Shin Kicking World Championship in Cotswold

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    Dover's Hill, home of the Cotswold Olimpick Games for over 400 years.
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    Quadruple centennial Olimpick Games.
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    A quaint little festival.
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    Team arm-wrestling. Wonderful!
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    A local, completely amazed by the time travellers. I wonder if they understand what 'thumbs up' means in their era.
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    I had not been in one of these for about three decades.
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    "I am Robert Dover of yesteryear, and I hereby announce the start of the games!"
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    Potato sack relay race.
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    Bouncy ball relay competition to retrieve a uniform and sword.
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    Wheelbarrow race across obstacles. “Choose he or she that bounces the most and bruises the least.”
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    Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpicks crowd.
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    Hole-punched water-pail race across a very slippery surface
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    Celebrations.
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    It is all fun and games until someone breaks his nose.
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    Straw-stuffed pant-legs for the Shin Kicking World Championship.
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    Greeting opponents for the championships.
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    And they are off!
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    Straw stuffed pants to protect the shins form kicks.
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    Shin kicking is about balance, and throwing the opponent down when he is off balance after a kick to the shins.
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    “A natural amphitheatre for the sound of bruises.”
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    Stuffed and dangerous.
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    Shin kicking appears to not only be painful, but also exhausting.
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    The runner up on the left, unable to continue due to pain, and the victor on the right, unable to move due to exhaustion.
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    Shin kick memories.
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    Left to right: Stickler, Shin Kicking World Champion 2016, stickler, some girl.
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    It was a fantastic day.
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    The Torchlit Procession of 1,500 flaming and burning sword-shaped sticks of fire for the entire crowd marching down the road.
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    Chipping Campden town square to watch Kinky Farnham preform funk and soul.
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    The Championship of the Hill winners, drinking from their cup at the town celebrations.
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    'Oooh' and 'aaah' and the Shin Kicking World Championship.

The Shin Kicking World Championship.  

June 3
Convincing a 20 year old to get out of bed at 10:30 is no easy feat…

It turns out that playing Slayer really loud at 10:45 will make the transition happen!  Now you know…

We got out of the house at about 11:00 and caught the underground to Heathrow to pick up a rental car.  Just the thought of driving on the left side of the road through 12.5 million Londoners to get out of the city made my nerves fray and Heathrow is west of the rest, the direction we were heading anyhow.  A tactical move!  It was £18 for a car for 24 hours and £26 more for insurance that would allow us to walk away from the car with £0 down should someone else not be driving defensively enough to be aware that I hardly knew what I was doing.

Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpicks.

Quadruple centennial Olimpick Games.

The Cotswold Olimpicks & Scuttlebrook Wake takes place in Chipping Campden, roughly a two hour drive west of London.  We were going there there for the festivities, the highlight of which would be the Shin Kicking World Championship Final.

Yes, you read that right….

The Shin Kicking World Championship Final!

There was no way I could miss such an event….  I had pre-booked a room in Chipping Campden at the Volunteer Inn for £70, and when the woman behind the hotel bar made eye contact with me to ask how she could help I told her, “We are here to sleep with you.”  That quickly endeared us to the locals who were curious about where we were from and what we were doing there.  Our favorite local, Mort, looked at my friend and warned me, “You’d better keep the key with you, or she’ll be up in the room with some shin kicker!”  Oh, British humour.

I found this information in ‘The Cotswold Olimpicks & Scuttlebrook Wake’ pamphlet on the counter of the bar…

Shin Kicking
The Rules

  1. Competitors will be assigned bouts at random, with winners of all rounds gaining entry to a final bout. RDGS (Robert Dover Games Society) reserves the right to amend the number of qualifying bouts needed for entry to the next round, according to numbers of competitors. For 2011 this will probably mean one fall is needed to progress through each preliminary round, with three falls needed in the semi-final and final.
  2. Equipment – Competitors must wear long trousers or tracksuits and may cushion their shins by using straw (provided). They will be provided with white coats, representing the traditional shepherd’s smock. Footwear may be trainers, shoes, or soft-toed (i.e. un-reinforced) boots. Any form of metal-reinforced to on footwear is expressly forbidden. This will now be checked both before and after your bouts. Failure to comply will result in instant exclusion, and barring from future events!
  3. Stance. A competitor begins by holding his or her opponent by the shoulders (or lapels) with arms straight.
  4. The contest will be started, finished (if necessary) and judged, by an arbiter, known as a Stickler. The Stickler decides the fairness of a contest.

Fancy your Chances?
The aim is to weaken an opponent, or cause him or her to lose their balance, by kicking his or her shins. Once the balance has been lost, a competitor may throw an opponent to the ground off-balance over a leg, provided that the grasp of the shoulders is kept. A successful throw involves unbalancing the opponent, in the course of a kick. It does NOT involve kicking the opponent to the ground, NOR pushing the opponent to the ground.

– Shins must be kicked before a throw can be achieved. Contact must be made!
– A throw is not valid unless the thrower is in the process of kicking and has one foot off the ground.
– If the stickler deems that the kicker has made an intentional trip, the throw goes to the opponent.
– If a kick is above the knee, the throw goes to the opponent.
– The first person to hit the ground loses the throw.
– The Stickler’s decision is final.

*FYI – ‘The referee used a stock or staff between the combatants to control things and a match could only start when the Stickler withdrew his staff and kicking commenced. The phrase “a stickler for the rules” is believed to have originated from this practice.’ Source

Chipping Campden has hosted this event since 1612 and the Robert Dover Games Society recently celebrated their 400th anniversary.  There has been a lot of shin kicking in the town over the years.  We caught a bus from the Chipping Campden town square to Dover Hill where the games were to take place.  The traffic director near the square was drinking beer.  I liked the festival already…

Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpicks.

A quaint little festival.

The bus dropped us off on the top of the hill and we walked as a group down a small road to a green pasture where we were charged £6.50 per adult to enter The Cotswold Olimpick grounds on Dover Hill.  A group of people entering ahead of us passed through and showed the gate-keeper their wrist-bands.  He said, “Ahh, you are ‘pre-labeled,’ yes, carry on through!”  The grounds were of beautiful, lush, green grass.  Local concessions were selling food and in the background was a hot-air balloon ride that offered free trips up with your patron donation to a community charity.  There was a rock climbing-wall and a team arm-wrestling table.  Everything had a perfectly small town feel.

Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpicks.

“I am Robert Dover of yesteryear, and I hereby announce the start of the games!”

To start the games at 19:30, a knight entered the ground on a Clydesdale horse and an announcement was made that the games would commence.  To start it off was a contest called Championship of the Hill where four teams of five people were in competition with each other in a series of rural sports including:
– a potato sack relay race
– a bouncy ball relay competition to retrieve a uniform and sword
– a wheelbarrow race across obstacles
– a hole-punched water-pail race across a very slippery surface

The Championship of the Hill was amazing and very entertaining.  And the emcee of the event, a man named Christian King, was hilarious….  He suggested that in choosing a member to get into the wheelbarrow, teams should, “Choose he or she that bounces the most and bruises the least.”  For the hole-punched water-pail race, he summoned ‘Dipstick Juliette’ to use a piece of wood to measure each team’s results from their respective barrels.  Later, at the King of the Hill championships, when a man from overseas won the challenge of ‘Throwing the hammer, putting the shot, standing jump, spurning the barre’ the emcee congratulated him to the crowd with, “He tossed a hammer, a big stick, and a wooden ball…  Wayyyy to goooo.  Oh, the stories he will tell his children….”

It is impossible to do justice to the tone and the wit of the emcee Christian.  As the Championship of the Hill concluded, he announced that it was time to change events with, “We have some failing light, we need to get kicking,” and called the competitors down from the crowd for the Shin Kicking World Championships.

The Shin Kicking World Championships are everything your mind has probably rapidly assembled images of at reading such a title…

…Men are there to kick each other in the shins and toss each other to the ground.  If you are looking for rural in the United Kingdom, it is here…

The kicks are loud. The kicks are hard.
The men arrive in pants or tracksuits and the part of the covered leg from the knee to the ankle is stuffed with straw.  The men square off face to face, grappling each other’s shoulders and in an act of aggressing and defending, legs jostle to kick and avoid being kicked in the shins.  The kicks are loud.  The kicks are hard.  When a kick from a boot to a shin connects, the crowd of approximately 1,500 people ‘Oooh’ and ‘Ahh’ in horror at the sound.  During one of the bouts, emcee Christian said over the microphone that the hill we were on was, “A natural amphitheatre for the sound of bruises.”  The shin kicking competition was certainly the highlight of a glorious day, and the finale came down to two men who have both been champions in the past: Adam Vs Zach…world shin kicking championship legends.

The championship bout was aggressive.  It was intense.

Adam, last year’s winner came out the victor in the best of three bout when Zach had to withdraw because of a rib injury from a fall.  Both men were on the ground at the end of the bout, the losing man unable to move from injury and the winning man unable to move from exhaustion to celebrate his World Championship Shin Kicking victory.

Once Adam was able to get his breath, a ceremony took place and the World Championship Shin Kicking cup was handed to him.  Following that a fireworks display took place and a pile of straw bales in a cage were lit aflame.  Then, The Torchlit Procession of 1,500 flaming and burning sword-shaped sticks of fire for the entire crowd marched down the road for the mile back to the town in a very traditional scene that could be from any era of time.  Once the crowd of torch-bearers arrived in the town square, a funk and soul band called Kinky Farnham were mid-set on a stage for everyone who arrived to dance and party.  It was a lot of fun in a busy little town that went on until just after midnight.

Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olimpicks are a fantastic time!  If you are looking for wonderfully kind people in rural England to give you a great experience, this festival in Chipping Campden it will certainly make your Top-Ten list of most bizarre sporting event festivals that you will encounter in your life.

Make you way to the United Kingdom during the last weekend in May of the first weekend in June as it would be impossible for you to not have a good time at the Cotswold Olimpicks, home Adam, the 2016 Shin Kicking World Champion!

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12 Responses

  1. Trevor Dallas says:

    Your Shin Kicking World Championship blog was great.Your humoristic style is witty, keep up the good work!

  2. Leonard Evans says:

    This looks like a very fun festival!

  3. Jen says:

    What a strange, yet fun event! I would totally want to participate in the Championship of the Hill. The Shin Kicking, not so much!

    • harrishog1 says:

      Well Hello Jen!
      It has been a while! I hope you are well and awesome and the journey has been good to you. Your photos always make me happy to see and I hope to see the three of you somewhere on the road!

  4. Emily Kydd says:

    Well add this to the list of wacky events I must see before I die!

  5. Jenny says:

    This looks like great small-town fun! Who ever thought of a shin-kicking competition, seriously?

    • harrishog1 says:

      It was a blast Jenny!
      No one had to punch a clock 400 years ago and no media. They had time to think of crazy things to do on the weekend!
      Thanks for the read Jenny!

  6. Amanda says:

    This is hilarious! I’m from England and have never heard of world championship shin kicking. It just reconfirms for that the Cotswolds are a bit special, in more ways than one!

  7. Jaynie says:

    As I first saw the title of your post, I thought participants kicked themselves, not each other. How funny and what a cool experience you must have had! Thank you for sharing!

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