Gong Fights at Burning Man 2022

I wanted to bring something fast, loud, and stupid to the playa this year. Something that was portable, easy to make and use, and memorable. (photo gallery below!)

You know the sound a steel mixing bowl makes when you strike its edge? I love the round, BONGing resonance of it. So:

Equipment: I built two sets of armor from raw materials found at Goodwill and our local hardware store:

  • Two sets of old football or hockey shoulder pads
  • Two old bike helmets
  • About 14-16 steel bowls
  • Assorted bolts, washers, nuts, wingnuts, and bushings
  • About 6 feet of light chain
  • Two superball-tipped, vinyl-dipped, fiberglass pairs of mallets
  • The Septagon – seven linked lengths of painted 1×2 pine on the playa floor to contain the fights.
  • 1 overhead scoop light for atmosphere
  • 1 amazing camp tower at OKNOTOK, the legs of which were roped off as the ring.

Safety gear:

  • Goggles
  • Gauntlets made of polycarbonate sheet
  • Earplugs for all fighters! (that shit gets loud, even in testing)


  • Overall:
    • No intentional blows to the face
    • No intentional blows to the ‘nads
    • If you step outside the Septagon (or you’re pushed), you lose
  • Fight with Violence (see video):
    • Strike the chest or head gong (fitted with chains, to make a distinct noise) to earn points
    • 15 points takes the round
    • 3 rounds wins the fight
  • OR fight with Art (see video):
    • Fighters must strike each other’s armor as musically, creatively, uniquely, balletically as possible
    • You have 60 seconds
    • The crowd judges the winner.

Gong Fights exceeded my wildest dreams! The ferocity of the Violence Fighters, the grace of the Art Fighters, and the the idiot noise and chaos overran all rational concerns, and a kind of animal fervor took over.

It was stupidly magnificent, and magnificently stupid. Thank you especially to Mr. OK, Michelle, Lydia, Dakota, Thor, Sumit, Dandelion, Drift, Jackson, TwoNames, HoneyBear, Mike, Special Snowflake, and everyone else who armored and scored and assisted and fought and danced and hooted and lost and won.

13/10, will do it again.

(photos by Sumit Jamuar, video by @brian_huy_mac and @z_antibeersnob)