It’s not every day you can fight like a knight, but thanks to Medieval Armoured Combat Ireland, I fought for two!
This was the top Irish experience I was looking to take on and I absolutely could not WAIT to do it – I’m really glad I did. Going into this, what I expected and what I experienced are completely different.
Months ago, I started to banter with Medieval Armoured Combat Ireland on Twitter – their handle is @Armoured_Combat. We struck up a bit of a friendship and they invited me along to the Claregalway Castle Full Contact Medieval Tournament.
I bicycled up from Galway. It was one of the coolest cycling experiences I’ve had. On the right hand side, a castle appeared out of nowhere! It was there! Flags and all! What a cool experience!
When I met the boys and I felt instantly welcomed with open arms. I was delighted that they put me straight to work with a tent raising!
The next day, they put me into full body armour. I have never ever been in medieval armour before and I loved it. The closest I’ve ever been is training in a weight vest at the gym. I’m really glad I did all those extra training sessions, too, because fighting as a knight is kinda like wearing a heaver weight vest but all over your entire body. It’s actually much more difficult than training at the gym however, at the same time, it’s very similar to circuit training because you fight in one minute intervals.
It took about 30 minutes to “knight -up” because when you’re starting out, you kinda don’t have an idea how to put your gear on. Luckily, I had an experienced ‘squire!’
You’re not going to believe this, but the armour is really comfortable. I’m serious when I say this. It’s like you’re getting one big medieval hug! Sure, you feel a bit weighted down, but it’s actually not that bad. Until…
…you fight. This is where all that circuit training with the weight vest comes in handy. You’re in the ring for one minute intervals, followed by a one minute break, followed by another minute. For every square hit, you get a point (there are rules as to how the hits need to be). The officials count up the hits which may result in yet another round. This keeps going until there’s a clear winner or you’re stuffed.
Combat can stop briefly due to armour failure and, yes… this does happen a bit. Leathers break due to over use. It’s common and no one is really upset by it. A lot of the knights know their way around metal and leather to fix their gear.
So, what it’s like being in the ring? Well for me, I was scared to death. There is was a bit of a slope into the ring and I was REALLY HOPING I wouldn’t fall down the hill. My body was a bit off centre because I didn’t have the muscle memory to appropriately carry the gear on my body but my strength really compensated for it.
When you’re helmet is down, you kinda cant breathe and in some cases you cant even see your opponents eyes. This is frickin scary. You’re staring at a knight holding a sword who’s about to hit you a lot. You don’t even see or hear the crowd around you. Then, the official asks you if you’re ready to fight – and this is where I had my “oh shit” moment. Was I REALLY ready to fight?? Oh yes, yes I was…
I have never done this before but I went with my instinct. I had the sword in my left hand the shield in my right and I gave it my all. I got really annoyed when I kept getting dinged in the head by the sword. But when I figured “hey this doesn’t hurt” I gave it my all. I got in there and did the best dragon slaying moves I could!
After about 40 seconds, you start to feel drained… but when you get to the final ten, try and get those extra points in! I bashed around a few more times – got a few more dings in the head! And what’s really cool is I smelled some pretty weird smoke. It came from the sword meeting the helmet. That smell made me mad.
We were pulled to our corners for a one minute rest. OMG. I NEEDED IT. (Imagine a boxing ring but with medieval knights) And, unfortunately that break was over too quickly – I was at it again. I went a bit harder but felt a bit weaker and a lot more all over the shop. Lara won. I was ok with that. It was my very first time ever doing anything like this.
I guess the boys thought I wasn’t totally cray-cray because they allowed me to try it again – this time I was in the ring fighting three times against three very experienced opponents from around the world. That means, I went six minutes – so two minutes per opponent.
After a bit of a crash course in the long sword, which included my favourite – sword pommeling – I was ready to go at it again. This time there was NO HOLDING BACK. I could see the eyes of one of my opponents and that totally freaked me out. So, It was a do or die. I took no prisoners and got right in there and pommeled her straight in the helmet! She then tried to take out my legs with some jujitsu moves but I couldn’t let that happen. I moved my legs and delivered another pommel strike!
I lost every single battle but it was worth it. I LOVED IT. Would I do it again – YES. Will I be looking for a local team – YES. I am now HOOKED.
Through all the thick armour and all the hardcore full-contact combat, I discovered that these knights were thoughtful gentlemen. They took me under their wing and treated me with such kindness. From the very beginning, I was still one of the boys and I loved it. They didn’t treat me any differently because I was a girl – in fact they welcomed it and gave me amazing advice on how to fight!
The thing is… with this sport, there’s no egos – and there can’t be. A lot of the armour is shared. It’s expensive – it’s a very niche sport. And once egos get involved, this sport can be very dangerous. But these guys look after each other – sure, there’s a lot of metal bashing and it’s absolutely great fun – trust me, it’s amazing FUN! All the countries that came out to this event, looked after each other. It was very welcoming environment. I even got a medal!
I’d like to extend a very big and warm THANK YOU to Brendan and the medieval team including the international countries for allowing me to experience such EPICNESS. I LOVED it and I cannot WAIT to continue in this incredible sport!
A girl gone walkabout in the great big world!