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It's not about the prize you win. It's about hearing your rivals wives weep. Fred Piraux has been grooming his horse Thorgal three hours a day, polishing replica 15th-century armor and taking lessons in medieval dancing. Next month, the 38-year-old Belgian police instructor will level his lance at a fearsome opponent, Frenchman Tino Lombardi, in a bid for the top spot with the International Jousting League. WSJ's Max Colchester reports on how jousting, the blood sport of the Middle Ages, is staging a comeback. He speaks with jouster Fred Piraux, who is preparing for an upcoming tournament. "It's not about the prize you win. It's about hearing your rivals' wives weep," says Mr. Piraux. A squire helps the chevalier squeeze into a metal breastplate. Mr. Piraux hoists himself onto his chocolate-brown steed and gallops through the fields on the outskirts of this industrial Belgian town. The advent of firearms ended the medieval sport of jousting in the 17th century. But the Internet has resurrected it and, today, mounted men in full armor charge at each other for glory and global rank. About 1,000 people world-wide take part in this sport, estimates the International Jousting Association, though only 200 have the equipment and expertise to joust competitively. The International Jousting League, a separate organization, has 47 jousters from San Diego to Paris who compete at castles and fields around the world. A far cry from the mock re-enactments at Renaissance fairs, competitive jousting is not for the faint of heart or the impecunious. On the field, jousters are judged on their ability to smash a lance against a crest the size of a dinner plate located on an opponent's left shoulder. The lances weigh 7.7 pounds, are 10 feet 5 inches in length and have screw-on balsa tips that shatter on impact with armor. To win points, the knights have to break their lances. They often also fracture hands in the process. Many jousters are tossed off their horses, but, to date, nobody in these recent contests has been killed. The most high-profile death was that of King Henry II of France, who died jousting in 1559. As in medieval times, there are no universal jousting rules. At some competitions organized by the Jousting League, knights win points for their success in wooing damsels with a post-joust speech and medieval dance. This year, Mr. Piraux bought a new $600 medieval dance outfit -- a red embroidered pleated coat with puffed shoulders, a matching doublet, hosiery and black riding boots. Despite his new duds, Mr. Piraux was outdanced by a U.S. competitor at a recent competition in Belgium. Mr. Piraux has also spent about $39,000 this year in housing and upkeep for Thorgal and his second horse, Organdy, and on new steel-plate armor and a yellow-and-red wooden crest with a tower logo. Loyal Servants In addition, Mr. Piraux pays for the services of a team of loyal servants, including a herald who announces him at tournaments and two squires who are always on hand to help their master.

— jouster on motivation  

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