Tube Time: Jousting

By February 24, 2012
Jousters lance each other from opposite sides of a fence.

The History Channel's "Full Metal Jousting"

It gives new meaning to the term “smashing fun!” The History Channel’s “Full Metal Jousting” pits 21st century horsemen against each other in an 11th century sport.  The 10-episode series, which premiered Feb. 12, made a serious effort to recruit skilled riders. “We knew we could teach them them how to joust, but we wanted the riding to be second nature,” director of talent and casting Sémi Aboud said.

To that end, the show wound up with two genuine PRCA cowboys and an authentic WEF Circuit Champion show jumper and a polo player to round out the brace of riders from the restaurant chain Medieval Times. Sixteen in all, ranging in age between 23 and 43, they were scouted at sessions throughout the nation.  At a weeklong talent search in Los Angeles last fall, Jake Nodar of West Hollywood and Woodland Hills-based eventer Joseph McKinley made the cut.

The show is one of two dueling jousting series.  The other, National Geographic’s “Knights of Mayhem,” is a five-episode series featuring four contestants that launched last year. The athletes are all regulars on the Ultimate Jousting circuit and one of them, Charlie Andrews, a bull-riding former Navy Seal, is the reigning world champion. It’s a bit more “Mad Max” to History’s “Americaknightol.”

Hosted by Canadian lance-a-lot Shane Adams―an Ontario-based jousting instructor and former champion―“FMJ” sees going head-to-head in a series of elimination rounds, guided by a coterie of coaches. The last man standing takes home a $100,000 cash prize.

Rope Myers poses in jousting outfit.

PRCA steer wrestler Rope Myers

The show is testosterone-fueled, boasting “full-contact jousts.” Unlike most modern lances, which are made of light wood designed to splinter on impact, “FMJ” contestants use 11-foot weapons trained on opponents for impacts of up to 30-miles-per-hour. The riders are outfitted in 80 pounds of armor made for the show.

While “the intensity of collisions confers bragging rights, horsemanship and targeting are what make jousting so difficult,” wrote The New York Times in a 2010 article about the reemergence of jousting as an extreme sport in North America. On “Full Metal Jousting,” the brutality of competition is offset by the  behind-the-scenes segments that let us get up close and personal with our reality stars as the athletes share living quarters and camera time.

Footage of show jumper James Fairclough, 25, of Newton, NJ, training alongside former Marine and movie stunt rider Mike Edwards, 40, of Las Vegas, and polo player Tom Conant, 25, of Hilmar, CA, really serves to underscore the variety of styles each man brings to the saddle.

“Every contestant there came in with some advantage, some little thing they did better than everyone else,” Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association steer wrestler Rope Myers told ProRodeo Sports News magazine. Myers felt that while some of his rivals had jousting experience, he had the competitive edge. “From my days of competing in rodeo, I know what it’s like to have your income riding on whether you win or lose,” he said.

Joining him from the PRCA ranks is bull rider Nathan Klassen, 33, of Broken Arrow, OK. “What surprised me the most was how difficult it was to hit a moving target with the lance,” Klassen said. “I thought it would be easier.”

Fairclough said he was surprised at the general fitness training required. “We had to do a lot of running, and for the first few weeks it was more about contact and how to absorb the blows,” Fairclough explained. “We did two hours of training in the morning and the afternoon, and a large portion of it involved ‘no stirrups’.  It’s been a unique opportunity to reach out to disciplines other than show jumpers and hunters.”

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