"Dragon slaying" might be an odd skill to list on a résumé, but Robert Idrizi—a knight at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament—knows that you can never be too prepared. When we first met Idrizi, he was dressed in his average work clothes: a full suit of medieval armor with a streak of black paint across his face. Five minutes later, he was fighting to the death in front of a roaring crowd.
Idrizi may cut an imposing figure, but he was more than willing to sit down and talk with us about his day job as a Medieval knight. It's one of the few occupations that requires a battle-ready mentality every single day, not to mention expert jousting skills and use of medieval weaponry.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
"The first thing we do is get our equipment on. This includes our boots, tights, and practice gear. Then we get the weapons out. We usually start our practices with riding to get the horses warmed up, then we'll get into more specific things—piercing the rings with the lances, jousting, or horseback sword fighting."
"Our knights spend several hundred hours training."
– Robert Idrizi, Medieval Times knight
"We really train the knights hard from the beginning, building up their leg muscles and building up their arm muscles to hold the swords. Our knights spend several hundred hours training. They have to push themselves beyond what they think they can do, because people aren't paying to see ordinary people—they're paying to see knights in action."
"Performing in the show. When I come out of that curtain and the lights all come on and the music kicks in and people are cheering or booing, it's a very amazing thing. I also really enjoy training the horses. I've trained horses to do everything in the show. When you see a horse come in from the field, it's scared of everything and doesn't trust anybody. We train them to the point where you could be swinging a sword a couple feet from their head, and they're fine with it."
"It's just more fun being the bad guy."
– Robert Idrizi, on his favorite character to play
"I enjoy playing the villain. It's just more fun being the bad guy. You're the one who gets the crowd going. Everyone's cheering for their own knight, but there's only one guy who can come out here and turn everybody against him."
"I personally don't, but I have seen people who do. They'll be talking after the show in the locker room, and they'll still have their accent on."
"A lot of people assume we're all actors or stuntmen or horsemen, but most of the knights who work here have no previous experience whatsoever. We have to train them from the ground up."
"Certainly. I wouldn't go as far as to say we're real knights, because we're not really fighting to the death. But we've got skills that would definitely let us compete. We know how to ride horses, we know how to use a shield, we're strong enough to swing a weapon, and we're physically conditioned to do the sword fighting. So yeah, I think we would be able to hold our own."
This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated.