On the field with the Armored Combat League

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Kind of makes a football helmet seem…dainty

Last year I discovered the Armored Combat League at the Fort Tryon Medieval Festival.  The USA Knights team returned this year with combatants from Quebec, Russia and other nations for the Pomme d’Or tournament.  If you’ve never heard of the sport, allow me to sum it up thus:  The competitors take real period armor (made of modern materials) and real period weapons (blunted for safety) and fight.  When I say fight, I don’t mean the choreographed fights one sees at Renaissance Fair, I mean beat the hell out of each other in the closest thing to real combat as one can get without actually killing your opponent. There are rules against thrusts, striking an opponent when down and several other common sense precautions to keep injuries to minimum, beyond that it’s no holds barred.

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The take down

I am not a “sports” guy, I don’t watch or play a sport, I am a middle-aged, out of shape slacker.  My eyes glaze over when people go on about whatever sportsball they find appealing.  That being said, watching this turns me into a full tilt shouting, cheering, if I had a big foam finger I would wave it nut.  Armored Combat is football for Dungeons and Dragons players!

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See the sword, that is what they DO when hitting real, REAL hard!

The ACL is a sports league, complete with competitions and stars and it growing every year.  This article in Men’s Journal details the spread of the league around the country and the world.  It talks about who the fighters are and what it takes to fight, mostly money and the willingness to get the crap beat out of you.  The league is an interesting blend of athleticism and frankly, nerdiness, it is something new in the world.  It’s not for the faint of heart or the couch potato, the armor alone weighs up to 80 pounds and while the fights are usually brief, there are multiple fights in a tournament.  A fighter needs in excellent physical stamina to compete, even then you are exhausted.

Just gearing up is a long, tiring process.
Just gearing up is a long, tiring process.

The majority of the fighters are men, though the league does host a women’s division.  I was slightly disappointed not to see any women fighters at the festival last weekend.  Keeping in mind the small size of the sport, the relative newness and how most women possess better sense than going about being beaten down by battle axes, I can’t really criticize.


What does it take to take part in the Armored Combat League?  (Aside from peak physical fitness, a tolerance for being beaten with large metal weapons and a passion for medieval combat.)  Time, training and armor, and honestly money: this is not sport where one makes money, one spends it…a lot.  I mentioned earlier that I am not the ideal candidate for joining the league, there is that little voice in the back of my head that says “Hit it the gym, gear up and get hurt!”.  Fortunately, I am able to ignore that voice and keep my contributions to the sport in the realm of support and documentation.  If, however, you want to participate in what may the coolest sport ever invented, then start by going over to the USA Knights site and find a division near you.  (Obviously, if you are in another country, start locally.)

Perhaps you might take the field with the toughest fighters in a chain hauberk and shield this side of 1350!

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