Pencil Fighting

Pencil Fighting

What happens when middle school boys have spare pencils and too much time at the bus stop? Pencil Fighting.

Watch Pencil Fighting in Action

Pencil fighting was huge during my sixth and seventh grade years of school. Two boys would face off, each with his chosen pencil in hand. They would then proceed to trade blows. One would hold his pencil flat by the ends and the other would strike it with his own pencil, then they’d switch. This continued until one boy’s pencil was broke in two. It was a primitive and unnecessarily destructive game, and yet we devoted a lot of time to mastering it. We developed and perfected techniques: the snap off the finger to give the strike maximum velocity, the added torque of the holding hand, and the “Cherry chop”, a snapless hits which was often outlawed.

We also developed some specialized equipment. You could pull your pencil eraser out of the top and then crush the metal ring until it became a blade. With this blade you could chip away at your opponent’s pencil. The best guys could take out chunks of wood with each strike, stripping the opponent’s pencil down to the lead. And we learned to select the right pencil. The yellow banana wood pencils were useless and would break with one or two strikes, while coated pencils were almost indestructible.

Pencil Fighting

The girls thought all this was stupid, of course, and when you looked at the growing number of broken pencils in my Trapper Keeper, you almost had to agree. And yet it was tons of fun. Making a guy sacrifice one of his favorite pencils. Trying to get in one last strike with a severely damaged pencil without breaking it. Finally breaking through your opponent’s pencil and feeling the thrill of victory. Oh yeah. It was tons of fun. You just had to be sure never to do it with your Atari pencils.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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