Combat displays usually take place in a roped off arena as part of a public show. They may be in the form of a semi scripted, historically accurate scenario, or as free fighting between individuals or groups. In free fighting the idea is to 'kill' your opponent by landing a well controlled strike to the target area. Of course he/she will be trying to do the same to you, so this may not be as easy as it first seems.
All the weapons used in displays are period accurate as to weight and size. Re-enactment weapons have blunted edges for obvious reasons. In addition to this our minimum safety standards require all combatants to wear safety gloves and a helmet. For new members there is spare kit you can borrow to help you get started and advice on buying or making your own kit as you progress. Initial training is geared to passing a basic combat test, this is to ensure that you are safe to go on the battle field and you have enough knowledge and skill to be able to enjoy yourself fully. You can train further for tests in basic display and basic formation to give you a degree of flair in your fighting and enable you to act as part of a shield wall in the massed battles at larger shows (sometime several hundred warriors per side!). If you haven't had enough by this time, training in advanced techniques and specialist weapons is available for the very brave and foolhardy. We hold training sessions at least once a month throughout the year. In the summer some sessions are replaced by public shows organised by Wryngwyrm or other groups within the Vikings and provide excellent opportunities to fight people you may never have met before. Or maybe ask them how they killed you so easily when you have been training so hard!
Hand to Hand Weapons:
The most commonly used weapon of the time was the spear. It was relatively easy to train a warrior to use one, cheap to make (basically a long stick with a spike on the end) and had the added advantage of keeping your opponent at a distance; always a bonus when they're trying to kill you. It was also very effective when used in the mass ranks of a shield wall. Axes were also widely used and came in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the easily available wood tools, to the mighty and fearsome Dane Axe, reputed to have been able to cut a man in half or kill a mounted warrior and his horse in one swipe!
Only high ranking professional soldiers or the very rich had swords. A sword was specifically designed to kill an opponent and as such had no other function than that of a weapon of war. It was a skilful weapon and needed time to be devoted to training and practice. Good swords needed a skilled craftsman to make them and would have been extremely expensive (perhaps the cost of a high class sports car today) making them out of reach of most people. They became heirlooms, prized possessions and symbols of rank, power and status. Shields in the early dark age period were round in shape and only later developed into the classic 'kite' form used by both Saxons and Normans at the battle of Hastings in 1066. They are effective defence tools being able to be used in single combat or as part of the legendary shield wall. In war, a shield takes a great deal of punishment. Some people favour large strong shields that give good defensive cover but are heavy; others prefer smaller lighter ones for speed and agility. In Wryngwyrm we have all shapes and sizes (people and shields) and encourage new members to try different shields to find the best combination to suit them. Chain mail was expensive to buy or have made and would have been worn by the most well equipped warriors. It afforded good protection against slashing weapons but at the cost of weight. Combat in the dark ages was often bloody and brutish. The aim of Wryngwyrm combat re-enactment is to try to accurately portray this with as much realism and fun as possible, and still be able to get to the pub afterwards, perhaps tired but no worse for wear.
The bows we use for battle re-enactment must be no more than 35lb draw. This is for safety reasons, as on the battle field our targets are live
squishy people. The arrows we use are called ''slow arrows'', they have four oversized flights and expanded blunt heads on the end (for obvious reasons). There is also "display archery", this has all the same disciplines as "combat archery", but no live targets as we use a variety of sharp arrow heads that have been found in archaeological records and loose at inanimate targets. As with the combat there are safety tests and full training will be given.
During the dark ages, the main long-range infantry in a battle were the archers, loosing up to fifteen arrows in a minute. So, if you can imagine being a Saxon, facing one hundred of William of Normandy's archers at the battle of Hastings and having fifteen hundred arrows raining down, you wouldn't stand much hope of surviving. If you didn't get killed there's a good chance you would not last more than a week as the arrow heads would most probably have been dipped in animal dung or a corpse (dark age chemical warfare).
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