So we’re moving on now. You’d be familiar with the standard what you know as ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’, I know as Ro Sham Bo, and that is you have a clenched fist, you bounce it up and down three times, but on three you shoot.
Okay, so it goes one, two, and you either shoot with a scissors, a paper, or a rock.
Anyone not familiar with this? Okay, great.
So it goes one, two, three (scissors) or one, two, three (rock) or one, two, three (paper). Just practice that to yourself for a moment in front of you. Try not to lose. Alright.
Okay. So ordinarily you’d be facing off with one other person. Now unlike what was played at Coatesville Primary School, there is only a rock, paper, or scissors. There’s no bombs, there’s no fire, there’s no rain. It’s just those three things.
So you face off… so Stephen and I are facing off, and again it’s on three. Let’s just see what happens. Are you ready?
One, two, three. Now if it’s the same you just play the next round. One, two, three. Okay, nothing happens here either. One, two, three. One, two, three. Okay, who wins here?
Okay, I don’t quite understand it either, but it actually covers the rock. I don’t know how that actually beats it, but one thing always beats another. So if I’m rock and he’s scissors who wins?
I do. And if he was scissors and I was paper who would win?
Great. So there’s always one that beats another. So let’s do it one more time see what happens. One, two, three. Great. So in this case, poor Stephen dives into a pit of despair because he lost, except in this version of the game in fact he now wins.
He now becomes part of my winning team by coming directly behind me. He places his hands gently on my shoulders and forms the start of a conga-line. So he doesn’t actually lose. He forms part of my winning team.
I’m now at the front of the line. I keep moving until I find someone else at the front of their line, bounce off, whoever wins, wins that team for them, then they go to the back of that line. The line keeps on building and building.
I have more to add to this but for now you get the basic concept that if you should win, you win that side for your side. Got the idea? GO!
(people playing Ro Sham Bo)
Same again, but this time a slight change. GO!
Rather than forming a conga-line, is that you now become the person who beats you, that is you become part of the winning team, you are now their biggest supporter. You can make all the noise and whatever else you need to do, it’s like the championship round.
So for example if Steve won, like he happened to beat me just as he did there, I’d be like I’d change allegiance and suddenly I stand behind him, everyone that’s on his team is somewhere behind him not necessarily in line and going “Go, Steve! Go, Steve!” whatever you need to do to really enforce the fact that Steve is the winning team.
Of course when he loses, you suddenly switch to the other side and go, “Go, Susan! Go, Susan” or whatever you need to do. Got the idea? Go!
(people playing Ro Sham Bo)
How To Play Narrative
Old becomes new with just one simple addition.
First, establish your Rock-Paper-Scissors protocol, because over the years I have found that not everyone plays the same way as I do.
Me? I like the standard thrashing of clenched fists into the open palm of my other hand as I call “ONE, TWO, THREE.” And on “THREE” I shoot with either a rock (fist remains clenched), paper (hand out flat) or scissors (side-angled peace sign.)
Truly, it does not matter what you go with in terms of the count, just as long as everyone knows what’s cool today.
Although I accept that the arguments for the orthodox results are kinda flimsy, for those among us who are not familiar with the typical consequences, rock beats scissors (blunts them,) scissors beats paper (obviously) and paper beats rock (yeah, I know, this is hard to grasp, but it just is, okay!)
Ideally, use a demonstration (with a willing volunteer) to introduce the basic set-up. Two people lock eyes, they approach one another and then exchange the standard “ONE, TWO, THREE” thrashing of clenched fists in front of one another. At some point, one of them wins. A tie means play again.
However, the loser does not in fact ‘lose.’
He or she joins in the celebrations by following directly behind the ‘winner’ with their hands on the winner’s shoulders (or hips,) a la conga-line style. The game continues unabated, with winners winning and losers joining the tail-end of the winning conga-line until there are two giant conga-lines facing off.
Upon ushering in the grand winner, wait a few moments for the victors to lick their spoils, and then shout an emphatic “GO,” to start it all anew.
There’s normally enough interest to conduct two or three rounds, and/or then play a variation (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
If you’re working with groups of 30 or more people, split the group into two or more smaller groups, of say 20 people each. Much more than 30 and it gets hard to know where the end of the line is. Besides, a quick game is a good game, and the more people you have to beat and absorb into your conga-line, the more the energy of your group may wane.
If you sense that people are not yet comfortable to place their hands on the shoulders (or hips) of the person in front of them (aka conga-line style,) ask people to simply stand directly behind the last person in line.
It’s hard to believe, but there are some people who have not played ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ – crazy, I know! So, it is always useful to check that everyone in your group understand the basic game.
You could integrate Ro Sham Bo as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the intentional design of this group game speaks to the joy of engaging your whole group continuously because even those who are ‘eliminated’ are still actively engaged in the game. This helps build inclusiveness and a sense of belonging, more than the alternative. There’s nothing wrong with elimination games per se (see this Facilitator Tips video tutorial for more) but if you have the option to keep everyone in your group engaged for as long as possible, choose that.
Further, you could frame this fun game as an opportunity to explore resilience but this would not be considered its primary purpose, ie it may take an individual many, many attempts to ‘win.’
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Ro Sham Bo could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Cheer Squad: When a person ‘loses’ they simply step behind their ‘winning’ partner and become part of a large, noisy cheer squad. These fans clap, shout and do whatever is necessary to show their undying support, until their ‘leader’ loses a round, at which point they all immediately switch loyalty. Naturally, the gaggle of supporters will build with each round, until two very big, noisy supporter groups practically drown out the two final competitors.
New Media: Replace the ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ duel with any game that produces a quick and easy result, such as flipping coins, pulling cards from a deck of playing cards, UBUNTU Cards, Climer Cards, etc.
Ro Sham Bo Olympics: Identify three areas in your playing space as Bronze, Silver and Gold. Everyone starts in Bronze, and when a person wins a Ro Sham Bo duel, they may advance to the next level. Anyone who loses a duel goes back one level (except Bronze, of course.) Ask people to record how often they win a Gold medal.
Longevity: Instruct the conga-lines to automatically self-combust and disband when there are 10 or more people involved. Continue play until the energy starts to wane.
Rotating Leaders: Every time a person or conga-line wins, all existing members of the line turn to face 180 degrees the other direction and invite the ‘loser’ (either an individual or entire conga-line of people, headed by the defeated person) to be their new leader.
Quick, simple & hilarious energiser for all group sizes.
Fill The Space
Active energiser featuring lead & follow interactions.
Fun & active trust-building exercise for partners.
Useful Framing Ideas
Did you know that much of the world knows ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ as ‘Ro-Sham-Bo?’ – the game is often referred to as such in honour of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, compte de Rochambeau, French hero of the American Revolution. Rochambeau was present in York when General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington. It is believed that Washington, Cornwallis and Rochambeau played ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ to decide who would be the last to leave Cornwallis’ tent after the exchange of formalities. At the time, it was considered most honourable to be last. Rochambeau ‘won’ the game, and it has been known as Ro-Sham-Bo ever since!…
Did you know that there are professional ‘Rock, Paper, Scissor’ (or Ro-Sham-Bo) Leagues around the world, and the first prize can fetch as much as USD$50,000? Perhaps we’re in the wrong business, but let’s practice the highly refined art that is Rock, Paper & Scissors…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, highly interactive energiser:
Do you have a strategy for winning ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors?’
How did it feel to lose, but then join the winning team?
Which is more important – to win, or enjoy playing?
Short & Fun ‘Energiser’ Session
What You Need:
10+ people, 15 mins
Ro Sham Bo – fun, interactive ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ variation
Palm Off – introductory off-balance partner activity
Squat Thrust – more challenging off-balance partner activity
The inspiration for Ro Sham Bo, and many more fun, active energisers, was sourced from the following publications: