Jousting is a medieval equestrian sport that was designed to demonstrate suitability and fitness for battle. Through the late 1500s, jousting was a very popular sport throughout Europe and competitions were often well attended.
The popularity of jousting declined after this point, although the sport is still practiced by modern fans, who have adapted it somewhat to make it safer. Jousting demonstrations can often be seen at large Renaissance fairs and some organizations hold regular tournaments to display and hone their jousting skills.
In medieval jousting, the goal was to unseat the opponent or to demonstrate the ability to kill from horseback. Most people associate jousting with tilting, a division of jousting in which knights ride directly towards each other carrying long lances. The knights attempt to knock each other from their horses with these lances, typically in three attempts.
Other weapons can be used in jousting as well, including daggers, war axes, and swords; typically, the knights went through three cycles with each weapon before moving on to the next. The goal of medieval jousting was not to kill or even seriously injure the opponent, although this did happen. Often, fellow knights and members of the military would organize jousts among themselves to hone their skills or determine their champion.
An ill-placed blow could result in injury or death, especially if a lance managed to penetrate a jouster’s helmet. Jousts were typically watched by a crowd of nobles and others.