Heritage Cup: Thoughts of a Tournament Virgin at Ludlow Castle

I had thought that I was getting a bit too old to use words like “Wow!” or “Woohoo!” or “kick him in the Hatanga!” or anything else that needs an exclamation mark. Then I attended my first ever medieval combat Tournament at Ludlow Castle on August Bank Holiday Monday, and Oh Boy! those exclamation marks started flying thick and fast! (as you will see!).

I also have an awful feeling that for most of the day, I was standing watching wide eyed and open mouthed (not a pretty sight), marvelling at the sheer spectacle of fully armoured men run (yes, run!) at each other and then lay into one another with sword or axe and shield. And, of course, it had never occurred to me that a shield could be used for anything but fending someone off. Huh, how wrong was I! In the right hands, they’re a very effective weapon, not just a means of defence.

But this is not just a contest of brute strength. Even I, with my lack of experience could see there was thought, and skill, and finesse in the movements and counter-movements. And when a particularly elegant move was made, or an ‘under-dog’ bested the favourite [for example when a comparative ‘newbie’ took down the Gold Medal winning World Champ!!!], the whole crowd cheered, including the people supporting the senior man!

Then again, that was something else that was not only completely unexpected, but such a refreshing change from most other sporting events. At a medieval combat contest, the supporters of the various teams aren’t segregated, and for a very good reason. Whilst we may have a favoured team [come on you Lions!!] we’re all there to enjoy the event, and everyone mingles in together, everyone talks to everyone else [including patiently answering my endless questions], and everyone gets on together.

If a fighter goes down injured, there are as many of his opponents assisting him as there are members of his own team. And believe it or not, even I was able to help out a couple of fighters with their equipment. No, really, they weren’t just being kind, and putting up with me! Admittedly, when first one bloke asked me if his Aventail was lying flat, and then another asked if I would help him re-position his Rearbrace, I didn’t know where to look [literally!!!!!]. But as soon as what they needed me to do was explained, I was happy to pitch in [and for those of you as ignorant of the terminology as me, the first is the chainmail that covers the back of the neck and the second is the piece of armour that covers the bicep – ta dah!].

So, am I a convert – you bet your bottom dollar I am! I’ve never seen anything that quite matches the sheer excitement, and produces the adrenalin rush, as when watching the contests, and then there’s the camaraderie, and the spectacular amount of effort that each fighter puts into getting their kit as accurate as possible with Eastern, Mongol and Western armour styles on view, ranging from the 15th to the 17th century. And the colours, and the noise [they clank every time they move, but when they are actually fighting . . . . . ] and the badges, and the crests, and don’t get me started on the supporters outfits [I think I can feel another ‘Wow!’ coming on!].

But you don’t have to take my word for it, have a look for yourselves on
https://www.facebook.com/groups/BattleHeritageOpenForum/ or
https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDlliAka3BazJBewLlgkJ2wld8T4_XFwZ or better still, have a look at the forthcoming events page on this Website, and come along to a Tournament!

Will I be going again? As often as I possibly can, and if anyone tries to stop me I’ll hit them in the Cuirass with a Falcata. And if that doesn’t shut them up, I’ll just have to take a Bardiche to their Klapvisor!

Carole Burry.

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