“Jousting was a medieval sporting contest in which two knights charged each other on horseback trying to knock each other off their horses with lances”
The Jousting competitions took place at medieval tournaments that were also know as tourneys, jousting events gave knights the opportunity to practice and display their skills against opponents in competitive combat, without the dangers of battle; winning or losing a jousting competition could make or break a knight’s reputation.
Jousting matches also allowed knights to hone their skills and become better warriors, as in battle knights would wear armour to create a realistic contest and to protect themselves. Knights took the jousting tournaments very seriously because of this and they realised that they could easily be injured or killed in a jousting match.
The lance was the main weapon used in medieval jousting contests however they were not the same jousting sticks used in battle, especially in later medieval jousting contests. The Lance or Jousting stick used in joust matches were designed to minimise the risk of injury during a jousting contest. Jousting lances or sticks were made out of wood that was soft and they were hollow, while the ends were blunt. There were also some instances when the ends were covered with a ball like object to lessen the impact.
The lance still made a massive impact in a jousting competition but it could not penetrate the armour of the knight as there was no metal point at the end, this made jousting much safer than real combat although many jousting sticks were broken in the process. If the battle went to ground the knight would used close combat weapons such as a sword, flail or poleaxe, these weapons were also adapted to make them safer, the safety aspect of jousting was further improved as time went by as more tournaments rules were introduced and armour was improved over the years.
The Quintain was an excellent piece of equipment used by squires & knights to practice their jousting skills. Mounted Squires & knights would attack the quintain at speed aiming their lance at the shield target, if they hit the target perfectly the shield would spin however if they misjudged it and hit it incorrectly the sand bag on the other end of the pole could spin round and hit them, possibly knocking them of their horses.
The rings were similar to the quintain but were an even harder test for medieval knights, they would have to thrust their lances through rings that decreased in size as they charged; this was an excellent way for a knight to improve his accuracy and would warm up knights and horses for the main event. This was great warm up practice for the coming joust and provided great entertainment for the crowds.
When the jousting day arrived, the field of the tournament was bedecked with bunting and flags. Before the tournament started, there was a colourful parade of Knights and Maids. The jousting day was an opportunity for knights and maids to wear their best medieval attire. The person who addressed the knights and maids assembled was the honorary guest. Before the joust started, there was a fanfare of trumpets and a Grand Marshall read out the rules of the jousting match loudly.
The Jousting contest usually took place before the mêlée battle and was the main event of the tournament in later medieval times; knights would charge down opposite tracks on horseback with lances and shields raised, they would be an almighty crash as they met at the halfway point of the track at combined speeds of up to 25mph. The name of the game was to knock the opposing knight from his horse to score maximum points, there would be up to four charges made during a jousting match.
In early jousting tournaments, the goal of the Knight was to knock his opponent of their horse and take them prisoner, taking away all his armour and in later tournaments, the knight would break his lance as well. Because so many lances were broken in later medieval jousting competitions, there had to be plenty of jousting sticks available for the knights. In some jousting competitions, you could earn points for the quality of your attack as well.
Knights would usually aim for the shield or helm helmet during a joust and because of this medieval knight usually had broken noses and broken bones, it wasn’t an easy career choice.
From around the 12th century the safety of tournaments improved and new plate armour was introduced to be used with chainmail for the jousting and mêlée contests. The popular medieval helm helmets were the first helmets specifically designed for a jousting contest.
As time went on Jousting Tournaments became so popular that knights travelled great distances for jousting competitions with other knights; they became very famous people in medieval times, pretty much like present day football and sports stars. Jousting tournaments themselves started to become entertainment events featuring different activities such as feasting and dancing and could go on for many days.
Jousting tournaments themselves developed over time and they became more of a sporting competition than the initial purpose as a military training exercise and a way to test new armour and weapons. This came about, because of the increasing popularity of jousts and jousting as a form of entertainment. This meant that there was less practising of battle skills, and more focus on the entertainment value of the jousting contests and joust matches which are still popular today.