Duarte of Portugal on Jousting ~ 1434

The following are excerpts from his book, "The Art of Good Horsemanship" from chapters dealing specifically with jousting.

This chapter deals with the actual handling of the lance and how to acquire the necessary skill: When training someone, do it with him standing on foot and show all that is required using a small lance or stick. This is what you should teach; if the lance is being rested on the leg, which is what most people do, hold it with your hand supporting it from below. If you rest it on your chest, put your arm as you can and bend it in such a fashion that it can be used as a rest for your lance. The weight of the lance must be supported by the palm of your hand and not your fingers. And when you want to place the lance under your arm, lift it in such a fashion that the shaft is free from your arm, but once you have the lance under your arm then hold the shaft as tight as you can, resting it partly against your chest, and do try to do it with a certain flair. This point is very important when aiming the lance without a lance rest, as this way the lance is being supported in three ways: by the hand that supports it, by the arm that holds it tight, and by the chest against part of which it is being held. You must lift the lance with a sudden movement, as it is the easiest way. And when you pull the lance away from your waist, move your arm away as it was explained. And when you can handle a small lance move on to a big one gradually so that you do not run the danger of a rupture, backache, headache, or any pains in your legs or hands. When your can handle a lance on foot, then try it on horseback, but always have someone who can advise you of any mistakes you are making. If you carry the lance under your arm, do not allow the tip to tilt upwards, especially if you are facing the wind or the horse is cantering, but hold the lance firmly in the position you want to use it and then guide it to meet your target. If you are riding at the gallop, the best practice according to our custom is to press your feet down, squeezing your legs tight, and allowing your body to go with the rhythm of the movement of the horse."

"Men often fail to score a hit for lack of sight, poor control of their lances or horses or lack of determination. As for sight, some close their eyes when they are about to hit and yet they do not realize because they are concentrating so much. Others realize that they close their eyes but cannot stop themselves from doing so. Others lose sight of their target because they are wearing a helmet or carrying their shields incorrectly. Others cannot see because at the point of meeting the other knight they only turn their eyes or heads, but continue in the same straight posture."

"In order to remedy these four errors it is important to have someone whom you can ask where you failed or where you struck, for if you hit very hard you cannot find out by yourself. And if the person who is watching you finds that you are not hitting every time, or that you are straying from the target, he must tell you that you cannot see, and advise you to keep your eyes open; so that you can avoid the first error mentioned. And if you close your eyes because you cannot help it, that is a very difficult error to correct."

"I do not regard as good jousters those whose horse is brought to them by the reins; then somebody else goads the horse for them with a stick. A good jouster must bring in his own horse, controlling it with the reins or the spurs, holding it back or spurring it on, and bringing it up to the tilt or heading it away as appropriate. For if the horse is handled in any other fashion, few can control their lances and perform well as jousters."

Duarte goes on to talk about some other interesting variations in jousting, such as jousters, whether from inexperience or choice, who launched themselves like a missile down the lists and hoped to make contact. Another intriguing detail is how jousters would use ropes to help them stay in the saddle. Some used ropes, which came from the front part of the horse, and were held in the hand with the reins. They pulled these ropes so tight that the horses could hardly be controlled with the reins. I assume this meant that the jouster held both the ropes and the reins and was not able to adjust the reins.

Good jousting calls for good horsemanship, physical and mental strength and (at least in this day and age in our organization) a conscientious attitude toward the opponent. When these things come together between opponents in a joust, it is truly a joy to watch, or be a part of.

James Zoppe
Founder and Director
American Jousting Alliance



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