Lance Basics

This is the proper way for a good man-at-arms to act, as I stated earlier to Your Majesty in the Louvre when He was taking pleasure at tilting at the ring in the gallery on foot, an activity of which I whole-heartedly approve. For the training one gets in carrying one's lance correctly and in various ways, and the judgement of the eye to join adroitly the point of the lance with the ring, can be learned much better on foot than on horseback. The speed of the horse while running, and our great desire to carry off the ring, makes us lose a good part of our judgement.
- Antoine de Pluvinel

Practice with your lance on foot

By practicing with your lance on foot, you can build the familiarity with the weight and balance of the lance that you will need to to handle your lance confidently on horseback. Practice both giving and receiving strikes on foot.

This is a particularly effective training tool if you find yourself initially flinching despite your armor when you are about to be struck by the lance -- by repeating this process on foot, you can acclimate yourself to the strike and the feeling of the oncoming lance approaching you, so that you can eliminate the flinch and not transfer it to your horse. It is unlikely that you will have any difficulty finding friends willing to break lances against you on the ground.

Holding the Lance

The hand that is holding the lance should be "palm up" with the thumb extending away from your opponent. This will help prevent wrist injury during solid strikes, and is less fatiguing as the palm rather than the grip of the fingers will hold the weight of the lance.

Correct hand position

Incorrect hand position

If you are used to a lightweight "cedar toothpick" style lance for spearing rings to the right side of your horse, you will note that the technique, hand position, and target position are distinctly different from the joust, in that:

  1. The target when jousting will always be on your left, and on the far side of a tilt barrier
  2. The lance when jousting will always be couched in your right armpit
  3. The lance when jousting will always be held palm facing up (with your thumb on the right side)

Lance length

Primarily because your target is on the opposite side of the tilt, a proper lance will extend at least 9 feet in front of your wrist. The length of the lance behind your wrist is not important provided that it does not encumber the use of the lance on the horse.

Foam Tippped Lances

As foam-tipped jousting requires only a modest investment in armor, this is a very accessible form of jousting. The lance techniques are the same as for wooden tipped jousting, although the lances themselves are lighter.

For foam tipped jousting, the lance is constructed in three parts:

  1. a wooden base that extends into the cardboard tube, usually about 10" into the tube.
  2. a cardboard tube of six feet in length
  3. a foam tip of at least 22"

The wooden lance bases sold by Ariadne are made of turned poplar and work quite well.

After experimenting with a couple of different tube lengths we've settled on a recommended 6 foot tube as standard equipment. Combined with a base that puts the hand about 12 inches behind where the tube starts, and at least a 22" tip this puts the grip-to-tip length of about 9 feet.  The common tube length a few years ago was 5 feet, and we've found that the extra foot really helps encourage good technique.  With the 5 foot tubes, many riders were tempted to twist their torso as the pass continued because they felt they needed to "reach" to strike their opponent, while with the 6 foot tubes it's easier to keep the lance at a consistent angle for the duration of the pass.  We're continuing to experimenting with some 7 and 8 foot tubes, but the 6 foot ones have been working well and consistently. 

Some tournaments (such as the Emprise of the Black Lion) supply lances, tubes and tips for jousting participants. If you are making your own lances and would like to make your gear interchangeable with the lances sold by Ariadne, you may do so by insuring that the measurement between the front of the hand and the start of the tube is 12 inches.

Wood tipped lances

Wood tipped lance jousting is still an "experimental" activity in the SCA so please contact the An Tir KEO if you plan to pursue this activity.

For wood tipped jousting, the lance is also constructed in three parts:

  1. a wooden base
  2. a short metal sleeve
  3. a wooden tip made of light balsa, scored to encourage breaking with a reasonable amount of force

The wooden lance bases sold by Historic Enterprises are made of turned poplar and have very pleasing proportions. These are excellent lances and the use of them significantly encourages good lance technique. Use of these lances against quintaine and ring targets is highly encouraged for those who wish to develop their lance skills.

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