- By Ty McCormickTy McCormick is the Africa editor at Foreign Policy. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, he has reported from more than a dozen countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Somalia, South Sudan, Burundi, Uganda, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was the bronze medal recipient of the 2016 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize from the U.N. Correspondents Association and a finalist for the 2015 Kurt Schork Award for international freelance journalism. Prior to joining FP in 2012, he was a freelance Cairo correspondent. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, and National Geographic, among others. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and master’s degrees from Oxford University and the Queen’s University Belfast, where he held Clarendon and George J. Mitchell scholarships, respectively.
There are a lot of crazy sports out there — the Ironman triathlon, volcano boarding, and crocodile bungee jumping all come to mind — and then there’s this: The New York Times has a story today about the Battle of the Nations, an insane, full-contact, medieval combat reenactment that ends only when all the participants have been bludgeoned into the ground.
More from the Times:
The Battle of the Nations consists of four fighting formats: 1 on 1; 5 on 5; 21 on 21; and all against all, in which some opposing squads join forces. Winners of each match are decided by which side has the last fighter, or fighters, standing. A combatant bows out when three body parts, which include the feet, are touching the ground. Matches involving fewer fighters are usually over within a couple minutes, while the all-versus-all match can last up to 10 minutes….
Weapons must be blunted. Stabbing or thrusting, which [U.S. team executive officer Jaye] Brooks defined as repeatedly delivering excess force to the same point of contact, is not allowed. Fighters can hit any region in the "kill zone," which excludes the feet, back of knees, groin, back of neck and base of skull. Vertical strikes to the spine and horizontal strikes to the back of the neck are forbidden.
Injuries have included dislodged teeth and broken or severed fingers. In the United States, the athletes also undergo baseline testing to check for the possibility of concussions.
This year’s competition will be the United States’ second (last year the U.S. team finished 4th out of 14 teams), and it will be looking to knock off top-ranked Russia, which has dominated the sport since its inception in 2009. Here’s a video of Russia beating up on the United States in 2012:
So what kind of person tries out for the Battle of the Nations, you ask? Here’s what one U.S. team member told the Times: "This is the perfect sport for someone who wishes to participate in one of the roughest sports on earth, has a love of armor and weapons and Western martial arts, and a desire to be as close to being a knight of old as is possible in this modern age."
Who’s ready to sign up?