Lapta: history, rules of the game, types of strikes, features


In our article “Lapta” we will tell you about the Russian folk game, which has existed for at least 800 years. You will learn a brief history, rules and features of the game.

Russian lapta is a folk game that has ancient roots and deep historical meaning. Lapta not only entertained people for many centuries, but was also a reflection of the culture, traditions and way of life of the Russian people.

History of Lapta

The origins of the game of lapta go back to ancient times. Its first mention can be found in “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign”, an Old Russian epic of the 13th century. It describes the battle on the Kalka River, where warriors played lapta before the battle to raise morale and set themselves up for victory. At that time, lapta was played using a wooden stick and a stone.

Flat bat for Lapta
Flat bat for Lapta

Based on this fact, we can safely say that on May 31, 2023 the game is exactly 800 years old! Secondary evidence of the game’s antiquity was discovered during excavations in Novgorod, where wooden bats for the game were found among metal balls in the layers of the 14th century.

In Russia, lapta had several names: “shibka”, “bitka”, the game “in runaway”, “in balls”. Naturally, the different names gave rise to different rules of the game in different regions of Russia. For example, the shape and size of the ball and bat differed, as well as the rules of counting and the duration of the game.

But, despite these differences, the basic principles of the game remained unchanged – by hitting the bat to send the ball into the playing area (field), run across the whole court and come back, without letting the opponent mark you with the caught ball.

In some cases in Russia, lapta was used in religious rituals or associated with holidays and rituals. For example, during the Feast of Ivan Kupala, young people played lapta to find their match and attract happiness and good luck in their future marriage.

Under Emperor Peter the Great, lapta was used as a means of developing and training first infantrymen, and then other branches of the army. In Soviet Russia this tradition was continued by the military commissar N. I. Podvoisky.

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Lapta equipment
Lapta equipment

Russian lapta also has its place in literature, art and cinema. In works of Russian classical literature, such as War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, one can find descriptions of the game of lapta. In art and cinema, lapta is often used as a symbol of folk culture and national identity.

The first Russian lapta championship was held in 1958 in Voronezh, and 20 years later the game was forgotten completely, as the country’s physical culture organizations showed no interest in it. Meanwhile, around the world, lapta sports such as baseball and cricket have become increasingly popular.

In the early 90s, lapta experienced its renaissance. In 1990 the first official Russian championship was held, and in 1994 the game was recognized as an official sport. Today Russian lapta is included in the register of general education programs for schoolchildren from 1st to 11th grade.

One of the features of the game is its accessibility. It does not require complex sports facilities or expensive equipment. You can play lapta almost anywhere – on the street, in the yard, on special grounds or even in fields and meadows.

The game helps to develop coordination of movements, strength and flexibility, and also helps to strengthen muscles and joints, increase endurance and improve overall fitness. It also helps to develop motor skills, reactions and strategic thinking.

Rules of Lapta

Equipment. A special bat for playing lapta (for beginners and children it is acceptable to use a flat bat) and a rubber ball (mainly tennis ball is used).

Lapta Playground
Lapta Playground

The field of play is a rectangle of grass or artificial turf. The offensive zone includes: the pitcher’s area (from where the kick is made), the lineout area (where players wait for their turn to enter the game), the suburbs (sectors from which players make runs), and the cone line (sectors to which they make runs).

The defensive zone includes the field – the area of the defending team, and the penalty area to determine the validity of the kick on the ball. Two teams participate in the game. The attacking players are divided into: pitchers, hitters and offensive players who concentrate only on the run. The defensive players are positioned in the infield. The leading role is given to the central defender, through whom the defensive play is built.

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Offensive players’ actions. When the attacking team has successfully taken a kick, the players must run across the court and back again. If there is insufficient time or danger of being tagged, the attackers may stay behind the cone line and finish the run after the next kick.

Types of strikes in Lapta

Blow from above
Blow from above

Side kick
Side kick

Blow from below
Blow from below

Actions of the defense players. The first task of the defenders is to catch the ball so that they can then mark the attackers. If it is impossible to hit the attacking players, then the ball must be delivered back to the pitching player’s court.

Retaliatory marking. Athletes from the attacking team may make return markings after intercepting the ball. Attention, the marking of players is done in the field only.

Players’ actions after marking. After a player has marked an opponent, all players of the team must have time to return behind the home line or run behind the kona line and not be marked in return.

Scoring and playing time. A successful runover gives the offensive team two points. A fly ball catch gives the defensive team one point. The game consists of two halves of 30 minutes each. The result of the game is determined by the highest number of points scored by the team during the game time.

Game Features:

  • If the ball hits the penalty area during the kick, the kick does not count.
  • For the safety of the participants, the ball is kicked over a hoop with a diameter of 0.5 meters.
  • If a player leaves the playing area (crosses the line of the court) or starts a run and comes back during a run, there is a violation of the rules called “self-marking”. During self-marking, the teams change places.
  • A team consists of a minimum of five players.
  • There is a 2 minute break between halves.
  • The referee may issue a yellow or red card to a player or coach for breaking the rules.
  • The coach has the right to take one minute timeout per period (half).
  • If the team consists of 3 or less people, it is counted as an automatic defeat.

Rules of Russian Lapta

( 15 assessment, average 5 from 5 )
Alexander/ author of the article

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