Cross Training – Is It Useful For Enhancing Your HMB Game?

Anyone who has seen anything HMB related can easily hazard a guess that training for, and competing in the sport can be very difficult. One of the most frequently ask questions I get at the club is whether or not cross training in other martial arts disciplines would be beneficial to that persons aptitude and effectiveness in HMB.

Now before I write much more I want to say that cross training is NOT a substitute for good, dedicated HMB training. It is and can be beneficial as an ADDITION to your training, both in building physical skills but also building fitness and conditioning in other areas non-specific to HMB. Further to this, given the lack of solely dedicated training for HMB in the UK (outside at the handful of dedicated clubs) any additional martial/combat training will be beneficial.

Now let me ramble a little more and hopefully get my point accross.

Let’s take a look at HMB.

If we sit down and watch the litany of HMB related content that we are blessed with these days, we can easily differentiate between the elements which make up the martial side of the sport. In a broad sense we have two main areas of fighting focus, these are Striking and Grappling.

Striking

When I use the term striking, it is a general term for any of the fighting action where the weapon and/or limbs are being thrown at your opponents. This includes but is not limited to sword strikes, shield strikes, punches, kicks, knees etc. Inherently there is also a bunch of technique involved in applying good striking footwork and good body mechanics to ensure the striking is as fluid and as impactful as possible.

If we now look at this practically, surely it would be a benefit to anyone to cross train their striking skills and then amalgamate those skills adapting them to HMB.

So what cross training is best for striking?

Personally I feel the ‘hard style’ striking arts are better suited to cross training for HMB. These include Boxing, Kickboxing, MuayThai.

All of these striking arts offer multiple benefits to help enhance your HMB training. They will help develop the proper technique for throwing effective punches and kicks as well as the associated footwork and conditioning with striking. It can also be useful as the body mechanics involved in throwing effective hooks for example also translates to throwing effective sword strikes.

If I had to reccommend only 1 striking art to cross train for HMB then I would pick Muay Thai. Having trained, fought and taught Muay Thai, I know it will not only develop your punching/kicking/ kneeing technique but Muay Thai also bringbrings clinch work to the table which is massively beneficial in transitioning between the striking range and the grappling range.

Grappling

To preface, grappling is the most conditioning intensive aspect of HMB period. Any and all grappling cross training will be a benefit to your HMB training, however we need to look at what grappling arts compliment the grappling subset of HMB.

In HMB the aim is to not get thrown to the ground. In the context of Buhurt rules if anything other than your feet touch the ground you are a grounded fighter and out of the fight. As a subsequence we need to look at grappling arts which lend themselves to a similar style.

So what cross training is best for grappling?

We need to consider the practicality of the grappling style closely as any techniques learned out of armour need to be adaptable to armoured fighting. As a result styles such as Judo, Greco Roman Wrestling, Sumo and Mongolian Wrestling all have transferable skills to HMB.

If I had to reccommend 1 style to cross train for HMB I would reccommend Judo. This is mainly based on availability of training over the other slyles mentioned. I would also reccommend training no-gi to help develop the techniques without the reliance on traditional gi grips which aren’t available in HMB.

Wait a minute! You haven’t even mentioned MMA.

There’s a specific reason for that. MMA intentionally cross trains multiple styles for the specific purpose of MMA, a lot of which aren’t applicable to HMB and would potentially detract from the cross application to HMB itself. For conditioning however the training would be very beneficial.

My final word

For me, cross training is an essential part of HMB. The majority of the martial skills we need to compete effectively in HMB are taken and used from developed martial arts and adapted to Armoured combat. So if you want to accelerate your HMB training or further refine your HMB game then cross train, shock your system, learm something new and fight better.

See you in the lists soon!

Daniel & Mary

Fast Track Hacks – How To Get Better At HMB Quicker

So I already know what you are thinking, “This guy is full of shit!”.

Before you go writing this off, please give it a read and try and apply the principles below to your own physical and mental training to see if you see changes and gains in your own journey.

Pareto and his principle

You may or may not be familiar with this, so before I get into how it applies to getting better faster, I’ll quickly explain the premise. The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule as it is more commonly known, asserts that 80% of outcomes come from just 20% of inputs. So where does that help me get better faster?

As a fighter and as someone responsible for teaching others, I take this principle and apply it to HMB to identify which areas (Inputs) would yield the most successful results (Outcomes). This then allows me to focus on that 20% input to help force the 80% success of outcome. From an analytical approach we will use buhurt 5v5 as the basis for this here, however we can apply it to other disciplines in the sport equally.

Starting with 5v5, we can easily segregate the engagement into 2 categories within the fighting action, striking element and grappling element. If we review 5v5 buhurt at the highest levels we can then rank each based on its effectiveness at accomplishing the goal, to put the opponent on the floor. My review in this instance ranks grappling above striking in terms of effectiveness at achieving this. My analysis being that it is very rare to see a fighter in buhurt dropped from strikes unless they are sustained, heavy and the recieving fighter is stuck unable to avoid or mitigate the blows.

So from the two inputs we started with, I have now picked grappling over striking as being where the most success comes from of those two broad field engagements. Therefore without other inputs, striking to drop an opponent doesn’t yield great success. Now we look at what grappling inputs give the best outcomes.

Typically we see the first fighter to control the grapple, stay composed and then commit (fully with intent) to a viable takedown technique to have the greatest success. As a result, using the Pareto Principle we have now identified inputs worth fast tracking in focus to create greater chances of success for our training.

Focus on grappling, specifically keeping composed, gaining positional control and then executing the technique for the greater success output under the current meta.

This does not preclude being able to strike, however the analysis would using this principle would not have striking being in the 20% of inputs leading to the 80% outcome.

The First 20 Hours

You have probably heard some iteration that “it takes 10,000 hours to get good at something” and more importantly see the results of the time spent. If that were the case then why with prolonged training do we plateau? Surely those 10,000 hours would see increasing mastery and not stagnation or plateau, right?

Well Josh Kaufman puts pay to the above, all you need is 20 hours! That’s right, 20 hours to learn a new skill. 10,000 hours is purely their as a metric to get to Expert Level performance in an ultra competetive field in a very narrow subject.

Okay, go on, how can this help me?

This can help you mentally in the approach to your training. Why? Because if we apply this thought process and method of application to each new HMB skill you need to acquire, then you can go from being grossly incompetent and knowing it, to being reasonably good and applying it with just 20 hours of focussed, deliberate practice time spent on that skill.

So what is the method?

1) Deconstruct the skill. You need to identify the parts of the skill and practice those parts (this ideally is your coach or trainers job to then teach them). Remember any single skill such as a takedown has multiple components. Learn them 1 by 1 then apply them together to develop that skill.

2) Learn enough to self correct. This comes either by overseeing instruction or watching videos/reading to establish where you might be going wrong and correct. Practice and self correct to work the skill for you.

3) Remove barriers to practice. Get rid of things that allow you not to practice such as phone, TV, internet for the period of time you are practising. This will maximise your committed focus to the skill and is ideally done in a training setting.

4) Practice for at least 20 hours. Make sure you commit and track your time. Why? Because it will help remove the frustration barrier that can hinder your progress and keep you guided towards the goal.

If you do this I guarantee that you will not only get fast track skill acquisition but also find that your performance relative to those who don’t increases exponentially towards success.

KISS – Keep it simple stupid

Most likely this goes without saying, however the more complex an action, the more difficult the execution of that action is. In order to maximise your success in HMB you need to do what would be considered the fundamentals very well, but also not over complicated, simplicity is key.

As a tangible example, I would like you to go and watch the Tournament Colombier Buhurt Open from this weekend. Watch it for 2 simple basics, holding a solid formation and basic takedowns, the headlock and the overhead. You only need to watch the Group A fights to identify which teams kept it simple and did the basics well. This however is a common theme in not only the tournament but also in the sport in general.

All of the best teams keep it simple, direct and to the point. There is no flash, no over complication and ultimately no over thinking where simplicity is concerned. So make sure you K.IS.S when training.

Make It Fun

I’m not going to expand on this too much as it is well documented, however making things fun helps with aptitude and retention of skill based work. It takes the stress component as a factor out of the training equation leading to greater clarity of mind and greater mental acuity.

Fun = Fast Track HMB Hack

In conclusion

Whilst I could (and probably will) write more on this subject, to get a faster track in HMB;

– Focus on grappling as much as you can, as in buhurt it gives the highest chance of success in putting someone on the floor.

– Spend a minimum of 20 hours focused skill acquisiton on each aspect, deconstructing the skill and learning all the steps .

– Ensure you keep it simple throughout the process. Don’t over think or overcomplicate the process.

– Make it fun. When things are fun they are engaging and have a much higher rate for retention and application.

Train hard, hack HMB and see you in the lists soon.

Daniel & Mary.

Getting Put Through The Ringer – Preventing & Dealing With Injury

If you didn’t already know, HMB is a very tough combat sport and it is hard on the body all round. It’s not only the competition that takes its toll but also the training and grind that can come with it.

One of the biggest observations in and around this sport is that the majority of somewhat serious injuries don’t occur on the field in competition, but primarily seem to be in training/simulation aspect. To ruminate on the causation would be a post in and of itself, but I personally feel it is either improper training or overtraining that leads to that point.

So how can I prevent injury?

This is probably the best place to start and the million pound question. Note these are my thoughts and I am not a medical professional.

We accept that getting hurt can happen, but we do not want anyone to get injured. After all, non of us get paid for this sport and we do it for the love of it. Being hurt is one thing, but serious injury can threaten livelihood.

The best preventative measure in my opinion is proper training and body conditioning with progressive loading and technique work. This helps to building the bodies’ CNS response to the skills required (such as grappling and striking) whilst also progressively loading your body to build the strength and conditioning required to help stabilise and strengthen for the specific weights and dynamics this sport offers.

The most common types of injuries that people seemingly suffer from are:

  • Neck strains (from having their head pulled on grappling).
  • Lower back strains (from having weight piled on top of them in a grapple)
  • Shoulder strains/tears (from the added weight of swinging a falchion or axe and missing the target)
  • Knee strains/tears (from throws and dynamic changes in direction/lost footing with the armour weight on).

By this metric, our training should really focus on not only being physically fit enough to compete in the sport, but also to condition and progressively load the more problem areas to build strength under tension. This is turn will help stabilise and resist injury.

Some options to do this would be:

Neck – Partner focused neck strengthening drills prior to any grappling session. 50% strength grappling to build strength in the positions such as 50/50, collar tie and plum positions.

Shoulder – Indian club and mace work to strengthen the shoulder and stabilising muscles. Pell work using falchion/axe to get used to proper striking technique, edge alignment and mechanics of striking.

Lower Back – Traditional progressive loading using exercises such as deadlift. Start with manageable weight and focus on good mechanics before increasing weight. Also throw in stabilising exercises such as Russian twists, good mornings to help strengthen accessory muscles.

Knees – Leg exercises which focus on isolating and strengthening quads, hamstrings and calf’s to add additional muscle stability to the knee. Squats, Bulgarian split squats, lunges, plyo box jumps with other exercises such as pistol squats, and ‘Y’ stands.

Ultimately your training needs to be suited to building you for the sport, both in a physical capacity and a mental capacity.

So how do you deal with being injured?

Well the first thing is to understand the difference between being hurt and injured. In this sport you are always going to have something that hurts whether it is sore muscles, joints, cuts, bruises etc. Whilst inconvenient it doesn’t hinder your day to day and means you can continue to train and progress. Injury however can make a massive difference. Injury requires intervention, treatment, rest and respite.

There obviously isn’t a one size fits all approach to this answer. It is very specific to the individual and the injury, however the most important part is to do as you are told. Something my dad would always say is that “what’s the point going to see a doctor if you won’t do what they say?”. This embodies the approach you need to take in my opinion. If you have a genuine injury, you need to get it treated by a professional in the field and do what is best based on their advice and guidance.

As a personal example, it has been a challenge managing a severe leg injury with training and competition and I haven’t done myself any favours, maybe I should take my own advice ey?

In 2019 I suffered complete ACL tear during a training session in a 2v1 situation. Grappling with someone, I get thrown and my foot sticks in one position and *POP* there goes the ACL completely. This was followed by review, conservative treatment (non-surgical), recovery and rehab to continue fighting.

More recently in May this year, a meniscus tear of the same leg and a stress fracture of the femoral head of my femur during a training session whereby I went to throw someone, lost my footing in bad ground conditions and crushed/twisted the knee with another *POP* and a sickening feeling.

I should at this point have gotten seen to, but I didn’t.

I continued to train and push passed the pain and swelling. I fought at Tournament of Deeds before realising something was really amiss. The subsequent MRI in August revealed the extent as above and I now find myself staring down longer conservative rehab and potential knee reconstruction if the rehab doesn’t help further.

The lessons learned the hard way…

Lesson 1 – Train properly, add structure to your routine and prehab. Progressively load your body, strengthen and condition yourself to the sport.

Lesson 2 – Rest adequately. Not just between training sessions but ensure you get adequate sleep.

Lesson 3 – Listen to your body. There is no shame in dialling it back at training to have an active session as opposed to a 100% effort if you don’t feel right.

Lesson 4 – If injured, see a specialist asap and pursue correct course of treatment. Listen to the specialist, don’t think you know best.

Lesson 5 – The aim is to make it to the tournament, don’t break yourself or your training partners in training. It’s the worst thing that could happen for a fighter, team or captain.

Lesson 6 – Prioritise your training into ramp up and ramp down prior to and post tournament. There’s a reason why all top combat sports athletes have camps to train for the main event. It allows for very specific training to the end goal.

All in all injury is one potential consequence of this sport but it shouldn’t be accepted as the norm. We all need to review ourselves and our training practices to make sure injuries are the exception, not the rule.

Stay say, see you in the lists soon!

Daniel & Mary

Hosting A Tournament – Looking Back At Our Buhurt Challenger

In this post I thought I would reflect on hosting our most recent tournament and lay out what things we had to think about from an organisers perspective.

For those who aren’t aware, back in August we as a club held only the second ever Buhurt League challenger event in the UK, and what an event it was! (if we do say so ourselves).

Now before we get into much, I want to preface this by saying it was one of the most stressful things I have done in recent years. I’d much rather be in there with the simplicity of fighting than have the stress that trying to pull this event off brought, however looking back, it was one of the most rewarding experiences.

You want to host a tournament, so where do you start?

Before you make any moves towards a tournament, you need to establish exactly what it is that you want to achieve with the event. Originally for us, we wanted to just hold a 5v5 tournament to prove we could do it. After some further discussion and thought, we quickly moved towards wanting to include it in the trial elements of the first UK League season. This meant not only holding the tournament for the sake of holding a tournament, but also a certain level of expectation on the running and organisational aspects of the event.

Choose your venue wisely!

A cautionary tale here, choose your venue wisely. We went out, put the leg work in and secured a great venue with the outlook for this tournament, which was Allerton Castle in North Yorkshire. The problem we had however was Covid. As relaxations in social distancing and legal requirements for events happened, we quickly realised that private venues could and would still insist on safety measures far in excess of the legal obligations, which in this particular instance made the tournament untenable. So we needed a back up plan!

Castleton Primary School saves the day. We already used the school to hold our outdoor training sessions and they have always been supportive of the sport. Then in steps my lovely wife Mary and manages to get access to the massive gated school field, toilet blocks, showers, off street lockable parking and camping availability for those wanting to camp. It turned out to be an ideal venue after all the issues with our main venue and has become our primary outdoor venue for training and future events.

Public or Private Event

Now we knew what the tournament format was going to be, we needed to decide whether we wanted it to be a private event or one open to the public. We decided to make it a public event as we had the additional aim of raising funds for the school who were kind enough to allow us the use of the field and facilities.

This brought with it a few considerations such as; do we ticket the event for entry?; how do we set up the event for safe public access?; do we need additional stewards to manage numbers?.

We were able to effectively separate the public from the action without compromising safety in this instance and our efforts on the day raised £420 for the school which went to benefit some children in the nursery classes. It also provided for a good amount of spectator engagement which was reflected in the feedback we got.

Insurance – the dreaded word but something that you need!

When putting on any type of event, insurance needs to be a key consideration. As I understand it, all members of HMBGB teams must have individual insurance for public liability. Most clubs get this provided through C3 (country club cover) as the most cost effective solution. The issue with this however is that membership with C3 only covers the individual and does not cover the holding of events or demonstrations organised by the individual or club. Therefore if an axe breaks and hits a person outside of the list, the individual fighter who’s axe it was is covered, the event and the organiser would not be for claims.

As a club, Honour and Arms carries different levels of insurance cover as follows:

  • Student insurance which covers individuals under my tutelage whilst in the club.
  • Public liability and Events cover which covers the any events we put on.
  • Professional indemnity insurance which covers anything resulting from bad advice/service
  • Employers liability which covers any staff working for us paid or not.
  • Volunteers liability which covers anyone working particular events as a volunteer.

As an aside, my sports promotions company also has insurance dedicated for sports promotion to cover any events we choose to promote as a separate entity.

The key take away is to make sure you have suitable insurance for the whole tournament, not just for the individuals taking part. Damage to property and injury to spectators could happen and you wouldn’t want to be personally liable if that happened.

Support Staff

This is something that cannot be underestimated and will take out a lot of stress from the organisation of your event. Get your event support staffing sorted well in advance!

Being brutally honest, we struggled on this one. Despite numerous posts and requests for help we only had a few people volunteer to help in advance. The mains things to consider are marshals, event secretary, video management (for the stream), commentary, first aid as well as general helpers to help with the logistics and list.

A big shout out in this section to Dave Brown, Alistair McGregor, Alex Noble, Ewan Cronin and Antony Lamsdell for marshalling help. Simon Sidd, Mike Wilde, Michael Stewart, Lisa Robertson and her 2 lads for help setting up the lists and dismantling them afterwards, as well as Jonathan Nordin and Gavin Stewart for helping with the stream and commentary throughout the day I apologise if I forget anyone else.

The list – It’s quite important don’t you know.

For us, we chose to use our own list that we made for outdoor training sessions which we usually hold at the school. We made it specifically with 5v5 & 12v12 in mind such that it is circa 15m long and 10m wide which affords plenty of room to work,

The big concern for us with the tournament was whether of not it would be sufficiently strong enough to withstand piles of bodies and heavy weight and pressure against it. This concern was born out of the fact that I made the list specifically to be demountable and portable for travel and transportation. Luckily for us it was strong enough and held up really well on the day.

The Stream

Not something that’s required for every tournament, however as we advance the level of our tournaments it will be something that becomes more prevalent. We only had a requirement to video record the fights but I chose to do what I could to stream them on the day.

Note that you could just choose to stream using a mobile phone direct to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch etc. You do not need a full set up.

My chosen set up for streaming was as follows:

Predator Helios 300 Laptop – Plenty of power in this laptop for gaming and streaming. https://www.acer.com/ac/en/GB/content/predator-series/predatorhelios300

Logitech C922 PRO – Streaming camera for the video feed which offers 1080p resolution at 30fps as well as built in microphone capabilities.

https://www.logitech.com/en-gb/products/webcams/c922-pro-stream-webcam.960-001088.html

Samson C01U Pro Studio Mic – Good quality microphone suitable for indoor and outdoor use. Use the option wind cover for outdoor use.

http://www.samsontech.com/samson/products/microphones/usb-microphones/c01upro/

Streamlabs OBS – My choice of streaming software. This allowed me to set up the skins/overlays for the stream easily, adjust levels and manage the stream. It also allowed advanced link to our YouTube channel to create the link for the event on the day.

https://streamlabs.com/content-hub/streamlabs-obs

The final consideration is your connectivity. Wi-Fi is going to be best but 4g and 5g are also suitable. As we were in a field on the day, I streamed everything via my 4g connection using my phone as a hotspot. The big key to this is making sure you do a speed test on the morning of the stream, half the upload speed number and set that as your bitrate to ensure a smooth, continuous stream. Pro Tip: Plug your phone in at all times and set it to no screen lock such that it does not auto disconnect the hotspot.

Buhurt League Registration

We decided to get BL registration for our event to make it even more worhtwhile for the BL teams attending. It meant points were on offer.

This was very simple to achieve and probably the least stressful part of the process. For a Buhurt challenger event you need to contact the Buhurt League secretary and ensure a minimum of 4 Buhurt League registered teams. Couple that with just a video recording to the fights and you have yourself a Buhurt League event.

Sponsorship and Prizes

Let me start by saying this is not something that is necessary for any event (and I am saying that as someone who has done pretty well at getting sponsors). Why isn’t it necessary? Because just having a tournament on UK soil should be enough for most, but sponsorships can also add added pressure to the event organisation which is/can be unwarranted.

One thing to really discuss with your sponsors before the event is what they want in terms of exposure and coverage. After all they aren’t giving you things out of the goodness of their hearts, it is a business relationship you are building.

  • Are they happy with just Facebook posts and some photos?
  • Do they want specific banner placement and shout outs?
  • Are they expecting coverage on the streams and or video?
  • Is the value of sponsorship proportionate to the exposure they get?

We were lucky enough to get sponsorship from Buhurt Tech, Medieval Extreme, Soft Warrior Sparta, Armour Workshop Pavlo Kozak and Mad-Ax for this event and had sponsor posts, photos, banners and even sponsor recognition on our video edits to make it worthwhile.

We did also have Titan Bladeworks on board but Mary and I paid out of pocket for those prizes as we wanted something unique and special for the MVF fighters on the day.

Finally, the fighting!

Tournament organisation for the fighting these days is relatively simple. Anything more than 10 teams and a group stage would be the best idea. Our tournament was 5 male teams and 2 female teams so the round robin format was the simplest and easiest option. Having everyone well aware of the fight order and teams called out to ready in advance meant that on the day we ran ahead of schedule smoothly. We managed to cram in the whole day starting at 10:30am and finished by 4pm inclusive of the 12 v 12 fights.

Whilst there were a few injuries (with the most serious being a fractured arm) the fighting on the whole was at a great level. Both the Men’s and Women’s fights were of a great standard and really showed the sport as it should be.

Reflections – How was it for us then?

All in all, Mary and I take great pride in what we managed to achieve on that weekend.

The feedback we got was that it was a good tournament. It ran smoothly and the stream and commentary really made the experience for those watching at home. We also got some great feedback from the public, from the local news and also from the media elements we managed to put out after the event which was very encouraging.

I did however say to Mary never again! There was so much that had to go into getting everything right on the day that it was not easy at all and the stress was much worse than only having to worry about fighting.

Having had some further time to reflect since, we will be doing it again with our next tournament scheduled and put out there. This time we aim to be bigger and better, with more to offer the public and make it a true event for all to come and see. We also know well in advance what works and what doesn’t work and which was is best to go with the event as a whole.

Ultimately, for the UK League scene to grow we do need to see improvements, mainly on the support side of the sport. More marshals and willing support participants to help with tournament logistics are needed greatly. That being said, as long as every individual and club are pulling in the same direction the future only looks bright for the sport in the UK.

See you in the lists soon!

Daniel & Mary

Making HMB Accessible. How Can We Do It?

HMB is a complex sport.

On one hand it appeals across many levels and attracts a lot of interest when viewed. On the other hand it is a sport which seemingly as a high barrier of entry for most, either in the availability of training or because of the perceived cost of the armour. As such, I’ve been mulling over how to beneficially look to lower this ceiling and make the sport more accessible.

When we look at HMB as it stands at the moment, we can see a sharp shift and emphasis on developing the next generation of fighters. This is plain to see when we see such focus on HMB soft for children’s competition. But why limit this to just children when, as adults, we use soft kit as a tool for training competitively?

It is easier to see that the barrier to entry on HMB soft is much, much lower than fully armoured combat. All you need is a suitable helmet, soft sword and shield at minimum and you can participate. With the cost at this being around £100, competetive fighting is at your fingertips.

On a domestic club level, regular interclub type tournaments focusing specifically on adults will drive healthy competition, allow people to test their skills and training in competition. My vision is to emulate profight and buhurt competition using soft equipment but actually make it mean something, a true competition.

This could be set up as an independent league with the competitors attending rival clubs and results recorded after each meeting. It could even be done as a tack on to cross club or national training events.

In this vain we at Honour and Arms will be trialling and operating this ‘Soft kit’ league internally, adding matches to our training sessions to evaluate the concept. If it proves fruitful then it may well be something to help roll out accross the sport and hopefully drow people in, allow them to train, compete and hopefully graduate through to fully armoured fighting if they see fit.

My Thoughts On Training For Medieval Combat

This may well be a controversial topic due to the subjective nature of the title so before we get too far into this post, a little disclaimer. These are my thoughts, opinions and musings. I am already prepped for the “who are you?”, “what have you done in this sport?” etc. resonating from the side-lines, but read the full thing first, give me your thoughts and let’s talk, not dismiss.

It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with them and even better if we can have a discussion about where the differences may lie. One thing that is true though, no-one can tell you the right or wrong way to train for this sport, but we can express our thoughts and opinions on how we feel training is best done. I encourage healthy discussion.

When I really wanted to focus on my own training for this sport, I had to sit down and take a hard look at myself and my training prior to that point. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own bullshit. This leads you to think you’re better than you are, fitter than you are etc. when in reality a long, hard and honest look in the mirror can reveal quite the opposite. I would like to think now that I have a much better outlook on what I feel training for this sport should look like, and this basis of that is firstly from my own shortcomings and in my own improvements and subsequently by having to try and also help other individuals train and get better all round for this sport.

Hang on… Why Medieval Combat?

I think it’s best explain why I use the term Medieval Combat over Buhurt, Pro-Fights or Duels. The reason for this is because the sport is multifaceted with many aspects. If you are solely training for Buhurt, your training focus and outlook will be different to someone who is training for duelling. That’s not to say that you won’t attain a level of skill and conditioning that allows for both, but I am sure even the best fighters in the world will specifically train for the outcomes they desire.

My outline training hierarchy.

The image was the easiest way I have found to illustrate my thoughts. This is how I structure and apply my training personally and to those who train out of my facility.

Physical Fitness & Conditioning

This is what I consider the foundation of this sport (and any sport for that matter), hence why it is at the bottom of my pyramid.

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Those in condition do not tire.” – George Patton

Endurance is relative to how well you have trained and prepare your body, with the onset of fatigue occurring when your body is pushed beyond the limits of preparation. If your body is not capable of the physical exertion and output required under load, then you have no chance at all.

Given there is not a one size fits all approach to this sport, we need to build a solid basal level of fitness and body conditioning. I feel the best way to do this is to build a base that allows for the best application of strength endurance such that we can repeatedly use explosive movements followed by active recovery. You can be the strongest person in the room but if you can’t apply that strength for more than 10 seconds, your strength means nothing against someone who is conditioned to last longer than you. Conditioning > Strength alone.

Personally I run our fitness/conditioning using HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) with a heavy eye on HRV (heart rate variability). Most of what we do focusses on continuous work during the rounds, moving moderate weight over time with reductions in recovery time between rounds. For new starters who join our facility, this would be in a 1:2 work ratio I.E. 1 min effort to 2 min rest solely within their own expressed limitations. As we progress both in movement proficiency and in time, we reduce this to 1:1 and so on. Adjusting the time and rest durations to build the lactic thresholds for work and increase effective recovery in short time frames.

Ask anyone who trains at Honour & Arms and I would like to think they will vouch for our conditioning circuits really pushing them.

Technique & Skill Development

This is the next ladder on my training pyramid. Now understand that we teach technique and skills development continuously from beginner day 1, however I put physical fitness and conditioning before it in terms of what’s is going to assist people in getting better faster. Physically fitter with better conditioning means more training, which means more out of the sessions, which means more improvement.

During our weekday evening sessions, we tend to also do our fitness and conditioning prior to specific technique and skill development work. Why? Because if people can learn and apply technique well after some fatigue then they can sure as well apply it properly when they are fresh.

Our technique and skills development follows our own club system for both footwork, striking and grappling which we then look to tailor to the individual and also to the goal.

Tactical Preparation

So we now have a solid base of fitness & conditioning coupled with some technical skill development. We now need to know how best to apply these in the heat of the fight.

This is where our tactical preparation comes in and why it sits towards the middle on my training pyramid. This is simply conditioning of the mind on what to execute, how and when. I personally am a very systematic person and I look to learn and teach in the same way. I work down the line from A to B but understand where we could bypass B to C if the opportunity presents itself.

Our tactical preparation sessions get interspersed with our usual training and these are typically slower paced, drill orientated with a lot of discussion and thought. The application of each technique will differ person to person and this is the time we spend allowing the individuals to find how to apply it best for them.

Mental Strength *Insert Hard Ass Training Meme Here*

There’s a lot to be said for the power of the mind.

There’s numerous publications and studies that document just how pivotal the mind is in determining the physically application of the body and pushing perceived limitations.

My favourite and probably the most widely known is the 40% rule coined by David Goggins. In short, due to our self-preservation reflexes, our mind tries to get us to stop well before the limitations are anywhere near reached. David Goggins feels this is at circa 40% of what our ‘tank’ has available and, most importantly, that it is something we can train ourselves to overcome.

So how do we actually go about building our mental strength?

Quite simply for me it is about doing 1 more. When your mind is telling you to stop during that round of burpees, do 1 more. When you muscles are screaming during dumbbell snatches, do 1 more. When you legs are screaming at you on the air bike to stop mid Tabata, keep pushing. This all goes towards extending our minds awareness of our working thresholds, rather than dialling us back to 40% at the sign of any real perceived exertion. What you will find is just 1 more at that point becomes 1 more, then 1 more and all of a sudden, you have done 10 more from where your mind wanted you to stop previously.

The beauty of this is mental strength improvement allows you to unlock more potential. As you train up the pyramid, getting fitter, building more skills, applying tactical preparation you will also be building your mental mindset to push more and more.

Real Fighting Experience & Application

The peak of the pyramid. The goal, right? To get in armour and fight against other willing opponents. But how is that part of training?

Simply put, armour time and sparring is what this refers to. It’s not fighting in competition, it’s fighting, sparring, wrestling and applying everything that has been learnt, in armour, against fully resisting opponents but in a training controlled environment first. Remember we are here talking about training and the goal is to build you into a Medieval Combat machine (maybe a little bit of artistic license but you know what I mean).

Armour time makes the most difference, it compounds your conditioning, adapts your technique and toughens your mind by stressing your system under fight like conditions. Whatever you do though, don’t overdo it! I would recommend being in armour once per week at most and only ever to work in armour as intended, not doing obstacle courses or running in it for miles which I am sure we have all seen people do.

What does your training look like then?

At the moment I am training a minimum of 4 times per week.

Monday – 1 hour fitness and conditioning

Tuesday – 2 hour club session

Wednesday – Rest day

Thursday – 2 hour club session

Friday – 1 hour fitness and conditioning

Saturday – Armour training when scheduled.

Sunday – Rest day

In a bit more detail I book end my training Monday and Friday with dedicated fitness and conditioning sessions for no more than 1 hour each. These are high work rate, minimal rest and focus on HRV and between round recovery.

Tuesday and Thursday are 2 hour sessions at the club which focus on additional conditioning, technique, grappling and sparring dependent on the numbers and the schedule of upcoming events.

Saturday’s are for armoured training with Wednesdays and Sundays reserved for rest.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE SLEEP!

The key to any successful training plan is not just rest days but the rest you get whilst sleeping. I look to work in sleep cycles to feel fully rested. I once read that our body works in 1 hour 30 min cycles to get through the stages of sleep. Working this back, as I need to be up at 06:30, I work back and know I need to be falling asleep at 11pm to get 5 full sleep cycles for 7.5 hours or 9:30 for 9 hours and 6 full sleeps cycles. This will not only help my recovery through regime but also maximise my potential for beneficial rest.

Hopefully this has been an interesting insight into my thoughts on the general training for this sport and my philosophy on what I feel is the best way to train and keep training. As with any sport specific ramp up and taper into events is key and this needs to be done at the individual level so as to not over train.

See you is the lists soon!

Dan & Mary

How Did I Feel Before My First Tournament And How Do I Feel Now?

We had a suggestion for a post on documenting how I felt before my first tournament and how I felt before my most recent one (thanks Steve). It’s definitely a good thought so let’s turn back time and go back to my first experience competitively in armour…..

Let’s set the scene, it’s early 2019 and at this point I’d been training seriously for what must have been a maximum of 6 months. That training had consisted of purely soft kit, technique at the sessions I was doing out of the local church hall and 1 armoured session at the Wolves Cumbria unit. I was very used to ‘struggle snuggles’ and feeling somewhat in control but had no idea how to effectively grapple, strike or perform takedowns in armour.

From the last armoured sessions I did with the Wolves, looming on the horizon was The Battle of The Banshees being held by ISCA. This was a 3v3 Buhurt tournament aimed at getting newer fighters some experience and being used as a stepping stone into the sport. I didn’t even have all my kit at this time, I was using second hand legs, arms, brig and lid that I had bought from a reliable source but I had no gauntlets and needed to borrow a few bits and pieces just to be able to attend and compete.

The morning of the tournament came and Mary, Isabella and I got up at 5am to make the drive to the Bristol location. I distinctly remember feeling anxious about what was potentially in store. For context I’d had numerous fights in other martial arts styles before, Karate, Boxing and Muay Thai and done some BJJ and Catch Wrestling. In every instance I tended to go a little insular on the morning of the fight (Mary can attest to this having seen it from sport to sport). I always tended to quieten down and become much less chatty than usual. This sport however and the outlook had me thinking and feeling very anxious on the drive down. (I was definitely in my head, overthinking every situation and scenario that might come up).

We arrived early and met up with my team mates ready for the day ahead, it was a cold, wet and windy April day. We managed to get through weapons check and start gearing up without any issue and it was at this point the reality really sets in. “I’m gearing up to get into a fight with some other blokes in armour!” It was both nerve racking and exhilarating in the same vein.

Our first fight on the day was against the guys from Birmingham Medieval Combat or BMC as they are more readily known.

The call came, “lids on!” and it was time to put up, or shut up. We are lined up, and I’m looking through the ocular of my mild steel nasal across at these 3 blokes who are about to try and fill me in or drop me as quickly as they can. Breathing is heavy but my mind was quiet, it’s time to scrap! “Fighters ready, Fight!”

From that command there was what seemed like an almighty crash! In reality, when watching it back, I met my opposite man in the middle, quickly beat him backwards (using my fists and not the bloody falchion I had in my hand!) and managed to gain the advantage before turning my attention to another man and helping my teammates to the fight win. It was merely 30 seconds, felt like an age.

After that initial foray it was nothing but excitement, exhilaration and ultimately relief. This was the sport for me, I was hooked.

Fast forward a few years and a good few tournaments later, the most recent tournament I fought at was the very first Buhurt League Challenger event called the Tournament of Deeds in July this year, ironically also hosted by ISCA. Oh how things have changed!

This time I was there fighting as Vice Captain of the Northern Wolves in the 5v5 bringing with me lads that train with me regularly that I have helped train and develop. I was also fighting as Primus in the 12v12 which is my Buhurt League team.

My feeling and mindset now compared to a few years ago is completely different. Prior to fights now I’m much calmer, much more level headed and definitely don’t overthink things as I used too. I’m now able to enjoy the experience, rather than worry about what might come. I still get those flutters of nervous excitement lining up for that first contact, but as soon as it’s time to fight nothing else matters. My mind quietens, my feelings level and it’s just time to go to work. This in and of itself helps me both mentally but also helps me reserve energy for the fights themselves.

What’s the difference then?

There’s probably a multitude of things going on, but in my opinion it ultimately comes down familiarity.

The situation isn’t new to me anymore and as such mentally it’s easier to manage and control the emotions associated. It is also down to the training and comfort taken from my own progress and abilities over the last few years. Whilst Covid knocked tournaments down, it didn’t stop me from training, watching, learning and progressing. I feel more confident in my skills and abilities in being able to deal with most situations in the list and there’s a lot to be said for visualisation. The mindset side of competitive sports can go a long way to helping you compete at your best by keeping your mind calm and clear.

All being well the repetition and familiarity I’ve come to know and develop helps pass to my fighters that I train. I can see how beneficial it is and has been over time and experience.

See you in the lists!

Dan & Mary

Invicta Passage of Arms – Reflections

This weekend just passed (25th and 26th September) saw Invicta host their inaugural Passage of Arms tournament weekend aimed at bringing newer fighters into the fold in a mixture of events across 2 days. The idea was to bring together teams of fighters (maximum of 4 people) with lower levels of experience in the sport together to contest an aggregate points system across the weekend.

The Saturday was reserved for the duelling disciplines of longsword, sword and shield, sword and buckler and polearm with the aim of having each team fighter compete in a single discipline. The final 4 in each discipline would earn points for their efforts which would contribute to a weekend total. The Sunday focused on 3v3 Buhurt competition with a round robin format for the ladies and a group > quarters > semi’s > finals arrangement for the males, again with the final four receiving points towards an overall club total.

The Location

Situated on Polyapes Scout site in Cobham, the site has everything needed to host a tournament of this nature. There was plenty of camping space available for all teams, centralised toilets, showers, the communal fire pit for those evening laughs and some vendors on site for both food and mead (which has already gone!).

Saturday

Saturday was a very hectic schedule given the massive number of competitors contesting each duelling discipline. Once things got under way it was immediately apparent that whilst this was a tournament for ‘newbies’, the level of preparedness from all was far higher than would have been expected. I guess Covid saw people training more and more getting sharp!

Working through the day, round by round went by until dusk began to fall and the finals were all but contested in the twilight. The atmosphere around those fights was immense and something that will be a fond memory for years to come.

Sunday

Sunday was all about the group fights. 3v3 Buhurt was on the cards for both the men and the women. Without pulling any punches, the women absolutely killed it! Swords of Cygnus, ACG Hellions (Red & Blue), Invicta and Knyaz all went out there and fought like demons. It was great to see. Then we went into the men’s groups which saw some serious action and some great teamwork. As the day went on it was showing which teams were strong, working their way towards the final. Unfortunately due to a medical issue the event was called but all the semi-final teams in ACG, Invicta and The Northern Wolves looked strong and it was surely shaping up to be an epic set of final fights.

The Points System

Something that we aren’t used to seeing in this sport is a cumulative/aggregated points system across a weekend. What this made for was a very interesting dynamic whereby the duelling not only counted for the individual but also for the team. It really made for an atmosphere where the teams got behind every one of their fighters to spur them on. It also meant that the teams had to be well rounded everywhere for the weekend, they couldn’t just rely on a strong Buhurt performance to win the day, everyone had to do their bit!

Marshalling/Support

The event was ran superbly well. It was great to see the team captains and other experienced fighters there in support to weapons check, marshal, points count and offer support to one another through the weekend. A big shout out needs to go to Rowland Longley and Rachael Waters for organising and pulling it together.

Outcome

There are always lessons to be learned from events, all in all however it was a successful weekend for the first tournament of this format at this location. I think it has shown just how much interest there is in this sport and offers a great level of diversity to attract those newer fighters into a competitive arena. I also think that it’s really managed to highlight how fun duelling can be and refocus that aspect of the sport along side Buhurt. I know I lost my voice shouting at my fighters during the duels alone!

How did we do?

Well we took a team of my Honour & Arms fighters down as part of The Northern Wolves wider team and our female fighter Becka joined forces with Swords of Cygnus.

We got through the male divisions on day 1 with 2 quarter finalists, 1 silver medallist and 1 gold medallist. This took us into Sunday top of the points table with 8 points. Our only female fighter fighting with Swords of Cygnus put on a great show in the duelling narrowly missing out on a medal.

On Sunday however, the Swords of Cygnus girls including our own Becka powered through their round robin Buhurt winning every fight and taking gold! The men powered through their groups winning all their fights, before taking the quarter final win in a hard fought battle with the Invicta team. With the cancellation of the tournament after the final quarter final due to a medical emergency, all semi-final teams were awarded equal first which meant we cam away from the weekend as overall club winners!

Now to look forward to the next one and hope to finish it out and have as much success in the future as we did this past weekend.

Congratulations to all.

Dan & Mary

Setting Up A Dedicated HMB Facility – What Did We Do?

Since going through the process of putting down the roots of the club, I have had a lot of questions from a lot of people on how the process went and asking what considerations we had to make. As such, I thought it best if one of my first posts on this new blog addressed the process of us setting up our dedicated HMB facility.

Now for those who don’t know, Honour and Arms was originally conceived as a club in late 2017. Our starting focus was originally on practicing HEMA and (very quickly) moved into more of a HMB focus when I really started to pursue the sport. Our early sessions were hosted out of a church hall which I had access to and we trained weekly. It just wasn’t enough for the time we had allotted to each session.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’ll be the first to admit that my initial motivation for having somewhere dedicated to train HMB specifically was somewhat selfish. I wanted more training! Not just any training at any gym, but somewhere I could train specifically for HMB and train whenever I wanted. So after a short discussion with my lovely wife, we decided to go for it.

So where did we start? Google, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace.

We had a few considerations which we needed to run through which we will detail below.

1) What size and type of space do we need?

2) How do we make the space work?

3) What is it going to cost and how do we fund it?

4) What legal set up do we use?

5) What equipment do we need?

6) What is our actual goal for all of this?

*The first consideration was what size space we actually needed, we had no idea!

After viewing multiple units in many differing locations, we got a good idea what we could do with 1000 square feet of space. This was what we settled on as being the right balance in terms of size/cost and our selected unit measured circa 18m long x 6.5m wide.

*The second consideration was then planning on how the space itself was going to work.

I decided to laser measure the unit, draw it out in AutoCAD and plan the unit out in terms of what was available. This was invaluable for me as I could visualise and easily change things around to suit the space we had settled on. This is when the excitement really started to build but also the reality of what we were about to do set in.

*The third consideration was all financial.

What is it going to cost? How do we fund it? What is the back up plan?

What is it going to cost? Let’s put out some numbers.

The answer to this question depended entirely on what we wanted to achieve, however for transparency I will set out the costs associated with our experience. Understand these figures are purely dependent on location also, not just proximity to services and amenities but also geographical as prices will differ vastly throughout the country.

Our initial monthly lease for the unit was £380 (inclusive of VAT) + insurances and utilities. All told our monthly cost of the unit lease worked out at £395pcm with those added in. Once we wanted this unit we had to enter into the lease. We signed up for a 12 month lease which has a minimum 3 month break clause and the condition of bond payment + 1 months lease up front. So to secure the unit only, it costs a minimum of £1,975 (£790 for the bond + 1 months rent and then because we had a 3 month break clause we were tied in for that value at least).

On top of the unit itself there was equipment costs. We’ve spent a decent amount on assets for the club over the period we’ve been open (which is stated further below), however it’s all been done as cost effectively as possible.

NB:- If you chose to take on a commercially listed unit, you may be subject to business rates. This is based on the rateable value of the unit. Check with your local authority if you qualify for SBBR (Small business rate relief) which should be the case for small commercial units where it is your only commercial premises in that council borough.

Also try to get your lease payments limited to rises in line with inflation. Without doing this, the landlords can increase the costs however they want without you having any reasonable recourse. Our lease has this clause included so we know how to budget for rises given it is limited to be in line with inflation.

How do we fund it?

At the point we chose to do this, we had minimal regular members.

We had achieved a lot of success and support at our larger one off weekend sessions, but now we would need regular membership and training to help things keep moving. This was a head scratcher as you can’t put the cart before the horse. So after some discussion, Mary and I made a commitment to fund the club for 6 months and see where it went. We didn’t know if we would get more members and grow to self sustain, but we weren’t going to not try!

I also decided to get a little creative to help raise some funds. I did this by being cheeky, reaching out to sponsors asking for anything they felt they could donate for us to sell/raffle to raise funds, coming up with ideas for merchandise that we could earn some revenue from and also some choice affiliate links for commission based revenue.

All in all, through these various avenues we managed to raise over £1000 through the raffles and affiliate commissions for the club which helped take the pressure off and helped us spearhead forwards to building our member base.

What is the back up plan? We had no idea!

A little irresponsible I know, but we had a very minimal back up plan. I wanted this to work so only put a small amount of thought into other avenues. What we did think was that if we fitted out the space correctly (jigsaw matting, punch bags etc.), minor changes would mean we could, if needed, sub let the space to other martial arts groups and classes to help raise more revenue.

*The fourth consideration was what legal structure to consider.

As a starter for 10, I will say that public liability and professional indemnity for our sport is a minefield and the last thing I wanted was for someone to get potentially injured in training and be personally liable for unlimited damages.

The considerations were to a) run it as an individual b) run it as a unincorporated club/association or c) set up as a limited company. Given that we wanted the club to be open and accessible to all, that lead me to setting up Honour And Arms HMB Ltd, a limited company which forms the vehicle for the entire legal structure and running of the club. In doing so this allowed me to not only have the protections that a limited company offers for my personal liability, but it also helped when registering our facility as a sports and fitness facility with the local authority as well as helped with insurances for business.

*The fifth consideration was equipment to we actually need?

I was in a fortunate position that when we took over running our sessions from the church hall, I bought out the old martial arts club of their equipment which meant we already had a plethora of jigsaw mats, punch and kick pads and headguards. We also has some soft kit kindly left with us by The Northern Wolves.

When planning equipment though, I wanted to ensure we had distinct spaces. We settled on:

  • A fitness and conditioning area to focus on HIIT work, strength work and open space for technique.
  • A space for the armoured fighting element which is our 6m x 6m list.
  • A space for armour repair and kit storage.
  • A space for visitors and spectators to be able to lounge and enjoy the training/action.

These spaces then dictated what we needed equipment wise.

  • For the fitness and conditioning area, squat rack, bench, barbells, kettlebells, pull up bar, battle ropes, boxes, tyre pells and much more.
  • For the armoured fighting area a strongly bolted down list with matted floor.
  • For the kit repair area, a solid bench with bench drill, grinder, anvils, punches and other tools.
  • For the visitors space, a couch, bar stools and additional chairs, a fridge, microwave and most importantly a Kettle!

We have also added and bought other items that you don’t necessarily need too, but they help us integrate people into initial training training easier, such as additional soft kit and protection, club armour and club weapons for training purposes.

All in all we have an inventory cost sheet of circa £6.5k of fixed assets in the club for people to use to train in this sport effectively.

And finally the sixth consideration. What is our goal for all of this?

Well if you made it this far well done!

You’ll note from earlier I stated my initial pursuit in doing this was selfish, I wanted somewhere to train HMB specifically on my terms. What it has actually morphed my goals into is really making this wonderful sport more accessible to those wanting to get into it, not just for the fighting but for the community and comradery that most don’t seen in a BOTN YouTube highlight.

So our goals have shifted definitively. I (Dan) want to train and compete but we (Mary and I) want to make the sport even more accessible, lower the ceiling for access into the sport and raise awareness to it.

We think our approach is working and seeing some early results.

1 – Get people in the door. 2 – Graduate them into the fitness and technique. 3 Soft kit progress and competitive training. 4 – Club armour for that taste of what the sport really is. 5 – Progression at their own pace into competition and procuring their own kits. 6 – Show them the whole of the sport, not just the violence.

I think one of the most rewarding parts of this journey so far has been seeing the progress of anyone and everyone involved. We’ve got people who were at our very first day at this location now competing and competing really well against the best teams this country has to offer. We’ve got newly interested people who have been with us mere weeks and months going to tournaments with club kit and showing that their training works against unfamiliar opponents. And ultimately we have built a steady flow of regulars who seem committed to the sport, to their training and to themselves to push on and do great things!

Hopefully this has been an insight into what a lot of individuals have asked me separately and if you do have any detailed questions please feel free to ask.

Remember, if you don’t over do it, you’ll do it for the rest of your life, so do as much as you can, don’t do too much!

See you in the lists soon!

Dan & Mary

Hello there! Thanks for coming!

Firstly let me start by wishing you a warm welcome to our club blog and thank you in advance for coming over to have a read and check it all out.

The initial purpose of this blog is to allow me to post my thoughts and musings, both as a fighter in the sport of HMB as well as a HMB team captain and HMB gym/facility owner. There’s a lot to get to grips with in this sport and so many different opinions and takes that I feel this would be a good outlet to put out my snippets and get constructive feedback (good or bad) on all aspects of the sport including training, techniques, organising a team, fighting and running an accessible HMB club open to all.

Whilst I keep this first introductory post short, I hope to be able to expand and publish as things become apparent and get everyone involved in good thought provoking discussion.