‘Throw an axe at that person’s head’: Step into the ring as fight knights clash

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If cosplay is not real enough and mixed martial arts is not extreme enough for you, then a group of Toowoomba competitors may have the sport for you.

It is known as historic medieval battle (HMB), sometimes referred to as Buhurt, and once the visors go down and the cage is closed you are transported to a very different world.

“We describe it as MMA in armour,” Kyle Weblin said.

Far from a mainstream sport, HMB originated in Eastern Europe, and Mr Weblin is the current Australian lightweight champion in the profight category.

“Knees, elbows, punches, headbutts are all legal. You can’t manipulate small joints and you can’t stab with the weapons. They’re basically the rules in a nutshell,” Mr Weblin said.

A fighter in steel armour holds a sword and shield
Weapons in HMB need to be blunt and have an edge of at least 2 millimetres.(Supplied: Neil Jose Photography)

The competitors dress in full sets of armour made from steel and titanium.

“The armour comes from all different time periods, from about the 13th to the 16th century,” Mr Weblin said.

A fighter in armour kicks their opponent into the corner of the steel cage
Combatants can punch and kick as well as use weapons.(Supplied: Neil Jose Photography)

Once in armour, competitors are inspected by a marshal, then the 90-second round begins.

“It almost feels illegal,” laughed 18-year-old Klay Arnold.

“Even holding an axe just feels strange, but once you get used to it and think it’s a sport, and the other person knows what they’re getting into, it’s fine.

Two men in suits of armour sit and talk before fighting in the ring
Jaccob Dawes, left, and Klay Arnold discuss tactics at the Toowoomba Fight Knight.(ABC Southern Queensland: Peter Gunders)

Mr Arnold discovered the sport on YouTube and has almost won over the whole family.

“Dad loves it, mum was sceptical … but grandma hates watching me get hit. She can’t come and watch me,” he said.

A flag showing a wolf portrait and runic text hangs over a warehouse entrance
Toowoomba’s Tyr’s Warriors train in a warehouse three times a week.(ABC Southern Queensland: Peter Gunders)

Competitors train from three to eight times a week.

The Tyr’s Warriors training warehouse is lined with tyres swinging from chains.

“Tyres are a fairly good substitute for a person,” Mr Weblin said.

“A lot of us have built makeshift opponents out of tyres and star pickets at home.”

The weapons are blunted but can still make a dent in the armour.

Two fighters in armour and shields fight in a caged arena
Shields are used for both defence and attack.(Supplied: Neil Jose Photography)

The connection to the past is a big part of the appeal to competitors.

“I love history, and my family has a lot of English and Irish and Scandinavian ancestry, so it’s cool to think this is what my ancestors were doing hundreds of years ago,” Mr Arnold said.

“It’s quite a different sport to football,” Tyr’s Warriors president Jaccob Dawes said.

“Sparks fly off our helmets, swords bend, helmets getting dinted. It’s pure adrenaline.

A fighter in armour holds a sword
A set of armour can cost upwards of $2,000.(Supplied: Neil Jose Photography)

The Toowoomba group has continued to meet for friendly monthly competitions during the pandemic.

COVID-19 restrictions meant the Australian Championships were cancelled earlier this year, but these real knights hope they will be able to have some real competitions real soon.

A fighter in armour holds a sword above his head
All armour has to meet technical and aesthetic requirements.(Supplied: Neil Jose Photography)

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