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Germany

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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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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