Jousting Explained Jousting was a martial sporting event undertaken between two horsemen using lances, each aiming to strike the other and unhorse him. It worked either as a single event or as a part of a larger tournament, the latter involving other athletic disciplines such as hand-to-hand combat. The joust itself, however, worked on a point-scoring system, with each true blow struck on the opponent generating a number of points for the striker, the total depending on where the blow landed. So, if a rider hit his opponent on the helmet he was awarded two points, while if he struck them on the breast plate only a single point would be awarded. If a rider unhorsed his opponent with a strike then he was awarded three points and the match was considered over. Importantly, however, only true blows generated points, with a true blow consisting of the lance shattering on impact. Glancing blows, low blows and any strike that did not shatter the lance were not counted. For each joust both horsemen were equipped with a trio of lances, to be used over a series of three charges. All lances were measured before each joust to ensure they were of equal length and therefore no reach advantage could be sought. In addition, strict rules governed each meeting, with only the horseman’s squire (assistant) allowed to hand him new lances or help him in the event of an unhorsing. As part of these rules, it was also mandatory that any knight competing own the horse and armor he was using, as in the event that they were unhorsed, their opponent could demand both as a victory trophy. Of course, all these rules came behind the first and most important, which stated that only noblemen could compete. If the joust was held as part of a larger competition, the other key event was the hand-to-hand combat match. This worked along a similar set of rules to the joust proper, with the first knight to land three blows on his opponent the victor. Which weapons and styles were allowed was dictated before the tournament. Historically, jousting emerged out of the High Middle Ages (1000-1300) and was based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. Up until the 17th century, jousting gradually evolved from a blood sport into the sporting form of chivalry for which it is now remembered. For example, by the time of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603), jousting had been heavily romanticized and was more a form of entertainment, rather than proof of military prowess. Interestingly, today jousting is seeing something of a renaissance, with dedicated jousting clubs organizing competitions and medieval reenactment events held worldwide.
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