Shin Kicking Trivia

Shin kicking was once widespread throughout England and Wales and even exported to America.
  • In Lancashire, shin kickers would fight naked--wearing only clunky, metal-trimmed clogs.
  • In shin kicking, contestants square off, lock arms and hack at each other's shins until one of them is thrown to the ground. In the bad old days, shin kickers wore hobnailed boots with metal toecaps.
  • Some losers-and winners-ended up crippled for life, while a few died from their injuries. Welsh fighters wore thick shoes with nails sticking out the sides.
  • The sadistic pastime was so dangerous it died out in Britain by the early 1900s. However, the good folk of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire revived the 'sport' as part of the celebrations for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
  • On the east coast of England, "Collars and Elbow men" would hack at each other in a now-extinct style known as Norfolk wrestling.
  • A veteran Norfolk gamester called "The Celebrated Game Chicken"said shin kicking "requires a good temper and a great deal of caution" to avoid "getting desperately kicked". "Kick sharp or faint, kick high, kick low, to kick certain is the main thing."
  • A report from 1843 tells of a 45-minute clog fight near Manchester, involving two men "both in a state of nudity with the exception of each having on a pair of strong boots". The winner went on to kill an opponent in another shin-kicking match and emigrate to Australia (it's unclear whether he left of his own choice or at Her Majesty's Pleasure).
  • The goriest account of shin kicking comes from the US, where Welsh coalminers introduced purring to Pennsylvania. One man's ”flesh was laid open almost to the bone, and the blood spurted out in streams”, though he never uttered a word. Instead, he gave his opponent a "sole scrape": "Beginning at the instep and ending just below the knee pan, (his opponent's) left shin was scraped almost clear of skin."
  • By the end of it, the first man's legs, "although bound up in plaster, were bleeding freely, and the exposed places looked like beefsteak. His opponent's shins had both been scraped clean of the flesh, and the blood was oozing out from between the strips of plaster."
  • Modern shin kicking is a somewhat cushier sport: opponents are allowed to stuff straw down their trousers to cushion the blows.
  • The 100-mile Cotswold Way connects Cooper's Hill (the home of cheese rolling) and Chipping Campden, so you could hike from one event to the other--provided you still have the use of both legs after cheese rolling.
©J.R. Daeschner

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