Fighting with replicas of Viking Age weapons

With the National Romantic Movement in the beginning of the 19th century, the tales of the Vikings has been popular cultural heritage. Since then we have gained excessively knowledge about these people inhabiting Scandinavia 1000 years ago. The essence of our knowledge of the Vikings might be assembled in a few words – openness and extrovertness. The Vikings were extrovert in several ways. Some went abroad to fulfil their curiosity, others to make money.

And – as most people know – a good deal met the surrounding world with weapons in their hands. To plunder and to collect taxes. But what the Vikings did not know was that this bloody and brutal warfare once in a distant future should be the source for a more or less peaceful sport. A sport where the worst damages normally are bruises: re-enactment of the Vikings martial arts.

The beginnings of our fighting system

Our fighting system originates from england and was invented and developed by a group of english vikings. They travelled far and wide, not only in England but also in Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland & Poland. Throughout all these countries groups have sprung up, fighting and training based on that system called “The Fives”.

The group does not exist any longer, but several of the former members are now part of the Jomsvikings. This international assortment of groups is what we travel out to meet each summer in battle. The system has two basic disciplines: Freestyle and Showfighting, but the shows we do are often a mixture of both.

The rules

We aim for as few rules as possible in this sport, which is made possible only by using Fair Play as a founding principle. With a simple set of rules, anyone can participate, even across linguistic barriers. The object of any fight, man to man, is to hit the area of your opponents body that counts as a hit.

  • Sword: Cut and stab on the torso, but only cut on thighs.
  • Axe: Cut or stab on torso and thighs.
  • Knife: Cut and stab on the torso, but only cut on thighs.
  • Spear: Can only stab on the torso.
  • Daneaxe: Cut or stab on torso and thighs.

Target areas on the body

Torso and thighs, both front and back. If the combattants hit eachother simultaniously, a so-called “Doublekill”, both hits count. A fight pauses after first contact, then resumes for the next hit. How many hits is decided by combattants before hand. Most combat is only to the first hit.

Safety

As all our weapons are made of steel, safety is of the highest priority. The first and most basic rule of safety is that this is a semi-contact sport. No full-force blows. There is no hitting or stabbing on the shield right below the face. If a combattant is stuck on the head or neck, it is a fault, and the hit goes to the wounded. This is called a Headshot.

Freestyle

Freestyle is the actual sport or martial art where there’s a winner and a looser. It’s a contact sport much like fencing, where the one who makes a hit within the agreed hit area wins.

All contact with the metal part of the weapon counts as a hit, but in Ulfhednir we aim at using the cutting edge or the point as much as possible. The flat side of the swords will however be used as well for safety reasons. The most important things in freestyle are movement, feints, speed, steps, distance and wits.

Clean Style

In the last few years there have been experimentations with alternative rules, with the focus on a more ‘realistic’ combat. Here the entire body counts as target area and the focus is on using the edge of the sword, delivering blows and thrusts that would be lethal were the fight real and the weapon sharp. This is called Huskarl or HEMA.

Far from everybody in Ulfhednir takes part in this kind of fighting, but we are all interested in the development on the fighting scene. Especially the tendency to promote style and good killing blows. We call this Clean Style.

Linefighting

The line fight is the team part of our sport. Instead of fighting one against one, as is often seen in martial arts, we fight two teams against one another. Basically we change from single combat to line fighting tactics, as soon as the fight consist of more than two combatants e.g. two against one. Usually the line fight is between to regular teams of about four to several hundred warriors.

More on linefighting

Showfighting

In the show fight, it is the entertainment aspect that counts. Loud bangs, hard blows, splintering shields and sparks from the blades flying around the heads of the warriors. It is here that the audience gets a spectacular show of how it may have looked when Vikings fought.

When we show fight it is weapon contact and blows to the shields that dominate the fight. The show fight is a live stunt battle, where the two warriors fighting cooperate to entertain the audience. Often there are rehearsed stunt sequences worked into the fight, like fist blows and kicks. Yelling and attitude play an important part too.

Usually in front of audience, we start in show fight and ends in freestyle. Here we start the competitive aspect of the fight and it is the sport rules who takes over. When a winner has been decided, we go back to show fighting and finishes the fight with hard blows and spectacular finish offs.

Depending on the type of show, the battles can range from the very rough and brutal to the more comical ones. There is of course a great difference in performing a show on the Roskilde festival or in a kindergarten, and we have experience in all the different types of shows.