Hundreds of warriors in clanking armour brandished their swords and axes on a field beside a wooden-log fortress and rushed into battle with a yell.
In what looked like a “Games of Thrones” rehearsal, fighters dealt blows at each other with metal and wooden replica weapons as Ukraine this weekend hosted the world championship in medieval combat.
Twenty-nine teams from countries including Britain, Germany, China and Australia fought full-contact battles in a sandy arena, some on horseback and others on foot.
Ukraine has recognised such medieval-style combat as an official sport since 2016, the first country to do so.
The festival organised by the International Medieval Combat Federation saw pitched battles between international teams taking place over four days in a village about 100 kilometres from Kiev.
A park in the village of Kopachiv made a suitable backdrop as it has replicas of wooden buildings from Kievan Rus, the ancient state that existed there between the fifth to eighth centuries.
“The popularity of this sport is growing, the number of fighters is growing,” said the park’s chief, Natalya Koval.
This was the first time Ukraine hosted the international championship, which last year was held in Scotland.
Christopher Barre, captain of the French team, praised the competition as “superb,” while wearing armour so heavy at more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds) that he struggled to fight for longer than two or three minutes.
Polish fighter Krzysztof Olczak meanwhile boasted that his armour weighed even more –around 27 kilograms.
“You need to have good protection,” he said.
Most fighters wore helmets as well as metal-plated armour protecting their arms and legs and carried shields to deflect resounding blows.
There are few rules in the discipline but warriors are not supposed to use blows to parts of the body that are not covered by armour – for example, the neck and elbows.
If a warrior is knocked to the ground, he is automatically out of the competition.
In a modern touch, two warriors fist-bumped as they encountered each other in battle, while spectators in modern dress cheered and clapped as they watched from wooden stands.
“I like hitting people with scrap-metal bars,” said Barre, laughing.
“This is a very good sport for fighting and for friendship with my teammates but also with my opponents. We respect our opponents. And we’re going to give our all to win while respecting the rules.”
He said Ukraine had the “most impressive” team and was the frontrunner while France was hoping for a respectable place.
This year the event attracted more than 1,000 participants, both men and women,
“We are enthusiasts,” said Polish fighter Olczak. “We travel around the world, we live for this hobby.”