Once upon a time in the age of bronze and steel, one of the highest forms of valor belonged to the Knights. The medieval age was a huge precursor to our modern world and you can even argue that the coveted knight fighting was mixed martial arts in one of its earliest forms.
International Medieval Combat Federation gold medallist Lukas Kowal competes for the United Kingdom team and is one of the top knight fighters in Europe. With the sport now finding popularity through a modern genre, Kowal explained how he first got involved with the obscure activity.
“I started it a pretty long time ago when I was 16 back where I am from; which is Poland, but back then it wasn’t as serious as it now,” Lukas said. “Because I am pretty sure you have seen those M-1 videos where you have got the type of MMA fights, pretty much over the years it has evolved and it keeps on evolving. Even two years ago it wasn’t as brutal as it is now.”
28-year-old Kowal has been competing internationally since 2013 and is now a professional for the World Medieval Fighting Championship, one of the biggest knight fighting organisations in the world.
Despite some belief that there may be a crossover between MMA and knight fighting, the Team UK fighter – who originates from Poland – has no background in martial arts and went on to emphasise the varied success that MMA fighters have had in the arena.
“We have lots of guys who have done Judo or different types of martial arts, so pretty much we would borrow a few things from other disciplines but what I realised – because we had a few MMA fighters coming over to our group – and they were not extremely successful to be honest. Brutality and full contact are similar but gaging the distance changes completely considering you have a weapon, so that was a tricky bit.
“What I realised that the guys we had on board who participate MMA were not that great with fighting many people at the same time, they were one person focused and easily blind-sided.”
In knight fighting, the bouts are not strictly one versus one competition, they can range anywhere from that to five versus five or 21 vs. 21.
Lukas explained further: “There are many types of fights, if you are interested in M-1 which is divisions, and the second one which is the more famous is called WMFC. The ruleset is three rounds of three minutes with one and a half minute break in-between.
“In WMC and M-1 there are weight categories, not strictly defined but when you fight you would always fight with someone around your weight.”
In one on one competition, Kowal detailed the points scoring system where: a strong strike of a weapon scores one point, a strike with fists, to shield, leg is also one point and a takedown is three points. A fighter with three points of contact to the ground, is considered downed opponent and in many ways, the similarities between knight fighting and MMA is glaringly obvious.
When he isn’t out striking iron on the battlefield, Kowal is a personal trainer which he attributed as a major factor – alongside a rigours training regime – in his conditioning for competitive knight fighting.
“I would pretty much train most of the days in the week but it depends what I am preparing for. If I’m preparing for stuff like M-1 I will train even sometimes twice a day but it depends on the opponent. Usually I’ll be looking at strength and conditioning training and lots of functional stuff. Powerlifting but I’m not a big guy so I would rely on conditioning a lot more.
“We do technical training once a week, four or five hour sessions. But when it comes up to the World Championships, which is Battle of the Nations, we train twice a week. One of the sessions is in full armour and the other session is something we call soft kit where we put padded helmets and padded equipment which is not worrying you as much.”
Through the increased exposure given to the sport by M-1 with their Medieval Knight fights, Lukas understands the attraction the sport can have for the casual fans.
“The sport is really unique, most of the time you get people who look at it and would say ‘damn it, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, I had no idea it exists’. People just can’t believe that you can take a weapon and hit someone as hard as you want and not go to prison for it.”
As knight fighting continues to grow outside the realm of M-1 and in the United Kingdom, White Company’s Kowal hopes that similar to M-1, a UK MMA promotion will take the sport under its banner and help nurture it akin to their Russian counterparts have, finding major competitive and commercial success.