Who's ever heard of Mallakhamb? I certainly never had until a few days ago when I came across a few amazing videos. Think gymnastics meets Chinese pole. It's a competitive sport in India based on ancient traditions that date back to the 12th century.
The second guy is probably the best Ive seen. See part 2 here! The second guy in part 2 looks like a teddy bear. If Marjaani is stuck in your head after watching those, I'm sorry. It happened to me too. For more, read on!
I got really interested in it and started watching a bunch of videos about it. It's great not only as a sport but also as a performance art. Proponents of the sport say that it is "the only sport that provides optimum exercise to the entire body in the least possible time." Twisting moves are done on both sides to prevent strain and promote muscular symmetry. It also is said to double as a massage as the muscles rub against the hard wooden surface.
The sport is a lot like gymnastics. When the player mounts, he is not allowed to touch the pole with the bottoms of his feet. Then, he has 90 seconds to show his routine, which consists of different poses, climbs, drops, and ends with a dismount. Originality is celebrated and form, timing, and finesse are necessary to win.
But pole Mallakhamb is not the only type. There are also variations where a smaller pole is suspended from a point above, ones where the pole freestanding, ones where there are blades tied to the player while he holds two swords, and rope.
Rope is a whole other monster. It's the only event where it seems that women are allowed to participate and they get crazy. I don't think I've ever seen a toe climb that fast. It's a skinnier rope than most aerialists use and they have hardly any leg protection!
If anyone knows of places where people do this in the USA, I'd be really interested to strap on a little orange speedo and get down. Seriously!
If you're as interested as I was, there's a great documentary on YouTube from the 70s that goes over everything in detail - rules, moves, variations, etc. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
edit: You know who would really kill at this sport? Dima Bulkin.