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Full Contact Sword Combat during the Medieval combat in Russia. Source: Wranglerstar / YouTube Screenshot.

World Championship in Medieval Combat Unfolds Like a Ukrainian Game Of Thrones

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This weekend the ‘World Championship in Medieval Combat’ was held in the Ukraine where hundreds of warriors clanking around in armor, swinging swords and axes, in a scene reminiscent of an episode ending in Games of Thrones, delivered real life blows at each other using replica metal and wooden weapons in what appeared to be a show of unbridled violent carnage. But was it really?

The Medieval Competition

This festival of medieval games was organized by the International Medieval Combat Federation and unfolded over four days in a park in the village of Kopachiv, situated about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Kiev. This major international event was attended by twenty-nine teams from different countries and a France 24 article said teams from “Britain, Germany, China, and Australia fought full-contact battles in a sandy arena, some on horseback and others on foot.”

Full contact jousting during the Medieval games. ( / YouTube Screenshot)

Full contact jousting during the Medieval games. ( / YouTube Screenshot)

This was the first time Ukraine hosted the international championship, which last year was held in Scotland. Polish fighter Krzysztof Olczak said, "We travel around the world, we live for this hobby” and he boasted that his “armor weighed even more - around 27 kilograms (59.5 pounds)… You need to have good protection,” he added.

Christopher Barre who is the captain of the French battle squad offered his praise to the competition as being “Superb,” and said that “wearing armor more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds)” he struggled to fight for longer than two or three minutes. This is understandable because most fighters wore helmets and metal-plated armor to protect their arms and legs, and most also carried shields.

Wearing armor during the Medieval combat was a struggle. (Wranglerstar / YouTube Screenshot)

Wearing armor during the Medieval combat was a struggle. (Wranglerstar / YouTube Screenshot)

I could not help noticing that the competitors who were interviewed all referred to the “weight of their armor”, which could mean one of two things. To followers of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the statement perfectly justifies the proceeding action of sitting down for a warm cuppa after only three minutes combat, but Freudian psychologists might suggest the fighters are all obsessed with the size of their, well in this case, jousting poles!

But is it right that grown adults get away with setting such as poor example of violence for children in 2019? Shouldn’t we know better? Maybe not…

Penetrating The Philosophical Question

Let’s cut straight to the months after the Columbine high school massacre in 1999. The BBC reported that family members of the shooting victims “sued 25 video game companies that they blamed for influencing the deaths”, in which participants shoot various targets to accumulate points.

And it’s hard not to wonder if any external factors might have influenced the decisions of the medieval enthusiasts that died last week of crossbow wounds in Germany, although that seems like a unique situation.

Medieval Crossbow. (Dario Lo Presti / Adobe)

Medieval Crossbow. (Dario Lo Presti / Adobe)

Acts like this, when offered to readers in isolation, out of context, would quickly lead one to conclude that shoot-em-up video games really do influence young minds so powerfully that they turn some children into mass-murderers. However, the question of whether video games are really harmful, or not, lacks a clear answer. Psychology Today say that “the latest statistics show youth violence at a 40-year low despite the popularity of video games” which is something that really does have to be taken into consideration.

However, this said, most media psychologists insist “game violence is directly responsible for shooting rampages” and this is the perception that filters through main stream media. Surely then, if society was so concerned with protecting its children from exposure to violence, it would quickly say good bye to X-Men, Avengers, and Rocky movies, which all contain endless hours of battery and murder.

The point is maybe, where do we draw the line? But that opens up an even more subjective realm where an opposer can shout “that’s barbaric, from the dark ages” - but the supporter would be quick to reply “so is horse racing, dog hunting, and boxing” so ban all those and come back to us then.

Also, if protecting children from violence was a realistic goal, not only boxing, wresting, and MMA, but all eastern and South American martial arts would also need to be banned from television. And good luck with that, when Medieval combat, according to Smithsonian Magazine, is the “newest thing in the mixed martial arts scene” and is “straight out of the Middle Ages.”

Knights battling during a Medieval combat championship. (Gili Yaari/ Fair Use)

Knights battling during a Medieval combat championship. (Gili Yaari/ Fair Use)

In August 2015 Russian MMA promoter M-1 Global took a page out of  Game of Thrones when thinking up new ways to keep audiences’ attention between the main fight events. What began as full-contact jousting matches evolved into one-on-one bouts between fully-armored fighters, writes Marc Raimondi for

These “in-between duels” proved so popular with fans around the world that the company actively searched for more knights to compete. These fights are pretty much like regular MMA bouts, only with chain mail, plate armor, full helmets, and shields. And these events are much, much more violent than the Ukrainian competition, which looks like a reenactment event in comparison.

As in regular MMA fights, there are moves the fully armored fighters are forbidden from using, for example, head butting, submission holds, and attacks to the spine, neck, feet, and ankles. Where in the Ukrainian competition when a knight falls down he goes and gets a cup of tea, in MMA, once a knight hits the floor his opponent can take three strikes to finish him off with hyper-violence.

Is the Medieval Combat Championship Really Medieval?

So, is there a danger in re-enacting and bringing new life to activities that come from far more brutal times?

Compared to the televised sheen of the MMA events, the Ukrainian event is just a chaotic palaver of middle aged men smashing into each other like kids on dodgems, but within this debacle, a few rules exist between the warriors. In direct contrast of the goals of their mediaeval counterparts, they never target parts of the body not protected by armor - for example, the neck, elbows, and wrists. And, if a warrior is pulled from his horse or knocked to the ground he is automatically disqualified from the competition.

In reality, compared to MMA, the largest spectator sport in the world, the World Championship in Medieval Combat is just a carry on in a park where people dressed up as knights have a great day out, with some punching thrown in for effect. The stakes are low. Nobody is betting billions of dollars on their violence.

Top image: Full Contact Sword Combat during the Medieval combat in Russia. Source: Wranglerstar / YouTube Screenshot.

By Ashley Cowie



LOL Been going to the Pennsic War in western Pennsylvania [I joke it is one of several national conventions] and they have field battles in armor ranging from minimal required to full plate armor, been going on since the late 70s [my first Pennsic was 1979] and one rarely hears them whinging about how heavy the armor is.

Check youtube, there are vids there of a guy in full plate turning acrobatic moves. In period, it wasn't ardurous because you grow up in armor and well made and fitted armor is actually comfortable and by the time you spend hours every day working out in it, it is a second skin.

Good grief almost every image was from battle of the Nations the opposing organization of the imcf.

Good grief people.

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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