GW: OK, and do I remember rightly meeting you at the symposium in Wellington?
DBW: Yes, and not only that, I was the lady who was late because one of my friends had come over to my house and gone, “There’s a knife on your footpath.” And I went, “What on earth?” And despite all my crime scene drama watching over many years in front of the TV, I forgot it all and picked up the knife and went, “Oh good Lord, is that blood? I guess I should call the police.” I was late, waiting for the police to arrive. It looked like a homemade sort of knife, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t be anything. However, we are one suburb away from the Rimutaka Correctional Facility. You don’t ring 111 for this sort of thing, you ring another number, which is, you need the police, maybe not right now, but when they can come within a couple of hours. So, yeah. So I was talking to a nice lady in a nice stab vest about the knife I’d found on my footpath, who put it in an evidence bag and said, “Thanks. We’ll contact you if you need anything.” And I said, “Great.” And then I jumped in the car and I came up to the symposium, which is why I was late.
GW: That is the best excuse for being late I have ever heard.
DBW: So when I met someone at the door, I was like, “Oh my God,” because I paid for the tickets to have instruction with you. And they said you’ve missed the instruction with Guy. And I’m like, well, here’s my story. Can I talk to him at the down time? So, yes, you and I talked, and I said to you how I had followed your website because I was very interested in how you had kept up your motivation with historical martial arts. So I was already a fan, Guy, and then there were. But you had other students and you had other people and other things to do. So I’m surprised you remember me. Perhaps it was my story.
GW: Technically we haven’t started the interview yet, but there is no way in hell I am leaving that story out. So why don’t we pretend it started a while ago?
DBW: It could be an added extra.
GW: I’ve got a better idea. I’ll just introduce you now. All right sword people, I am here today with Dayna Berghan-Whyman, a woman who is president of the Historical Medieval Battle National Federation for New Zealand. So that’s Buhurt stuff, whacking people in armour. And she was a combatant for the national team since 2017. And as you just heard, we did meet at the Sword Symposium in Wellington and I believe that was 2017. Was that correct?
DBW: 2018 I think. Yeah.
GW: 2018. OK, so yeah. So that’s who goes around finding bloody knives.
DBW: They come to me, Guy, they come to me.
GW: Without further ado, welcome to the show.
DBW: Thank you.
GW: And we just mentioned New Zealand. Whereabouts are you in New Zealand?
DBW: I’m based in the middle of the collection of islands. I’m in the capital city, Wellington, and I live in a small suburb of Heretaunga in Upper Hutt. And it doesn’t seem like much, but Guy, you and I talked about two other people that you’re wanting to interview, which is Colin McKinstry. He lives in Lower Hutt. And then you’ve got Callum Forbes. And he lives in Kaitoke, which means that I’m sort of five kms south of one and five kms north of one. So Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt seems to be this hotbed of historical martial arts. And then New Zealand, I don’t know what it is about this valley that attracts people.
GW: Maybe it’s the prison.
DBW: Perhaps. Perhaps. We also have a very beautiful army camp here as well, which means that my suburban neighbours are in order. The Trentham Army camp, the Trentham rifle range and then the Rimutaka Correctional Facility. So it’s never a dull moment when you step outside your door because there could be, you know, like a Unimog truck going past or people in uniform, various colours, going past. It’s exciting here in Upper Hutt. But I did manage also to convince our Mayor to do a promotional shot for me when I wanted to do some fundraising and lo and behold, he went out and got his robe on and held the sword and he held my two-handed sword and he had my gauntlets on with his dark robe. And he looked like Darth Vader minus the helmet. So I was like, wow, that’s the effect of a robe and a chain. The Empire Strikes Back in Upper Hutt. So, yeah. It’s a nice community and they don’t mind my training pell out the front because it’s tyres on a bit of stick that looks like some sort of urban art. But no, it is my training pell and I live in a cul de sac, which means when we have women’s training here, we run around the cul de sac and the neighbour’s children look at us and wave. So I keep the entertainment going here in Upper Hutt.
GW: So tell me about your pell. Is it set up so you can really hit it, or is it just for sort of measure and control purposes?
DBW: It’s set up so I can really hit it because in Buhurt, particularly for the melees, that’s the group activities, there are obviously strike zones where you don’t hit. You don’t hit anyone in the groin, you don’t hit anyone in the foot. You also don’t take anything against the rotation. That’s natural rotation. So you can’t do any locks or throws like that. But it is an amount of brute force about getting your opponent on the ground because it’s the last person standing. So I have to develop, for me as a poleaxe fighter, my left side because I’m right side dominant. So whenever you’re doing a two handed weapon alongside a two handed sword, a poleaxe, a halberd, a bardiche, anything like that, you always have to be as ambidextrous as possible. So for me, I knock the tires one way and then I knock the tires the other way by switching my hands. And so that’s 100 strikes a day. And so that’s the minimum routine, apart from when it’s raining, because weather and moisture and metal do not mix. So when I’m not doing my strength training, I’ll be doing something else.
GW: So when you’re out there, you’re using a steel headed poleaxe, and you’re beating the hell out of these tires with one hundred strikes. Is that one hundred strikes each side, or one hundred strikes total?
DBW: It’s 100 strikes total. But they’ve got to be really powerful strikes, which means that on some days it takes me forever because my mind is wandering or I’m just not concentrating. So it’s really not good enough. Other days I’m having a rotten day and those fifty a side just blitz. It’s for intent and it’s for power. There are there are other training methods that I use at the training hall that we have, which is down in Lower Hutt. I’m very privileged that our club has actually managed to secure a training hall. And we’ve got a bespoke list, which for people who aren’t familiar, it is the gaited fenced square fighting arena that Buhurt fights in and it’s a miniature one. We haven’t got a full size field one. We’ve got a miniature one. We’ve also got the hanging pells as well and that’s where I do my technical work. But at home, I do my strength work. And also my strength work is lifting my falchion, which is a weighted sword for melee, lifting that to build up my forearm muscles. Because what I find for myself is my hands are quite small. So if I don’t have a good grip in my gauntlets, because we can’t have locking gauntlets, you’ve got to be able to drop your weapon. So I’ve got to be able to hold on. And I find that because my strikes have to be done really intensely and really hard, if I’m tired my hands will just let go of my weapon. So even though I have to be proficient at a range of weaponry, because in Buhurt when you drop your weapon you’re allowed to run back to your side, to your team, and they will hand you another weapon. And you don’t have time with everybody chasing you to go, no, no, no, don’t hand me that one. I only want a two handed. If you’re not proficient in an axe and you get handed an axe, well, good night nurse, you have to be at least proficient in a range of weaponry because you do not know on the day what you’ll be handed, because it’s a combination of what’s available and what’s not being used on the field at the time. Because you might not be the only team member running back. So they’re just going to be doling out weapons. And you’ve got to turn round, you know, front faces the enemy and you’ve got to be prepared with whatever it is, no matter what side it is, unless you’ve got a shield. And for me, I use two shields as well, which means my deltoids on my left side. It’s like when you’re a barista, you’re banging that thing to get out the coffee beans. Well, you know, for a shield, it’s up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, punch, punch, up, down. You just have to keep doing that. So I find being right handed dominant, I have to work out a lot on my left, which makes me, as a physical sort of thing, rounded in my shoulders, like really rounded. My mother has always commented that I don’t walk ladylike, I walk like a bushwhacker. However, you need to walk like a bushwhacker in this sport. So I’m getting a medal, which is why I train at home. And it’s why I do these things because I’ve got my medal in my head, even a bronze. I just want to win a medal for New Zealand. That is my goal. So that’s my little home. House and Garden aren’t going to be invited or anything. But my daughter has grown up with my weaponry around, my husband can pack a weapons bag. The cats don’t mind. It really is part of our life because when my husband married me he knew that I was doing the sport. So not only did he marry me, he married into the sport. We’re coming up 16 years now for marriage. So I’ve been doing various parts of this medieval fighting for quite a long time. Obviously not at this level, because, again, being a top fighter, you know, you’re a bit limited with your lifespan because there’s going to be a time when, as I said, it’s up, down, up, down – eventually your elbow or your shoulder, many, many people suffer with their knees. So there’s only so much that you can be on the field and then you go into martialling and then you go into the other externalities of running the sport. You’re still in the sport, but you’re not in the list as much.
GW: Are you doing much in the way of preventive rehabilitation for your elbows and knees and wrists?
DBW: Well, for me, extraordinary enough, I’m fine. What happens to me is I get choked out and I get choked out because I’m generally fending off two to three opponents at a time. But my job in the list is mainly to tie up two to three people to allow my other team members to pick them off. If you’re thinking about other sports, I’m the fullback, I’m the back, you know. Once you get to me, you’ve pretty much got to the end. But I’m going to grab you and keep you and take you down. Of course, once they get to me, they know is nobody else behind her so they try to take you down. So that’s the thing. So there’s lots of stretches as well that you do before and after. Lots of joint stretches. Whenever I have been on the other side as a support we go through masses of kinesiology tape taping up people’s shoulders, taping up knees. I have a certificate in sports massage from the New Zealand College of Massage. I do know where approximately the muscles and ligaments and tendons and bones should be. I do have that knowledge and it’s done me well. The same with the team because having someone go, “I think if we do this, that will be better for you.” So, yeah, lots of strapping and then of course under your suit of armour, no matter what armour you choose, you will always have the extra protection for your neck, for your spine, for your groin, and then other fighters will have extra protection for their joints, their elbows and their knees. But while the public may think that historical medieval battle is all about looking good with the aesthetics, there’s a sport component to it. And also the under armour component is very important as well. So many people wear Kevlar, extra Kevlar. It’s light, it’s rigid. It can hold your spine protection very well. As part of our prep you asked me about what sort of thing would you most want to give for a woman starting the sport. And for me, I have to wear a combat bra and a combat bra is, rather than something being overengineered, it’s the opposite because you never want to fight with underwire, because when you take a punch with underwire, it transfers that energy, if not out to your ribs, then into your sternum. So you never want to feel like you’re in danger of anything like snapping and digging into you because there are many layers to get into your actual personage. A snapped underwire is particularly annoying, but to get that underwire out, you have to take your tabard off, followed by your breastplate, followed by your gambeson, followed by your undershirt, and then you could get to your bra. So I wear a combat bra which is engineering and elastic and I mean proper, proper elastic. You can go running in all sorts of stuff. So that kind of soft protection under your armour, that’s where it all starts. The other thing too, and not to be silly about under armour as well, as a sport, many people get really enthused and we have to pull them back. Don’t go ordering your armour before you have your gambeson and your true.
GW: Oh, of course.
DBW: Yeah, well, it’s like putting in a kitchen and ordering the appliances and then ordering the tiles and realising that your microwave won’t fit because it’s now two centimetres different. There’s only so much you can do with armour, particularly. I mean, splint armour is different, but full plate armour, if it’s not measured correctly, it’s not going to do you any good. You’ve wasted a whole bunch of money. So always order your under armour first, get that sorted, and then you order your external armour after that. That’s an expensive mistake for some people to make. I’ve seen it many times of people doing that. Whenever you’re going to order things as well, particularly on this age of the Internet, there are some vendors that aren’t particularly good at asking those questions first. But you know a good vendor when they will say, “Have you measured with all your under armour on?” You know you’ve got a keeper for a vendor there. You know you’ve got someone who’s actually knowing what they’re doing. So tracking back from my house and what I do at home, I also do different things in my club with my training.
GW: OK, I should just point out, if you’re interested, that I have a couple of free online courses for looking after your knees and looking after your shoulders, elbows and wrists. I’m all about the preventative training. And even if you do everything correctly, wear and tear will still get you in the end. But with the right preventative training, that end is actually a lot further away than it would otherwise be. So you can have a look and have a go at some of the exercises if you like.
DBW: At the club we do we do focussed training. But with my personal trainer, I shopped around for a bit to find a personal trainer, and the person who I’ve been with the longest, she’s Claudia Disney from Basic Orange and she is a Brazilian jiu jitsu artist. She’s also over 50 and a woman. So whenever I talk to Claudia about some of the things I’m struggling with in my sport, she understands because she’s an older athlete, she’s a female athlete, and she’s an athlete in a male dominated sport. It’s different if you were talking about maybe cricket because there are women’s teams, or netball where it’s very female dominated. I find not only with my stretching exercises with Claudia and the preventative stuff, she looks out for me for those very reasons. She’s like, OK, these are the things where you’re going to get worn, because she has seen athletes, she’s got the experience to say, hey, I think you need to check this out for your gait because I noticed this change or for your punching because I notice you’re not holding your shoulders the same. So she keeps a really close eye on me with that sort of thing. So not only am I getting the benefit of a one on one session with her, but she knows what to look for as well. And I’m really lucky that I’ve got her. And the reason why I got her is because I came last in an international competition. I came dead last and while I was having a wee cry, and I mean absolute sobs, there was a film crew filming for a New Zealand movie called Bludgeon: The Orcas of the Land, and that crying and coming last made it into the movie. And I was like, oh my goodness. Because it was my first time away from my daughter. This is the first time I actually travelled away from here. I’d spent so much money and I’ve done so much training. I was the shizz. I was the bomb. I was going to go in there, my team-mates were like, yep, you’re going to own it. And I got owned like, oh, I’ve got to say a little bit of it was mental. Like, you’re just you get there. You’re not in New Zealand. So not everybody speaks English.
GW: Where were you?
DBW: Denmark, which is a lovely, beautiful country. Do you think I appreciated that? No, because when we got off the plane and into the car, I was like, competition, competition, competition. You know, we’re greeted by everybody, got some food. I’m like competition, competition, competition. And then afterwards, a beautiful castle, everything, I was like, I came last. This is terrible. I’m so embarrassed. So all the way home, I chewed on that. I figured this is the fork in the road. Either get better or get lost. And so part of getting better was right, I need to do some changes here. And this is where I talked to people and found Claudia from Basic Orange. So when I walked in I was like, “Right, I’ve come last. I don’t want to come last again.” And the following year, after a year of working and having come last, you know, how bad could it get? I then came fifth. So from last out of eighteen to fifth out of eighteen. Suddenly I realised that what I was doing, I was maybe the shizz back home, but once you’re out of New Zealand, you’re not. So you’re always beating your next self. All the money, all the time that you’ve spent doing the training, you’re there to beat the next thing. And so in a way, I’m like, well, I’ve come last. So I’ve had the benefit of having the worst thing that can happen – to come last. I’ve had that and I never want to have that ever again because well, I also appreciate people who have come last empathetically. I appreciate everyone who’s come last. I’m always like, great, so have a cry, have a good one. And what are we going to do next? What is our next goal? What’s the next thing? And if the goal is this isn’t for you, cool, what’s your next goal? Are you going to keep in the sport, become a marshal? Are you going to become an authenticity person? There are many ways of still being into historical medieval battle, there are heaps and heaps of things for people to be involved in. People just focus on the fighting. But really, fighters, you roll up and if there’s no list and no referees, well, there’s no fighting. And then trying to organise everything in Covid-19. Well, everyone’s just saying how hard that is. So there’s so many factors that go into this, that even if you’re not a fighter, you’re so valued in the sport because without you, fighting doesn’t happen. And then lots of people like to see things. We need to have people to film it, and lots of people like to read interviews. You got to have people doing interviews. So then being also there not only for my own personal goal of “get a medal, get a medal”, but a visibility as well of being a woman on the field and proving that the sport isn’t just for chaps. There’s a whole women’s division. There are a whole duel sets for women. You can participate in the sport. It is not necessarily for everybody, because if you’re underaged or you don’t have two hands, you’ve got to be physically able. But if you are physically able and you have a desire to do it, you can. So there’s also that as well. When I talk to kids my daughter’s age with what is your goal after school? You’ve got to have a goal because otherwise what’s my goal in the sport? If you don’t have a goal in whatever sport you’re doing, whatever it is, why are you here? Why have you spent so much money? Why have you spent so much time? You need to have a goal. And so my goal is to win a medal for New Zealand. Don’t come last again is supplementary.
GW: They kind of go together.
DBW: Yeah. The thing too with all of that tied in, you really feel the weight of it when you’re from New Zealand and you go to overseas competitions, because the South Pacific is a beautiful region, but it’s a heck of a way away from everybody. People internationally who may look at the map and go, oh, New Zealand and Australia. It’s the same country. No, they are not. Isn’t the Tasman Sea just like the English Channel? No, it is not.
GW: I got asked the first time I went to New Zealand. One of my friends, I forget who it was, asked me whether you could drive from Sydney to New Zealand. There’s a bridge, right? It’s a three hour flight! It’s about twelve hundred miles or something. Geography, people!
DBW: Yeah. This was me in Ukraine. I don’t speak Ukrainian so trying to be as careful as I could explaining that, no New Zealand and Australia are not a domestic flight. You will need to book the bag for international for some reason. I don’t know why, but one of our bags was one left off and it just happened to be my armour. But you turn on as most charming and diplomatic as possible as well as “Here are some euros that I just happened to find in my purse. Who would have thought, can I please have this bag booked on the flight?” And eventually we got there and eventually she gave me some chocolate that was on her desk. My bag turned up the next day, but her system, she was trying to tell me, thought legitimately that Australia and New Zealand were a domestic flight. And no amount of this crazy lady looming over asking about her chocolate with her terrible New Zealand accent was going to dissuade her otherwise.
GW: So this is actually a person who works in an airport who thinks New Zealand and Australia are one country?
DBW: Her computer system had it like that. And she was having to do sort of like air booking jiu jitsu to make it go round. And then when she said there’s an extra cost, I was like, “And here is my credit card. I would like to leave your country pretty, please.” So, yeah, there we go. When New Zealanders, I mean, to be fair, when Australians and New Zealanders roll up to competition we’re jet lagged as hell.
GW: I know that feeling.
DBW: Yeah. So if I had a squillion billion dollars, I would pay for us to do a six week acclimation. So you’re not fighting jet lag. You at least know how to say in the local language, please and thank you. You at least know that and you’re fine with the weather pattern. You’ve got used to the food, because all food is delicious, but there are certain spices and tastes and all that sort of stuff. I developed quite a hankering for remoulade in Denmark. And when we went to Legoland, Denmark, there was the chips that were pressed into little Lego pieces. But I just covered them in mayo and all that stuff. And so then we can go and take the field fully refreshed, like actually up to one hundred percent of our physical capabilities. Well, you know, a fighter is never at 100 percent. I mean, let’s just keep it straight. You always have something niggling that you would have done in training or your mind is a fuzz. It is very rare that a fighter steps into the list at a hundred percent capacity. There’s always something covered in K-tape or with an extra strap or something. So, it would be nice for once for the New Zealand team not to be sleep deprived as all heck. There was one memorable time actually, because again, you’re sometimes twenty hours in the air and not all at once. You’re twenty hours, several airports.
GW: It takes me thirty hours to get to New Zealand.
DBW: That’s right. So you know, you’ve been on the airport carpet because you don’t have money for a beautiful lounge or anything because you already spent everything you have on baggage allowance or you’re in the pedal-the-plane-to-flap-the-wings seat because again, you’re wanting to try and get everything through the customs and stuff. So we arrived absolutely sleep deprived. However, one year the New Zealand team found that they arrived to have some rules that had been changed while they were in mid-air. And some of their weaponry when they got to the competition was out. Oh, my word!
GW: That is not fair.
DBW: Last year, at the International Medieval Combat Federation, that’s the other world champs. A New Zealand chap stood by. He honourably stood outside the list and greeted his opponent because his opponent arrived on the Friday for his fight on the Saturday and his opponent’s armour arrived on the Sunday. So then again, you arrive, but your gear may be a day behind you. What do you do? So New Zealand forfeited, but they shook hands and everybody knew what was going on. But that’s what happened. So a lot of stuff, what people are looking at on YouTube and things, like why didn’t they do this, why didn’t they do that? For a start, we’re hot, we don’t know in what language we’re being talked at, which is just lovely, which is nice sometimes. But we’re tired as all hell. We’re discombobulated and we’re worried that our gear that sometimes may arrive just that day has not been fully put on us. I got knocked out in Italy in 2018. I was medicked off, thank you very much for the medical staff, but they cut my armour off me and it’s because they had a medical emergency. They had someone who was throwing up and they needed to get that person out of that suit of armour as quickly as possible. Yeah, very quickly. And then I went off from the event in an ambulance, prone, lying down backwards to Rome. The person who was in the front of the ambulance said that the ambulance got up to 125km an hour at some stage. Anyway, I was still throwing up in the back of the ambulance because now I was seasick, got to the hospital, they checked me out, they resurrected me. Fantastic. They gave me a clean bill of health. Out I walked in my medieval undergarments, looking like I had just been dragged through a bush. I had to make a call to my mother to say, hey, I’m fine. Whatever you read in the media, everything’s fine. Then the following day, I get into the battle bus because we drove from Italy up to France. We did the Azincourt Museum. And the people at the Azincourt were like, “You’re not a school group. What are you?” We were like, “We’re medieval enthusiasts. Please, may we have full tickets to the museum?” Raided the gift shop, went over the channel to England, drove up to Scotland. And then when I arrived after five hours’ sleep, that’s when I said to my squire who was up there, because one set of people went home and I met the other set of people. And I’m like, “So about my armour…” And that’s when we opened my bag. And she was like, Oh my God.
GW: All the straps had been cut.
DBW: That’s right. And so we had 12 hours because I was fighting the next day. Everybody stayed up to help me strap things, because there’s strapping and then there’s fitting. It’s like a ballgown, you can have straps on but you still need to have everything fit correctly. Get a bit of sleep, throw a bit of breakfast down you and then you’re off to the castle and off you go and fight. So last year when I was in Serbia and again, I had to be taken off because bless my English compatriots because they speak English, I know what they were doing. They were like “Choke her out, choke her out.” Everybody else can be speaking other languages and I have no idea. But I do guess what they’re doing. I begged them please, please do not cut my armour and a friend of ours who was there, I was begging her in English to tell the people in Russian and the Russian medic was “Of course we would not cut your armour”. I was like, oh thank goodness! So the Russians, they do not cut armour. Italians, off it comes. That’s just what you have to deal with. It is the unknowns at tournaments about what will happen to you, with you, from you, about you. I also was standing there again in Serbia waiting for my time at poleaxe and I had my mouth guard of my mouth because I was talking to my people and I held it in my hand. And my friend and I heard this “splotch” and we looked up to see a flock of birds take flight from there. I looked down at my hand and I had bird poo in my mouth guard. To my left was my national flag. To my right was my squire and we didn’t have much water. What do I do? So washing it and trying to trying to clean it with the underside of my shirt. Meanwhile, my USA opponent was in stitches, so she kindly let me clean my mouth guard off before I could put it in my mouth. But what a random set of circumstances, no book in the world prepares you for that! Like, what do you do when you have your national flag and you have bird poo in your mouth guard? So it was the craziest thing. But the historical medieval battle, you may wonder why she wearing a mouth guard, it’s because everything is sport optimised.
GW: You get hit in the face.
DBW: That’s why we’ve got two straps and now all of the helmets, we’ve got all of the Kevlar underneath, as well as all of the things.
GW: Because you’re going to get hit.
DBW: That’s right. Because you’re going to get hit and you’re going to get thrown. With getting thrown, getting up is the hard part. You have to get up over and over and over again.
GW: Particularly in armour, the extra weight doesn’t help. But do you really get asked why you would wear a mouth guard? How on earth would anybody go into the field, get hit like that without a mouth guard? That makes no sense.
DBW: Well, I mean it’s like why do you wear a mouth guard in rugby? It’s the same. My mouth guard is made for me by the dentist. It’s a fitted proper mouth guard because I still have a baby tooth in my mouth. So it’s either a 200 dollar mouth guard or it’s a six thousand dollar bill because once this baby tooth comes out, the rest of my teeth are going to fall into that gap. So once I spell the economics out to people they go, oh, OK. But then other people, they just trust that the helmets will do their thing. But there are other people, like myself, who don’t trust that just the helmet will be enough. But again, the safety aspect of it is you have to have all of these things before you’re allowed on the field. The marshals will check you, they will not just look at you and go, oh, you’re fine. No, they will lift your helmet. They will check your wrists for your gauntlets. They will do a discreet look, do you have your harness on properly, things aren’t going to just flap around, your pauldrons aren’t going to spring off or anything, are your sabatons done up. Remember, we’re in a rush. We’re mentally rushed. Our people are mentally rushed. We’re sleep deprived. Once you get your call, it will always be, country A, country B onto the list. Country C, country D, prepare. If you aren’t dressed and fully armoured by that prepare bit, you’re in deep trouble, because you never know if Country A and Country B are going to go the full time. Will they time out or will it just be two rounds. Instant victory. OK, next lot on and you’ve got three minutes to get there and then your country forfeits. So we’ve been getting geared up for a good hour and a half and it’s amazing what things get missed. I mean, I now understand the racing when the people come into the pits and there’s so many people doing stuff, I now get it. Because if everybody specialised and you know that you do that one thing, great. But once you’ve got one person to look over you and they’ve got a whole team of other people and New Zealand travel very lightly with support staff because not everyone can afford to go. If we’re not lucky enough to have support given to us by a host team or friendly people or other New Zealanders that are living in the countries about where we’re fighting, that’s it. Everybody who’s not fighting helps and everybody who’s on support may have a fight later on that afternoon. So then even then, their mind may not fully be on checking things. And it’s just a human nature thing. But again, this is what you practise with an event. When I come back to New Zealand, people say, how was your holiday? It was not a holiday. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And I have never known a New Zealand team not to get on the flight home and absolutely coma out without fail. We all go to sleep. Absolutely all of us, because we are exhausted. It’s not just the physical getting up early or going anywhere or anything like that. It is the mental toll of just being “on” the whole time. So this is what maybe people don’t understand about Historical Medieval Battle because it doesn’t look as polished, maybe as some other historical medieval combat, it doesn’t look fine, but it’s not supposed to. It’s been sport optimised to help, which is great and awesome, if you like that. It’s just a different flavour. Same jellybean, different flavour. But there are many things you have to go through, I mean, now, for Romania next year, they’re asking us for a medical certificate and they’re going to have us do a PCR test for Covid-19 even before we’re allowed in the event. Nobody’s taking any chances anywhere. The landscape of rolling up and having all your armour is just one thing. Now, you give a medical certificate before you even leave these shores to say that you are healthy and well, not carrying anything and your medical results are fine before you’re even allowed to leave. There’s the other added thing for New Zealand with Covid-19, with a quarantine, I’m not sure if it will still be in force next year, but we’re looking at maybe two tournaments next year, one in Poland in May and the big one is Romania in July. So theoretically, potentially, I could be travelling to Poland in May, if it’s still on, if it’s still happening, quarantining and then travelling to Romania, if it’s still on, if it’s still happening, and then quarantining again. And it’s not just me, it’s the rest of the people as well. That’s a significant time away from our families, away from our jobs. And you think, oh, well, it’s a sport. You chose this. There’s that aspect as well. Unless we get funding or a generous handout, a patron of the violent arts is needed very much, even if just to pay for our excess baggage would be just anything, we really do rely on the community. So it’s a significant commitment, not just in your training, but in your time and in funds to do this at a top level where. There are many small events in New Zealand which are just fantastic. Grassroots events to introduce people, but they’re mostly held as conjoined events like this one coming up next weekend. And Palmerston North, it’s the Manawatu Armoured Combat. They are holding an event as part of a powerlifting event – the strongmen – that crowd is all about training as well.
GW: There’s a natural crossover.
DBW: Yeah, exactly. So it’s a crowd that would be in the Venn diagram. And we just had the national qualifiers for Romania, for the duels. And that was held at the Big Boys’ Toys event in Auckland, which was a large event. However, the day before there was a suspected community outbreak. And so the crowd that we normally would have got was diminished. But nevertheless, on we forged. Unless they cancel the event on we go because we’ve travelled all the way. It’s a three day event. We’re committed, because if you don’t do it, you don’t qualify. And if you don’t qualify, you can’t just roll up and join the team and go, hey, fellas, I’d like to represent New Zealand. It doesn’t work like that. So, you know, there’s all of these steps. We had to make this regardless of what else may be going around. And so that crowd is, again, all about into extreme sports because that’s where they have the motorbikes and the cars and stuff. So that crowd is all about a spectacle. So, again, there are different ways of people to be introduced to this. We’ve got one of the guys who just recently joined our club. He’s from New Caledonia. He came over because he got a job here in New Zealand and he was looking on Facebook and that’s where he found the club. So there’s also a need to create clickable content, which is on us to do because nobody wants to see people really tired like you’ve just fought three rounds. Historical Medieval Battle, I must say, looks good first round and OK second round and then the third round, it’s just hammer and tongs, because that last round, its take no prisoners. I mean, I have done duels where I have gone five rounds with people, and five rounds of two minutes doesn’t seem like much. But when you’re standing there in the corner, and you don’t know if they’re going to tell you to take your helmet off, there’s the mental stuff on that. And you go back and she and you got the same points, so you have to go another round. And so it’s the mental stuff. I mean, I’ve had my people bribe me with candy, like Scooby Snacks. Just one more round and you get this maple candy because again, I’m very goal orientated. I’m like a Labrador. That’s what gets you through. And I have also made some very good friends in this sport of Historical Medieval Battle, because you’ve just laid everything out on the line, you’ve just spent the last 60 seconds punching this woman in the face and she just will not go down. You need to be friends with this person. So, I’ve been introduced to many beverages. I believe it’s called “liquid diplomacy” afterwards for battles. And you may not speak the same language, but you always like to talk about the fight you just had. It’s like any good role-playing session. You instantly have a bond with a person. You can remember the time when it rained and we all just had to go on the list. Well, there’s also the other times, remember when it blew so hard that one side had dust in their faces, it just got caught in your helmet the whole time. You just have to forge on because it’s an outdoor sport. This is the reality of working in armour. Next thing about working in armour is that your undergarments take up your sweat so you get heavier and stinkier as the competition goes on because organising an event, laundry facilities are never around. So day four and you’re feeling more and more medieval when you get up, brush your teeth and you can whistle and your gambeson and pants will walk to you. They are stiff with sweat and you’ve come all this way. And you know that this is what you’re entering in. You’re going to do this. You know there’s nobody else from New Zealand here. This is what you’ve come all this way for. There is a joy in that. But it’s not a holiday. It’s definitely not a holiday.
GW: Definitely not a holiday.
DBW: I mean, Romania was absolutely beautiful driving through. When we’re in Spain, I drove on the opposite side of the road and oh gosh, it’s not for me. No, thank you. I would rather be driven because in New Zealand, for people who don’t know, we drive on the left side of the road.
GW: As sensible people do.
DBW: If it’s not England or Australia or Japan, I’m putting my foot on a brake that doesn’t exist. So, yeah, beautiful countryside. It was lovely. And going through Romania, because last year it was Serbia and Ukraine and then between that country is Romania. And so we went to Serbia and then travelled to the top of Romania, which is a province you may have heard of. It’s called Transylvania. So we were tourists and it was amazing and it was gorgeous and is actually a UNESCO pottery site. So I sent pottery back, all the while doing the whole Dracula thing. And then we then we drove down and fought in Ukraine and then we went home. So again, beautiful, lovely countryside. But all the time in the back of my mind was, “You’re going to fight, you’re going to fight, you got a fight, you’ve got a competition, you’re going to fight. Do you really need to eat that? Will you be too hungover?” In Romania as well we saw the Tesla Museum, which I encourage everybody else to do that. But take earmuffs because Tesla was a fantastic chap. Lots of great ideas. But boy, is that museum noisy when they turn everything on, it makes your teeth rattle from this huge conductor.
GW: Earmuffs and a mouthguard.
DBW: Thank goodness I have both. I have a helm and a mouthguard.
GW: Make sure your mouthguard does not have bird poo in it before you continue.
DBW: Oh well, you know, all the best mouthguards do.
GW: So what effect has Corona had on your actual training? I know New Zealand is a bit different to the rest of the world.
DBW: Yes and no. So New Zealand is a bit different to the rest of the world in that we when we’re in winter, everybody else is in summer. So because, being president, I attended the General Assembly, which is online, which is the annual general meeting of the entire sport with the representatives of the Historical Medieval Battle International Association, the HMBIA. Normally you would fly to the place and that’s where you would attend. But this year it was online and so the Buhurt League, they had something like 65 percent of the events just flat out cancelled. And it’s not just events being cancelled. It’s the logistics company has gone under, the catering company has gone under. The train lines aren’t operating. So even if you were perhaps healthy and well, there might not be an event to travel to next time. So while that was going on up there in summer, down here in winter in my club we did #notrainingnoexcuses. And so our people did small exercises at home and we shared them and we followed along. If you don’t have barbells, lift your helm because your helm gets heavy after five reps of 10 curls, you know, sit ups, press ups, just keep active. So that was the whole point of don’t give up, keep active no matter what you do, just keep active. And so we are coming into summer, which would have been event after event after event. And so the events have been delayed or cancelled. So in a way, this is our opportunity for New Zealand to get into the International Association news. And I have made use of that because I’m very proud of my people. I’m very proud of the HMB New Zealand community. There are a lot of things that we have not been doing well and we’ve really improved, like we’ve had insurance imposed on us for example, the excess for it was like 250 bucks. If you make a claim now it’s a thousand dollars. Just simple things like that. And of course, an insurance claim comes when there are people who are not in the community on site, for example, a camera crew. All of our weapons and armour are consumable because they break. Like when an axe head flies off and smashes into something hitting it, there are things that can happen. And 2020 is not the year we go, “We’ve never made an insurance claim. Why would we now?” It’s like a red rag to a bull. You just don’t chance it. So we’ve upped our fees, we’ve upped our authenticity. We’ve upped our safety regs. All of these things that we’re like, OK, now it’s what we’re starting to do. We’ve got our official qualifications. We’ve got open tournaments now and everything. The authenticity can be blended a bit, but safety is always paramount. And so we’ve got also our agreement for our code of conduct about being a good sports person. We’ve got all of these things now. My community has done some really good work in just figuring out what makes a good sport and what would encourage others to come in, because, again, the South Pacific is a long way from everybody so we get a bit insular. We don’t get many visitors and we don’t have enough money to go visiting. And when Australia can’t visit us and we can’t even visit Australia, I mean, heck, poor old Australians trying to do their national qualifications, they can’t even cross state lines, some of them, because of the lockdown. So at least New Zealand, we’ve had regional lockdowns, but it hasn’t been imposed upon the country as a whole. So Corona has given us the opportunity to go, OK, we need some systems here, starting off with a website, as we haven’t had a website. And the website is www.buhurt.co.nz. Seems really, really simple, but anybody who does anything technical knows that there’s one thing to go, let’s do a thing, and then there’s the technical of let’s redirect the domain and all of these things. But I managed to secure funding from www.sporty.co.nz. They are the platform that do community and school sports, that’s what they do. I didn’t even know. They’re promoted by the New Zealand Rugby Federation and Sports New Zealand. My next thing is actually getting Buhurt, HMB and HMBIA recognised as a sport in New Zealand. So that’s the next thing. I’ve been having wee talks with people that I know, pre the New Zealand election with the sports ministers like, “Hello… we’re a sport, we represent New Zealand.” Just even getting the category listed as a thing that people can search on is actually quite a thing. But I figured if marching and curling can be in there, so can we! We come under the combat sports like karate, and Tai Chi. I mean, if they’re sports, we’re sports. This is the whole a rising tide lifts all boats. I’m trying to do this so the whole community can benefit. I mean, not everybody needs to belong to HMB NZ, but by gum, I will make sure that our sport is recognised and it helps everybody else. I mean, we don’t need to have a flash campaign. I think it would help. However, if we do have people at least looking on the website and can see that there are clubs in New Zealand that they can join, that they know have a code of conduct, they know they will always treat everyone with respect. That’s fantastic. And then you go into the sport aspect of it because like perhaps showjumping and things, you’ve got to have a horse and tack. Right? Well, in this sport, you have to have soft kit which costs. So that’s your undergarments. And then you’ve got to have training stuff which costs. But clubs mostly provide that. Then you’ve got to have your own kit. It’s consumable. And this is what people find difficult to understand about our sport, is that everything breaks. My titanium armour for Big Boys’ Toys, for example, I broke my titanium knee and you’re like, gee whiz, how did you break a knee? Well, I’m one hundred and twenty kilograms with my armour on. And when I’m wrestling with two other people and I get slammed down it breaks a titanium knee, but my knee in the titanium is perfectly fine. It did its job. But now I have to find titanium, but I have to find a new knee. And this is the next thing, that you can’t just wander down to the warehouse or farmers or a local shop. It’s got to go overseas. Even if people make stuff locally, the materials have to come from overseas. I mean, this is the cost of stuff, which is why in Serbia last year, I rolled up with the picture of the person I was buying armour from, and I was saying, “Do you know this man? Do you know this man?” to every Russian person, because that was the person I was picking my armour off. So there is the trust level – I had given money over and I was going to meet a Russian guy in a field and he was going to give me titanium, which, by the way, was made by Armour Moscova, and it fit me perfectly. We’re half a world away, half the globe away. They had done such an amazing job. But it meant that just in case somehow I was sucked into a scam or something I actually travelled with my old armour set. So for the time I was there travelling around, we did Serbia, Romania and then Ukraine, with two armour sets. I mean, I do not travel lightly. It’s like a kitchen sink. And just in case that one breaks there’s a spare kitchen sink. And remember, I said I’m a poleaxe. The poleaxe is not telescoped. I have a ski bag which are skis until they go through the wee machine. And then when asked me about it you say “sporting equipment”. Whenever you’re in an airport you say “sporting equipment”. Never say the “W” word EVER because that’s the fastest way to come to the unwanted attention of security.
GW: I also use “theatrical equipment”.
DBW: Yeah. I’m like “Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones.” And then when you come back to New Zealand, suddenly they’re like everything’s made of wood, but I have the local Wellington Woodworkers Guild, which are a bunch of people who are fantastic. They generally support the Cancer Society by making wig stands and then they do creative things with chairs and tables and all sorts of stuff. And so they actually help me with my axe halves and my poleaxe halves by not only shaping them because I’ve got small hands. So when I go overseas nothing ever fits my grip, and they shaped it to my grip. And it’s also in a D-shape, the flat goes towards the enemy because I’ve got no time to look through my helm to see if the striking edge of the weapon is facing towards my opponent. So I know I can just twist it in my hands. Then they also gave me the paperwork to say that it’s made from the pseudoacacia Robinia in New Zealand in Upper Hutt. And so there I had this magical scroll of like, “No, it’s from New Zealand and it’s been treated and all that sort of stuff.” But when you’re travelling overseas, nobody cares about that. But they want to know if you have anything ticking. When you come back to New Zealand, we always surrender our shoes because while a list is a fighting arena, we fight on sand. So it is particles. There’s no way you can clean it. So you immediately bag your shoes up. You don’t walk around outside of camp with your town shoes on. You walk inside of camp with your medieval shoes on. You bag those up and five minutes later they’re cleaned. But if you don’t declare it, you’re in a world of trouble. Absolute world of trouble.
GW: I’m going to make you really jealous. Normally when I travel, and I may be gone for like two or three weeks, I normally carry a single eight kilo bag, and that’s it. Because everywhere I go, there are swords.
And almost all the time I’m just teaching. So I don’t need my fencing kit because I’m not going to have the opportunity to fence anyway. I just borrow a sword when I get there and that’s it. I just carry my hand luggage – New Zealand and back no problem. I got this idea when I was at this event in Italy many years ago. A colleague from the states rocked up and he was teaching knife combat and I lugged an enormous fencing bag into the hall and he comes in with this tiny little wheeled airline bag and then he pulls out a couple of rolls and he has a loaner knife for everyone in his 30 person class. And he manages to get all of that into something the size of a briefcase. You can’t do that with longswords, 30 longswords, that’s not possible. So I thought, you know what, I need to get to a point where I don’t have to travel with enormous bags.
DBW: You can look down the concourse of an airport and you can see when I’m turning because I sweep children and old people over. And, you know, we plastic wrap our shields to the front of our bags as well as secure them. So we go through metres of that plastic wrap stuff, not because we are precious about it, but how can you fit a 1v1 shield in your bag.
DBW: Yeah. So it’s a dual category of sword and shield, which is one person versus one person.
DBW: My punch shield is different because that’s for Buhurt and it’s shaped like a kite except the pointy end has been cut off because everything is sport optimised and that’s where I can punch because it can’t fit through people’s eyes slots and you can knock a person back. You’re not allowed to punch them in the neck, but if you do, it should be enough that it does not actually go through. We are now required to wear gorgets or have our aventails actually secured to our armour. So again, there is the sports aspect of this that keeps developing. There’s a new category coming out as well that they told us about it at the General Assembly. It’s a new full plate harness duel category. So for a start, anyone who could afford full plate, oh my goodness, they’re going to look amazing and they’re going to make huge clanking noises when they go in. It’s the Battaigle de Lyon category. So you’ve got like a figurine on your head and you’ve got rondels like clay or wax either side of your shoulders. You got your best out of three rounds to try and break the figurine or smash the rondel, these little breakable rondels of your opponent. And I believe it’s either timed or five strikes or less. So this category will be fully tanked. But also it’s going to be fast. So you’ve got to be either incredibly swift or incredibly agile. You’ve got to be able to move your torso in here because you’ve got these figurines and stuff. So that’s going to be interesting next year. But the other categories are the sword and shield, sword and buckler, longsword, polearm. And then there’s the triathlon category, which is the top three placement people of sword and shield, sword and buckler and longsword are invited to do the triathlon category. And that is one round of sword and shield, one round of sword and buckler, and one round of longsword. For HMB, my polearm category, we have a rope or a chain between us and then there are penalty zones. You can either outstretch your opponent or you can out push her so she goes out of the penalty zone for a count of five and you get a lot of points. Now that’s for the HMB category for the Battle of the Nations. With the IMCF, which is the International Medieval Combat Federation, there are no barriers. So for there you push your opponent, and you out strike and out push her. So even in my seemingly, “Oh, you don’t get to invited to be in triathlon.” No, because whenever I’m doing poleaxe there are two ways of fighting depending on what world championships you’re going to. So you have flexibility there in the poleaxe duel division. And then from there, there’s the WMFC, it’s called Profight, and it’s a combination of HMB and the mixed martial arts, so you’re a one vs one opponent. I’m not a profighter, so now this is me just trying to remember, there are a range of weapons that you can have. However, when your opponent is grounded, you’re allowed to wail on them for 10 seconds. So that’s the MMA side of things.
GW: So they are lying on the ground and you can keep hitting them?
DBW: Yeah, for ten seconds. HMBIA want to establish an academy with an approved standard system for training for a champion athlete. So that’s the other thing as well, trying to get a regional academy. It’s a thing you’re hearing as a president. All of these things they have got planned. Plus it should be soft kit, which is you’ve got the helmet, the torso, the… they’re not really gauntlets and not really mittens, but they’re sort of like a hoof design for HMB Soft, soft sword, soft shield. And so that not only is to encourage people who are under age, so under 16, under 18 to come in, but also people who may want to fight like adults but are not too keen on getting hit, being in full armour. So there’s an entry point there. So I know for my club we have these things, we have the soft kit and we’re getting some more into the country. And then there’s the HMBIA app. It’s called IUDEX. So when you’re waiting in line for your groceries and things, you can go through and you can look up the rules and they’re going to be introducing more content with video so you can see training things, what’s in, what’s out, what to look for. So, yes, we’ve even got an app. And then to increase women’s participation as well, they’re releasing She Fights, the hashtag #shefights and the hashtag, #weareHMB. Not only to attract women fighters, so here’s where we come into my category, retain women fighters, because it’s one thing to be a fighter with the normal job/time/family. But as a woman, nobody ever asks my male team-mates where are their children? I didn’t just breed by myself, you know, there’s this added bit too. And while I’m not going to get into the “does the gender pay gap exist or not”, it’s just a reality that many of our women fighters don’t earn as much as the guys. So trying to save up for the exact same ticket to do the exact same fight takes you a little bit longer, a little bit more time. And so we are reliant a little bit more on the community to do that. And then there’s the whole cultural lens that there’s a big discussion there about should women be participating in combat sports, full stop. So there are some people who actively say they should not be on the field. It is not ladylike or anything. So you’re fighting all of those. And they are in overt and in subtle ways. The overt way is like, look, we’re going to just put some money towards the guys because I think they’re going to medal rather than you. So there’s that. Or they say we don’t really have enough people who are interested in watching women’s fights. They’re not as good. And the reason they’re not as good is because women don’t get the opportunities to fight. For example, at a very recent tournament one woman fighter rolled up and she had no one to fight with because her other opponent couldn’t make it. Now, for the guys, they roll up and there are seven of them to choose from. While there are the same opportunities given to everyone, not everyone can take them up at the same time. And then what we also find with women’s participation in the sport, there’s not this incremental growth. It goes and leaps and bounds whenever there’s a tournament and women can participate. The experience level goes up. Everyone gets so much better by magnitudes, it’s incredible. And then the videos are shared and picked apart. So you find ways of getting around your opponent much quicker. But then if there’s no other opponent, who are you going to fight with? This is the thing that stagnates women’s participation. Because they run out of opponents very quickly. I see that in MMA as well, I remember when Ronda Rousey was the biggest thing and then Holly Holm came along. But then after that, then they were up to like Cyborg. And so I’m looking at it thinking this is what happens with HMB as well. This is what happens to me as a female fighter. Then you get to, well, you could just fight with the guys, which is awesome to a point, because it’s consensual. You are both coming into the list. But then there’s the whole cultural lens of hitting a woman, even though she’s dressed like me. There’s the power to punch ratio as well. Women have skills, men have skills, but it doesn’t matter when you’re opponent versus opponent. And you could be outclassed by weight. I mean, that’s simple physics. And then with experience, he’s generally had more opponents than you. So you are generally the less experienced fighter. But if you are the more experienced fighter, as a woman, you’ve got more to lose because here is this new guy off the track who’s only had a couple of fights. You’ve been in it for years. If you lose to him, everyone’s going to go, women suck. We do this in training, but we’re always very clear that training is training. We don’t mix divisions in events and proper tournaments because of this very reason. There is this unfair dynamic because women simply do not get enough experience. However, and I say this with a big however, for Big Boys’ Toys we created a 2v2 event. And it had a respawn. It was a combination of duels, so 1v1 and Buhurt. And part of it was to give the woman more experience and also put on a show for the crowd. So what it was, is that it would be one man and one woman, that was team one. Versus one man and one woman. That’s Team two. You scored points by not only throwing your opponents, so that’s Buhurt, but hitting them. That’s the 1v1 duel aspect. So when you were thrown you got to get up and run back to your corner, wait for the count of five and you respawn because normally in Buhurt, once you’re down that’s it. If you had to do a sub, men could sub out for men. Women could sub out for women. So you were always having one man and one woman on the team.
GW: That’s a great idea.
DBW: It’s still in alpha testing. It really is to do trial by combat conditions. It was really fast paced because, again, the hardest part for me was getting the hell up. Throwing, that’s fine. Staying up, that’s fine. But getting up really quickly, you were just scrabbling as fast as you could because then the marshals would put a hand on your shoulder and count to five. However, there weren’t many women, so there were six guys and there were three women. So all of us women, we did every round. So we did nine rounds. The guys could sub in and out every time. But that’s where it comes to the mental game of endure, just endure, just do this and endure. And so, yes, it was training for tournament conditions and it was fun. It was a new thing. It was really hard on the marshal brigade as well, because not only did they have to count the hits, to work out throws. So that was a real exercise for the marshal brigade as well about how to do the counting accurately with speed and then also how they signal across the list about if a person saw something that was good on one side, but it wasn’t clear on the other, how would they make those decisions? So even the marshalling brigade got a work out as well about trying to see things and line marshals were trying to run, but also not crash into each other. It was a good thing to do. And because we mixed up clubs, which means you were fighting not only against people you’re not used to fighting against, you were fighting with people who you’re not used to being paired up with. So it was also interesting. Like, how do you communicate with a team member, with your helmet on, with your mouth guard in, with someone you’ve perhaps not trained with as a fighter? You all understand the roles. But people make different decisions based on what they think of as the criteria. So that is where a team aspect of HMB comes in as well, because there is the melee aspect of it. You’ve got a team that sometimes could be wonderful fighters but are a crap team. It’s the team that works together, that can follow their instructions both on and off the field about where to place themselves, they are the successful teams. So you find that the teams that dominate are the ones that can train as a team consistently. And I just see that New Zealanders, are pulled from all parts of the country, are jet lagged as hell. So let’s just say that New Zealand not dropping in the rankings is quite good. We try our best.
GW: Well, OK, clearly this is the thing you were born to do, really obviously, because it’s in your blood in a way that is quite extraordinary and lovely to listen to. I think that we should probably wrap up at this point because we’re a little over time already. That’s great as it’s my show, I can make it as long as I want. But I think we’d better wrap up at this point. Thank you very much indeed for joining me today Dayna, it has been great.
DBW: Thank you, Guy.