Jump Rope 2: Jump Harder with a Vengeance

If you were at any time a Japanese elementary school student, it’s practically a given that you can jump rope at a professional level. I am not even joking. Japanese kids can jump rope like it’s their job. The public school system, subsidized by both the government and the jump rope industry, is largely to thank for this, as they make jumping rope a three-month-long mandatory P.E. staple. Prizes are given out to those who can jump rope the longest, resulting in kids jumping in class, starving during lunch, and wetting themselves on a regular basis. Learning to run while jumping rope is an important skill to learn at this stage in development. The highlight (or, for me, the lowlight) of the year is the school-wide competition that marks the end of the jumping season. This is where kids break out their Nike Shox, trash-talk dictionaries, and carbon fiber jump ropes and proceed to double-jump until their arms almost fall off. This routine is repeated ever year, so that the average elementary school graduate has (roughly) over 13,000 hours of jump-roping experience and no rotator cuffs.

Double-jumping, passing the rope beneath your feet twice in one jump, is not an easy task for a foreigner like me to accomplish. I never was able to do it, and this relegated me to 45th string on any and every jump rope team and exposed me to repeated kickings of sand in my face. You see, Japanese kids have refined jumping rope to a surprisingly deep level, complete with many different jumping styles, such as Aya Jumping, alternately crisscrossing your arms with each jump, and Kousa Jumping, in which you keep your arms permanently crossed while you jump. At the higher levels both of these techniques are combined with double-jumping, resulting in a whirr of activity that turns a cord of nylon into carbon-hardened steel and a mere elementary school child into its martial arts master, no doubt employable at a thousand different sushi restaurants nation wide. I, meanwhile, was off in the corner, spitting out sand and trying to synchronize my body so that both feet lifted off the ground at the same time.

For those less inclined to individual competition, jumping rope could be turned into a group exercise through utilization of the O-nawa, or large rope. This rope, held by one person on each end, was rotated slowly, the goal being to see how many kids could hop in and synchronously jump. I, of course, was still working on my coordination so I usually was relegated to be a holder, since I was tall for my age and could move my arm in a more or less consistent circular motion.

Japan, however, wastes this potentially profitable natural resource, as once the Japanese student graduates elementary, jumping rope is never spoken of again. It is treated as a stage in life that one must go through and then move on, much like soccer is considered in the US. It’s something that, regardless of how good you get at it, you must discard it and grow up. This means that now is the prime time in my life to get good at it, so I can reclaim some lost dignity from my youth. So if you’ll excuse me, I have some Shox to buy and some sand to kick.

Dann writes from his home in Minnesota where, unfortunately, his mediocre rope-jumping skills are his main way of keeping warm.

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Nike, Iggy Pop, Shock Advertising, and Cleaning Up Public Space

If you follow my posts much, you know that I enjoy a good round of Guitar Hero. While Guitar Hero has been a source of new music for me from time to time, it has also helped me look at advertising habits at a deeper level, albeit indirectly. It was from playing Guitar Hero that I recognized this song (Iggy Pop’s “Search and Destroy”), and that allowed me to subsequently find the following Nike advertisement on YouTube.

That ad showed on NBC in 1996, during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. I was nine at the time, and was in the throes of Michael Jordan idolization. A family friend had taped Games 5 and 6 and mailed them to my family in Japan. The Nike ad only played once, but I watched the whole game so many times that the ad is permanently branded in my memory.

The content of the ad no doubt contributed to its "stickiness". Below is a haunting shot of a camera smashing at second thirty-one. That scene stuck with me more than any other.

The guy barfing is pretty dramatic, too.

The overall impression that I got from this advert was that sports was painful, hard, and punishing. There was very little glory depicted, and I certainly didn’t get the impression that Nike was the brand of winners. All the athletes involved wore Nike clothing, from Carl Lewis completing a successful jump to the guy on the ground trying not to be trampled.

Throughout the length of the video the two-second gratuity-shot of Scottie Pippen’s sneakers is all that really tells you that you’re watching a Nike ad. I remember those shoes well, though I never owned a pair because I thought they were ugly.

All this to say that this was the first instance of watching TV that made me uncomfortable. As I saw it, Nike had put together montage of people failing at sports and getting hurt in the process, all to sell a product. It was the first piece of video that I was fascinated by, because of the fast editing and pounding rock song, but didn’t actually like. The whole clip kinda made me nauseous, actually. Maybe the flying blood and the aforeinserted barfing guy had something to do with it.

This feeling, the feeling of “Why am I excited by this when it disgusts me?”, I think, is good to retain. So often we see things that annoy or shock us, but we are too jaded by a lifetime of media exposure to really care. There are biological ways we react to things, ways we don’t know about but advertisers do, that can catch us off-guard. A recent example might be this vile divorce ad.

It catches you off-guard just enough so that you might consider the possibility. We don’t need this kind of advertising here, there, or anywhere. These are the things we should search for and destroy.


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