RUN THE GAUNT­LET

Me­dieval war­fare is mak­ing a come­back – as a fast-mov­ing com­bat sport. Find

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

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’.

Wield­ing gear

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

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