The game of champions.

The fastest game in Estarcion.

Featured prominently in the latter books of Cerebus the Aardvark. According to Dave Sim it's based on a game he played as a kid. Cite is the sixth paragraph on page 464 of the Latter Days trade paperback appendix. The name comes from a George Harrison line in A Hard Day's Night according to Sim.

The playing area is delineated by a box drawn on the ground. The necessary equipment are a ball, two rackets and a goal. Five Bar Gate requires two players. The rest of this writeup is from the trade paperback of Guys pages 41 and 42.

A. Standing with both feet behind the baseline, the shooter attempts to score on the goalie by hitting the ball into the net with his racket.

B. The ball must be kept in motion at all times (i.e. the shooter has to bounce the ball up and down, the ball can't just rest on the racket).

C. A save is made when the goalie, having stopped the shot with any part of his body deflects and/or directs the ball across the baseline or sidelines.

D. The ball is considered in-play so long as it has not crossed the baseline or sidelines or has only bounced once in the out of bounds areas.

     1. Causing the ball to bounce twice out of bounds or...

     2. Causing the ball to roll across the baseline or sidelines.

E. After the shooter's initial shot has made contact with:

  • The back wall
  • Any part of the net
  • Any part of the goalie
  • The goalie's racket

The shooter is free to pursue the loose ball onto the court.

F. An open ball can be pushed or struck with the racket into the net by the shooter or out of bounds by the goalie.

G. Scooping the open ball into the air the shooter can bounce it up and down on his racket. As long as the ball continues to bounce on the racket, the shooter can move anywhere on or off the court shooting only when he chooses (no time limit).

H. The goalie must remain within the confines of the court, using his racket to strike the shooter's racket or the ball only.

I. The shooter gets five shots and then the shooter and goalie switch places.

J. First player to score fifteen goals wins.

Five Bar Gate and Cerebus are © Dave Sim 2004. All rights reserved. Everything2, Dave Sim and myself are not liable for any injury for those attempting to play Five Bar Gate.

Using a five bar gate is a quick efficient way of tallying up something that you are counting, without using numbers. It requires very little in the way of equipment and is an excellent way of sorting out items in completely unrelated lists.

How does it work? First of all you need something that you can make a mark on, a pencil and paper is the obvious choice but you could use the dust on your computer monitor, a large sandy beach and a stick, or even your best friends back and sharp fingernails.

Then you need something to count or tally, these could be; bumps in the night, flies, occurrences of the word 'Porrajmos' on E2 or the times you have wanted to end the evil hegemony of wikipedia. About the only thing you can’t count with a five bar gate is sheep, that’s because a much better way of counting sheep exists.

To begin the tally, every time you notice a fly (or a Porrajmos) make a small single vertical mark on your chosen friends back, like this


From then on every time it happens again make another | mark next to it. Once a few have occurred you will have something like this


Notice that there are only four lines, this is important. When you get to your fourth vertical line you need to change your mark making paradigm, or at least remember that the line for the next occurrence is different. When the fifth fly (or Porrajmos) occurs, you scratch a diagonal line like this / right through the four verticals that you have previously made. It should look a bit like this.

|||| (but with the horizontal line more sloping).

There you have it, five flies have been successfully counted , and by happy co-incidence you have also made a rather crude drawing of a five bar gate, complete with diagonal load bearing strut. You can draw the hinges and latch on later. At this point some clever soul always points out that a real five bar gate usually has four horizontal beams. If you encounter this problem just push over the person who suggests it and invite them to take another look from their new perspective.

If you want to count more than five things, you simply start another five bar gate, then another and another and so on like this.

10 |||| ||||

30 |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||

320 |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||

True you will need to count the number of five bar gates that you have when you’ve finished, and what’s more you will have to multiply the result by five to get the true value of the tally, but I never said anything about needing numbers to decipher the bloody mess that you have made on your friends back.

You might find that with very high numbers you will need to tally your five bar gates with five bar gates and those with others and so on. These Übergates can reach phenomenally high numbers and have the advantage of being virtually indistinguishable from amateur drawings of the Chicago stockyards of 1920.


Traditionally, "five bar gate" is the name of a widespread technique of tallying, i.e. making marks to keep a count of something. It's also sometimes called the "herringbone" method. Here, I speculate on how it evolved:

The very most basic form of tallying is to make one mark for every item counted; counting sheep would be a classical example. A problem with this is that, once all sheep are tallied and all marks made, it is almost as much work to count the marks as it was to count the sheep.

An improvement would be to group the marks, perhaps in groups of five: Five consecutive marks would be made close to one another, then some space left, then the next group.

Why five? Human perceptive capability will allow most people to look at a group of five objects and immediately recognize that it has a cardinality of 5. Above five, this starts to get more difficult, depending on practice. Some people can look at a group of twenty and "know" how many elements are in it, and the movie Rain Man led us to believe that autists can even do this with a group of fifty. But for the rest of us, the limit is around five, and besides: Five coincides with the number of fingers (including the thumb) on one human hand. It's no coincidence that most counting systems worldwide are based on the number 10.

But back to tallying: If you've ever tried this, you will have found that it's hard to keep your spacing consistent; and when counting up groups of marks, it may be hard to tell where one group ends and the next one starts. Again, unnecessary work. Thus, our clever ancestors thunk up the five bar gate: Four consecutive vertical marks and one diagonal mark running through the previous four constitute one group.

          | | | |
          | | | | /
          | | | /
          | | / |
          | / | |
          / | | |
        / | | | |
          | | | |

The grouping element is the diagonal mark, so you can be almost as messy as you like in spacing your marks, it will still be fairly easy to count groups of five by counting diagonal marks.

Note the interesting optical illusion: It appears that the vertical lines in the picture above are untidily crooked, though I assure you they are in fact parallel and straight.

Global distribution

This method of arranging marks for tallying has proved simple and effective, so it is in widespread use today where tallying is still done by hand. But of course this is just one of many similar possible techniques.

I can personally attest to having seen this technique used in Germany and maybe (I'm not sure) France. One reader tells me it's also used in Norway. Wikipedia claims, though without attribution, that it's seen in Europe, North America and Australia. On the other hand, it seems that some Oriental culture and languages, notably Chinese, Japanese and Korean, have a technique of instead constructing a five-stroke pictogram stroke by stroke, while a technique common in Brazil is based on drawing a square, with the fifth stroke diagonally crossing out the square.

Sexual significance

OK, I admit it. My main motivation to write this piece was to present the following tidbit from the "everything you never wanted to know unless you're a pervert" department:

The Five Bar Gate has been discovered by spankos as an effective caning technique.

For those of you not au courant in the BDSM scene, a few explanations:

  • Spankos are consenting adults who enjoy spanking each other as (part of) erotic play. It's their kink, if you will.
  • Spanking is exactly what you thought: Yes, they hit each other on the butt, and get sexually aroused by it!
  • Caning is a "heavier" specialization of spanking: For greater effect, a cane is used for hitting with. Canes are traditionally wooden rods, usually of rattan, but some spankos like the even more severe canes made from modern plastics such as lexane.

Spanking is regarded as a chiefly british kink, and the Brits like to be perfectionist about it: The norm is for the spanker to apply six hard strokes of the cane (often called "six of the best") to the spankee's backside. This being erotic play, said backside is usually bare and will soon sport half a dozen weals (red lines, "stripes"). The perfectionist spanker takes pride in producing perfectly parallel stripes, very evenly spaced from top to, umm, bottom of the posterior.

Crisscrossing stripes are considered "messy," and there is a practical reason as well: When the cane strikes the same spot twice, the second blow to the already tenderized flesh is especially painful, often randomly, and can cause unintended extra damage. If the strokes are severe, this can result in breaking the skin, which most spankers are careful to avoid.

The Five Bar Gate, however, is a technique which intentionally capitalizes on the "double strike" effect: First four strokes are applied in the usual parallel, evenly spaced style. Then the spanker holds the cane at an angle such that the fifth blow intersects the lines from all four of the preceding strokes, resulting in four double strikes from a single blow. Pain sluts attest that this last blow is especially, deliciously painful, while sadistic spankers are pleased that this is so.


There is sexual significance to more things and ideas than you may have thought.

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