The Orange Medieval Fair presents the progression of jousting to become a professional sport

A resurgence of the medieval sport of jousting saw it grow from amateurs on “wild horses” to a growing professional sport.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, jousting was one of the most popular sports, as knights and nobles risked their lives for glory.

But by the 17th century the sport largely died out as people turned to other equestrian events.

However, over the past decade there has been an increased interest in the sport from ordinary Australians who want to be knights in shining armour.

Luke Binks has been jousting for over 20 years and has seen the sport grow from a handful of people across the country to hundreds of participants.

Luke Binks has been jousting and making armor for over 20 years. (ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

“I used to travel from Brisbane to Bathurst just to have someone to train with,” Mr Binks said.

“It’s gone from that backyard game to a very polished sport where people play it professionally.”

Growing female presence

On Saturday, the Orange Medieval Fair showed how this once male-dominated sport has evolved.

Three of the eight competitors were women, which Renae Marisma hopes will inspire the next generation of jousters.

“There are now a good handful of us playing professional games and there are a lot of girls in training,” she said.

Two knights on horseback joust with big sticks
Jousters from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales attended the first Orange Medieval Fair.(ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

Ms Marisma says the opportunity to compete against men in a contact sport is a rare opportunity and something she relishes.

“There are no handicaps, so we all ride the exact same type of armour, the same horses. We just ride against the boys and we do very well.

“It doesn’t matter how much we weigh, how tall or how tall our horses are, we just ride.

“We just have to stick with them.”

Discipline is the key

For former Australian Special Forces agent Philip Leitch, the jousting provided the environment he needed after service.

“Any type of training if you learn this discipline will help you, before you were in the army it was martial arts discipline, now it’s jousting.”

Four people in armor with shields
The fair included Viking fights, falcon flights and medieval cooking. (ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

Mr Leitch’s 12-year jousting career has seen him compete around the world and includes a world championship which inspired his daughter to take up the sport.

During this time, he witnessed some of the dangers of the sport.

“Sometimes you walk past and say, ‘Did I really get hit? because the armor works quite well.

“Other times your eyes roll back and you see stars for a second and then you wake up wondering what happened.”

“Thousands of Hammer Blows”

In addition to being a jouster, Luke Binks perpetuates the lost art of being a blacksmith.

Mr Binks said the methods used to create jousting armor had not changed for 700 years.

“There aren’t many modern machines that can be used to replicate medieval armor because they are very specific in how they work and fit,” he said.

“There’s usually about six months of work per weave, with thousands and thousands of hammer blows.”

Three knights in silver armor seated on horses
More than 5,000 people attended the Medieval Fair of Orange.(ABC Central West: Hamish Cole)

Binks says replicating the armor used by knights in the 15th and 16th centuries is vital to the sport.

“For us, finding something better than what they created back then is almost impossible, so we kind of have a knack for just copying what’s been done historically.”

Sara R. Cicero