Medieval Pastimes

Ancient sports have begun to resurge lately to entertain those of the modern age.


Fencing and archery are traditional sports from the Dark Ages that have made a resurgence in recent years.

Elizabeth Wang and Violet Wang

The Medieval Period, known as the Dark Age in between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance, was a time of gloom and religious wars. To escape the gore of the Dark Ages, nobles and peasants alike would participate in sporting events to showcase their talents and physical abilities.

There were two particular medieval sports that gained popularity: archery and fencing.

The objective of archery is simple: earn the greatest amount of points. The two outermost white rings are worth one and two points; the two black rings three and four; the two blue rings five and six, the red rings seven and eights; the bullseye, or two innermost yellow rings, nine and ten points. While archery was a form of entertainment and a sport of romance, its popularity allowed soldiers to prepare for war. The Medieval Archery Law, requiring that all men from the age 15 to 60 equip themselves with a bow and arrows, allowed the English to utilize their skills to overtake the French at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. With the development of new bows, new techniques have been developed over time as well.

Archery was also used in hunting, and still is today in most parts of the world. Sophomore Kyle Rainey shares his own experience with archery.

“I hunt with a bow, but with that, I have to practice a lot in the backyard. Leading up to gather all the skills is hard in archery. I use a compound bow which has sights. That gives you an idea of where your shot goes while you develop the skills for archery. For the perfect shot, you must not only stay still but also hold in your breath while you aim, as breathing causes you to move. The bullseye needs to be covered by the front sight, and the front sight needs to be in the center of the peephole. A perfect shot can be the greatest end to your day. When you break an arrow due to a Robin Hood, you will not be disappointed,” said Rainey.

Early variants of fencing are believed to have originated in Spain. In conquest, Spanish forces brought fencing around the world, particularly to Italy where the mechanics of modern fencing originated in an Italian school of fencing of the Renaissance. Fencing became a sport rather than a method of military training in the mid-18th century and was led by Domenico Angelo, who established a fencing academy Angelo’s School of Arms in London in 1763. His school dominated the art of European fencing for almost a century. This school specifically taught European aristocracy how to fence. From these extravagant roots, fencing evolved into a sport that is practiced universally in competitions such as the Olympics, the Paralympics, and the Junior Olympics. Sophomore Rithik Ranadive, an ex-junior Olympian fencer, expands on the techniques and scoring of fencing.

“It’s like chess on your feet; It’s a very critical thinking sport and it’s pretty physical.””

— Rithik Ranadive

There are three categories: sabre, which you can hit torso and arms and that counts as a point, foil, it’s only chest and back, and épée, where you can hit anywhere from head to toe and it counts for points. In saber you can slash, it is the most like in the movies. You have to watch out though because you can get carded if you hit someone, say, on the neck,” said Ranadive.

The public continues to widely enjoy and participate in these sports. In the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, both fencing and archery were featured and continues to be expected at the 2020 Summer Olympics.