11-12 May 2018 - SSG DFW Charlie Brumfield at the IMCF World Championships in Scotland
Updated: May 14, 2018
Charlie Brumfield, SSG DFW, journeyed all the way to Scone Palace in Scotland to be a part of the World Championship for the International Medieval Combat Federation (AMCF). Charlie and a number of SSG DFW compagni are part of the Dallas Marshall’s team, a part of the American Combat League (ACL), from which the American team is chosen.
ACL/IMCF fighting features group on group melee style fighting (though they also have singles, “1 x 1”), organized into national teams. This is most reminiscent of the free-roaming combat recorded in the Combat des Trente, the “Combat of the Thirty,” recorded during the Hundred Years’ War. There, thirty English combatants fought Thirty French under the "old oak"; few were knights, and the fight was seen as especially ferocious even amid the violence of the war. Several were killed, and the rough brutality contrasted with the structure of the challenge-based pas d’armes or the joust. This was a scrap between two garrisons of men-at-arms, a rough-and-tumble form of chivalric combat. [For more on the Combat of the Thirty, see the SSG MEMBERS section on chivalry].
Modern ACL/IMCF combat has been compared to rugby with swords and armour. It is fought in full harness, with most combatants opting for transitional gear. Most of the armour is of a rough finish standard, given the brutality and the myriad blows received in practice and competition. Rebated swords, maces, axes and polearms are most common, along with small punching shields. This is not the place for a full $20k harness. Combatants are out when they knee or have three points touching the ground. Therefore, it is less about elegant sword-work and more about myriad strikes and, critically, small-unit tactics and takedowns. The underarm hip throw, leg sweeps and off-putting kicks were the crucial techniques that I observed.
The sport is organized on a national basis, following soccer and other modern international sports. This year, I observed teams from Great Britain, France, Ukraine, Finland, and many more in the single fights. The Ukrainian team, the champion from last year and perennial threats, fought an interesting bout with the American team in the 16 x 16.
In the single events, the myriad blows technique I describe elsewhere as key to chivalric combatives of the later middle ages were clearly in evidence. Since the single bouts are scored by number of hits, and are timed, any specific strike is immaterial, and the overall level of points landed scores the winner. It builds a very kinetic form of single combat, one evocative of men-at-arms style combat for the period, but every different from the technical pas d’armes style fights. Note there is NO thrusting or use of the point, which encourages "myriad blows." Our “to satisfaction” format is closest, though we also have a “blows received” form. Perhaps we should add a timed fight option, as well.
Andre Sinou, a U.S. Marine and key organizer of the ACL, is captain for the American team. This year the team was organized into three units, the “good, the bad and the ugly,” of five combatants each, arraying in a traditional three-battle structure that would have been very familiar to the medieval forebears. The team sported very fine stars-and-stripes tabards and some of the best armour on the field. Andre led the team to a very solid 16 x 16 victory against Australia, Ukraine, England and France for the gold medal.
I was able to watch the American 10x10 bout in which Charlie was one of the last two men standing, a stoutly defending loss in the free-for-all.
One strange tradition within the IMCF was the eschewing of personal names in favor of national identities. In the individual competitions, at the medal ceremony, individuals weren't mentioned, just the nationality. This was, for me, an unfortunate intrusion of modern sporting standards over the very important medieval conception of renown. Medieval feats of arms were fought, in great part, to earn renown and build practical combat experience. The ACL emphasis on team may be evocative of the tournament teams in the era of William the Marshal, but even there, individual renown was important, as is shown by the social prestige won by Marshal for his deeds.
ACL combat is building in the public awareness—while it is different from the technical fights of a pas d’armes, it works better for public presentation and it is
representative of another point on the spectrum of chivalric combat, and this year, Charlie Brumfield has won for himself some strong renown for his participation.
Next year's championship will be held in Urkaine; SSG Dallas and Atlanta have contact with the local ACL/IMCF chapters.
[Edits 5/14/18 corrected the 10 x 10 fight Charlie was featured in and added segment about renown]