Whilst the Living History, the educational activities and the Film stuff is important its the fighting displays that most people come to a show to see. Ranging from small skirmishes up to major displays involving several hundred fighters with cavalry and missile weapons a good display is very entertaining to watch. Its also very popular with members of the group. Our displays can be loud, violent* and humorous where appropriate and draw upon the weapons and tactics used during the period. Members will go to great lengths to ensure that their clothing, armour and weapons are correct for the period in question and that the formations and techniques used are both entertaining and appropriate.
In so much as any full contact sport is safe – yes. The weapons we use are blunted (but still made from iron and steel) and we train regularly to ensure that what you see is both entertaining and as safe as it can be. In order to be allowed onto the field various tests are carried out to ensure that each warrior meets a minimum standard and each weapon type has its own test to ensure that the person wielding it knows what they are doing. We also wear protective equipment such as helmets and gloves to protect hands and heads. The fighting you will see is different to how it would have been in that we try to avoid actually hurting each other – whereas obviously the aim of actual combat is the opposite. We do try to make sure it looks as authentic as possible though without actually injuring each other.
Whilst some societies were more progressive than others (in Viking society for example women often held positions of power) fighting was normally an occupation reserved for men. In order to preserve the authenticity side of what we do we follow this principle. However we do allow women to fight provided they wear male clothing. Some of the groups best warriors are female.
The weapons we use are drawn from those that have been found by archeologists for the period and in the main they are spears, swords, axes, knives, slings and bows. Each period, and race, has its own peculiarities but some weapons were common across large time periods and were used by more than one race. A good example of this is the Seax, varieties of which were used for hundreds of years by many races – including the ones we depict. The main weapon that would have been used by a warrior from our period was the spear. Both the spear and the axe were multipurpose weapons and would also have been used for day to day activities such as hunting and chopping wood. This means most warriors would have had one of these as a weapon when it came to hitting people. Swords were uncommon and it was generally a wealthy warrior that had one. Metal was scarce so to use it to make something that really could only be used for killing someone meant you needed to be rich to justify it. Other weapons such as the much feared dane axe took special skills to wield properly in combat so again their use was limited to the warrior classes.
If you are interested in the weaponry we use and want to know more just ask any of the warriors at a display – they are normally more than happy to tell you more.