«WIN OR DIE»: HOW THE MIDDLE AGES TURNED INTO A BIG SPORT
INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER OF THE PROFESSIONAL STEEL FIGHTS LEAGUE. ALL THAT YOU WANT TO KNOW.
Good evening to all fans of real adult amusements!
This year an unexpected joy will gratify all gourmands of medieval violence: professional steel fights of World Medieval Fighting Championship league are actually an official nomination on “Battle of the Nations 2018”.
In honor of this, we publish an interview with Andrey Kiselyus — the founder, encourager and head of WMFC.
- Hello, Andrey. Profights and WMFC have long been a brand name in the world of reenactment and knight battles. How this direction came to be? And how it differs from other duel nominations?
- Greetings, my dear friends! Professional medieval fights is a very cool thing. Today I will tell you about how I got into the swing of things, about events and about the beginning of WMFC.
Medieval profights as a phenomenon have appeared really a long time ago, even much earlier than the idea of our international league. One day we were sitting near an invisible marble fireplace (it was an ordinary office, actually), and one thought occurred to me: every mature martial art has his own big bright show. The show in which the fighter is a hero, and the crowd applauds and roars, admiring the glory of the battle. At all times of human history it has been looking different — from romanian gladiators to MMA-heavyweights fighters. It is almost not represented in our movement. I’m talking about an engrossing show, with professional commentators, star fighters and so on. So our long hard way has started.
I had been observing traditional historical fencing and full-contact duels for a long time, and the more I looked, the more I fell with profights. It has a spirit of true combat, male combat “1 vs 1”, "might makes right". It has something furious and savage primitive. Now, that was worth something in my eyes. An action where you can hammer your opponent on the floor, smash him to the dust, and the champions are legends, modern gladiators in brutal armor, who have a fearsome glare.
- Steel sport has turned from exotic hobby into a worldwide movement with his own championships and celebrities despite the young age. Some people grumble: such growth leads to bureaucracy, boredom and loss of sincere original fervor. Why are professional fights a trend to refreshing HMB?
- Yeah, I have been being into our movement for almost 10 years and I can say — HMB has greatly grown and risen as a kind of sport. I remember: we, young and green guys, sit in small room, and someone said: “now you will see an interesting film”.
It was a promo of the first “Battle of the Nations”. The very first — we didn’t know the adventure we were getting in.It was the first world championship in HMB-history. I thought: “It is really cool. I must be there at any cost”. In the end I succeeded. After years, in 2018, me and my team have a honour to organize a new nomination. We will present not only impressive mass battles, but also a grace of duel on this big day for all steel sport lovers.
Of course, there are a lot of work, a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of paperwork and everlasting dispute about rules. Various arguments and negotiations are infernally complicated. But this is also a great opportunity to show profights as one of the best side of our sport to the whole world.
Every tournament I make is different from the others. We do something new every time, sometimes we change screenplay in action. We always try to surprise and to set the level — we want others to strive and to wish too.We formulate the rules in such a way that the fight’s pattern is always interesting. Every sentence means many hours of disputes and wrangles.
Our good purpose is a true fight between two high-level knights, not a ridiculous click with light swords, as it often happens in triathlon. There are craftsmen, which can knock you out with a “ruler” (a sword weighing 1200 grams). But ordinary people look at triathlon, fall asleep and think: “Hey, are you going to fight today?”. I have competed in all mass and single categories and I know what I’m talking about.
- As is known, WMFC is a large organization. What kind of people do you invite in your team? What is their mission? And what kind of motivation do they have in such a difficult case — to further most physical steel fights in the age of online friendship, coffee shops and bitcoins?
- WMFC has really grown strong for the years. Profights is one of many our activities. We don’t limit ourselves to one category; we try to take the best from anything. “Dynamo Cup” that we organize for years, and which is little associated with “1vs1” nominations, is an excellent confirmation of our principle.
We also make clothes, create reenactment and city events and actively promote HMB with SMM and Internet projects and we are also engaged in production of video clips. Now there are a number of projects in the development, related and not related to the medieval battles. This time we are thinking about our own reenactment-cryptocurrency. Just kidding, of course.
Stupid bitcoin has recently collapsed, but our ranks are increasing year after year. We keep up with the times and believe that HMB will fit into the modern society, if everyone will do his stuff. People like to look at two fighting sportsmen with big cleavers in every age of human history.
There are a lot of levels and specializations to try the skills of WMFC crewman. We do not have any prejudices, we are international and interclubbish. We are global. Professionalism, dedication, a wish to create, evolve and be in advance are the most important things. We appreciate this feelings, I search it in other people and, sometimes, find . Our mission is to enlighten the masses, to learn and to teach others, to develop all this stuff we love and call “medieval battles”. WMFC is a Gentlemen’s Club with Blackjack and whisky. It is difficult to join us, and it is more difficult to leave us alive.
- What, in your opinion, are the prospects for WMFC and for historical reenactment in general? And what steps need to be taken to become a truly influential sports movement?
- I see the most serious prospects and I compare, of course, not with cricket and darts, but with big and monetary sports like football or boxing.
We have many intertwined together components — there are mass battles, command battles, there are different types of weapons. You can be a drummer, but you can knock players off as skittles. You can be a brilliant strategist and lead dozens of menacing fighters to a battle or you can be a medieval merchant who supplies armor to the other side of the Earth. You can forge these armor, studying ancient cues. It is possible to deal with any crazy things. Someone is keen on living history, and someone is doing it as a sport, creating something terrible, but great (I'm talking about my helmets).
We can looking for analogies and comparisons infinitely, but I want to focus on the main thing. I boxed and even competed in competitions. After 4 years I realized that I will not get anything new and interesting in this sport, everything is very primitive and not curious. But now it will be already soon 10 years, as I am in medieval battles — and I constantly find new corners and facets of this wonderful occupation. If you found out that HMB is your thing — then it's once and for all. This movement pulls on the whole universe, or, at least, a couple of Oscar-winning films. Yes, this sport has a great potential, but we do the future with you. Every day we change something and step closer to our dream, each in his own way and each in his position, but together. In our internal organizational New Year's speech, I described the plans and vision of the development of the movement. Long story short- first of all, I see the future in building a global infrastructure. In other words, everything must be interconnected.
In the current state, we are very isolated and do not focus on close communication, speaking roughly — "My hut is set apart, and I don't know anything". The more we build social ties and groups united by common interests, the closer we will be to the principle of "we are in the same boat and we're rowing in one direction." I constantly hear the question " HMB — what even is it?" And I can not give a clear answer. At best, I show some popular videos. There is a system, but it is poorly integrated.
There are historical clubs, training clubs, blacksmiths, organizers, judges, traders — and everyone in this system in themselves. For an outsider, this is a dense forest with colorful mushrooms. If you look from a bird's eye view, we need to facilitate communication between different associations, in simple terms — "build roads".
Our own media will play a significant role. We need to build a model of public enlightenment on the topic of what HMB is. There are social networks, our information resources, our bloggers and so on. In the future, reaching a large audience will attract sponsors from all corners of the world, and the monetization will complicate, complete and improve our internal system. If there are sponsors — there is money, there is money — there is more energy in the system. People will be able to turn this from a hobby to a "something more", each in its own way, of course. And the fighters, and the organizers. I wrote a lot of things — but this is the main thing. I think that anything said already gives a flight of imagination. It is wiser to build bridges than walls now.
- There is a belief among many fighters from Western Europe that WMFC, including the initial level of First Class, is a mechanism for killing. The hybrid of a rack and a guillotine. What would you recommend to those who look with interest at profights, but are afraid to risk it? And which way to go they have to do to the top of the ranking of the league?
- ЕIf there was a hybrid of a rack and a guillotine, it was interesting to see and even experience it. Just kidding.
We have created the system in which each fighter can enter into it at any level of development, whether beginner or professional. Moreover, we have thought over the system even for those who do not want or do not have the opportunity to grow, but still want to engage in and take a worthy position.
When a beginner or amateur comes, he gets into the league called First Class. This is a study group, so to speak. A preparatory stage to go further, to become professionals, and to win world fame and recognition. An important nuance is that the transition to profights only takes place at the request of the fighter himself. We only give him that opportunity, if he is ready. If there is no desire, the fighter can fight in the FC for years, until he drowns at the bottom of the sea.
When the fighter is ready, then we suggest him to move to the higher level, or he applying for it by himself (usually contacts in social networks) and asks about the transfer to the league of professionals. We estimate a number of parameters, because the pro is not only the level of combat. Professionalism is an approach to worldview. In terms of fighting, professionalism is expressed in the quality of armor, physical preparation, general activity, in the desire to work both on the result and on the public; the knowledge of the rules and, of course, the ability to make the show. I am very grateful to the fighters who understand that their personal ambitions are directly related to the interest and demand of the public. If the audience wants to see the fighter, we call him more often.
Profights is a warrior's way, it’s heavy and thorny. Not without reason all fighters of the top 'five' teams perform in profights — this is an excellent opportunity to raise and perfect all fighting skills. In profights you can not being lazy while others fight. Everything depends only on you. Profighters are an elite. For me, they are people you should be looking up to, they set trends and pace for the entire HMB. And the main thing is that everyone can succeed and pass that path of the warrior: from the first strike on the punching bag, to the battle with the super champion and victory over him.
Our sport is very young and open to new stars and new breakthroughs. If you are a novice soldier, why not? You will definitely not lose anything, but you can get a lot! We are always very sensitive about young and promising participants, we allow the opportunity to grow up and we trying not to put them in the firing line.
- If you go on the WMFC site and look at the ratings, you will see the names of people from very different countries with very different levels of preparation. What's the point?
- The WMFC rating is our heritage, it requires constant attention and hard work. We try to make it as objective as possible, so that it reflects the real state of affairs of profights around the world. I will reveal the secret — we want to move to the progressive scale of the rating. That is, you will get a lot of points, defeating the champion, but a victory over a weak opponent will bring a small increase of the rating. Thus, we will solve the problem of different preparation of fighters and motivation to have battles with stronger opponents. Unfortunately, this can not be done just snap. So far we are sitting and rewriting history, but we hope to please the community with news in the near future.
Speaking about internationality, all of this is not so easy. There are different regions, even continents, different organizers, different mentality — this is difficult to combine. In the end, we want to arrive at the following items: any fighter accessing the site, can see the date of the nearest tournament, assess his strength and go to fight. He receives in two clicks all information about updates to the rules and the latest news, and then monitors his position in the ranking and compares himself with a friend living on the other side of the world.
And there's a couple of things to say about organizing tournaments in different countries. We have no restrictions here; we try to provide any gratuitous support, whether advertising, consultation, set of rules, assistance with refereeing or negotiations. Sometimes we even come personally to support. We try to work with everyone who shares our ideas and is ready to move forward with us. It is important for us that the tournament is held at the proper level and it should be in accordance with our standards. By the way, now we are preparing a lot of material "WMFC: Standards". It's made of our brandbook,a policy for its use and a guide for young organizers — "the possibility of avoiding mistakes and how to make a cool tournament." We have accumulated quite considerable knowledge in this area and we are happy to share it with our colleagues from different countries.
- There are beautiful ladies among the stars of the medieval battles. What is the WMFC policy regarding girls in the lists? And what is your personal view of women's nominations?
- Woman is the most beautiful thing that exists on the Earth. And we can not bypass this question in any way. We have a women's league, in which any stern lady can show her talents. I take this positively — in the proper confluence of circumstances, women put a cherry on top and can perfectly decorate any tournament. Of course, they need support sometimes by word, sometimes by deed. We also need to consider that this sport for them appeared much later than for men.
It's good to see new stars appear, and not only in profights, but also in mass battles 5vs5. Someday two "21vs21" teams will converge on the "Battle of the Nations", and women's braids will be visible from under the helmets — it will be a beautiful hellish carnage. In general, women's fights are interesting in watching: it has their own special style of combat, which can not be repeated. They are slightly more violent than men, but this aggression does not come from brutality and anger.
Deep down, they are still quite fragile creatures, even under a fierce grimace on their faces. Personally, I understand perfectly well that to put on 40 kg of armor on a man of 100 kg with good physical preparation or on a girl of 60 kg, who also needs to wave her sword — this is absolutely not the same things. Women's fights are worthy of respect. I'm sure if this 'flower' is watered properly, it will grow into a beautiful rose and, one day, will adorn the world of medieval battles even more.
- Could you describe the principles of work and the purpose of WMFC with one capacious phrase?
When you believe in the theory that the Sun is only for a moment exploded star after the intergalactic explosion, and life on Earth — the consequence of burnout of this spark, then what, in fact, remains to us? To declare about yourself and just rock! This theory for some of my colleagues in HMB is probably not even a theory, but an allusion. Ha-ha.
Our motto? Probably it's "Aut vincere aut mori" — "Win or Die". If you're doing something, then do it well. If there is no purpose to create something interesting, then why start at all, then why bother living? It is an insane and endless process of creation and improvement. Infinite development.
- "Win or Die" sounds scary and attractive at the same time. How mere mortals, who do not have any victories or a loud name, can get in touch with an organization like WMFC?
- The only thing that really needs from a person is his desire; not only the desire to fight in steel armor, but also the desire to give all yourself. The feedback — that what's important. Sometimes even a couple of phrases from a person in another language is enough: "this guy will be a star tomorrow" or "he is an occasional passer-by who wants more in rhetoric than reality".
In any case, we have a huge group of organizers around the world. There is a website (soon we will add all our contacts in different languages, thanks for reminding). We are on the most popular social platforms: Facebook, Instagram, VKontakte. We are always open and ready for communication.
By the way, recently we made a support group for fighters — there all the latest information about the battles in the CIS. And we even organized help for injured fighters — this is a well-known club with an eloquent name "Knee". I really want to translate everything and transfer it to Facebook as well, but English is not my strong suit, and really initiative and active people are limited, I can count them on one hand.
And yes! If you do not receive a response, or I answered only after two months in a personal message, then do not be angry, but just write again. We have very large amounts of work and complex tasks. Sometimes you have to do something in which you do not understand anything at all and understand the situation on the ground. I had long since stopped ceased to burden myself with weekends and a time of the day. Only hardcore.
Thanks to everyone who read to the end — you definitely have potential! I'll see you in the next tournaments. On March 31, we will conduct the qualifying of the combat battles to the "Battle of Nations" for the Russian Federation National Team. And on May 3-6, we will go all the way at the "Battle of the Nations" in the eternal city, Rome.
It will be hot, as always. Join us!
Interviewer: Elizaveta Semirkhanova
Translator: Yulia War