Full contact fighting

What is Full Contact Medieval Fighting?

It’s fierce, it’s furious and it makes for very fun viewing. Invicta team captain Rowland Longley fills us in on the (limited) rules of full contact fighting in medieval armour.

Nothing sounds more medieval than the clash of metal on metal, sword on armour! Once purely the realm of knights on the battlefield, full contact medieval fighting has recently been revived in the UK, as a fully-fledged sport open to anyone. Fighting can take the form of one-on-one duels or epic battlefield competitions with as many as 300 fighters clashing. Wearing full armour, participants swing long swords, use punching shields and generally clobber each other.

Invicta, the UK’s largest full contact fighting team, has joined us at the Loxwood Joust for the past few years where they’ve demonstrated the sport. This year, they take a larger stage as we host the Loxwood Kingdom Cup tournament. Led by Invicta, and welcoming teams from across Europe, the competition sees fighters compete in brutal battle for victory throughout the festival.

We spoke to Invicta team captain Rowland, who has been in the sport for 9 years…

What are the rules of full contact medieval fighting?

So…there aren’t many! There are certain places you can’t hit – the non-strike zones. They’re the back of the neck, the feet, in the groin and the back of the knee. You also can’t bend a joint against snap angles, that’s arm bars and things like that.

When you’re duelling, it’s a game of point scoring based on how many times you get hit. And when we’re doing the group fights, it’s more the last man standing. If anyone gets a third point of contact to the ground, then they stay there until the round resets, and then they go again.

It’s all about working as a team and being able to take down to the floor.

Who can take part in full contact fighting?

Anyone really. We get people from a real range of different backgrounds. I had no fighting previous background but others have been doing Muay Thai for years or come from rugby or judo backgrounds which come in handy. We’ve got people that come from re-enactment backgrounds who just decide to give it a go. Male, female. There are around 5 female teams in the UK and some mixed.

What armour do you wear?

Most people have titanium but some prefer steel, though it’s really heavy. There are some standardisations in terms of thickness, but everyone builds their own set of armour, most of it sourced in Ukraine, Russia or Poland. There is a lot of variation in terms of helmets in particular.

How dangerous is full contact medieval fighting?

You can get injured, of course, despite the armour. Ideally from a blow you shouldn’t really get injured. However, things happen – for my hand came out of the gauntlet and then got hit with an axe. It’s mostly bruises that you get because the armour is so good, but for serious injuries it’s normally ligaments. They say it’s the same injury rate as rugby, because you’re doing the same sort of stuff, body checking and going down.

How can I get involved?

Find a local club. Start off doing some soft kit training so you can get an idea of what you want to do. We have people that just do the duelling discipline and then others that like the group fights, but you’ve got to get the taste to see. Once you get a feel for it, it becomes a lifestyle. We train every week and then we run regular events and can travel a lot. We’re all best mates and we’ve got friends around the world now. If you’re interested, definitely give it a go.

The Kingdom Cup will take place in the Invicta Arena throughout the Loxwood Festival. Take your place by the arena and see full contact fighting for yourself.