by Rob Outterside
What happens when re-enacting meets mixed martial arts? – Better re-read the small print on your life insurance policy, because this is Knight Club! Teams from all over the world dress up as Medieval Cybermen (a lot of these guys have been breaking the first two rules of Knight Club! Sorry), fully tooled up with armour, swords, shields and all to have it handbags – in fights going from one on one duels of honour (sadly with no bonus points for “most over the top finishing move” or “most imposing cod piece”) to terrifying team brawls which see up to 150 blokes mercilessly hammering each other.
Team UK are followed as they prepare to do battle with the worlds best at the Battle of the Nations tournament in France. However Team UK is only four months old and finding a few good men turns out to be as awkward as clunking around in 40 kilos of armour. The novice Knights are taken from zero to hero by trainers Nikolaj and Lukas, both Lithuanians and the most experienced members of the team (the sport originated in Eastern Europe).
Ex-squaddie Sam (With two Afghan tours under his belt) lives for the rush of having it out with the worlds best. Slightly built, 5 ft 10in computer programmer Gwilym wants to prove that the little guy can hold his own and act like a sci-fi character in real life (as attested by the Star Wars toys on his desk top). Young Dan from Wales picked up re-enacting from his parents and longs to turn pro. Rob from Dukinfield in Manchester – a bit of a skallywag but by no means a knave – loves a drink and a good scrap.
After much faffing and getting stuck in traffic the full team and its kit arrive in Aigues-Mortes south France, living in a medieval camp site between jousts – prowled by the authenticity police who hand out 50 euro fines for being caught with anything you wouldn’t get in the middle ages (except bubonic plague and dysentery obviously).
It’s a shaky start when Lukas gets his arm broke while scraping with a huge Polish bloke but UK team B still manages to vanquish Italy and the Czech. Republic in the 5 vs. 5 bouts. But after defeat at the hands of Israel it all boils down to a clash with Luxemburg and the visibly knackered Knights, despite a gallant effort are all defeated. Team A is later dispatched 2 games to nil by the cosmonauts of Russia – Lords of the field and three times undefeated world champions.
Team UK’s dreams are dashed – but there’s always next year and as the sun sets on the Aigues-Mortes fortress the team share war stories and observe how well they did getting so far with so little time to prepare. And its not all bad with the team taking the “Best newcomer” award! It’s a good bit of edutainment (how can you not like dozens of Knights battering each other to the tune of “Enter Sandman”?) and while the motives of the teams newest members is explored somewhat those of the teams foreign contingent isn’t sadly – obviously since it doesn’t fit in with the “fighting for the Queen and country “ theme of the show. And I’m wondering if we’ll see this more often on TV complete with jousting on horse back? Probably not if the guys start keeping the first two rules of Knight club!