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'Armor Works, Really, REALLY Well'
A Medieval MMA Fighter Weighs in on His Sport

When someone knows a fight game, this is what it sounds like. If didn't know anything about fighting with hand weapons I would believe this guy was a knowledgeable veteran just based on the cadence. Also, surprise, the Russians and the Ukrainians are top players. I bet the Poles are #3.

Facebook commentary between myself and participant in Medieval MMA (buhurt) from the USA, concerning 'I Want To Destroy The Opposition'.


Your friend is spot on about some things. Thrusts are illegal. 1 hand weapons are largely ineffective with a few exceptions. 1 hand swords like arming swords are only good for sword and shield duels for obvious reasons, and they almost never hurt anyone unless someone gets lucky/unlucky (depending on perspective). Many of jokingly refer to maces as noise makers. 1h axes are indeed more effective, but falchions can be formidable in the right hands. It takes a lot of practice to use them "right". With the proper shape (i.e. the style with the percussion point tip, not the style that looks more like a cutlass or machete), a falchion kind of behaves like a sword-axe hybrid, and can deliver nasty blows, particularly with proper placement on armor gaps.

He is also corrext that shield punches are often far more effective. I have not read a rule specifically banning the use of two shields, but I've never seen it done, either, so I have to assume it's illegal. I have, however, seen guys switch their shield to their right arm (assuming they're right handed and their right cross is dominant). Another way to box is to keep the shield on the left and put either keep a short, max weight mace in your hand and choke up on it so the weight of the head is close to your fist (not optimal IMHO). A better way is to pair the shield with a falchion that has a hand guard that acts like a knuckle-duster. I have done this personally, and it is effective. I may experi ment with swapping the shielf to the right and the falchion with hand guard to the left next season. I'll let you know if it works. What your friend is not aware of is just how effective armour really is. It can be frustrating how protective it is if it's set up right. If you watch vids of BoTN and the like, you will see plenty of dudes get dropped by shield punches. You'll even occasionally see them get dropped by mace and falchion blows (I mean concussed, not them submitting due to a painful blow to an armor gap or what have you). IMHO, this is mostly due to improperly padded and chinstrapped helmets, sometimes insufficient helmet thickness and mass, and sometimes just bad luck. This is particularly true when you see some of these fools all bloodied up because the their helmet skull or visor cut them because it somehow managed to compress down far enough and violently enough to contact their flesh. That should never happen, but it frequently does to inexperienced, ignorant, and reckless fighters. I've been hit in the head by our biggest, strongest fighters with 2h axes. All of them. Some blows I braced for, one caught me completely unaware because I made a noob mistake. None concussed me, wobbled me, or even hurt me. I'm not claiming exceptional toughness, but I am saying my helmet and padding (and all the rest of my equipment for that matter) far exceed minimal standards because I like my brain and I don't ever want to be concussed. That said, if you can drop dudes with a punch, good on you, but don't expect to, and don't be surprised if a dude walks through your best shots. Armor works. Really, REALLY well.


Your friend is absolutely right about teamwork being the key. For lots of reasons. Much easier to take a dude down fast if the odds are 2 or 3 on 1. If you take a guy down fast, you will be fresher and less gassed for the remainder of the round, match, and tourney. Seems painfully, simply obvious, but in the chaos of the melee, with adrenaline, tunnel vision, fatigue, poor hearing and poor vision due to your helmet, it's WAY easier said than done. That doesn't mean it's not the right idea, it's just difficult. Bottom line: you want to see what works demonstrated by the best in the sport? Watch footage of the Russians and Ukrainians.

The other takeaway is 2h axes are the most effective weapon on the field, hands down, no question

Also, I agree with his comments on the importance of axe edge alignment, and the conditioning needed to deliver truly effective blows rather than flailing vlows that are all arm. He's right about the elbows, and to do what he's talking about, a fighter has to have a really strong core. Not reasonably strong, but exceptionally strong. And that's kind of the rub - most guys you see on the field aren't exceptional. Except the ones that dominate, that is. I also agree with his commentary on the lack of footwork. A lot of folks bemoan this. Sadly, there's a reason for it. In the duel setting, there is a trend towards the fighter with the deeper gas tank that can throw the higher volume of shots is most often the winner. This often results in two young studs machine-gunning each others legs rather than having a skillful sword duel. At the profight level, it's even worse, and you'll also see a bit of MMA style ground and pound, with occasional ground KOs due to a shield punch against a head anviled on the ground.

This really happens with every fight sport that uses protective gear, with rate of fire coming to predominate, boxing being a supreme example.

I'll give you an example of what the Russians often do. They sometimes run sort of a riot line or shield wall. There will be medium sized guys up front with shields and falchions and 1h axes. These men are fit as fuck, tough as nails, and will not submit to anything but overwhelming force. Their balance and armored grappling skills are superb, and they will certainly take down targets of opportunity, but their major purpose is to stay on their feet, keep whoever's in front of them engaged, and then the big men with halberds play whack a mole over their shoulders. It's brutal. Meanwhile their flankers are running around looking for easy takedowns, to distract, harass, or get into their opponent's backfield to disrupt and cause chaos. If they face a team that they can easily dominate, they will do the same, only the shield guys will push forward rather than hold the line. The Russians and Ukrainians have several advantages. First, they revived the sport, so they've been doing it longer than everyone else and have more institutional knowledge. They are generally younger than our guys by at least 10 years, sometimes 15 years. There are a lot of US fighters over 40, some over 50, and most are at least 35. Their average is early to mid 20s to about 30. They have a deeper roster, so more fresh replacements. They are disciplined, fit and tough. And they have been known to resort to shady tactics to ensure victory even when the odds were already heavily in their favor.

And they are organized. They stick to their battle plan and they do not lose their cool. Also, most of them are truly skillful with their weapons. They know how to hurt people. They're very good at it. Issues like edge alignment and conditioning and that other stuff we discussed earlier are elementary to them.

Bart, please thank you friend.

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