Traditionally, Royals, aristocrats and the gentry have greatly indulged in various forms of sport as a past time. But, more than just a way to spend a sunny afternoon, sport helps its participants get and stay fit, learn much-needed teamwork, sportsmanship, determination, self-betterment and even makes some appear more handsome.
Now, they or even us might not always come out on top, but we all play with a strong sense of self. Partaking in some of the world’s most important sports is something that every gentleman should aspire to do, regardless of your ability. Remember, gentlemen: it’s the taking part that counts.
First played by nomadic warriors in central Asia over two thousand years ago and modified into a sport for the British aristocracy by nineteenth-century cavalry officers, polo is considered to be the oldest team sport. The ‘sport of kings’ has been growing in popularity and accessibility in recent years, and is currently played in 77 countries, although the undeniable leaders in the field are Britain, Argentina and the US.
Whilst the thought of eight men waving wooden mallets charging at each other on horseback might be enough to put off some, the pure, adrenaline-fuelled thrill guaranteed by the fast and furious interplay of sportsmanship and aggression is more than enough of a temptation to switch from treading in the divots to making them.
Tennis is a sport instilled deep in the heart of the British people and rightly so. Synonymous with pure determination, dexterity and elegance, it is not a sport that is confined merely to the dimensions of a court. Its enduring influence over culture and style is undeniable. The enthusiasm which experts and amateurs, as well as casual spectators alike, follow grand slam results are second to none.
3. Flying A Plane
This one might seem a little more intimidating than those which take place within the safe confines of a carefully mown pitch, but who would turn down the opportunity to take to the skies under their own command? A skill that few can lay claim to, it is one that truly marks out a gentleman.
4. Riding A Motorsport/Superbike
Not for the faint-hearted, this is something any self-proclaimed ‘petrol head’ ought to have some experience in. Simply spending as much time as possible in the fast lane of the motorway isn’t enough, take to the racetrack to test out your gear stages in true style. Take the Ducati 916 on a Saturday night at Sepang Circuit will certainly be well worth it for the experience.
Sailing, doing it properly at least, requires not just strength and skill but an understanding of the elements to bend the wind and water to do your bidding using just a couple of pieces of canvas and some rope. Whether yachts or catamarans is your style, there’s nothing better than the feeling of skimming across the waves with the sea air in your face for gaining a little perspective on life.
If hair raising speed, precision, daring and partiality to a large midday lunch break are character traits that you can lay a claim to, and you are yet to try skiing, then welcome to a whole new obsession. There’s something completely incomparable about giving way to gravity and whizzing down from dizzying heights, nothing but you and a solid mass of mountainous snow beneath your skis.
It was actually the British sense of adventure that first realised this, seeing the chance to take traditional long-distance skiing to greater altitude and velocity. The combination of winter holiday and extreme sport is one hard to beat, and the chosen pastime of countless gentlemen; from HRH Prince Abdul Mateen to David Beckham.
Learning to fence might not have the practical value of bygone days, but there aren’t many opportunities in the modern-day for gentlemen to pick up a weapon and pit themselves against each other in an amalgamation of violence and long-established chivalry.
With an image as synonymous with the romanticism of bygone days as it is with masterful aptitude and coordination, fencing is a worthwhile and impressive addition to any gentleman’s repertoire.