Myanma Chinlon

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The Myanmar term Chinlon refers to games in which a woven rattan ball about 12 cm in diameter is kicked around. It also refers to the ball itself, which resembles the takraw of Thailand and Malaysia. Informally any number of players can form a circle and keep the Chinlon airborne by kicking it soccer-style from player to player; a lack of scoring makes it a favourite pastime with Myanmar of all ages.

In formal play six players stand in a circle of 22-foot circumference. Each player must keep the ball aloft using a succession of 30 techniques and six surfaces on the foot and leg, allotting five minutes for each part. Each successful kick scores a point, while points are subtracted for using the wrong body part or dropping the ball.

A popular variation is played with a volleyball net, using all the same rules as in volleyball except that only the feet and head are permitted to touch the ball. It's amazing to see the players perform spiking the ball over the net with their feet.

Because Chinlon is played basically with foot and other parts of the body - head, shoulder, elbow, knee, heel, sole etc. except for the hands, foreigners look upon it as Myanmar football. But there is no goal to shoot in Chinlon playing and no fixed number of players needed to play it. The main object of Chinlon playing is to keep it as long as possible in the air without touching it with the hand. It may be played by a single individual all by himself or by a team of players in circle, catching the chinlon as it comes round their way and keeping it as long as possible in the air by tossing it up with leg, heel, foot, sole, knee, shoulder, head but not with the hand. Players usually play with bare feet and have their waistcloths (longyi) tucked up close round the middle. But to day both men and women players wear shorts and canvas shoes. For men, chinlon playing provides a good opportunity to show off their masculine physical beauty especially if the body, thighs, hands and chest are well tattooed. 

It is so nice or even exciting to watch a good player or a team of players in circle, standing on one leg all the time, taking every possible posture and movement to keep the chinlon in the air or to prevent it from touching the ground, giving one another difficult strokes, negotiating by tossing, kicking and bouncing - all tactical movements, and spectators applauding when they appreciate skill and stroke of the players. If chinlon is played as an entertainment at a festival, it is accompanied by music. A band of percussion and wind instrumentalists continuously play while the chinlon play is on, and music changes its tempo in harmony with the movements of chinlon and players. Chinlon is not only played by men but also by women. A skilful player can play with four to eight Chinlons using all possible tactics to keep them on or around his or her body.

When and how chinlon originated in Myanmar is an academic question to be addressed by researchers. But a silver chinlon was discovered enshrined in the relic chamber of Baw Baw Gyi Pagoda at an old Pyu City "Sre Kestra" near Pyay. There are also references to chinlon and chinlon play in folk songs and literature. Besides quite a few books on chinlon and techniques of chinlon playing have appeared in the vernacular language. Chinlon is designed simply to exercise the body. 



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