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Shields, steel and saddles: The modern sport of jousting explained

On 6 and 7 July Caboolture will host an international tournament for one of most interesting of modern sports – jousting.  You may think jousting was a historic chivalric pursuit, but it thrives today as a modern contact sport.
Picture this: hundreds of kilos of humans, horses and armour charging at each other, intent on landing  the point of their 3 metre lance on the body of their opponent.  There will be wood flying, dents in armour, and if the crowd gets what they want, someone will be knocked off their horse.
No wonder it is popular.  In fact, so popular there is now an International Jousting League, with rankings, and there are annual prestigious jousting events that attract the best from around the world.

 

Sounds modern?  It’s the way the sport was organised in the 13th century.  In medieval times, the best knights would travel from tournament to tournament, and were the “sports celebrities” of their day.
Like all the best sports, the rules of jousting are simple and straightforward, but they allow a great deal of subtlety and gamesmanship from the competitors.
The object of jousting is for a knight to land their lance tip on their opponent – that scores points!   A hit is called an “ataint” and an ataint scores if it is a hit on the shield, body or helmet.  But you get even more points if you shatter your lance upon your opponent.  Yes, wince as you picture that.  The lances are designed to shatter on impact, and the tips are replaced after each ataint.  The breaking point is a set distance from the tip, and a lance must break at that point if it the ataint is to count.
And what does the  jousting “stadium” look like?  Like all sports, there are tiers of seatings all around, so the spectators can see every hit, hear every grunt, and all of the action.  Some things are eternal – it was the same for the gladiatorial games in Rome.
In the middle, picture this:  two horses and riders thundering down the line  towards each other, with a flimsy barrier separating them. The barrier, called a “tilt’, was used from the 14th century to prevent collisions between jousters.
Like most equestrian sports, spectators are more worried about the horses than the humans. Fear not, the horses are safe.  Safer than the jousters.  There have always been great protections built into jousting to protect the horses.  Harming or targeting  the horses is dreadfully taboo.  If a horse is hit, the offending knight loses the tournament and traditionally had to surrender his own horse!
In fact, we think the horses rather enjoy the action and attention.  Like the jousting knights, they don’t hold back.  And that is how all elite modern sports should be .

As a modern sport, jousting  may even be better than many of the ball-chasing events you see on pay TV.
It is a brief, intense one-on-one  contest where you can’t miss the action.  All the drama is distilled down to a single moment, the moment of impact.   There is noise, there is shiny armour, there are the “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.  And sometimes, we see a knight knocked off his horse.
So take your kids to see an international sporting event in July. An event  with no drunken spectators, one where you get to see a result, and one where everyone learns something about the past.  Go to the jousting.

Swords, Armour, and Chivalry in the Knight’s Order of Lion Rampant!

So, have you been to the Abbey Medieval Festival and have you seen some of the Medieval combats? Want to know more about the people dressed up, and what they do? The Medieval Re-enactment groups represent different groups in Medieval history. Knights Order of Lion Rampant are re-living the age of chivalry and re-creating authentic scenes from a 14th Century high medieval tournament encampment. One of their most glorified performances at the Abbey Tournament is when they bring sword combat to life on the battle field!

We spoke to Lion Rampant member, Toby, and asked him to tell us about being a knight’s valet in Knight’s Order Of Lion Rampant.

Firstly, why did you get involved with KOLR?

Mainly, I wanted to try something new! My neighbour was involved, I was interested and I love medieval history.  It was a natural fit.

How do you get you involved?

I started five years ago when the Abbey Medieval Festival was still held at the school grounds. All you need to do is show some interest in the group and make sure you sign up to QHLF.

What is QHLF?

Queensland Living History Federation. They cover you for insurance, gives you access to licences for restricted weapons, and also help you find out about other re-enactment groups.

Is insurance very important?

Swords are very dangerous! A valet practices sword progressions. You must be 16 years to participate in combat because of the danger. To minimise injury the minimum sword edge is 2mm and the point must be curved no less than the edge of a 10 cent piece

What else does a knight’s valet do?

A valet helps the knight get into armour, give the Knights their swords, laugh when he falls over, help them get up when they get knocked over, give them water when they are in armour, and general help on and off the battle field.

Where do you get the armour? Do you make it?

An armour kit is too tricky to make! It requires a lot of tools. We buy it from armour makers.

Can you describe what is in an armour kit?

Firstly there is the woolen comfort garment – called the aketon – that goes underneath the armour. The knight will then put on his leg armour. The valet helps him put on the chain mail and arm armour, followed by their chest plate and the dupont over the top with the coat of arms. Lastly, the gauntlets, helmet and the sword and scabbard.

What is the most important thing to remember when putting on armour?

Ummm, To make sure the armour isn’t done too tight … or too loose. Otherwise it could restrict movement of the knight.

Any final advice for budding valets out there?

No two knights’ armour is put on the same way!

For anyone who missed out on coming to this year’s festival, here is a short YouTube video of live Medieval Sword Combat!

So, there you have it, The Knights Order of Lion Rampant are much more than fanatics in tin foil! Be sure to check out the knight next time you are at Abbey Medieval Festival.

According to the Knights Order of Lion Rampant, they have “a ‘Court of Chivalry’ for those interested in our combat training and Tournament performance, and we have a ‘Court of Love’ for those interested in the finer, gentler arts. Both are open to both young and old, male and female”.

Keep an eye out for more blog posts on our 39 different re-enactor groups at Abbey Medieval Festival. Remember, if you are using social media, be sure to like us on Facebook to be the first to know when we release a new blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Brown goes down!

A very welcome and surprise guest at this year’s Abbey Medieval Festival, was celebrity Dr. Chris Brown.  Showing up on both Saturday and Sunday of the tournament weekend, held at the well known Abbey Museum near Brisbane, Dr. Brown was in search of a medieval experience.  The crowd was given a special treat.

A brave and true Knight, Dr. Brown, known as the Bondi Vet and from Channel 10’s Friday night show, ‘The Living Room’, truly embraced his medieval experience.  Not only did he draw a crowd….he drew a sword!

With orders not to hold back, his opponent, Sir Leon Sinclair, from the medieval renactment group Eliste d’corps, as honour bade him, obliged! Clad in armour from the generous and accomplished, Sir Justyn, Dr. Brown had his first Abbey Medieval experience.  The pair went at it, hammer and tongs! The crowd became noisy; their thirst for pain and blood was audible; there was no retreat for either of these warriors….(only joking, there was no blood…was there??) but the Oohs! and Aaahs! were clearly audible around the grounds; the ladies shrieked, covering their eyes and imagining the worst for their favourite handsome knight and Sir Blair, the MC, didn’t hold back either! What entertainment!

To give him credit, Chris put up a good fight, rising again and again, to face the sword.  A little slower each time, but he rose, untill the crowd grew silent.  Dr. Brown went down!……….. There was word of concussion!

But Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, didn’t he look the true Knight in shining armour at this great medieval tournament? And, unlike in medieval times, he lived to fight another day, which is a good thing because we loved him and the crowd loved him.  And good news!  The footage for Dr. Brown’s battle at the Abbey Tournament is to be aired this Friday night (5th October), ‘The Living Room’ on Channel 10. Book the good seat in advance!

Thanks Chris Brown! Come back next year for your second medieval experience!

 

 

A Dreadful Note of Preparation – 2

Now is the winter of our discount tent……..

I shall not use the word panic; it lacks a sense of urgency. In my last post I was making a list of what I need to do before the tournament weekend and you will be pleased to know that the compiling of that list is progressing well.

Roughing it circa 1390, inside the old pavillion.

There have been some advances, setbacks and a couple of detours.  In regard to my pavilion I decided on the path of least resistance and bought a new one, on sale no less; hence the title of this post (apologies to Shakespeare…again).

This still leaves me with more tasks than I can poke a stick at, though the manufacture of ‘poking sticks’ are thankfully no longer on the list. Yesterday saw the completion of the matched sets of spears to be used in the deeds of arms held in the Order Lion Rampant’s encampment over the festival weekend.  It is only fair, not too mention polite, to provide matched weapons for formal combats and one would hate to be thought ill-mannered by the person whom you are trying to stab in the vitals.

My proposed new helmet is now gracing the head of another, as short of radically modifying my head there was simply no way it was going to fit properly once it was furnished with a liner. Late medieval helmets, by the way, were fitted with padded suspension liners which were most efficient in absorbing the impact of (most) blows. My new, new bascinet is winging its way from Europe, and should, God willing, arrive in time. Another vindication of the theory that a liberal application of funds can overcome a lack of skill and planning.

Our erudite readers will no doubt be aware that armour is produced by a complicated process of cutting, hammering, heating, grinding, polishing and of course; swearing. At this point it should be noted that a suit of armour was referred to as a “harness” and plate armour was oft called white or whyte (polished) harness. As a result the quintessential conflict in re enactor households over what constitutes essential living expenses, e.g. a new fridge or a new helmet, is sometimes referred to as the “white goods vs. white harness debate”. At present whyte harness is winning by a mile!

Whilst on the subject of helmets I have come to the conclusion that the repeated hammering of metal causes of the tiny molecule-thingies that make up its structure to align in one direction and thus causing it to become magnetised. This is the only reason I can deduce as to why swords, axes and various other implements are drawn to my helmet with great speed and accuracy. The more it is hit, the more it dents. These dents need to be beaten out and all of this only serves to increase its magnetic power.

The laws of magnetic attraction undergoing rigerous field testing

I have been expounding this theory of late and my partner has suggested that only someone who has been hit in the head as often as I have could possibly have reasoned in this way. Rare praise indeed!

Less than a month to go!!

 

A Dreadful Note of Preparation

 

Must Make a List!

There was a definite chill when as I set out for work on the last day of May. This was not caused by some Shakespearean Rough wind that shakes the darling buds of May, but the spine chilling realisation that tomorrow is winter and that means that it is Tournament season. For this medieval re enactor the first chill of winter does not herald cosy nights sipping mead in front of a warm fire; it bodes late nights making gear and fixing armour in a freezing workshop. cast the fittings for two new belts, make a new heraldic surcoat to go over my armour ( Why did my ancestors choose such a complex heraldry?), a new hat and organise two full tournaments and five smaller Pas d’Armes combats in an impossible time frame.  Easy…..the Abbey Medieval Festival is at least five weeks and two days away! Not that I am counting the days in which I have to make fix and devise more things than I could poke a stick at (mental note: make poking stick).
Whilst working on my armour I may get a chance to ponder on why my breastplate appears to shrink between tournament seasons.  I might even have time to get in some extra training as the combats seem to be getting harder and faster every year.  I just need to prioritise and remember that we do this for fun- this tournament season should be Made glorious summer and not the winter of our discontent (mental note: fix tent). Piercing the night’s dull ear, and  from the tents The armourers, accomplishing the knights, With busy hammers closing rivets up, Give dreadful note of preparation.