RUN THE GAUNTLET
Medieval warfare is making a comeback – as a fast-moving combat sport. Find
There’s a thriving knight fighting scene in the UK. Find out what it takes to swing a sword and, more importantly, how to take a whack
‘If I was up against you, I’d probably headbutt you,’ says Mark Annable, the stocky 44-year-old spearheading the UK’s medieval combat revolution, to MF’s photographer. ‘It sounds bad, but when you’re facing someone who is taller and possibly stronger than you, you use whatever trick you have. That’s why my own helmet fits really well – it’s so I don’t feel any pain.’
Tough, violent and ultra-spectator-friendly, Historical Medieval Battles – usually abbreviated to HMB – is the fastest-growing underground combat sport in the world right now. Its participants don suits of armour and have at each other with an assortment of steel swords, maces and axes based on authentic medieval designs, either racking up points (in one-on-one bouts) or flooring their adversaries with a combination of grappling and explosive tackling during team battles or ‘bohurts’.
Singles matches are where the artistry comes in – and where you’ll see swordplay that’s most likely to mimic what you’ve seen in Game Of Thrones – but the bohurts are what the crowd come to see. They’re fought in brawls of five vs five or 21 vs 21, and the aim is simply to trip, throw or otherwise smash opponents to the ground. Touching the dirt with a hand or knee means you’re out, and the side with the last team standing wins the round. Certain attacks, such as chokeholds, thrusts and hacks to the neck, are outlawed, but otherwise essentially anything goes, which means the competition relies on brute force, sharp observation, occasional teamwork and terrifying levels of fitness. To get the idea, imagine wearing 30kg of weight vests, wrist and ankle