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Kai

Background
In this game from the Torres Strait a number of players stood in a circle and sang the kai wed (ball song) as they hit a ball up in the air with the palm of their hands. The game was played using the thick, oval, deep red fruit of the kai tree which is quite light when dry.

Players

  • Teams of 4–8 players

Playing area

  • Can be played inside or outside

Equipment

  • A small beach ball or soft sponge ball for each team

Game play and basic rules

This is a hitting game which can be played as a cooperative game. Players in each team attempt to make as many consecutive hits as they can and work through the letters of the alphabet — one letter for each hit. Each time the ball is hit the players call out a letter of the alphabet.

Players stand or kneel in a circle about a metre apart. One player hits/throws a small soft ball or beach ball into the air and the players take turns hitting it upwards with the palm of either hand (usually with an underhand action).

The team starts from the letter A again if players:

  • do not keep their hands open and flat in contacting the ball
  • miss the ball and/or it hits the ground
  • hit the ball twice in succession
  • hit the ball back to the player who previously hit it to them
  • catch or trap the ball with any part of their body

For younger players the teams may be allowed to continue from the letter they were at before they made a mistake.

The ball must be hit above head height for younger players and at least a metre above head height for more experienced and older players. 

Scoring
In a team competition the game is decided by the team which is able to work their way furthest through the alphabet in a set time (2–3 mins).

  • A competition could also be held with 1 point awarded to the team with the most consecutive hits in a set time. Younger players may use one or both hands.

Suggestions
The game can be played with a number of modifications/progressions. For example: players randomly hit it to other players who call out their name - attempt to work through the whole team. This is a good ice-breaker activity for teams where players are unfamiliar with each other.

  • Players work as a team to hit the ball in the air and go through the letters of the alphabet.
  • Players hit the ball around in a circle (either direction).
  • Give each player a number; the idea is to work through the players in numerical order. The ball is hit high into the middle of the group; a player steps in and hits it up for the next numbered player, and so on.
  • One player stands in the middle of the circle and the ball is deflected to another player who in turn hits it back to the middle player. If the ball hits the ground at any time, the middle player is changed — the aim is to keep a player in the middle as long as possible.

Variations

  • Individual contest or practice kai. Players compete to see who can hit the ball into the air (above head height) with their hand the most number of times without the ball touching the ground. This can be played using either hand, right hand, left hand, left and right alternating, or combined with other stunts/skills. Have a set number of turns (such as five).
  • In groups of 4–8 use underhand and overhand one- and two-hand hitting/striking to keep the ball in the air. Groups count the number of hits they make before the ball touches the ground.