As a knight, chivalry is your main mission. Stories are told of the brave knights who rescue the damsel in distress and slay the mythical dragons. When there weren’t dragons to slay or damsels to save, tournaments were your best option to demonstrate your chivalry. Even if you don’t win the tournaments you still gain respect by participating and being brave enough to get knocked off a horse by a lance. Tournaments were also a great way to keep in shape and improve your skill by having “friendly” competition with your fellow knights. Tournaments began as mock battles to keep up the the physical shape of the soldiers. Since war was scarce and many good men are lost in war, the knights developed a way to train the soldiers in a friendly yet competitive manner.
There are two kinds of tournament; jousting and melee. The joust is an individual tournament event. By far the most popularized form of tournament (Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale), Jousting was done on horseback with you galloping toward your opponent and trying to either knock them off their horse in “Joust of War” or shattering your lance by hitting it against your opponents armour in a “Joust of Peace.” In a joust you would face your opponent 3 times, each time armed with full armor including a helmet, a lance under your right arm and over the neck of the horse and a shield placed on your left should where the opponents would strike you. Very few people were actually injured during the jousts. If you would like to experience joust first hand you can play a jousting game at the royalarmouries.org http://www.royalarmouries.org/visit-us/leeds/leeds-galleries/tournament-gallery/tournament-fun/tournament-games
Melee is a team tournament fought either on foot or horseback (Tourney). This is the closest to the original tournaments but less popular and more dangerous. The melee was generally fought using blunt swords and maces which are similar to what one would use come wartime. There were more casualties and injuries associated with the melee than with jousting. William Montague, the earl of Salisbury was reported to have killed his own son in a tournament in 1382 (Prestwich). Rules were put into place to prevent such incidents from happening but the rules weren’t always successful and tragedies happened.
Besides earning respect from the people, a chivalrous knight can win prizes from competing in the tournaments. The victorious knight can win gold, better armor, horses or even the hand of a beautiful maiden. You can also take your opponents horse if you knock him all the off and in some cases even his armor as a trophy.
Knights Tournaments. n.d. Web. 27 March 2012. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/knights-tournaments.htm>.
Medieval Tournaments. n.d. 27 March 2012. <http://www.castles.me.uk/medieval-tournaments.htm>.
Prestwich, Michael. Knight: The Medieval Warriors Unofficial Manual. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 2010. Print.
Royal Armouries. Introduction to Tournaments. n.d. Video. 27 March 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9ga0rQIX90&list=PL02602420B0F3E430&index=1&feature=plpp_video>.
—. Tournament Events. n.d. Web. 27 March 2012. <http://www.royalarmouries.org/home>.
Wikipedia. Tournaments (Medieval). n.d. Web. 27 March 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tournament_(medieval)>.