Form a circle of 8 to 12 people, including yourself, facing into the centre.
To start, point your two arms with palms pressed together towards a person on the other side of the circle as you loudly call out “WAH!”
This newly appointed person (warrior) must immediately raise their two arms above their head – with palms pressed together – and call out “WAH!”
Next, the two neighbours of the warrior must immediately swing their pressed-together palms towards (but not touching) the stomach of the warrior and call out “WAH!”
Finally, the warrior lowers their arms, with palms pressed together, towards a new person in the circle, calling out “WAH!” to nominate a new warrior.
This routine continues over and over around circle.
Explain that maintaining a consistent rhythm of swift actions and “WAH’s” is the key.
When an error is made, or a response is too slow, invite the person responsible to become the new warrior.
Continue play for several minutes, or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
Start by asking your group to break into small teams of 8 to 12 people, each team forming a circle facing one another. Make sure the members of each team have formed an actual circle because it’s important everyone can clearly see every other person in their circle.
Standing as part of one of these circles, kick off by swiftly thrusting your two arms – with palms pressed together – towards a random person on the other side of the circle, as you exclaim an assertive “WAH.” For added effect, assume an oriental warrior look, because it’s fun and it adds a little zest to the game. Wah!
Next, explain that as soon as you perform this action, the person to whom you have pointed (the new ‘warrior’) must quickly raise their two arms and hands above their head – with palms pressed together – and mimic your passionate “WAH” sound.
This action triggers an explosive reaction from each of the warrior’s two neighbours immediately who must swing their arms with palms pressed together (as if clanging a gong) towards the tummy of the warrior and call out “WAH.” Of course, they do not actually touch this person – but thanks for asking.
Then, quick as a flash, the warrior (who still has their arms raised above their head) lowers their arms and points with laser precision to a new person situated anywhere in the circle, to become the new warrior, and the process repeats itself over and over again.
That is, this newly appointed ‘warrior’ will raise their hands above their head (“WAH”) which causes their neighbours to swing their arms to the tummy of the warrior (“WAH”) which causes the warrior to point to a new person in the circle (“WAH,”) and so on.
The key is to maintain a consistent rhythm of swift actions and “WAH’s,” the quicker the better.
You’ll probably squeeze a good two or so minutes out of this silliness, which is all it is. Its raison d’être is observed simply in the hilarity generated when someone makes a mistake. When an error is made, or the response time is considered too slow – and it’s when, not if – simply invite the person who stumbled to become the new warrior.
There’s no more serious consequence than a good laugh. Unless, of course, you take on a fun variation (see Variations tab below.)
Practical Leadership Tips
The game works best if your group is standing because their movements will be freer, but sitting can work – just ask all those involved in movements to stand as they perform the necessary Wah actions.
Yes, you could play with groups of 15, 20 or more people in one circle, but beware – it can sometimes be difficult to truly know who the warrior is pointing to if the circle gets too large. Besides, a group of twenty dividied into two teams of ten will involve more people and create more energy than one circle.
Naturally, the more energy and enthusiasm you inject into your presentation, the more likely your group will follow. The best games are those in which everyone takes the fun seriously.
You may ask – what response time is considered too slow? Good question and only your group can answer that. Without exception, the rest of the group are typically well-qualified to identify an action that took too long.
Huge thanks to Blue Star Camps who first introduced this classic circle game to me when I was a cabin counsellor.
This exercise is also known as the Genie Game (as referenced in Count Me In.)
You could integrate Wah as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
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 focus and effort required to successfully play the game (for as long as possible) may speak to the benefits of being mindful insofar it demands a singular focus on one thing at a time.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Wah could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Elimination 1: Eliminate those who respond too slowly or perform the wrong action. Continue playing until two people remain in the circle (impossible to play any further) and crown them winners. If you’re not a fan of this form of elimination, consider one of the following two options.
Elimination 2: Start with two or more circles. Invite those who are eliminated (as above) to join another circle, thus giving the game longevity. For ease of play, all new members to a circle should wait until there is a pause in play (owing to an error) before joining the circle to play a new round.
Elimination 3: Ask the error-inclined people to remain in the circle but to fold their arms on their chests, to present a further challenge for those still in the game to identify their true ‘neighbour.’ Naturally, if a warrior points to a person who is eliminated (arms on chest,) this will cause their elimination.
Alternate Sounds: Attach a series of unique sounds, such as WAH, WOO, WEE (in that order) to each action.
Impulse Pass: Take a look at Wizz Bang and Ah So Ko to explore two very engaging games which also involve the passing of a particular impulse around a circle.
Very playful, highly interactive & energising group game.
Me You You Me
Hilarious, interactive name-game for small groups.
Useful Framing Ideas
The ancient warriors of past civilisations often played a fun little game to identify who among them was the most responsive and agile. Over the centuries that game has now morphed into what I am about to present…
You might think your impulses or reactions are very good, but this next exercise will really challenge your awareness and response times. Are you up to the test? Let’s find out…
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 highly interactive, community-building fun game:
What surprised you about this activity?
How easy was it for you to focus on the action, and respond in an accurate and timely manner?
Did you have fun? Why?
The inspiration for Wah, and many more fun, energetic group games, can be found in the following publications: