Monty Python, meet “Battle of the Nations”

Historical re-enactment is something many readers are familiar with, from stories carried on NCPR or from personal encounters with costumed presenters at museums and anniversary events.

Charlie Schroeder wrote a book on the subject “Man of War” and spoke with NCPR’s Betsy Kepes in 2012 about what drew him into the hobby.

I’ve volunteered a few times to try dress the part of a Canadian townswoman from the 1860’s for events at Dickinson House in Manotick, Ontario. I’ve quit that for now. Why? Reason one: I’m too far behind on my own projects. Reason two: I didn’t feel I was doing it “right.”

It wasn’t very hard to find clothes and re-purpose curtains from thrift stores to pull off an old-fashioned look. But I always knew it was slap-dash at best, and plain “wrong” at worst. The right real wardrobe would be of natural fabrics (wool, linen, cotton). It would not use zippers and would be hand sewn following patterns I wasn’t properly replicating.

Reenactors in a tournament melee in 2011. Photo: Marko Vallius, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Re-enactors in a tournament melee in 2011. Photo: Marko Vallius, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Basically, there’s playing at re-enactment and then there’s serious re-enactment. And, some might say, there’s seriously kookie re-enactment. As described by this New York Times article on an event happening in Aigues Mortes, France right now (May 9-12), to wit: “The Battle of the Nations“.

Filed under sports, the Times article is headlined: “The Holy Grail of Battle Re-enactments.” Reportedly, about 500 participants representing 22 national teams will turn out for match formats that range from one-on-one, to 21 against 21, to all against all – in mass melee fashion.

As the Times explains:

Full-contact armored fighting events grew out of participation in historical re-enactments, which are largely theatrical and tame. More common re-enactment fighting involves wooden weapons in the United States. The Battle of the Nations, in its fourth year, is the first international full-contact competition of this scale that uses steel armor — a heightened risk factor that has attracted a certain breed of fighters. It has been won by Russia every year.

Kind of like a medieval video game, only real. There’s much more – including videos – at the Battle of the Nations website. The U.S.A. wasn’t even a gleam in any nation builder’s eye when knights flourished in Europe. But there is a U.S. team which looks to consist of hefty, mature specimens. (Slim and small physiques may want to sit this out from the sidelines.)

What do you make of this? Are these fighters nuts? Or just gung-ho?

I’ll close with the famous Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“It’s only a flesh wound!”)


Up-dated on May 13: checking back on the “Battle of the Nations” website to see how things turned out, it appears that link no longer works. Here is a Facebook link that does direct properly.

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