Five Yukoners from the Company of the White Wolf were part of a cohort of Canadians at the International Medieval Combat Federation’s World Championships at Ancient Kiev in Kopachiv, Ukraine — approximately 45 minutes from Kiev.
Land Pearson, Lake Pearson, Mack Smith, Ian Duncan and Savanna Leary competed in a variety of events at the four-day event from May 16 to 19.
Smith took part in polearm, profights and five-on-five fights, Lake competed in sword and shield and five-on-five fights, Leary competed in women’s longsword, sword and shield and five-on-five fights, and Duncan and Land both competed in five-on-five fights.
Although the championships are typically held at castles and other historical sites, this year’s venue was particularly period correct and Land said staying on site only added to the immersion.
“You’ve got this big massive earth wall around the park which is probably 30 feet tall,” said Land. “Then there are two or three storeys of a wooden fort built on top of that.”
Inside those walls were rooms, he said, where some of the fighters stayed.
“These rooms kind of made you think of what it would be like back in the day,” said Land. “They had a bunk bed and a little bit of standing space, and that was pretty much the room.”
Land said he was impressed by the progress made in competition.
“Our men’s duelists all made it out of their pools in the qualifying stage and then got knocked out in the quarter-finals, so that was pretty good to see that improvement,” said Land.
After each day’s competition ended, Land said there were large battles held, strictly for fun, with upwards of 100 people involved.
“One night was 40-on-40 and the other night was 50-on-50,” said Land. “The 50-on-50 was on a grassy field within the fort and they had a trebuchet launch over top of us with a big flaming ball to start the battle. It was pretty epic.”
So, what’s it like to take part in a battle seemingly ripped from a history book or the latest episode of Game of Thrones?
“(In) the Battle of Winterfell,” Land explained, “there’s that scene where they’re just stumbling around like, ‘Who’s alive, who’s on my team, who am I fighting?’ It gets to feel like that. In the 50-on-50, you’re just stepping over bodies everywhere and you’re like, ‘I think that guy’s on my team’ so you kind of keep an eye on him out of the corner of your eye. Then you see him go and attack someone you know is on your team so you jump on him.”
The chaos and confusion seen in Hollywood portrayals are right on the money, it seems.
“You can easily start to imagine that was explosions and more stuff going on – just that battle taste,” said Land. “You can get that separation almost — that suspension of disbelief that you have travelled back in time in these massive battles and are just trying to win for your team.”
The combat and the camaraderie are clearly what attracts people to the sport, but the real question is how one travels from Whitehorse to Kiev and back with a full suit of armour and a plethora or weapons.
“We’re starting to get well-known here in the Yukon,” said Land. “Security and everyone kind of knows our gear and gives it just a quick look. They’re not like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ They understand it so they can just check what they need to now.”
Getting past security is one thing, but dealing with airline baggage fees is quite another given that a full suit of armour weighs in around 37 kilograms.
“It does mean every time you’re buying a ticket, you’re expecting to pay a few hundred dollars extra in extra baggage,” said Land, explaining they show up early to the airport to weigh bags and disperse each other’s gear to keep within weight limits.
“A lot of times, we take our helmets as our carry-on,” said Land. “You’re allowed a suitcase and a personal item, so our helmets are our personal items. People put their coat and their book in there or something because those helmets are 10 to 15 pounds usually.”
Luckily for the Company of the White Wolf, the next competition is here at home. The Grand Northern Tournament is scheduled for the weekend before Canada Day in Whitehorse.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org