Just when you thought you'd seen it all, along comes a reality show about jousting. Yes, jousting. Thanks to "Full Metal Jousting," The preferred extreme sport of badasses of yore is alive and well. And if international jousting champion (and proud Canadian!) Shane Adams has anything to do with it, jousting will soon be restored to its former glory as a primetime draw.
Adams has longed to be a real jouster (not just the dinner-show variety) since he was a wee boy growing up on a horse farm in Acton, Ontario. After doing the dinner show circuit for a spell, he decided to pursue something a little more authentic. "I thought I was living my childhood dream, but I really wasn't. I wasn't a knight in shining armor. Instead I was a knight in shining polyester and tinsel," Adams recalls, laughing. He launched his own traveling medieval show 'Knights of Valour.'
Through a series of serendipitous events shortly thereafter, Adams was crowned the world jousting champion at an international jousting competition in Colorado. Media attention followed, including a piece in the New York Times Magazine that asked if jousting is the new extreme sport. Adams decided to capitalize on the publicity, and got in touch with the producer behind the show "The Ultimate Fighter," which revitalized MMA in a way that Adams hoped a show could do for jousting.
The History Network scooped the show up (History Television in Canada), and thus "Full Metal Jousting" was born. As of tonight, viewers can watch 16 badasses push each other off of galloping horses with 11-foot-long solid wood lances in a quest to graduate from an amateur to a professional jouster (and, for one lucky winner, the champion title plus a cash prize). The men train together, fight each other and, in a modern reality twist, live together in the same house where, of course, drama ensues. Intrigued? We caught up with Adams to find out more about what to expect from this truly unique new show.
I thought it was so interesting when one of the contestants mentioned the Heath Ledger movie "A Knight's Tale" in the first episode. Did you notice a surge of interest in jousting after that movie came out?
There's always been interest in jousting. I remember talking to the director of that movie when I was competing in Colorado back in 1998. Jousting never really went away. That's why it's really one of the oldest extreme sports. I'm giving it a rebirth, kind of a makeover for the modern day and age. I'm not just using traditional armor, but giving that armor a facelift to allow people to realize that this is not just an ancient sport any more.
Some of the drills that you put these guys through are pretty interesting. How did you come up with them?
The drills are very important in the training of preparing someone how to joust. The style of riding for jousting is its own discipline, it's a military seat. People just don't understand the amount of athleticism that you have to have to ride a horse with 85 pounds of armor while holding an 11-foot-long solid wood lance with your vision restricted. It's very, very difficult. None of the guys had ever felt what it was like to be hit, because during boot camp we needed guys to make the show. We couldn't be sending them to the hospital just yet! So we implemented those training methods to allow the viewer at home to understand how much these guys have to learn.
Some of the guys get pretty hurt, which may leave some viewers at home wondering what the appeal is ... is it worth the pain?
Well yes, jousting is a violent sport. Yes, people do get hurt. But there are people in North American football in high school who get hurt just as badly, if not worse. Any extreme sport, people are going to question. Why do MMA? Why go into a boxing ring and just hit each other? Why do people joust? Well for me, it's part of my childhood dream, and it's part of my culture. It's part of North America's culture. That was the heyday of our forefather's sport. To bring it back to this day and age, to bring people back to that truth of the bond of man and horse, working together as a team. These guys are warriors on horseback.
I love the one modern element you've thrown in, having them all live in a house together. Will we see any house drama?
As much as this is a reality show, for me it's really not. For me this is a true competition where we've taken 16 guys, trained them as amateurs to hopefully by the end of the process be professionals. So, drama? Of course there's drama. You take 16 alpha males and throw them into one house, well you're going to have guys butting heads. So it's a kind of unique format, very much like "The Ultimate Fighter" where these guys have to live with each other and train with each other.
What do you think surprised the contestants the most about real jousting?
How difficult it actually was. People are going to see these professionals -- some of these guys are Olympic-caliber equestrians -- who had difficulty during training and during the competitions. I'm sure some of these guys have never fallen off a horse before, let alone been knocked off a horse before. So as I tell everybody at the start of the competition, every single one of these guys are gonna hit the ground. The true test of a champion is: do you get back up on your horse?
What's the worst jousting-related injury you've ever had yourself?
Trust me, I've had a lot, because unlike these contestants in the show, I didn't have somebody to train me. I'm the one that reinvented the sport. I'm the one that had to train myself. So I've received many injuries. It's a process of trial and error, and unfortunately when you make an error in jousting you get hurt. I've broken my hand many times, I've had fractures, punctures, broken bones, hemotobins, contusions, concussions and sprains.
I've never seen so much facial hair on a show! Does that give you a competitive edge in jousting? Does it intimidate opponents?
[Laughs] There's some guys on the show that shave! All these guys are tough guys. They're tough dudes. Are you asking if they're crazy? Sure, you have to be a little bit crazy to want to compete in such a violent sport. But at the same time are you really crazy if you want to participate in a sport but get the proper protective gear and the best professional training that you can get? That kind of takes the craziness out of it and transforms it into a true professional sport.
"Full Metal Jousting" premieres in Canada on Wednesday, April 4 at 9 p.m. on History Television.