Originally, tournament was a competition between mounted warriors. Gradually they changed from wild mock wars, that destroyed entire villages, into a regulated form of sports, where it was forbidden to cause any actual bodily harm to the opponent, even though weapon use was practiced. Finally the joust between two men became the main event.
During tournament events, there were also some official duels between men of the knightly class. According to the ancient Germanic tradition, such mortal combat was fought on foot. Official licence to fight a duel was often not given lightly and the combatants had to await for their permission to fight from their liege lords sometimes for years. Only the most gravest offences and slander were enough reason to challenge someone to a duel. God himself was called upon to judge the result of the combat, as it was widely believed, that so only the just cause could win.
However, even the heavy cavalry often had to fight on foot. Such occasions were for example sieges. Sometimes, to help to pass the time and ease the tensions of a long siege, the besieged and the besiegers could do tourney against each other. These tournaments had to be arranged at the gate of the fortress in such a way, that the sports combat would not turn into a gharge through the gate into the fortress, or a sortie out of the fortress. To prevent this, a stocky barricade or a fence was erected in front of the gate. The contestants would then fight each other across the fence. The besieged within the fence and the besiegers on the outside of the fence.
During peacetime tournaments sometimes were arranged in such a way, that they represented sieges, by the erection of a wooden mock fortress. In front of this set piece fortress gate, a fence was placed in between the contesters, just like at an actual siege. Later even though no mock fortresses were erected, the fence between the combatants in sports fights of foot tournament remained more to prevent accidents, than to prevent any sorties. Much the same way as the tilt barrier between the mounted jousters. The fence also made all the difference between friendly sports combat and personal duel to the death.
The men-at-arms who belong to the Armour Smiths Guild now call upon all knights and men-at-arms of ready hand to take part in the foot tournament in front of the very gates of the set representing the “Fortress of Love” and according to good tradition fight across a fence. The Challengers defend the gate and the Challenged may take part, if they have ‘four points’ of armour (head, torso & arms and hands). Shins do not need to be armoured, since the fight is on foot and strikes may only be given over the fence. The challenged may choose as weapons either wooden clubs, provided by the organizers, or blunt steel weapons of equal measure. The marshals and the varlets have to accept the used weapons beforehand. If a contestant does not have an accepted weapon and only carries his sharp weapons of war, the organizers and challengers of the Armour Smiths Guild shall provide them with safe weapons.
The prize of victory belongs to the one who out of three strikes gives the best strike. The best strike is decided by the noble ladies who act as the referees of the tourney. The ladies are advised in their duty by a “Knight of honour” or by one of the marshals. The best strike is the most skilled one, not the most powerful, nor the fastest. As the use of exes power, or terrible haste are not the hallmarks of a skilled warrior, but those of a coward terribly afraid of losing. The one who brakes the rules of the tourney shall not win the prize. The one who by taking an unnecessary risk, in hate, or by otherwise deliberately harms their opponent shall not recieve the prize.
The Role of Women in Tournament
Wether they were the noble ladies, fair maidens, or wives of knights and men-at-arms, women had a significant role in the tourney. They acted as the referees and they handed over the prizes to the victors of the combat. They were there to bear witness to the brave deeds of the men of their families and noble houses. A contestant who dishonoured a lady would face a most severe punishment, such as being disgraced by being forced to sit on the fence in full armour to be ridiculed by anyone, or even being beaten up by all the other contestants until a lady would beg for mercy for the beaten man.
The Armour Smiths Guild call out for all the noble ladies, fair maidens and wives and widows of good standing and reputation to join in as the referees for the foot tournament and to escort one of the contestants from the tournament encampment to the field of glory.
Equipment requirements for the tournament. Equipment of the participants should fit in the time period of the event as well as guarantee the safety of the participants. Allowed time frame for the equipment is A.D. 1350-1410.
- Helmet with visor (for example a bascinet and maille aventail or an early armet)
- Neck protector (separate maille standard or bevor)
- Mail shirt with cuirass or coat of plates/brigandine
- Leg armour
- Arm harness
- Also recommended
- Heraldic surcoat
- Groin protector
- Wooden shield
Main rules of engagement in tournament combat
- Do not hurt your opponent.
- Do not take risks that might lead to hurting your opponent, or anybody at all.
- Do not strike, or stab at the face, neck or groin of your opponent.