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I’ll never forget the chemistry prof I had for the one science class I was required to take in my freshman year of college.
“Yes, I’m from Wales. Where men are men, and sheep are nervous.”
I never did particularly well in that class, but I did enjoy coming to lectures. That man was living proof that there’s something up with the Welsh, and almost certainly the Brits too, as a whole. Who else would find kicking each other as hard as you can in the shins to be a fun and entertaining pastime?
Shin-kicking, which is also known as hacking or purring, has been around as an actual organized sport for hundreds of years. It runs as an annual event as part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games, a festival that has long-running roots dating back to the 17th century. The Games are held each year on Dover’s Hill, outside the village of Chipping Campden, a small hamlet in the Cotswolds district of Gloucestershire, which borders onto Wales. Gloucestershire, as you may recall from a few weeks ago, is the same region that brings us competitive cheese-rolling, so clearly I’m starting to wonder just what exactly the hell is going on in the southwest UK.
Anyways, the Cotswold Olimpick Games were believed to be first held around 1622, under the royal assent of King James I, by lawyer Robert Dover – apparently events including horse-racing, swordfighting, sledgehammer-throwing, quarterstaff, and wrestling. It was typically held around Whitsun (the 7th Sunday after Easter, typically May or June), until Puritan presence, who disapproved strongly of what they perceived its roots in heathen traditions, quashed a lot of celebrations around about 1640-1660. After the Restoration, it continued to exist in similar forms, but was eventually cancelled in 1852 because it had apparently simply become too much of a drunken, violent debauchery, though no legal records actually exist backing up any of these claims. This seems a shame, truly.
Fortunately, the Games were revived in the 1950s by a historical society, and the modern form features such events as motorcycle-scrambling, tug-of-war, judo, piano-smashing, dwile flonking, and, of course, shin-kicking.
Legend has it that shin-kicking in its earliest forms had competitors wearing pointy nail-covered boots, or sometimes steel toes, and that they increased their pain tolerance by regularly whacking their own shins with hammers. However, as badass and insane as that is, the modern game is more tame, and probably more sensible as well. Current sport rules follow as such:
- All competitors must wear soft-toed shoes only.
- All competitors must stuff their pant legs with straw before competing. This deadens the blows. Allegedly.
- Competitors will wear white coats (akin to like a doctor’s coat), provided by the Games. These represent shepherd smocks of old.
- Competitors must stand facing each other with hands on their opponent’s shoulders and/or jacket collars.
- Competitors may kick their opponent with either the inside of the foot or the toes, and only to the front or close side of the shin.
- Absolutely no sweep-kicking, slewfooting, etc. of any kind.
- A round is over when one competitor is either on the ground, or cries out “sufficient”, which gives his opponent the point.
- All matches are officiated by a referee or “stickler” who keeps score and makes sure competitors fight cleanly. They get a big stick to separate competitors, if need be.
- In the modern version of the sport, matches are played best 2 out of 3.
Just look at these guys go. I can only imagine how many pints are consumed post-competition as a means of dulling the throbbing pain.
This other video is from the 2014 Cotswold Olimpick Games, which features a nice little rundown of the history of shin-kicking, plus a quick glance around into some of the other events common at Dover’s Hill. The funny-looking wooden castle is a mandatory part of the decor for the Games, and it even existed all the way back in the 17th century.
All in all, shin-kicking is just more proof that human beings will invent some incredibly crazy shit just to entertain a crowd. Somewhere, Troy Vincent is passing out $50K fines for flagrant personal fouls like they’re candy. Good thing they have no jurisdiction here.