the Second Row
turns too.  Now the roles are reversed.  Second Row will be
galloping away and have to catch the Jirid hurled at them by the
First Row.  The pairs who do not "hit their marks," that is, the
ones who dropped the Jirid, in effect failed to connect, are
immediately eliminated from further participation in that bout. 
The remaining pairs continue until only one pair remains.  They
become the winners.[5]


     A variant of the Jirid Oyunu calls for both rows to line-up
in parallel.  They are required to gallop in the same direction,
with a maintained side distance of anywhere from 50 to 100 paces. 
The object and other rules remain the same.  It appears there are
other variants as well.
     The Mamluk-period historian Ibn Taghribirdi described the
lance exercises in 15th century Egypt. It is likely that the
Jirid Oyunu was brought to Egypt (from Asia) by the Kipchak
Turks.  The furusiyye exercises were sometimes called funun al-
Atrak, or, "Science of the Turks."[6]
     The Lance Game, like most of the furusiyye exercises, was
introduced on a large scale in the Mamluk sultanate by Sultan
Baybars, when he built Maydan a-Kabak in 666/1267-8.  The exact
form of the game, however, is not discernible from Mamluk-period
     ...the Lance Game constituted a central feature of
     "mahmil" procession.  But this fact is of little help
     in our attempt to reconstruct that game, for the
     sources dwell mainly on details pertaining to its
     external aspects and very largely ignore the essential

     Kabak appearing in the name of the above referenced Maydan
al-Kabak hippodrome may have been derived from the Turkish game
of Altin Kabak (Golden Gourd).   A. A. Divay (1855-1932), who
collected the description of this game from the Kirghiz during
late 19th century, wrote: 
     During great holidays in olden days, the Kirghiz
     organized a game called altyn-kabak, which means
     golden-gourd.  A long pole was brought, they suspended
     at one end of the pole a gourd with gold or silver
     coins and put the pole in the ground.  Then marksmen
     came out and shot (with arrows) at the gourd.  Whoever
     split the gourd received the contents.  They say that
     even now sometimes this game is played.[8]

     Ayalon also provides a synopsis of Altin Kabak played on
horseback.  Given the details Ayalon culled from his sources, the
"Lance Game" of the Mamluks exhibit certain differences from
Jirid Oyunu:
     Ibn Taghribirdi is of the opinion that the Lance
     exercises of the "mahmil" procession were originally
     (13th century? --HBP) quite different from those
     performed in his own days.[9]

States Ibn Taghribirdi:
     The two rival teams of horsemen faced each other in two
     opposing rows.  At the head of each row, on its right
     hand side, rode the respective master.  The two masters
     were to first to advance from their sides and fight
     each other.  Then came the deputies, then the first
     pupil of each group and so on to the last pupil in each
     opposing row.[10]

     Contrasted with the above description of the Jirid Oyunu,
where catching the Jirid in flight is essential to the game in
full gallop, it appears that there may well be two separate
branches of the "Lance Games."  Since at the moment we do not
know of the original format of the Lance Game hinted at by Ibn
Taghribirdi, we may conclude that the Jirid Oyunu and the "Lance
Exercise" of the Mamluk-period may have evolved along different
paths from a single origin.
     The first mention of Jirid in English language sources
occurs in the form of jared (and variants) and appear in the
second half of the 17th century, in travellers' descriptions of
"dart" or "javelin" throwing.  Almost all observations seem to
have been made in Asia or the Middle East.  A later language
reference (1775) to the Jirid Oyunu provides a comparison point
in its description of the action of the game:
     Players were galloping from all sides... throwing at
     each other the jarrit [sic] or blunted dart.[11]

     Historically Jirid may also be equated with Jida[12] a close
proximity weapon  --a short lance, usually made of steel--  used
exclusively by horsemen.  Generally, a horsemen carried three
Jida in a special carrying case, strapped to the right side of
the horse, in front of the saddle.  When the horseman was pursued
by a hostile horseman, he drew a Jida from its carrying case and
heaved it backwards, to hit the pursuer in the chest.[13] 
Therefore, the origin of the Jirid Oyunu is perhaps related to
the use of Jida.[14]  This probability is further underscored by
another occurrence of Jida from the sources.  Jida Noyon refers
to a commander of a thousand, in the service of Chinggis-Khan (c.
1220), operating in the vicinity of Qaraqorum or Qaraqum.  He is
also known as Ulus-Idi.[15]  Since the word Noyon is generally
used as a title or rank,[16] perhaps Jida-Noyon is an extension,
possibly related to the armament of his troops.[17]


     In any case, it appears that the skill in catching the
Chelik may be transferrable to catching the Jirid.  Of course,
the purpose of Jirid Oyunu is more than winning a game.  Learning
to judge the trajectory and behavior of a flying missile, in the
form of a short lance, may be of vital import in battle.  In
fact, even during the game itself, it is not unusual for the
players to suffer from wounds inflicted by the Jirid, despite the
fact that the Jirid is usually specially blunted to prevent just


1. This may have been the first demonstrational paper in the
history of the PIAC (Permanent International Altaistic
Conference), as I conducted a session of Chelik-Chomak at the
Mongolian Society picnic held in conjunction with the 30th PIAC
(1987) hosted by Indiana University.  Originally, I had planned a
"trilogy" of games.  The first of the three was published in
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
(London) (1985, Part 2) under the title "The Traditional Oghlak
Tartish Among the Kirghiz of the Pamirs."  A previous draft for
the present two games was prepared for the 28th PIAC held in
Venice.  This version supersedes the Venice Draft.  I acknowledge
the financial assistance rendered by PIAC Secretariat which
enabled me to read this paper to its 30th meeting.

2. Ioana and Peter Opie, Children's Games in Street and
Playground (Oxford, 1969), 10-11.

3. The paragraph immediately preceding this quotation reads: 
     ar topiqni adri bila taldi; translated as "the man
     struck the ball with a forked stick.  This is a type of
     game of the Turks.  When one player wishes to have the
     first play, he strikes in this way, the first play
     going to the one who is most skillful at it.

See Kashgarli Mahmud Diwan Lugat at-Turk (Compendium of Turkic
Dialects), Translated by Robert Dankoff with James Kelly
(Cambridge, Mass., 1982), Part I, 399.  See also Resat Genc,
"Kasgarli Mahmud'a gore XI. Yuzyilda Turklerde Oyunlar ve
Eglenceler"  1. Uluslararasi Turk Folklor Kongresi Bildirileri 5
Vols. (Ankara, 1976) Vol IV, 231-42; Cf. Dankoff, 257.

4.  Dr. Bahtiyar Nazarov, at this writing the Director of the
Institute of Language and Literature of the Ozbek USSR Academy of
Sciences in Tashkent, indicated that in some portions of
Ozbekistan, the game is also called Kopkari.

5. This description of Jirid Oyunu is based on my observations of
the game on the central planes of Asia Minor during various
visits.  According to the participants, the game has been handed
down from one generation to the next as far back as the
collective memory reached.  It is noteworthy that one Oghuz oymak
from the Dulkadir federation named Jerid, in the 17th century,
was living in the vicinity of central Asia Minor.  See Faruk
Sumer, Oguzlar (Istanbul, 1980). 3rd edition, 606-7.
     Unfortunately, the article by Cemal Yener on this game,
"Eski Turk Sporlarindan Cirit" in Yesilay 175 [?], Sayi 7/1947,
5-12 was unavailable to me.  See Basbakanlik Kultur Mustesarligi
Milli Folklor Enstitusu Yayinlari 7, Turk Folklor ve Etnografya
Bibliografyasi II (Ankara, 1973), 76; item 962.

6. See D. Ayalon, "Notes on the "Furusiyya" Exercises and Games
in the Mamluk Sultanate" Scripta Hierosolymitana Vol IX 1961, 31-
63.  (Originally published in Hebrew) reprinted in the same
author's The Mamluk Military Society Variorum Reprints (London,
1979), 36, Note 21.

7. Ayalon, 47.

8. See H. B. Paksoy, Alpamysh: Central Asian Identity under
Russian Rule (Hartford: AACAR, 1989).  

9. Ayalon, 48.

10. Ayalon, 52, note 112, citing Ibn Taghribirdi.  Furthermore,
Ayalon, 53, provides the following comment: "Their constant
occupation with lance and similar exercises handicapped the
horsemen gravely inasmuch as they could not make use of their
hands and legs simultaneously."  This is a surprising remark
since the use of the legs is essential to good horsemanship, with
or without lance.

11. OED, 1505.

12. "Jida -- A dart, a javelin to be thrown."  See J. Redhouse, A
Turkish English Lexicon (Constantinople, 1890); New Impression
(Lebanon, 1974), 647.  See also jyda in W. Radloff, Versuch Eines
Worterbuches der Turk-Dialecte ('S-Gravenhafge, 1960), Reprint,
Vol. IV, 153.

13. Dr. Bugra Atsiz provided this information and observed that
samples of Jida have survived and are on display in various
museums in Asia and Europe, including Vienna.

14. I have not made a survey of the Ottoman sources which are
likely to yield additional information on Jirid and Jida.

15. See W. Barthold, Turkistan Down to the Mongol Invasion
(London, 1977), 416, note 1.  "Ulus-Idi" might have been yet
another title.  To this, an addendum to n.1 of p. 416 by J. A
Boyle (on P. XXIV) adds the following:
     In Boyle's article, "on the titles given in Juvaini to
     certain Mongol Princes," 148-52, it is suggested that,
     like Tuluy's title Ulugh Noyan, that of Ulug Idi "Lord
     of the Ulus" (sc. the people comprising the leader's
     patrimony) was bestowed on Jochi after his death. 
     Barthold's identification of Ulus Idi with the general
     Jedey Noyan must accordingly be corrected; we are here
     dealing with one person only, not two.  See further,
     Juvayni-Boyle History of the World Conqueror, I, 86 n1.

16. Noyon/Noyan is "a prince, commander."

17. There is also a region named Jidali Baysun located in what is
today Southern Ozbekistan.  In this case Jida refers to a tree
variety.  The region is named after this tree, "...because of
Jida tree's abundance."  See Z. V. Togan, Turkili Turkistan
(Istanbul, 1981), 308.  According to Togan, this region (or,
town) was later renamed Chaghatay.  In current maps, there is no
such designation.  See H. B. Paksoy, Alpamysh for A. A. Divay's
comment on the location of Jidali Baysun.

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