When sparring, have you ever accidentally kicked your shin onto the opponent’s shin? It probably hurt. The shins are the most exposed big bones in the body, which is why they are a primary target in many self-defense techniques. How would you like to spend an entire class kicking each other’s shins? Unbelievably, this was once a popular sport.
Shin kicking, also known as purring, was a popular folk sport that started in England in about the 16th century. Thanks to Cornish miners residing in Pennsylvania in the mid 19th century, it was also practiced in America.
In traditional purring, the opponents grappled above the waist and kicked each other’s shins with the instep, heel, or edges of the shoes they wore so as not to break their toes while kicking. They often baked the soles of the shoes to make them harder and give them a sharp edge. They were permitted to bandage their shins, however, after a severe match, the men would usually leave the ring with the skin completely off their shins. After a match, seconds would wash the fighters' legs and apply poultices of rotten apples to reduce inflammation and pain.
In America, they used rounds but each round ended in the traditional bare-knuckle boxing manner; when one man fell to the ground the round ended so rounds could be short or last a long time. America shin kickers developed some basic rules:
- Nothing could cover the legs but breeches
- No kicking a downed man
- No kicks above the knee (an automatic forfeiture)
- No grappling
- First to surrender lost
Thankfully, by the end of the 19th century, the sport had disappeared.