Ever wonder what it’s like to wear a suit of armour and fight in the August sun? What about how it would feel to be hit in the ribs with an axe? Well, those thoughts are known realities to Jeremy Seguin, West Nipissing’s very own knight in shining armour.
Seguin is an avid participant in buhurt, a sport that pits knights against knights. It’s medieval armored combat, and each fighter uses weapons and armour that would have been used in the Middle Ages. “As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it,” Seguin explained, recalling the time about a year ago when a YouTube search for NHL fights led him to discover a buhurt match.
“It was Canada versus Germany, and it was two guys wearing armour,” he said, and once he knew such a sport existed, he had to learn more. Of course, he knew that people fought in re-enactments, but much of that was theatrical in nature—think of Medieval Times—and Sequin was captivated by the competitive nature of the fights. This was the real deal.
He reached out to the team Canada captain to find out how he could get involved and was told all about Scallagrims, a training club on Dundas Street in Toronto, and the official buhurt team of Canada. Soon after, Seguin joined the fray, and trekked to the city every second weekend to train with his new team.
Eventually, he began fighting competitively with the group. There are one-on-one fights, which are won by points. Land a sword hit, and you get points. Connect with your shield, and that also racks up the points. When fighting one-on-one, the punches (so to speak) are pulled a bit, and more emphasis is put on one’s technique as they collect points.
Keep in mind that all blades are dulled but being on the receiving end of an axe or sword strike—even through armour—is something you won’t forget soon. It’s difficult to explain the feeling of a six-foot four knight coming at you with an axe, but “I’ll always remember” the first time it happened. “It sends your body into an adrenaline drive.”
Whatever you do, try to stay on your feet, because once knocked down, “it’s not easy to get up.” When a fighter falls, it usually doesn’t take long for them to tap out of the fight, because the match carries on for another ten seconds while the fighter is grounded. It’s not a place you want to be in a full suit of armour. Much damage can occur in those ten seconds.
“My armour weighs 93 pounds,” Seguin said, and on top of that, each knight wears a thick cotton lining under the armour. On a hot summer day, it doesn’t take long for that lining to swell with sweat, usually adding another ten pounds of weight. Add a two-to-three-pound sword into the mix and a heavy helmet and each fighter has a lot of steel weight to contend with.
Besides the one-on-one fights, there are also melee fights usually involving three fighters—the tank, the intermediary, and the runner. The tank is there to take the pressure off the other two, who are usually faster and can attack with more agility. As such, tanks take a lot of hits from swords and axes, as unlike the one-on-one fights, fighters hit hard in the melee matches. “I take on a lot of damage,” Seguin admitted, but it’s all part of the sport.
He recently concluded a trip to the East Coast where he participated in some events with the Halifax Citadels and the Moncton Marauders. One of the biggest events for Seguin was the Montreal Highland Games, where about 1,000 people came out to watch the battles.
And it’s not all about the fighting, as those practicing buhurt are often keen to tell the people more about the Medieval Age they work so hard to represent. All the armour is period correct. The materials are altered—for instance, many fighters choose titanium armour as it is lighter. However, those suits can run into the $10,000 range, whereas the “low end armour” that Seguin uses is made of steel and costs around $5,000.
“We take time to educate at the fair,” he said, and the fighters let the kids hit them with sticks to give them a bit of fun as they answer the many questions from the fans. Sequin also gives presentations to local schools to teach students about a time long since past.
Unless you’re a buhurt fighter, that is. In that case those Medieval times are still being lived out. The sport is gaining popularity in Canada, and this past summer another club opened in Owen Sound. Seguin would like to open his own club in the north, as it would be the first of its kind in the area. Since armour is so expensive and difficult to attain, he plans to train by “soft kit practice, sort of like a Nerf version” of the battles. He’s been looking around for some space to rent, but the venture isn’t going to bring in a heavy stream of cash, so he’s searching for budget friendly prices. He’s been talking to some people in West Nipissing about using around 20 by 20 feet of barn space, but the search continues. If anyone can lend a hand in the search for space or think they would like to give buhurt a go, you can send Seguin a line at [email protected].
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.