Can Full-Metal Jousting Become the Next Ultimate Fighting Championship?

Shane Adams, host of a new reality TV show about the sport, hopes it will.

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History

If chivalry, as the common saying goes, is dead, someone forgot to tell Shane Adams—the host of History's new original reality series, Full Metal Jousting, which aims to resurrect the medieval and renaissance competition as a legitimate sport over 500 years after its heyday. Which isn't to say that things don't get gritty—"Do not stick out your tongue. You will bite it off," Adams advises the series' would-be knights in last night's premiere episode.

Full Metal Jousting, which premiered last night, takes 16 amateur competitors and trains them in competitive full-contact jousting, with a $100,000 prize to be awarded to the last man standing. It's hard to imagine the show successfully capturing the intensity of "history's first extreme sport" without the expertise offered by Adams, a former president of the World Championship Jousting Association and holder of 17 international jousting titles who remains one of the sport's most respected and celebrated competitors. As Full Metal Jousting prepared for its television debut, The Atlantic interviewed Adams about wooden lances, war horses, and what it takes for a normal person to become an expert jouster.


The introduction to Full Metal Jousting calls jousting "the most dangerous sport in history." What makes it so risky?

Jousting is so dangerous, primarily, because of the force of impact delivered on the opponent. To knock someone out with a punch takes seven pounds. These guys are hitting each other with over 1,000 pounds of force.

You also say that jousting has gained popularity over the past 30 years. What inspired the renewed interest in the sport?

Interest in the sport has always been there. But unfortunately, medieval festivals and renaissance festivals have always gone toward a more theatrical performance. [...] I've dedicated the past 20 years to building the sport, so when I went to a renaissance festival or medieval festival—the only arena that I had to perform in front of people—I didn't do a theatrical performance. I did the real sport. I brought real full-contact jousting using real armor, real war horses, and solid wooden lances, and people that viewed those shows didn't leave. They stayed in their seats. They watched show after show.

How authentic is your jousting compared to jousting tournaments in the medieval or renaissance eras?

Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, most of the competitors jousting were nobility. So when they were out jousting, they were putting on more of their own theatrical display. Of course, they went out to win, but the lances they were using were not war lances, and were made to break, because these nobles didn't want to go out there killing each other. The peasant class at the time embraced the sport of jousting—it was the Super Bowl of sports—but they didn't know any different.

So medieval jousting was more theatrical than the jousting you're practicing now.

Presented by

Scott Meslow is entertainment editor at TheWeek.com.

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