Is Kumitaiso (Group Gymnastics) Too Dangerous for Japanese Students?

  • Kumitaiso or the Japanese physical education (P.E.) class group gymnastics is not an ordinary task. It is mostly done by students who go the distance in using their bodies to make different shapes such as human pyramids. It has a vast history which is believed to have a militaristic approach. Across the nation, at least 8,000 kids taking part in the discipline require medical attention. Let us see the reason behind this.

    How Kumitaiso Started

    The Japanese P.E. theory is mainly rooted from Swedish Gymnastics. It was the Swedish physical therapist and teacher, Per Henrik Ling, who introduced the system of medical gymnastics which was adopted by the U.S., U.K., and Japan. It consisted of a rational and scientific way of doing daily routine exercise to promote health. It was then called light gymnastics. As years passed by, the system was replaced with a militaristic gymnastic approach spearheaded by Motokuro Kawase, Akuri Inokuchi, and others. It was considered to be a way of training the person’s character while maintaining optimum health.

    Issues Being Considered

    As kumitaiso became a way of Japanese people’s lives, it also became a competitive activity among schools. There are times when the P.E. teachers are overstretching their duties and responsibilities in coaching. Sometimes they tend to put the competition before the student’s welfare which became a common complaint from parents. There have actually been nine deaths linked to kumitaiso since 1969. Many of these incidents have been ignored and no serious action was taken by authorities. Other reported incidents include brain damage, spinal injuries and internal bleeding. Most of the time, this is due to a fall from a tall formation that collapses on the ground leaving mostly the students on the top of the pyramid in danger.

    The Japanese Sport Agency has considered banning kumitaiso. Nevertheless, some schools are resisting the ban as they believe, from a cultural perspective, it is something that establishes deep bonding and teamwork relationships among students. This is the reason why it continuous to be an obstacle to tougher measures.

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