Games and Competitions
Scouting events are known for their schedule of competitions, and these are excellent for learning knots. Based on speed, skill, cooperation, or any combination of these, competition can help learning in many ways.
Tying a knot one-handed is a very important skill to be taught. A great many activities that require knotting also tend to occupy you with other tasks. Many pursuits require you to hang on to something with one hand, making it very important to be able to tie knots with the other one.
Games based on skill have obvious benefits and can involve demonstration of knot-tying skills and use of judgment. Extra degrees of difficulty can be added, such as trying to tie a knot behind your back, one-handed, or blindfolded. The knot tyers' judgment can be tested by assigning a task to see which knot the contestants will pick to do the job.
Speed is the basis for many student competitions, as it is easy to explain the rules and judge the winner. A common speed competition popular with scouting and other organizations is based on the time it takes to tie a certain six knots in succession with different ropes for each. The knots are the Square Knot, Sheet Bend, Sheepshank, Clove Hitch, Round Turn and Two Half Hitches, and the Bowline. It takes a bit of practice to do these in less than 20 seconds, and in case you were wondering, the best time measured is 8.1 seconds.
Speed knot tying can involve any combination of knots. For scouting groups, sometimes the Figure Eight and the Tautline Hitch are included and the Sheepshank is left out. When lashing is included in timed games, the goal is usually to complete some lashed structure, sometimes as a team, and then accomplish a task with this structure to illustrate its successful and sturdy completion. This can involve something simple like lashing a tool to the end of a pole for better reach, or something elaborate like lashing together furniture.
Other competitions can be based on skill. One example is comparing the strength of fishing knots. Since fishing line can come in predetermined line strength of just a few pounds, this can easily be done. Two students can each fasten opposite ends of the same fishing line to a large paper clip or other object. Then, by each pulling on one end in a kind of tug-of-war, the weaker knot will either break or come untied. You might have each person pull on the end that the other tied, so that when the knot gives way, the fishing line will fling back at the one who tied it. And, by the way, you might want a couple of goggles on hand for this. This game of “knot wars” is also handy for comparing the strength of different types of fishing knots.