Cat Brooks from Nashua, NH, at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH. Knight's Hall is the first proper ACL combat training center in US. “I've been involved in combat sports, specifically medieval combat sports my entire life. It just really calls me. My dad (Jaye Brooks, co-founder of ACL and founder of Knight's Hall) actually got me into armored combat. I went to a practice at the Knight's Hall, tried it out and I did it extremely well. Since then I've been hooked. I love camaraderie aspect and it keeps me out of real fights.”
Damion DiGrazia from New York, NY, at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH. “I'm on US team and I keep trying to get on US team every year and go overseas and try to defend US honor through fighting. It gives me a reason to train my running, my strength, my martial arts. When I'm doing that I'm thinking to myself, what could happen when one of my guys is getting smashed right there, someone is slamming on his back or something like that. I don't want him to drop. The better I am the better I can help that guy come out without stitches on his face and things like that. It sounds like we're all just a bunch of hooligans doing this kind of stuff, but I it's a sport of gentlemen really, fighting and doing their thing but then after wards we pick each other up. So the reason becomes, you come for the amazing fighting and all the uniqueness of this sport, weapons, armor, team fighting, but you stay for the brotherhood that it eventually turns into.”
Sam Awry from Brooklyn, NY, at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH. “Fighting is a chance to make myself better, a chance to improve myself, to challenge myself, a chance to take all the metaphor out of the struggle that life is and make it extremely literal. It's liberating actually. Fighting affects decisions I make about my health, it affects the way that I view the world. This isn't boxing with armor, or MMA with armor, the cultural aspect of this is very important and I try to conduct myself in a knightly fashion. I'd like to think that I am a better person than I was five years ago. And, after you got hit in the face with an ax couple of times, nothing else scares you. It makes the rest of the world easier to deal with.”
Dave Olsen from Peekskill, NY, at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH. “This sport is dangerous, but I've been doing some kind of fighting thing for very much of my life. I also like to climb mountains, so obviously I like it to push myself through danger. I like to know what I can do. One of the best feelings I got from this was first year when we went to (the international tournament in) Poland and we were just a team that came together from all over the US and went to do this thing. Camaraderie was amazing. That you're willing to go into harm's way along with this guy beside you is something you don't get in normal life.”
Brandon Ross from Milford, NH, at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH.
Brian Caton from Lebanon, ME, at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH.
Sam Awry practices sword techniques in the basement of his apartment building in Brooklyn, NY.
Damion DiGrazia jumps in full armor during warm up at Sword Class NYC in Harlem, NY.
Robert Dionisio shows Rodney Versace how to hold a sword during an event at Sword Class NYC in Harlem, NY.
Weapons lay on the ground during the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon park in New York City.
Craig Nadler repairs Mark Elrick's helmet during the 2015 IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
Robert Dionisio, Andre Sinou and Bill Woodbury prepare for fighting during the IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
Bill Woodbury talks to his wife Heather before a 5 vs 5 match during the 2015 IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
Knights discuss tactics before a 3 on 3 fight during the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon park in New York City.
10 vs 10 match between Spain and Poland during the 2015 IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
16 vs 16 match between USA and Poland during the 2015 IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
USA Knight Paul Friedel attacks Danish opponent during a 16 vs 16 match at the 2015 IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
Jaye Travis Brooks Sr. wields his axe during the ACL National Qualifiers in Pitman, NJ.
Brandon Ross comforts Don Brant who was hit in the back with an axe during the ACL National Qualifiers in Pitman, NJ.
Weak from exhaustion, USA Knight Micah Nelson rests after a 16 vs 16 match during the 2015 IMCF Medieval Combat World Championship at Malbork Castle, Poland.
Fighters rest and discuss the battle after a match at The Knight's Hall in Nashua, NH, the first ACL combat training center.
Dave Olsen bleeds from a wound to his nose after a match during the ACL National Qualifiers in Pitman, NJ.
Andre Sinou signs a wooden sword for a fan after the ACL National Qualifiers in Pitman, NJ.
Steven Battles and Stephen Parker record a 3-D image of Sam Awry at Sword Class NYC in Harlem, NY.
Medieval European Full Armored Historic Combat is a full-contact, full-force fighting sport. Originating in Russia, the sport spread from Eastern Europe to the West and is now present on all continents. It is gaining traction in the USA where about 250 fighters are organized in Armored Combat Leagues' (ACL) chapters spanning East and West coast. The fighters practice their skills in chapter wars and at national tournaments where the best ones are chosen to represent USA on international level.
Combatants wear steel medieval armor and use medieval weapons. The armor and weapons, sometimes weighing 80 pounds, have to be historically correct and most armor is based on 14th and 15th century Western European armor. Armored combat combines elements of different martial arts. In melees, kicking, pushing, smashing, shoving, boxing and hitting with weapons, hands and feet is allowed. Little is forbidden, though certain moves like hitting the neck or back of knees is a no-no. Mostly, anything goes. The goal of the fight is to bring opponents to the ground and the team that has the last man (men) standing wins the match. In addition to melees, common ones are 5 vs 5, 10 vs 10, and 16 vs 16, there are point-based duels where fighters use long swords, swords and shields, and arm poles.
Fighters come from all walks of life – carpenters, IT technicians, ex-marines and project managers in investment banking go at each other with full-force. Some fighters have martial arts background, for others it's the first contact sport they're taking part of. Some are attracted to historical aspect of knightly virtues and historical armor and weapons, some love the dynamism of this sport and it's physicality. Injuries are not uncommon, but the dedication of the knights is unwavering. Despite the brutality on the field and occasional broken bones, at the end the sense of camaraderie prevails.