Historical Medieval Battles – Combat Knights of Today
The Palmetto Knights sit down with Buzzy to dish the details on their competitive Medieval Combat Team
JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today are three members of the Palmetto Knights Historic Steel Combat Team (Historical Medieval Battles Team). Welcome, folks! And I’m so happy to have you here at Dragon Con. Could you please introduce yourselves to our viewers?
Laurence Lagnese: Laurence Lagnese.
Trey Sutter: Trey Sutter.
Sandra Lagnese: And Sandra Lagnese.
JMW: Welcome! Team implies sports as in competitive sports like football, baseball, that sort of thing. Are you telling me that here, now, in the 21st century, folks are donning armor and competing in tourneys?
Laurence Lagnese: Yes, ma’am. We go to an international competition. There’s two of them, the HMB (Historical Medieval Battles) and the IMCF, who put on international competitions where over 44 different countries are now competing from around the world. They come to Europe, and they meet up and effectively have an Olympic-style event.
JMW: Could you explain those acronyms?
Laurence Lagnese: HMB is Historic Medieval Battles, and IMCF is International Medieval Combat Federation.
JMW: Cool. Are these combats mounted or on foot or both?
Laurence Lagnese: It’s all foot combat.
GEAR – WHAT YOU NEED FOR HISTORICAL MEDIEVAL BATTLES
JMW: Foot combat, oh my goodness! That was the dangerous stuff. What kind of gear do you use? Do you use full-out metal armor?
Laurence Lagnese: Absolutely.
Trey Sutter: Majority of our armor is built to withstand some of the most abusive combat that we can put on the field at a time. Maces, axes, swords, clubs, anything and everything that we can document with certain safety exceptions are allowed on the battlefield. And as you can see, the equipment takes quite a brutal beating out on the field.
JMW: Let me just come in. Yeah.
Trey Sutter: If it was not for this equipment, we would be taking the beating instead.
JMW: Yeah, looking at that in my camera, just looking at my camera view, I would not want that kind of damage on my skull. I don’t think I’d want that kind of damage on my helmet. How often do you have to replace them?
Trey Sutter: This helmet has lasted me for over three years in competition, three different international tournament at this point plus numerous combats and practices in the United States. The important thing is armor well-made works. It does its job to protect us. We don’t take the bumps and bruises because the armor does for us.
JMW: Well, that’s good. But it looks like it’s terribly, terribly heavy. How much does it weigh, that helm alone?
Trey Sutter: This helmet sits right at about 20 pounds. My full kit with sealed weapon and full armor puts me right under 85 to 90 pounds.
JMW: Whoa! And that one is a helm from the East as I understand it.
Laurence Lagnese: Yes, this is an Ottoman helm. It’s modeled off of a find that’s in the Met Museum. This one is actually around 12 pounds, much lighter than his, but it’s made of a different metal as part of the reasoning for that.
JMW: I’m thinking, all of that weight on your head, is there some internal support that keeps it off your head?
Trey Sutter: The majority of the helmets come with what’s called a suspension lining. We actually have a close-fitting padding that’s around the head, but the armor’s only attached to it in a few small places. And that way, much like the cradle inside of a modern hard hat that would be used on a construction site, you’re suspended in the inside of the helmet. My helmet further has extended sides that actually sit on top of my shoulders so that when a large downward force comes and hits me on the top of the helmet, that several of these dents will testify to, they drove down into my shoulders as opposed to my spinal column taking the hit. So it was designed with that in mind.
JMW: Very, very important. And I see you picking up your helm and…
Sandra Lagnese: If I can open mine up and so then you can see the suspension liner that he’s talking about. So right here, it’s sewn along the edge. And there’s actually a space in the top, so it’s suspended a little bit, as you can see.
JMW: So this blows my mind, the idea that a woman, your armor kit must be what? 50 pounds?
Sandra Lagnese: Yeah, close to that. Mine’s a lot lighter because I had planned on being a duels or singles fighter. So I didn’t need as much weight, because the thing with the helmet especially and stuff like that, the more weight is still better because it’s going to take some of that impact. The physics of it, it’s going to help.
JMW: So women compete as well as men in these competitions?
Sandra Lagnese: Correct.
JMW: It’s not guys only. Is this historical? You were talking earlier about having to document everything.
Sandra Lagnese: Well, the wonderful thing is we live in the modern age. So we can do it. If women want to do it, we can do it. There’s no rules that say, “Okay, because you need to document exactly women fighting in that time,” but there is none of that. So if we want to do it, we can do it. And we do fight against each other.
Sandra Lagnese: Mine is actually late 14th century French. And basically, everything was modeled off two different manuscript and an effigy.
JMW: Oh, cool! And you’ve got a rather interesting shield right here.
Sandra Lagnese: I brought this out yesterday. It looks Captain America. But this was my shield from when I competed in Spain. So it is colors of the U.S.A. But every single one of these signatures on here were the other women for the first year that they allowed the competition at the international IMCF in Spain. So I’ve got French girls, Polish girls, Poland, Japan, New Zealand, and then several of my teammates from the U.S. So this shield is more than just Captain America.
JMW: Precious. It’s rather precious, and it documents a moment in time, because it’s the first time, isn’t it, that women could compete? That’s wonderful! How did the three of you come to this rather unusual sport?
Trey Sutter: Well, several years back, the videos started to come out of Europe, compliments of systems like YouTube. There were videos of people doing medieval combat, but not foam and not wooden swords that we’ve seen in the United States for years. These gentlemen had metal weapons, clubs, and swords and started to beat each other up. And we believed that there was nothing like this possible. An investigation began and an original first team of 29 went overseas in…
Trey: 2012, the first U.S. team went to the battle of the nations overseas. Since then, the team has been growing. There’s now two different federations of teams that are competing, two different sets of tournaments throughout the globe. North America, Europe, and probably Australia, New Zealand’s hosting tournaments now, South America just had a…
Laurence Lagnese: 30,000 people turn out for their event, their big tournament.
JMW: Whoa! That’s amazing!
And how many Palmetto Knights are there, total?
Laurence Lagnese: Armored Palmetto Knights, we have 5 armored, and we have about 12 in progress of getting their full suits set and ready.
JMW: And those can vary in weight from like 40 to 85 pounds each?
Laurence Lagnese: Yes.
Trey Sutter: A lot of that depends on what you’re preparing for. Singles tournaments, like Sandra mentioned before, is points-based, and speed is a little bit more of a factor. So the kits are generally a little bit lighter. I’m a melee specialist. I get out into the middle of the scrum, and my job is to take as much damage and tie up as many big guys as I can to give my teammates an opportunity to get behind them and take them down to the ground. Because of that, my armor’s considerably heavier so I can sustain more impact and damage before I get taken to the ground.
Sandra Lagnese: Also in a melee, you’re going to have multiple weapon forms coming at any direction. Whereas, in duels, it’s one weapon form at a time, and your opponent is in front of you.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN HISTORICAL MEDIEVAL BATTLES
JMW: How do you learn this stuff? Is there a school?
Sandra Lagnese: When you get hit down, you get back up again.
JMW: And this is fun, oh my goodness!
Laurence Lagnese: Most of the clubs around the country are forming training sessions and training groups all around the country. So depending on where you live in the country, you can easily get a hold of us. And then from there, we will lead you to whatever club is closest to you.
JMW: Oh cool! So that was going to be my next question. If this sounds like our viewers’ idea of fun, where would they get more information?
Laurence Lagnese: And then combattackmedieval.com[SP].
JMW: Cool, cool. Okay, we are coming up on the end of our interview. And so I’m going to ask what I always ask. Is there anything you’d like to add? What did I forget to ask you?
Trey Sutter: Is it as much fun as it looks like? Absolutely. There are very few sports that are as entertaining as pitting yourself and your skills against the other guy. It’s not a piece moved on a board. It’s not a roll of the dice or a random generation. It’s your skills, man on man, woman on woman, against the person you’re facing off against. And it’s a true test of your courage, your skill, and your ability.
JMW: Cool. Sandra?
Sandra Lagnese: Yeah, just to add to that, it’s a unique challenge because I get it a lot, “You do this?” And I enjoy it, so I do it. And then on the other aspect is then I prove to myself I can do it. I can go out there. I can run faster than other people. So yes, you might have more weight or you might be taller or this and that, but you got to catch me first.
JMW: And Larry?
Laurence Lagnese: Without question, one of the best things is the brotherhood.
JMW: Cool. Well I thank you. And thank you for BuzzyMag.com.
Interviewed by Jean Marie Ward
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Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.