To ride, directly at your opponent, with the horse in a run, and the opponents horse running towards you, and not blinking at the moment of impact; that friends, is bravery.
As most of you know, I am working with Sir Dustin Stephens of Four Winds Faire to promote his joust team. I also plan (dream I am working to make a reality), one day, to train hard enough to join him in tilting. There are a few reasons why I have always dreamt of jousting.
For one, the legend of the chivalry behind it is awe inspiring. Granted, there are those in history and still today that put their own personal ego well above chivalry, but a true knight would not.
The imagery of a knight competing in the joust conjures up thoughts of the noblest of knight, along with the mightiest warriors of the medieval era. While some shows do rely on simple imagery to put on scripted shows (while still entertaining to a viewer) this, I knew was not for me. Desire the physicality and true to history way of doing things I do.
For two, I have always loved horses. Horses are majestic, intelligent, mighty beasts that, to be a successful jousting knight, you have to become one with or get destroyed. Without the cooperation of your horse, you are an idiot with a stick…
There are several youtube videos out there of people whose horses decided that they were not jousting. One video, which I cannot find now, showed a tilt begin, the riders take off, then suddenly, one horse stops close to halfway down. The opponent, maybe not having time to react, rode on, obliterating the stand still.
Jousting, as the quote below from King Duarte of Portugal says, requires absolute determination and bravery, and that is what most draws me in.
King Duarte of Portugal’s Top Jousting Tips
1. “Men often fail to score a hit for lack of sight, poor control of their lances or horses, or lack of determination.”
2. “The saddle should not throw you backwards or forwards, but should allow you to ride steadily, skillfully, and with good control of yourself and your lance.”
3. “Owing to a lack of confidence, those who joust can fail in four different ways: firstly, because they want to avoid the encounter; secondly, because they veer away, fearing the moment of encounter; thirdly, by failing to keep their body and lance steady because of the effort required; fourthly, they are so anxious to gain an advantage over their adversary that they end up by failing.”
4. “To have your eyes set firmly on your target and force your body and intention to remain set until you think you see the iron tip of the lance arrive at its intended target. “
The first tip talks about making sure that your visor allows good vision, making sure you control the lance, and stay determined, but, as he states out later, not cocky.
The second tip talks about the need to be comfortable in your saddle and be an experienced rider.
The third tip speaks volumes to me. It talks about the four ways jousters fail. The first way is to give into fear and try to avoid being hit. This would be even flinching slightly that would cause you to not control your body and your lance. This plays over into the second reason: they veer away. If, at the last moment before impact, you flinch up, close your eyes, or do anything of the sort, you will fail, so says King Duarte. The third reason people fail talks about the physicality of keeping the lance steady. This is not an easy task. Arm, leg, torso, entire body strength is needed to accomplish keeping the lance steady as you ride the thundering hooves with an 11 foot stick cocked under your arm. The fourth reason, according to this King, that people fail in the joust is that they try to find an advantage over their opponent so bad, rather than focusing on doing a good job in general, that they leave themselves open to do the fundamentals poorly, and fail.
The last tip is not ever look away, to literally look any fear directly in the face. The old baseball phrase of “keep your eye on the ball” comes somewhat close, but when the pitcher in baseball throws the ball at you, you are allowed to turn your head at the very least to avoid the contact. In jousting, you stare it down.
It is truly one of the only physical sports left; a real, full contact sport.