The Jousting Life

Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with Ben van Koert, Half of the Winning Team at Arundel Castle International Tournament 2014

The annual Arundel Castle International Tournament was held this year from July 22 - 27. As was announced in a previous article, Andy Deane won the Individual Championship while the Burgundian Alliance consisting of Ben van Koert and Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell won the Team Championship.


Ben van Koert and Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell displaying their Team Championship rings in front of Arundel Castle(photo by Victoria Dawe)

Before Ben van Koert began jousting competitively at tournaments, he created some wonderful videos of previous jousting tournaments with his production company, Kaos Historical Media. Although his skill as a videographer will be missed(though hopefully he will still produce the occasional video), his skill as a jouster is certainly a nice addition to the jousting community.

Congratulations on winning the Team Championship with Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell(aka Pelle) at the Arundel Castle International Tournament 2014!
Thank you!

What were your favorite moments of the tournament?
This is a very hard question. With an event like this, especially one that goes on for so many days, a lot of great things happen. There were so many fantastic moments. One evening we had a spontaneous music and singing moment where such wonderful things happened. Jan Gradon did a great impersonation of a modern pop singer and urged us on to "hit him one more time". Many more songs were sung, and after a while, with great timing, Andy Deane recited "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Tennyson followed by Kipling's ‘The Last of the Light Brigade’. It was a most haunting display of theatre and poetry; beautiful and sad at the same time.

Another great moment to remember was my teammate Pelle’s impression of Donk, who is one of the horses he really liked to joust on. The impression was spot on and it was not long before ‘to donk’ became the go to verb for smashing.

On a jousting side, my favorite moments were when, after a very bad training session, I had sorted out my equipment and everything worked exactly right for the entire week. After this I jousted very consistently and was hyper focused. That state of alertness is so addictive.


Ben van Koert jousts Jarek Struczynski during Arundel 2014(photo by Mark Ainsley)

Another very nice thing about this tournament are the relaxed moments between all the action. The communal food moments, swimming in the lido in the evening, going to the pub for a nice drink. It all adds up.

When and how did you become involved in jousting?
My first encounter with competitive jousting was in 2004, at the event ‘Ridders van de Haar’, where me and my best friend were working as fire-artists. Many well-known names of the international jousting scene were competing there and it was very spectacular.

At that time, I did have some armour, and I had been sword-fighting since 1999, but the jousting – and even quality reenactment for that matter – seemed like an impossible thing to attain. We performed in medievalesque theatre rags to fit the theme, but we were quite out of place amongst the quality reenactors there.


Fire show at Ridders van de Haar 2004(photo by Mieke van den Bosch)

When we were invited to perform there again, we made the effort of looking more historically correct than the year before so we would fit in better with the rest of the displays. When this attempt was met with much enthusiasm from the local reenactment communities, we were invited to perform at more medieval events, which also gave us a steady supply of extra income. The cross pollination of being at medieval events slowly turned us into reenactors ourselves and gave me a passion for beautiful armour, and with the extra income, I was able to slowly assemble a better collection of armour than what I’d previously used.

All this time my friend and I operated independently from any groups, but we became friends with many reenactment groups. One of these groups was ‘Compagnie d’Ordonnance’, a Dutch group portraying the 5th company of Charles the Bold. This group shared a lot of my values of how to portray this period, and so I became a member. With the CdO group we attended a number of tournaments on foot, and we had a blast doing so.


Foot combat at Wapenpas van St Joris 2010(photo by Pixxer)

I really started getting into the medieval tournament vibe, and as many people in the CdO are also involved with Stichting HEI, I started to help out with the jousting tournaments too, as a valet on foot in 2008. This was also the year when I started taking horse-riding lessons, as I wanted to experience the different perspective and to feel how much changes when you’re on a horse. I still had no ambition to ever joust myself, as I still thought it’d be too far fetched for me.

Everything changed when I was invited to join Arne Koets as a valet to help him at Tournament of the Phoenix.


Arne Koets and Ben van Koert at Tournament of the Phoenix(photo by Bob Naegele)

Talking with the jousters over there and hearing their insights to the sport really made me curious. Witnessing the big hits and the competitive, yet courteous, atmosphere awakened something in me. Fighting on foot in mock warfare was fun, but it always was a compromise. The tournament on foot made things a lot better, as it was ‘a plaisance’, so we didn’t try to kill each other, just like they did back then.

However in the joust there is no compromise at all. It’s hit or miss, and it all comes down to doing it with as much flair as possible. Just being able to hit isn’t the sport. Being able to present a good target; making a good presentation at all moments before, during and after a run; and being a good sport about it all; makes it very challenging. Everything has to work together perfectly to make it look beautiful. That’s what I learned to love about jousting back then, and it still holds true to me.

Everything has to work together perfectly to make it look beautiful. That’s what I learned to love about jousting back then, and it still holds true to me.

Arne helped me along a great deal by taking me to a Destrier training session, as well as giving me some fantastic learning opportunities with several of the horses at the Hofreitschüle in Bückeburg for which I’m very grateful. That really gave me a kick start. I worked very hard to reach my goals and with great support from the people at Stichting HEI and Destrier I was able to join my first joust as soon as 2011.


Ben's first joust in 2011(photo by Anton Rustenhoven)

Please tell us about your armour.
This suit of armour always was a work in progress, but in 2007, I chose to start moving towards replicating the brass effigy of Richard Quartermaine. It’s a very distinct style, which reminded me of some Burgundian tapestries. I think it could be interpreted as Italian export for the low-countries market. To finish it, I’ll still need the arms to be replicated, and to be honest, I’ll need to get the pauldrons redone as well.

Every suit is a work in progress and there are still many small things I’d like to change. However it works very well, and that’s what’s most important. It’s all hardened and tempered high carbon steel and I totally trust it.


Richard Quartermaine's effigy and Ben van Koert in armour(photo by Anton Rustenhoven)

My friends always jokingly say that I don’t collect armour, but that I collect armourers and there’s truth in that. The current list of people who have worked on my armour is quite extensive. In no particular order: Stanislav Prosek, Mark Vickers, Jeff Hedgecock, Luke Binks, Emrys, Albert Collins, Per Lillemund-Jensen.
Then I’ve still got some exchange pieces by White Rose and some indian maille. At the moment I’d really like to stick to one particular armourer, but there are still a lot of people whose work is really beautiful and I’d love to add them to the list too eventually.

I love the fact that I’ve got four totally different exchange helms for different disciplines and I love that they’re all by some of the top armourers of the world today. They really are the pride and joy of my collection and they have a very prominent place in my house.

How did you become a competitor at the Arundel Castle International Tournament?
This year was my fourth year at the Arundel Castle International Tournament, although I was a squire and scoring judge for the first two years. The second year Stacy (the organizer) asked me to bring along my armour so I could be the stand-in, in case something happened to one of the other riders.

At the Arundel Castle International Tournament, when the castle opens to the audience, two armoured riders and a lady are sent out of the castle to stand in front of the main gate to welcome the audience in. When Stacy asked me to do the meet and greet in front of the castle on the Saturday that year, I was very happy. Imagine my happiness when I was invited to do a jousting pass with Andreas Wenzel after the meet and greet. I did the pass, and it was a very nice double break. That was a dream come true.

The next year the event expanded from three teams to four, and I was allowed to enter team Burgundy alongside HEI mate Wouter Nicolai. That year I didn’t score very high, but I had a great time. I was extremely grateful to be there, and in the end I won the chivalry prize for that year.

While I was there, I made this short video of a pass with Jan Gradon:


Lancecam of jousting pass between Ben van Koert and Jan Gradon during Arundel International Tournament 2013(video by Ben van Koert/Kaos Historical Media)

This year Wouter was too occupied with the great many shaped solid lance tournaments around Europe to compete at Arundel, and when Stacy asked me to become team captain instead, I asked Per-Estein if he would want to join me in a team and he happily agreed. Historically Norway wasn’t a part of Burgundy of course, so we came up with the Burgundian Alliance.

Please tell us about the horses that you rode during the tournament.
All competitors are required to ride several different horses at this tournament to make the competition as fair as possible, so everyone has to get out of his comfort zone. All the horses at the tournament were fantastic at their job, but with some horses you have a better connection than with others, and as the week progresses you get to know the horses better too. All the competitors help each other out by telling each other as much as possible about any quirks, and the horse suppliers, Atkinson Action Horses, do a fantastic job as well to help everyone perform as well as possible.

Over the course of the week I rode Ted, Aramis, Alfie and Archie. They were all lovely, rock solid jousting horses, but I had a good connection with Aramis, and I was very glad I could ride the finals on him.

When you are at the site getting ready for the tournament, is there anything special that you do?
My ritual is just donning the armour and going over it meticulously before putting it on the final time. If there’s anything wrong or impending failure I want to be conscious about it and repair it straight away, so I often take my time to armour up well in advance and oil the armour before and after every use.

Before the skill at arms I always visualize the run many times over in my head long before doing the run, as it helps me make split second decisions a lot easier.

When you are at the end of the tilt waiting to make a jousting pass, what are you usually thinking about?
I don’t think consciously at this point. I get hyper focused on the things that matter at that point, contact points with the horse, the position of the opponent and the position of the squire with the lance.
The release comes after the run.

What would you like to say about/to your teammate Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell(aka Pelle)?
Pelle did a marvelous job and had a great attitude about the tournament. He’s a great optimist and a great teammate. My only regret is that I couldn’t joust against him, because he was on the same team. I hope to catch up on that some day.


Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell and Ben van Koert, teammates during Arundel Castle International Tournament 2014(photo by ARW Photography)

What would you like to say about/to the others involved in the tournament?

This tournament has a very special atmosphere. The group of people who are involved in this are all very highly skilled and have worked at this tournament for many, many years. Every year some people change, but there’s always a hardcore group of people who make it come together, and by doing so, they create a vibe which makes this tournament bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

Every tournament has it’s own special feeling, but coming to Arundel gives me a feeling of coming home, and everyone works their hardest to make it all come together. If I start naming people, I feel like I would leave out others who also deserve as much praise, so I won’t.

What are your plans/hopes for the future?
I’m looking forward to participating in this fantastic sport for many years to come, and to improving my skills. But above all, I hope my wife and son can come see me joust at the next opportunity. Gerlinde has been very supportive of me, and she hasn’t seen me joust because of her pregnancy and care of our little boy, so I really hope she can join me on my next adventure.


Ben Jr. and Gerlinde Viveen(photo by Ben van Koert)

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and best of luck in the future.
Thank you for the interview and for The Jousting Life website. It’s very nice to have one platform where so much news about the jousting scene is brought together.

You are very welcome!


Ben van Koert during Arundel 2014(photo by ARW Photography)

Related articles:
Burgundian Alliance Wins Team Championship at Arundel Castle International Tournament 2014

Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2013

New Video of "The Grand Tournament of Sankt Wendel"

Training for the Joust with Destrier

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