Published on June 1st, 2012 | by Adrian Simpson0
English Martial-arts: The World Shin Kicking Championships
The field of athletics has come an incredible distance since the original Olympics of ancient Greece, supposedly introduced by Hercules himself. Nowadays, there are a host of spin-offs such as the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, but none quite as weird or as quintessentially English as the ‘Cotswold Olimpicks’ and especially when it holds the World Shin Kicking Championships
Visitors to the Olimpicks, this year held on the 1st June at Dover’s Hill, Gloucestershire, should not expect oiled up nudes and grunting discus-throwers; instead, they should prepare themselves for the ‘World Shin-Kicking Championships.’ The ‘world’ in the title is assumed to be tongue-in-cheek, as the sport of shin-kicking is as English as Morris-dancing, bulldogs and getting a wasp in your freshly-opened Bulmers.
Described by one onlooker as ‘an English martial-art,’ it nevertheless tends to resemble a rowdy playground fight, with the contestants allowed to pad their shins with straw to ward off the worst of the pain. The bout is only over once one person either gives up, or gets taken down with an opportune sideswipe to the ankles.
This form of combat is not to be sniffed at, though – there is a real danger of broken legs, and an ambulance is on hand throughout the Olimpick games to cart off possible victims. Just like that other bizzare and potentially limb-fracturing Gloucester sport, cheese-rolling, the ‘world shin-kicking championships’ have built up quite a following, drawing thousands of spectators every year to watch two men (dressed in white coats to resemble shepherds) kicking seven hells out of each other’s lower legs.
The crowds come not only for this particular sport, but for a whole panoply of historical goings-on (including the odd bit of Morris-dancing) in celebration of the Costwold Olimpicks’ 400-year old heritage. The games were started in Chipping Campden in 1612 by an eccentric Englishman called Robert Dover, a fact that was included in Britain’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games in London!
The modern Olympics surely would not be where it is today without the pioneering efforts of Dover and his band of shepherds all those years ago. Children and grown-ups alike are sure to enjoy the nostalgic delights of this year’s Games, including a Jacobean Village, Medieval dance troupe, traditional sword-fighting demonstrations and toe wrestling.
Mud and Beer Bellies
The lower arena sports, involving potentially a lot more mud and beer bellies than the Greek games, include shin-kicking, but also tug-of-war, hammer-throwing and an obstacle course. After all the excitement and lower-leg battering, the day is capped off by a firework display and a torchlit procession going from the hill down to the square in Chipping Campden, where presumably the contestants will welcome a chance to put their feet up with a pint and an ice-pack!
Tickets are available on the day at £6 for an adult ticket and £3 for a child ticket.