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Todd Herman


Medieval martial arts fighting invades Washington

(Photo courtesy of Armored Combat League regional commander Erik Saari)
LISTEN: Erik Saari from The Armored Combat League

There’s a new athletic team in Washington state helping men and women fulfill their dreams of hitting someone else with an ax.

Members of the Armored Combat League (ACL) compete in events wearing full, medieval-style armor, and they swing actual weapons.

“You use whatever means necessary within our safety rule set to put your opponents down,” ACL Pacific Region Commander Erik Saari told 770 KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “We’re basically creating 14th Century tournament combat.”

Jaye T. Brooks and Andre Sinou founded the ACL back in 2012. The organization expanded to include 48 chapters all over the country. Saari has been involved in founding chapters both in Washington and California.

Video of ACL events are pretty easy to find with some Googling, and the fighting does look pretty frightening, but Saari says some people don’t realize they are taking precautions.

“That’s what makes it unique, it is dangerous,” Saari said, “but it’s not lethal because we don’t sharpen the weapons. They’re blunt, and we actually keep them about the width of a nickel, about five centimeters.”

At first glance, the ACL seems like it might be an offshoot of the cosplay movement, where people dress up as their favorite fictional characters.

“This is not that,” Saari said. “We have no made up names, we have no characters. You’re not allowed to do anything that is make-believe, or fantastic, or fantasy-based at all.”

The reason for this is two-fold: they want the fighters to take the sport seriously, and it’d be unsafe if a competitor’s armor isn’t the real deal.

Joining a chapter is as simple as visiting and paying $50 (Saari says it’s to help the league cover insurance costs), but Saari recommends interested parties take another step beyond that.

“What I encourage in my region is that somebody comes out to a practice,” Saari said. “I encourage them to watch what’s happening, get to know some of the people, and see if this is really what you think it is.”

The ACL has Washington chapters based in Bellingham and Seattle.

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