What It’s Like to Actually Fight in Medieval Armor

Ever won­der what it was like to real­ly fight while wear­ing a full suit of armor? We’ve fea­tured a few his­tor­i­cal recon­struc­tions here on Open Cul­ture, includ­ing a demon­stra­tion of the var­i­ous ways com­bat­ants would van­quish their foe—includ­ing a sword right between the eyes. We’ve also shown you how long it took to cre­ate a suit of armor and the clever flex­i­bil­i­ty built into them. But real­ly, don’t we want to see what it would be like in a full melee? In the above Vice doc­u­men­tary, you can final­ly sate your blood­lust.

Not that any­one dies in the MMA-like sword-and-chain­mail brawls. In these pub­lic com­pe­ti­tions, the weapons are blunt­ed and con­tes­tants fight “not to the death, just until they fall over,” as the nar­ra­tor some­what sad­ly explains. It is just a legit sport as any oth­er fight­ing chal­lenge, and the injuries are real. There’s no fool­ing around with these peo­ple. They are seri­ous, and a nation’s hon­or is still at stake.

This mini-doc fol­lows the Amer­i­can team to the Inter­na­tion­al Medieval Com­bat Fed­er­a­tion World Cham­pi­onships in Mon­te­mor-o-Vel­ho in Por­tu­gal. What looks like a reg­u­lar Renais­sance faire is only the dec­o­ra­tions around the main, incred­i­bly vio­lent event. We see bat­tles with longswords, short axes, shields used offen­sive­ly and defen­sive­ly, and a lot of push­ing and shov­ing. Con­tes­tants go head-to-head, or five against five, or twelve against twelve.

Twen­ty-six coun­tries take part, and I have to say for all the jin­go­is­tic hoo-hah I try to ignore, the Amer­i­can team’s very nice­ly designed stars and stripes bat­tle gear looked pret­ty damn cool. The Vice team also dis­cov­er an inter­est­ing cast of char­ac­ters, like the Tex­an who wears his cow­boy hat when he’s not wear­ing his com­bat hel­met; the man who describes his fight­ing style as “nerd rage”; and the cou­ple on their hon­ey­moon who met while bru­tal­ly beat­ing each oth­er in an ear­li­er com­pe­ti­tion. (No, the knights here are not all men.).

There are injuries, sprains, bro­ken bones. There’s also the mad­ness of inhal­ing too much of your own CO2 inside the hel­met; and smelling the ozone when a spark of met­al-upon-met­al flies into the hel­met.

Thank­ful­ly nobody is fight­ing to the death or for King/Queen and Coun­try. Just for the fun of adren­a­lin-based com­pe­ti­tion and brag­ging rights.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Accu­rate Recre­ations of Medieval Ital­ian Longsword Fight­ing Tech­niques, All Based on a Man­u­script from 1404

A Hyp­not­ic Look at How Japan­ese Samu­rai Swords Are Made

Renais­sance Knives Had Music Engraved on the Blades; Now Hear the Songs Per­formed by Mod­ern Singers

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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