By Jeff Pfeiffer
You’re probably familiar with the medieval sport of jousting, either through watching movies or seeing Renaissance fair performances. But did you know that there are groups of people who are diehard, modern-day practitioners of that activity? One of them is Charlie Andrews (pictured), who leads the Knights of Mayhem — a group that is the subject of National Geographic Channel’s new reality series Knights of Mayhem, premiering Nov. 15 with two episodes at 9pm and 10pm ET/PT. Charlie and his “knights” are hoping to put jousting on the global map while competing in various tournaments across the country.
“It will be the greatest show to ever hit TV!” laughs Andrews, who definitely does not lack for confidence. And he needs every bit of that bravado, considering the intense pounding he goes through as a practitioner of full-contact, heavy-armor competitive jousting. Andrews is the current reigning champion of the sport, and founder of the Ultimate Jousting Championship (UJC).
Knights of Mayhem follows Andrews as he recruits and trains a troupe of knights, while keeping a step ahead of his rival and onetime training partner, Patrick Lambke (aka “The Black Knight”). The series also shows that these guys don’t view jousting as a mere dinner show, the type you might see in a place like Medieval Times (“[that]’s all frickin’ staged,” laments Andrews, who got his start in such “theatrical jousting”).
“There are people who claim they are jousters,” Andrews says, “and there are thousands of Medieval Times guys and all that nonsense. But that’s not the real deal. … Right now we’re kind of a rare breed. … A lot of people think they can do it, but you know, not everybody’s an NFL football player. So you’ve got to kind of do a reality check first. But if you’re going to come in, I provide horses, I provide armor and I provide the training. You just show up and joust.”
The jousters don 130 pounds of steel armor, mount 2,000-pound horses and charge each other with lances, with the resulting hits (“like two cars going head-on at 20 miles an hour and you don’t have your seat belt on,” as Andrews describes them) having the potential to cause concussions, broken bones and worse.
“[But] it’s deceptive,” Andrews explains about the injuries he’s sustained jousting. “In the heavy armor, I haven’t really had any real bad injuries. It’s mostly been a concussion here and there, a broken hand, some of that nature. Now, in the more Medieval Times style, where we just carried a shield, I’ve had everything go wrong. I’ve broken a collarbone, I’ve broken ribs, punctured a lung, had a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lung that almost killed me. So I hate to rattle off all those injuries and have people attribute it to the style we do now. The style we do now is pretty darn safe. There’s definite injuries in this, but I’m top of the food chain right now, so I’m pretty much delivering all the punishment.”
With this series, and a recent deal with FOX to produce his next live UJC event, Andrews is confident that more and more people will discover and love jousting enough for the activity to recapture the glory it once had as an extreme sport phenomenon.
“The one thing we lack is that nobody knows jousting even exists right now,” Andrews explains. “I put on the first UJC event [on June 18] and it went fantastic, it sold out. That will be on the fifth episode of the show that we shot. And that’s where the focus is, to watch this grow as a professional sport, have a live event series on FOX, just like the UFC just signed with them and be able to tour the country in sold-out arenas, just like the PBR, UFC, follow all those programs where they’ve already established it. Basically bring jousting back and modernize it into a professional sport.
“The [jousting] tournament in [medieval] days was the Super Bowl of its time,” he continues. “Entire countries stopped what they were doing to compete in tournaments. … [Then] jousting kind of went underground, and now we’re bringing it back. I don’t pretend to be the first guy that thought of jousting; there’s been a lot of people jousting for quite a long while, probably going back to the ’70s and doing their version or their style. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I’m just modernizing it as a sport and bringing it to the public, and I’ll let them decide what’s cool.”
© NGT/J.J. Kelley