Tourney For the Sword of Russia

Www.goldenforests.ruSword of Russia competitors dressed in armor battling it out with swords and shields. The event is not only a sporting tournament, but also a festival.
In Russia, even medieval fairs are treated like an Olympic sport. Just a week after one group of fencers left Beijing with their rapiers, epees and sabers, another will arrive in Moscow with broadswords, shields and breastplates. Their destination -- the Sword of Russia historic fencing tournament, which is being held this Saturday at the cultural complex Setunsky Stan.

There will be no shortage of medieval garb, promised Konstantin Chepikov, one of the event's organizers. "But don't come expecting a gathering of Tolkienists," he added. "Historic fencing is a sport with rules, regulations and referees."

Chepikov explained that the participants, who had to qualify regionally in order to earn a spot in the tournament, will be divided into three different categories -- shield-sword, sword-sword and irregular weaponry, with each category subdivided into weight divisions.

After winners are determined in each weight division, those in the shield-sword category will compete for the title of "absolute champion of Russia," Chepikov said.

"These are usually the most exciting fights, because the combatants are of such different size. It's strength against quickness and there's no way to predict who will come out on top," he said.

But Chepikov said the David and Goliath match-ups might be only the second-most popular event of the day. "A few years ago, we started having female fights, and they've been a fan-favorite ever since," he said.

In addition to the individual competitions, there will be a team battle, or "bugurd," Chepikov said. He explained that the bugurd is also governed by a specific set of rules and that in the end one of the two teams will be proclaimed the winner.

Sword of Russia is not just a sporting event, however. "It is a festival, too," Chepikov said. In between fights, historic fencing clubs from around the country as well as from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova will put on performances and demonstrations for the crowd.

"And at the end of the day, stuntmen and fighters will 'storm the castle' in a realistic re-enactment of a medieval siege," he said.

He added that for those who do not want to spend the whole time in the stands there are plenty of opportunities to participate more actively in the proceedings.

"There is a lot to do in the complex in general. There will be traditional folk games and costume competitions, as well as soft weapons for kids," he said.

Sword of Russia takes place Sat. at 2 p.m. at the cultural complex Setunsky Stan, located at 5B 2nd Setunsky Proyezd. From metro Kievskaya, take bus 71 or 791 to the "Krepost Setun" stop. Tickets cost 400 rubles, but entry is free of charge for those in costume.