England’s Shin-Kicking Championship Is a Painful Affair

Sometimes described as an English martial art, shin kicking is a centuries-old combat sport in which two participants kick each other in the shins until one of them falls down. Needless to say there is a lot of pain involved.

The origins of shin kicking are lost in the mists of time, but some experts say it started as a variation of wrestling, at least five or six hundred years ago. The brutal sport has been a part of the famous Cotsworld Olympik Games since the 17th centuries and it’s still practiced today. The rules of shin kicking are very straightforward: the two combatants grab each other’s collars and start kicking until one of them falls down. Although pushing or pulling is permitted, contestants have to kick their opponent in the shins at least once before they hit the ground for their win to count. Matches are won by the person who wins two out of three rounds. As you probably know, shin kicks really hurt, so participants are allowed to stuff their pants with straw in order to cushion the painful blows. Still, the organizers of the annual Shin Kicking Championship say the pain is so bad that the vast majority of participants never return. This year, Zak Warren, the previous champion actually defended his title, but it’s a very rare occurrence.


Photo: Andy Brockhurst

Although everyone admits shin kicking is mostly about hitting your opponent as hard as you can, there is a tactical side to it. Not everyone has shins of steel, so they try to avoid getting kicked as much as they can, while trying to knock their opponent off-balance. Also, protecting the front of your leg and making sure most of the kicks land on the side of the leg is also a good technique to tire out the competition. To make sure no serious injuries occur, participants are asked to wear soft shoes, but even so, soft-shinned contestants are sometimes left unable to walk off the battleground on their own two feet.


Photo: Andy Brockhurst

According to legend, the shin kickers of old were steel-toe boots and tried to build tolerance to pain by hitting their shins with hammers. Now that sounds really painful!


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