Shin Kicks or Side Splits

Matthew Surprenant, Editor

Over the millennia of human history, humanity as a species has expressed themselves in an incredible variety of ways. Painting has served as a valuable medium for expression since prehistory, as cave paintings have evolved into the great works of DaVinci, Van Gogh, and Dali. Human sculpture has similarly progressed from relatively simple clay pottery to behemoths such as Chicago’s gigantic steel bean. Even the way we build our buildings has been an expression of the collective human experience. Yet, there is another, more passionate expression of human emotion: the martial art. Girding the lines between artistic expression, self-defense, and sport, martial arts have been a facet of human culture since people first figured out that a great many issues could be solved by punching them repeatedly. Although this train of thought has caused many issues, if I could cite the case of Cain and Abel, it cannot be denied that humans have devised a great many ways of smacking away their problems. One that I’d like to describe today would be the great English sport of shin-kicking.

It has a long history in England, with the practice beginning in England in the early 17th century. It was an era marked by the first English colonies in the New World, the heyday of William Shakespeare, and the prelude to the English Civil War. Needless to say, it was a pretty fun time to be around, if you were ok with all the smallpox. The sport of shin-kicking quickly became the hip new thing for the peasants, becoming a key part of the English “Cotswold Olimpick Games,” which was a far superior version of the modern olympic games.  

The concept is simple enough. Two contestants meet one another in a field, shins strapped with straw and soft shoes full of feet (steel-toed boots were allowed at one point, but I’m pretty sure you could see the problem with allowing them in a match. What with the, steel in the toe and all.) The contestants, wearing coats that resemble the shepherd smocks of old, hold onto each other by the collar and on the referee’s mark: begin to kick one another. This kicking continues until one of the contestants succumb to the pain of having their shins kicked in repeatedly by a burly Englishmen. To let others know that they are enduring an insurmountable amount of physical anguish, the contestant yields to the other by crying out “sufficient!” and probably falling to the ground crying, wondering why they ever become a contestant in a sport that was basically being hit in the shin by a razor scooter over and over again. This Anglo-Saxon cycle of pain and suffering continues until a contestant wins 2 out of 3 rounds. Most likely a plate of fish and chips are given to the winner.

You might think that this sounds like a dangerous, silly, and ultimately frivolous game that can cause only injury. You might be right, from a certain perspective, but don’t worry about the injury part: the players wear straw on their shins for protection. From my perspective, shin kicking sure is an interesting sport. I’d like to play, maybe, ok probably not I like having shins. Still, if you want to kick your friends shins in all for a taste of some sweet, sweet fish and chips, go for it!