Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Frederic Piraux-International Jouster & Gentleman At Large."

Frederic Piraux competing at Marle, France '09
(c) Jacques Marechal

     In 2001 I first met Frederic Piraux at Sunset Park , Las Vegas Nevada in October at the annual Renaissance and Medieval Fair.Sadly he had flown in from Canada where he had been a student at a week long school of European Medieval Martial Arts enthusiasts, only to find the person who had been contact with him was unable to make the event. He and his traveling buddy and my family spent most of that Saturday together walking around from one event to the next. At the end of day we exchanged e-mail address and promised to stay in touch. I think to the surprise of both of us, we did stay in touch.

    On the anniversary of our first meeting, I decided to corner my friend, and ask him to give me an interview. Of course being a friend, and knowing I would probably hound him until he did, Fred as I know him, graciously sat down with me via Facebook and granted an interview. What follows is our conversation. Thank you very much my friend.

Editorial Comment: Poor man, I made him answer my questions like everyone else. Modern Medievalist doesn't hold with favorites!

Q: Who are you and where do you come from and or where do you live?

A: Fred (Officially Frédéric) Piraux. Born and raised in Belgium on the summer of '69.
Born in the Flemish part of Belgium but living now in Liège, in the French speaking region.

Q: Where did you start your adventures in the Modern Medieval world?

A: In 1997, I had to stop playing US Football due to knee injury.
A friend of mine was involved into a Belgian federation of armoured combat and he got me into it by making my first suit.
In 2000, another acquaintance who ran a riding school asked me to fill in for an instructor for adults... I introduced them to mounted police (my riding background) manoeuvres and the group Hackamores (name of the riding school) was started.
I met Joram Van Essen and Arne Koets who were organizing their own events in the Netherlands and started riding with them.
Joram proposed to me a spot on his Burgundian jousting team to attend Leeds Royal Armouries competition in 2003... It was the start of it all!

We met in 2001. So this was at the start of your riding and jousting career. Shortly after that or around that time, you began building up Hackamores....
Frederic Piraux and DS Baker
Columbia, SC-'08
(c) Danny Van Hecke

Q: What did Hackamores lead you to. Meaning what did that school become and what associations came as a result of it?

A: Team Hackamores was originally designed as a show troupe operating in Belgium. It is a non profit org that developed around equestrian, armoured combat and pyrotechnic shows.

It quickly developed into a +20 group and we started to travel around Europe.
Quite quickly, we decided that sport competition around "chivalric sports" was to be our drive. And we organized "Hackaland Tournament" from 2001 on. From the second edition, it became a international event growing year after year... up to 14 nations gathered on the field!

Bringing all those people together automatically lead to setting up the EJL (European Jousting League) that was renamed after 3 seasons into IJL (International Jousting League). Team Hackamores has been the Belgian affiliate from the start and has tried to inspire other groups and nations to get started : IJL is now +350 affiliates in more than 20 nations!
Danny Van Hecke handing Frederic Piraux a Lance
2008 Tournament of the Phoenix, Poways San Diego, California
(c) Douglas Herring.

Q: Where has Jousting taken you to? The farthest from Liege and maybe the most interesting person you have met in your travels?

A: My jousting career has taken me around the globe several times and very often... If you consider New Zealand is 12 time zones away... it is not possible to get any further unless you're heading for the moon!!!! US, Canada, UK, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Australia, New Zealand that is a good list, I think. Specially if you consider returning trips! It has really been a fun ride from beginning to end.
I remember my colleague chewing on his sandwich and asking "Where are ya diff wekfend ?"-(Fred works as a Federal Police Instructor at the Liege Police Academy.) and just going "Hm !" When getting Brisbane, Australia" as an answer! It had just become an answer as valid as "Down at the mall!"
So many outstanding people were met over all those years. Incredible characters with their very specifics... boys and girls alike! So many of them that sometimes faces and names get confusing. Still there are a few I will always remember for their bravery and unrivaled support for my hobby : Thorgal, Organdy, Hercules, Marko, Romel, Figaro, Blaze... All four legged friends and nothing but pleasure when thinking of them. Nobility and chivalry is for humans... horses are way above that.
Frederic Piraux at King John III Joust at Gniew Castle, Poland
2012 (c) Studio A Photography.

Q: How are you holding up Physically? I have spoken to several jousters over the past year or so, and the abuse is starting to take its toll on their bodies & what are you doing to counter the effects of getting hit with a lance?

A: Call it luck if you want, but I was never injured while jousting.
Having chosen a re-enactment period where jousting was truly a controlled sport, it sort of prevented me from doing anything really stupid.
Yes, I got hit. Yes I got hit hard! (Thanks Ripper, Graham, Toby!)
But hey! From the start, I liked to quote Vince Lombardi, a great jouster in his heart : " Jousting is not a contact sport, dancing is. Jousting is a collision sport !" Big hits are supposed to happen some times.
The physical wear comes from other activities: police service, quarterbacking behind a weak line and the most vicious wound of them all "that damn aging process".
So, my dear David, if you still don't buy the retirement plan, you're in for disillusionment... It is for real.
I want to do something different with my life from now on. I plan to still be part of the game in some form or another but not the way it used to be

Danny Van Hecke at the King John III Joust held at Gniew Castle, Poland
(c) Studio A Photography.

Q: What are your plans for the future, and what are you going to do with your sidekick? Who incidentally is one of the nicest persons I have met... Are you two going to be partners in your new adventures?

A: Future? Tough one.
I'm not even sure of what I've done with my past!
I have currently examined several options.
As for the jousting thing...
I'm organizing a new style of event in 2014 where jousting will not be the main focus to favor group military manoeuvres.
I'm also offering my services as a "trainer" for whoever thinks he needs my opinion (That should not get me overbooked, I agree !)
Some events organizers also use my experience for selecting competitors fitting their gig.
Outside of medievalism, time will be spent on house renovations, travelling and friends visits.
My favorite furry friend and sidekick, is still very much included in most projects I work on. We are currently taking night school together, learning the Polish language! Great fun, great friendship!

Once again I would like to thank my friends Fred and the ever shy Danny for letting me post your pictures. And for Fred's participation in this interview! Merci beaucoup mes amis!

Frederic Piraux
(c) Danny Van Hecke

Here are a nice selection of Videos from YouTube showing Fred in action!


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