History's Weirdest Sports

Shin kicking at the Cotswold Olimpick Games, Chipping Campden, UK, 21st century. YouTube

4. Shin-Kicking is an endurance sport which involved… well, kicking opponents into submission

Where Asia invented many deadly martial arts and the Ancient Greeks invented boxing, the British invented… Shin-Kicking. In this deadly and oddly-intimate battle of feet, opponents grasp one other by the collar and try to kick each other in the shins. This continues across several scored-rounds until one either falls to the ground in agony or cries out, ‘sufficient’! Incredibly, Shin-Kicking is still played today, though contestants now must wimp-out by fighting only three rounds, wearing soft shoes, and padding their shins with straw. Champion Shin-Kickers are noted both for their agility and endurance in avoiding and giving kicks.

Shin-Kicking originated in England in the early 17th century, at the Cotswold Olimpick Games, a revival of the Greek games organized by Robert Dover, a Cambridge-educated lawyer. In its original form, the game was played by country workers, such as shepherds, though it later became popular amongst Cornish tin-miners, and modern costumes are in imitation of old country outfits. Shin-Kickers in days gone by were fighting for the reputation of their village, and so would harden their shins by hitting them with hammers in preparation for the steel-capped boots they would face on the day of the Olimpicks.