My husband and I took the kids last night to watch the Knights of Valour Jousting Competition. It was quite an interesting experience. Jousting is an incredibly strange form of target practice where both opponents have targets on them and the goal is to break one’s weapon or unseat one’s opponent. The Knights had pretty impressive armor but injuries sound pretty common place.
The evening began with a couple of side acts – a bareback riding demonstration from someone dressed to resemble Alexander the Great, a quick mock fight between a gladiator and a legionary, and the site of a chariot delivering the legionary to the fight.
Then the M.C., Shane Adams, explained about the injuries that were keeping a number of their jousters from competing that evening – hip problems, shoulder and wrist problems. It was a pretty gruesome description and made me wonder a bit about the whole ethics of watching such a performance.There were times when I didn’t appreciate Adams jokes either because they were too sexual in nature (definitely a PG13 show, though I assume they tone it down for the school show) or because they were questions posed to the audience like “Do you want to see a beheading tonight?” where we were being asked something where the answer should have been no, but there wasn’t a clear way to shout no, and a sense that the crowd was supposed to shout something. So despite the stupid ridiculousness of the question, people would answer “Yeah!”
Before I had time to wonder much they had started onto the next part of the show, a warm-up competition where the contestants race through several obstacles – catching hoops on their spear, throwing their spear, etc.
After the warm-up exercises the knights had to have time to get their armor on. The half-time-show-of-sorts was a falconry demonstration. I’ve seen a longer version of the same demonstration at a science center, so I wasn’t terribly impressed, but it did make an okay distraction. It fit with the medieval theme a bit, but not terrifically, as the birds of prey displayed weren’t all ones used traditionally and there was limited discussion of how they fit into medieval culture.
Then came the jousting. There were some utterly spectacular lance breaks happening, where pieces of wood would seem to rain down on them. The knights drop the horses’ reigns before their lances collide so that the horse doesn’t have its mouth yanked with the force of the impact. The knights would go five passes against each other and be scored based on hitting the target (on their opponent), breaking a lance or unseating the opponent. Then the next two knights would take five passes against each other. It was announced that one knight was injured after a round and would be placing fourth rather than continue in the tournament. Later there was mention of another knight’s hand bleeding while he continued his jousting, and it seemed the knight’s opponents pulled their punches after that. What kind of crazy sport that people risk so much damage!
I have very little experience in sports. My family did not watch sports. I don’t know how the different hockey or football playoffs win. My husband follows sports but quietly – I don’t hear much about it from him. So it was a different experience for me to go and watch the jousting. By the time the knights are jousting they are in full armor. You cannot see their faces, but during that earlier warm-up game you get to see what the different knights look like and the M.C. tells a little bit about each of them. You get to pick which one you want to cheer for and I got a tiny glimpse of what it is like to care about sports. You get to choose what you want to happen and then give voice to your excitement or frustration. There aren’t many places where people do that, outside of sports. Unlike politics (which is a team sport in a way) the results of a sport don’t really affect you. You don’t have to live four years with the results. It was kind of fun for that… I really enjoyed it, in between cringing for worry of the injuries being inflicted that night for our entertainment.
None of my pictures of the jousting do it justice at all, so I suggest instead you check out the Knights of Valour Youtube channel.