• A group of South Africa’s bravest knights fought in a Magaliesburg car park to see who was worthy of a crusade to Scotland.
  • It’s called Full Contact Medieval Combat and they fight in real armour, which can cost R15,000.
  • They are armed with blunt weapons, based on designs from the 13th and 14th centuries. 
  • Ten South African men and women will compete against hundreds of other knights at the international medieval championship in Scotland.

There's a growing group of South Africans who get into shiny armour over the weekend, to fight each other as knights.

It's called Full Contact Medieval Combat and it involves fighting in real armour, which costs around R15,000 – with real weapons based on 13th to 14th century medieval designs. 

Long a popular past-time in Europe, the local chapter, Battle Heritage South Africa, was established in 2014. 

Last month, members from all of the country came to fight for a place on the South African team for the 2018 International Medieval Combat Federation championship, to be held in Scotland in May. Some 500 knights from all over the world will compete.

The South Africa qualifying event was held in the car park of a village market in Magaliesburg.

For the glory of combat. (Photo Jeffrey Lu)

Events range from one-on-one fights up to teams of 16, called a Buhurt, or team melee. Players fight in one-minute rounds. 

In the one-on-one encounters, fighters with the highest hit points win.

The rules for Buhurt are different. The end goal is not to gain the highest score possible, but to physically knock as many members of the opposing team down to the ground. An opponent is out of the fight and considered “dead” once they have three points of contact with the ground. 

Fighters can compete in three categories: sword and shield, longsword and polearm.

Photo: Battlefield Heritage South Africa

Armour plays a huge role in the event, and can weigh as much as 35 kilograms.

Anton Moller, one of the ten winners (which include five women) of the event, says the ideal weight is under 20 kilograms. "The better the fit, the better the movement. It makes a huge difference when you have to fight."

Moller first came across medieval combat fighting a couple of years ago, when he saw two people practicing in armour in his local park in Fourways, Johannesburg.

“I was hooked. You get to hit another guy with a weapon, what’s cooler than that?” said Moller. He captains the South African team. 

Being a knight presented a convenient opportunity for him to combine his passions of close combat fighting and self-defence training. Also handy: Moller is a part-time blacksmith. He now makes armour that can cost up to R15,000. Other more modern 16th century models can run up to R100,000, he says. 

In true medieval fashion, the competitors are required to dress like they were from that time, including their underwear, says Moller.

Photo: Jeffrey Lu
Photo: Jeffrey Lu

Moller says South African interest has been growing, and this is the largest domestic group that will take part in an IMCF event. The highlight of the tournament is a full Battle Royale with every single knight fighting it out.

Anton Moller, part-time blacksmith and captain of the South African men's Full Contact Medieval Combat team. (Photo: Jeffrey Lu)


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