Game Of Thrones As Sport: 'Historical Medieval Battle' Is A Thing

In this martial arts where competitors are in knight armor, the athletes beat each other with axes and swords — until someone falls.

Battle royale in Kyiv on May 18
Battle royale in Kyiv on May 18

SMEDEREVO — While fans around the world have been racking their brains over Game of Thrones, even filing a petition to have the final season rewritten, the comparison with the series has the Iron League athletes tired: "Our sport is ridiculed," says Jonas Freese.

Freese is national captain of the German squad of Historical Medieval Battle, a full-contact sport filled with knights in armor and with historical weapons such as battle axes, long swords, and clubs. The Iron League is the sport's umbrella organization in Germany. In early May, Freese led some 40 fighters in the Battle of Nations world championships held in the Serbian city of Smederevo. "We are often associated with the series, but we do not do fantasy," says Freese.

On the contrary, in the medieval martial arts, all that is happening is very tangible: Hematomas and bumps are the least you can get, and it is not infrequent to see blood flowing or, sometimes, bone fractures.

They're going to turn each other into mush!

The unusual martial arts has little to do with harmless knight games in which costumed performers revive the old days and pretend to fight. Freese and his colleagues have athletic ambition and they want to win duels and battles.

Sometimes, the sport is as brutal as an actual battlefield. "I was invited by friends to a tournament in Luxembourg and thought, "My God, what are they doing there? They're going to turn each other into mush!"", says Alexander Jost, chairman of the Iron League. However, the clank of swords and axes did not stop him: "After a minute, I said: "I want to do that too!""

The German medieval warriors were fighting for medals at the Battle of Nations in Smederevo from May 2 to 5 along with 34 other nations. The Germans competed in the individual fights as well as in the classic "five against five" and in the "twelve against twelve" fights.

For the tenth edition of the World Cup, a competition of 150 against 150 was held for the first time. For the "mass battle", the German team had partnered with Italy and also fought alongside Russia, which eventually got a majority of medals. "With the 150 against 150 a dream came true for us. We have been hoping for a very long time for a full contact battle of this size," said Freese.

For the first time, women were also admitted to the competitions this year.

In the group battles, the goal is to defeat at least two of the opponent's units. In addition to the strong sword and ax strikes, the fighters also know how to use tackles similar to American football. Despite the various bruises and lacerations, the martial-looking sport rarely causes more serious injuries.

"It's an aggressive sport, it's a martial art, but in the end, you shake hands," said Gavin Stewart, vice president of the Historical Medieval Battle International Association (HMBIA). For the first time, women were also admitted to the competitions this year, but they fought in a special category.

Also, if the Germans envisioned going home empty-handed when it came to smaller battles, a triumph by Russia's side in the 150 against 150 was a safe bet. And after the heated battles, the opponents celebrated in the evening with a jug of honey wine and honor their friendships.

Editor's note: Germany got the bronze medal in female sword and shield, which was attributed to Melanie Gras, who also won bronze in the female pro fights. Germany's heavyweight pro fighter Sebastian Coors was awarded a silver medal.

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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