World's most extreme sport? The modern renaissance of jousting

World's most extreme sport? The modern renaissance of jousting

Six places to watch competitive jousting around the world in 2013
Jousting is fast becoming a modern spectator sport, with a number of top-level tournaments slated for 2013.

Jousting -- the top-drawing sport across Europe for more than four centuries -- is undergoing a renaissance. And not just at renaissance fairs and goofy theme restaurants either.

The pastime has been the focus of two recent television shows: "Full Metal Jousting" on the History Channel and "Knights of Mayhem" on National Geographic.

As a new breed of modern athletes and equestrians exchange hard hits on horseback, opportunities are multiplying for modern spectators to see this most extreme of extreme sports.

Entertainment or sport?

Competitions award points for hard hits, and unhorsing the opponent. “For me, jousting is a modern-day sport,” says "Full Metal Jousting" star Shane Adams. “We can entertain anybody from a four-year-old child to a Hell’s Angel.”

The basics of the sport remain unchanged from days of yore. Two competitors, clad in up to 100 pounds of armor and mounted on horseback, charge toward one another wielding 11-foot-long lances.

The goal is to hit the other fellow squarely on the chest or shield while receiving a similar blow, and to still be sitting on your horse when the pass is finished.

Points are given for solid hits, shattered lances and -- depending on the tournament-- for unhorsing your opponent.

“It’s a game about powerful impact,” says Tobias Capwell, curator of arms and armor at the Wallace Collection in London and a modern-day jouster of some renown. “The essential point was to hit your opponent as hard and as accurately as possible.”

Modern day jousting retains that goal. While you can see plenty of staged combat featuring fake Old English banter and theatrical falls at the renaissance fair or theme park of your choice, there are now quite a few places around the world to see the real thing.

If you’ve ever wanted to travel back in time to see a man in a metal suit carrying a very big stick, 2013 is the year to do it.

Here are six places around the globe to watch unstaged and unscripted competitive jousting.

Harcourt Park World Invitational Jousting Tournament

Poster for the 2013 Grail of Chivalry World Invitational Joust, courtesy the tournament's Facebook page.

Upper Hutt, New Zealand
February 16-17, 2013

The scenic wilds of Upper Hutt stood in for Rivendell, Isengard and Helm’s Deep in "The Lord of the Rings" movies, but the jousting at the Harcourt Park World Invitational Jousting Tournament is absolutely real.

The 2013 joust will feature some of the best competitors from three continents, among them Australia’s Justin Holland and Norway’s Petter Ellingsen.

The tournament, which also features foot combat, battle displays, archery competitions and living history activities, typically draws as many as 10,000 spectators.

Bathurst International Joust

New South Wales, Australia
April 12-14, 2013

Organized by Rod Walker, coach of the Black Team on "Full Metal Jousting," the Bathurst Joust is incongruously placed in the midst of a full scale agricultural festival that features tree-felling competitions, show jumping, prize poultry, dogs, cats, vegetables and much else.

Despite its very local flavor, the 2013 joust is likely to feature several of the world’s better-known knights, including Walker’s Full Tilt jousting troupe and several U.S. jousters. While competitors hadn’t been confirmed at publication time, invitees include Charlie Andrews, the hulking, potty-mouthed star of "Knights of Mayhem."

Tournament of King John III

Jousting in an authentic setting.

Castle Gniew, Poland
May 24-26, 2013

As the stronghold of the Teutonic Order in medieval times, Castle Gniew is about as authentic a setting for a joust as any fan could wish for. Its annual jousting tournament has been held for more than two decades.

In addition to the joust, the 2013 event will feature medieval music and food as well as other forms of historic combat.

It's expected to attract some of Europe’s fiercest competitors.

Grand Tournament of Chivalry

Neauphle-le-Chateau, France
June 1-2, 2013

Each year, the town of Neauphle-le-Chateau transforms into a medieval village replete with strolling acrobats, fire eaters, troubadours, merchants and artisans from all over France.

What knight could resist such an atmosphere?

Organized by renowned French jouster Luc Petillot, the festival’s jousting competition will feature some of the best in France and beyond.

Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival

Estes Park, Colorado
September 5-9, 2013

A celebration of Celtic culture that includes music, dancing, a dog parade and traditional Scottish sports like hammer throwing, the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival also boasts one of the oldest and most lucrative competitive jousting competitions in the U.S. 

Here you can see jousting in both light and heavy armor, and you're almost guaranteed to see some of the biggest names in the hard-hitting, North American style of jousting. Last year’s purse was US$38,000 -- enough to lure competitors from all over the U.S. and Canada.

“If you’re anybody who’s anybody in the sport of jousting, you’re going to compete for money,” says Adams, who won last year’s competition. “And if you’re going to compete for money, Estes Park, Colorado, is the place to do it.”

Tournament of the Phoenix

Fine feathers.

Poway, California
October 18-20, 2013

This invitational tournament, held outside of San Diego, emphasizes historically accurate competition and equipment and features top-tier competitors from the U.S., Canada and Europe. 

The Wallace Collection’s Tobias Capwell calls it “one of the highlights in the international jousting calendar.”

Now in its seventh year, the Tournament of the Phoenix bills itself as an “equestrian triathlon,” since combatants compete in six events over the course of a weekend, including four sessions of jousting.

The event also includes a variety of other forms of historic combat, including battling gladiators.

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