Conquest at the Castle: the world championship experience

It was a week of firsts. My first trip to Rome, Italy actually, my first international tournament, first Battle of the Nations. I have never even been internationally as support for our team, never mind as a fighter.

I began the sport around six months ago, my sister is captain of Swords of Cygnus so I’ve absorbed HMB through osmosis. I promised I’d give it a try on returning to live in England. Next thing I knew I’d won silver in a polearm tournament and the rest they say is history…

As I recall the conversation, I had agreed to come to Battle of the Nations as support. Being the newest recruit to the Swords of Cygnus, I was well up for a holiday to Italy, watching the fighting, consuming vast amounts of beer and pizza and poncing about in a medieval dress seemed like a proper jolly.

“Aliénor Photography: The Booths at Battle of the Nations; Santa Severa”

However, after another member of British women’s team was consumed by the seemingly contagious knee injury, I was thrust into the UK World Championship squad. I would be representing the UK in polearm duels category and, might I add the first ever 5v5 women’s group battles.

Thursday morning broke bright and hot, the French singing until the early hours and first light of dawn streaming through the canvas tent were not conducive to a restful night, but I was there to fight not sleep. After a quick warm up and stretch it was time to kit up.

Round one UK vs Ukraine. Only when I stepped into the small arena did everything feel very real. I felt I did well, managing to block and sidestep plenty of blows. I couldn’t tell how many I had returned, if any. Not that seemed particularly important, the shouts of encouragement from the side of the list and the heartfelt gauntleted fist bump after the round had already made my day. Next round was Australia, which I won on a technicality, and the nice lady from America smashed me so hard in the gauntlet she cracked my gel nail extension! Despite this severe injury I valiantly declined the stretcher to remove me from the arena.

The following morning, the instructions for the 5v5 battles were hold the line, stay on your feet and hit them with the pointy end. Or was that hold them with your feet, stay on the pointy end and hit them with the line? Whatever. I’m still excited just typing about it. Like a true sister Jo, reassured me that I would be left in reserve as substitute, being relatively novice to the sport. In short this was a wicked lure into a false sense of security. I was ordered into the list front line from the very first round.

“5v5 UK vs Ukraine”

We fought against Argentina and we won, I stayed on my feet and assisted with a take down. I was feeling pretty good. The wolf rib structure of my helm allows food to be posted through the bars between rounds and our support team were on point delivering pieces of melon through the hardened steel bars. I was really starting to enjoy myself.

“Round 4: Russia”

I had a bit of a wakeup call when a Ukrainian smashed me straight out under the list and I took a proper beating from a couple of Russians. Though apparently this is more of a ‘right of passage’ in the lovingly violent world of buhurt.

The final round against the French was a pure bohurt fairytale. I was engaged in a grapple with a French girl wearing eastern kit for what felt like an age. I felt a couple of sword blows on the back of my leg but decided to focus on getting a take down. A thought occurred to me from watching one of the pantheon of videos I had endured at home with Jo; I’ll bloody well jump on her, she won’t like that. I was right, I forced her out under the list. A take down against the French. Marvellous, captain will be chuffed… What I hadn’t realised was that everyone else was out, sitting on the floor. Chuffed was an understatement, you haven’t lived until you’ve been embraced by all of Swords of Cygnus simultaneously with support screaming and whooping from the side of the list.

It’s like being run over by a steel and titanium bus with extra swords and banshees and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Cat Booth


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