Team Building Activity: Chinese Handcuffs

The origins of the challenges and activities from facilitators are widespread. They come from all over the world. Because sharing is good, especially if it is something that promote growth to everyone.

If you take your time to search the origin of each activity and challenge, some might have names that do not necessarily reflect its origins. Take for example an activity we’d like to call Chinese Handcuffs. I don’t know who coined the name for the activity. But that’s how we knew it when it was handed down to us by facilitators who mentored us. And it probably did not come from China.

Chinese handcuffs team building activity
Chinese handcuffs during Alain Asia/Akromont team building event, 2010


A handcuff for each participant. Well, not necessarily a handcuff. But 2 rope-like materials. About 2 feet long. And with a loop at each end to slide hands in.

Chinese handcuffs team building activity
Air Doctor Cebu, March 2016

Number of participants:

At least a pair. But of course, a larger number of participants adds up to all the fun. It also provides for the natural motivation to compete. Even numbers are needed for this activity.


  1. The objective of the activity is for partners to break free from each other without violating the set rules.

Instructions and Rules:

  1. Each participant puts each hand through the loops at the each end of their “handcuff”. Each person’s “handcuffs” must overlap the “handcuff” of his partner.
  2. Cutting, breaking, untying, damaging the handcuff is not allowed.
  3. Hands aren’t allowed to go in or out of any loop of the handcuff.
  4. The participants can adjust the size of the loop.

Here are a few suggested debriefing questions:

  1. How did you do it?
  2. What obstacles did you encounter with your partner?
  3. How did you overcome them?

  • The instructions for this activity was recreated by the Learning and Development Division of the Cebu Teambuilding Facilitators Network. Led by Philipp Chen Tan, other members of the division are Kevin Johnrey Sosas, Paulo Frangelyco Magallon, and Marc Julius Rizada.
  • CTFN does not claim ownership of this activity. For a list of references used to recreate activity instructions, please visit our Directory of Activities page.

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