Battle of the Roses brings medieval combat to Roseville

MMA meets OBE in traditional European battle, precursor for national tournament
By: Mackenzie Myers, Reporter
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Crowds gathered Saturday at the Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville to witness a medieval spectacle. Nine fighters from the Armored Combat League participated in several different challenges, taking up swords, axes, shields and armor in one-on-one and three-on-three competitions. This was the first event of its kind in Roseville, according to emcee Dale Walter, a member of the ACL's national team and commander of the Midwest Region.

Last year’s national tournament was in Auburn, but rainy weather drove down ticket sales and attendance. After last year’s event, Placer Valley Tourism approached the league and got the gears turning on this year’s competition in Roseville. Walter said he hopes there will be more events like this in the region.


What is the Armored Combat League?

The Armored Combat League is made up of men and women who compete in traditional medieval combat at the regional, national and international levels. Events include one-on-one combat all the way up to teams of 16-on-16. There are several regions throughout the United States, but California makes up the Pacific Region.

Saturday's event involved three area teams: the Siege of Sacramento, the California Grizzlies and the Golden Knights of Los Angeles. Each team trains a bit differently, but Pacific Regional Commander Erik Saari said the Sacramento chapter practices at a CrossFit gym every weekend. They complete team workouts and build individual weapon skills as well as group battle tactics. Sacramento's chapter was established in 2015 and has 16 members, according to team captain Santos Sanchez.

"Lots of people get involved through Renaissance faires or word-of-mouth," Sanchez said. "There's information online as well, on our website."

Saari, who is also a fire captain with the city of Sacramento, said that tournaments like Saturday's are practice for the national competition. This year’s will be held March 25-26 in Lake Havasu, Arizona. Everyone goes to nationals, he said, but the better the competitors do at smaller events, the more likely they are to be noticed by the league's leadership when it's time to make selections for the national team. Only about 60-65 fighters will go on to represent the U.S. internationally, according to Walter.


Modern mixes with ancient

By the time longsword competitions began at 11 a.m. Saturday, the bleachers were nearly packed with viewers of all ages. But when Walter asked the crowd how many had been to an event like this before, few raised their hands.

As a blacksmith worked on competitors' armor out of the back of a Jeep, Walter gave a rundown of events to the audience, in case they were unfamiliar with the league's operations. He explained the scoring: referees count blows—weapon strikes that hit on the edge and have impact—within one-minute rounds. Whichever competitor wins by two rounds wins that match.

Walter also explained that the weight of the armor the fighters use, anywhere from 60 to 90 pounds, is comparable to that of modern infantry soldiers, who carry about 75 pounds on average. Many of the league’s competitors have previous combat experience, whether through military, police or fire service, or through playing contact sports like football or rugby.

"You're looking at one of the most violent sports out there," he said. "We've taken MMA and added armor and weapons. Where else can you take 60 inches of steel, hit someone as hard as you can and not go to jail?"

To add to the sport’s uniqueness, the international championship in which the ACL competes is always held in European castles labeled as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage sites. The event is televised and holds significance in Europe, said Saari, since this sort of combat is a large part of the continent's history and culture.

"You're standing where people did this hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and now you're wearing armor and fighting," Walter said of the international championship.

Previous international competitions have taken place in Portugal, Spain and Poland. This year’s International Medieval Combat Federation championship will take place in Spottrup, Denmark from May 25-28.