A buhurt-style fighting tournament brings broadswords to the brawny annual event.

Editor's Note: The Medieval Fighting event at the 2020 Arnold Sports Festival was one of numerous events that were canceled after this story was published, due to concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This year’s Arnold Sports Festival is taking it back (way back!) by bringing a battle royale circa the Middle Ages to Central Ohio. Yes, that means broadswords, axes and maces—all with blunted edges and rounded points, of course.

The Arnold event—officially dubbed Medieval Fighting—will feature a buhurt-style battle, where two teams of five will fight in five-minute segments, or until one team takes all its opponents to the ground. Along with a range of weapons reminiscent of the 14th to 16th centuries, fighters will wear period-appropriate armor and shields, amounting to about 50 to 80 pounds of equipment.

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Event director Rich Elswick has been involved in medieval reenactment for 20 years and works with a club in Detroit, where both new and veteran fighters train together. Altogether, he says the larger reenactment field—of which buhurt is a subset—has around 10,000 participants in the U.S., but it hasn’t quite caught mainstream attention yet.

Medieval Fighting will debut at the Arnold from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 6, in Hall B of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Elswick is hopeful that with more exposure, the sport will see a popularity boost similar to that of professional wrestling in the ’80s and ’90s.

“Some people argue that our sport will always be a niche sport in the sense that it’s got this geeky undertone,” Elswick says. “But as I’ve told some parents, not everybody is a football fan.”

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