Real History Behind Game of Thrones (Explained by Historians & George R.R. Martin)
The Real Game of Thrones
Bored of your current fitness routine? Then you may need to think outside the box. So outside the box, in fact, that it's now a jot on the horizon. That's because a University of Bath study has found that jousting — you know, the run at another armoured man on horseback with a lance type— requires hardier levels of fitness than footballers, tennis players and F1 drivers combined.
Frankly, your weighted vest won't cut it here, m'lord. Instead, professional jousters — they do exist, after all — were found to have that enviable single-digit body fat, similar cardiovascular levels to professional sportsmen and huge upper-body strength. Which, frankly, makes you look like the jester.
To help send the message home, MH suited up with these men to see what it takes to weaponise their medieval muscle.Huzzah!
(Related: WatchThe Realm, a short documentary about Britain's Medieval Fight Club)
It would take a brave man to call Andre Sinou a geek to his face. At 6ft 2in and weighing over 18st, the US Marine reservist cuts an imposing figure in his civvies – let alone now, stood in the red dust of the combat stadium, wielding an axe big enough to split your skull in two.
The men assembled in this horse arena on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, may look like extras from a certain HBO show, but the truth is far from it. When Sinou swings his axe, it will crack his opponent in the chest with rib-shattering force.This is Medieval Combat and the rules are simple: the winner is the last man standing. Combatants line up in bouts of one-on-one, five-on-five, or the merry carnage of 16 vs 16. They proceed to smash one another with swords and maces, aiming to knock opponents off their feet. This isn’t Dungeons & Dragons: “It’s full contact,” says Sinou, captain of US national team the Striking Eagles. “The melees are about brute force and athleticism.”
Regulations were brought in by the sport’s international governing body to mitigate against the deaths which blackened early contests in Russia, where the events originated less than a decade ago. Stabbing is outlawed; weapons must be blunted. Beyond that, anything goes. The dull-edged swords are still ferocious, as fighters exploit the lack of peripheral vision offered by wraparound helmets to batter adversaries in the back of the head.
Unlike the legendary Arthurian soldiers they emulate, the guys suiting up today are not full-time knights.“These people have jobs,” explains Sinou. “We have lawyers, students and blue collar workers...” In the finest martial tradition, participants fight for the thrill of it. There are no big cash payouts and competitors shell out up to ,000 a year on armour, weapons and travel expenses.
A demanding training regime is crucial to compete at a high level, and fitness can be the difference between glory and hospital. “Your body takes a lot of punishment,” says Jaye Brooks, who runs a gym specialising in Medieval Combat. “You have to be physically able to carry the armour and keep up the level of activity needed to take down opponents. If you gas out, you’re done.” Training combines weights and intervals with technical elements such as muay thai and swordplay from Filipino weapon-based martial art Escrima. “I put my guys through a 25-minute HIIT workout four times a week, and they do strength training the other days,” says Brooks. “These guys have jobs, so using Tabata methods maximises effort in a tight window.” To gain an edge over their opponents, many are now turning to CrossFit, attracted by its combined focus on strength and endurance. Bouts may be short – typically no more than five minutes – but when you’re wearing 40kg of stainless steel and coming under attack from every angle, this is functional fitness at its most visceral. Though fatalities may be a thing of the past, genuine injury is guaranteed, with broken fingers and shattered teeth among the most common.
Simon Rohrich is a regular on the US all-star squad. He will be the last man standing three times this weekend, and his team – the Desert Demons from Arizona – will eventually fight their way to victory in the headline five-on-five competition. But for now, he lies flat on his back in the New Mexican dirt, his face stained with blood after being clobbered so hard on the back of the head that he bit through his bottom lip. He doesn’t take it personally, though. “There’s no malice,” he says. “We’re all beating the tar out of each other with real weapons, but there’s nothing holding you back from spreading chaos and destruction, because the people here signed up for the privilege. This is a competition.”
There’s nothing fake about the bloodied, broken bodies; nothing nerdy about the size and power of the warriors. As Sinou asserts, “If people want to run around with foam weapons and call themselves wizards, I have no problem with that.
Video: Satan's Celebrity Apprentice: The Real Game of Thrones Revealed on Camera
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