There was a burning sun in Cordoba while the organizers finished the last details prior to starting Saturday’s duels. A group of fighters, mainly from Mexico, were playing a friendly football match, setting aside the main reason that brought them to Argentina. Near the game field, two figures captured our attention, so we decided to present ourselves. It turned out that we couldn’t have had better luck: Adán Lara and Verónica Ricalde show themselves willing to speak with us about how they live this sport in Mexico.
As soon as we started hearing about independent fighters and organizations very different from the ones we are used to, we realized how different the sport can evolve in other countries. And that’s how Adán, who explains to us that he was sitting there because football is definitely not his sport, gets all our attention, as we asked him to continue telling us about his story.
In Argentina, to be a fighter you must join a club. What are the reasons for Mexican organizations allowing independent fighters, letting them not being part of any club?
I am not someone who doesn’t follow the rules, but I have always liked to participate with everyone. When we founded the first HMB medieval combat organization in Mexico, with me as one of its founders, there were many groups from different provinces of the country interested in being part of this sport. As some of them didn’t have enough people to fill a buhurt team, we had the idea to allow them being independent fighters, who could have the opportunity to join and complete any team. That way, there would be winning on both sides, since they wouldn’t have to adjust to the times and structure of a club, and the incomplete teams would be able to merge and therefore participate in the tournaments. This idea has been working perfectly until this moment, and the different associations that work in Mexico prefer to keep the figure of the independent fighter. Why? Because there are a lot of fighters that don’t have the resources or time to fight along with a club. Of the independent fighters, during the first two years I was the only one, but little by little they started to emerge and today we have a few more people that choose this role. Most of them are duelist, but there are some that offer their services as mercenaries in buhurt.
Before you said that football wasn’t your sport. What makes medieval combat your sport?
Like Vero, since I was a child I always liked the fantastic thing that Hollywood brings to the movies, the medieval knight, the armours, and everything else. After that came the video games, and that’s what I used to call medieval at the beginning, those things that Hollywood and the videogames showed me. But when you start to explore the historical considerations after all this, you discover it’s a beautiful part too. This is the first full contact sport that I do. In a moment of my life I tried football but it wasn’t my sport, I was terrible at it; I played basketball, it wasn’t my sport either; I played volleyball, but again, not my sport. I discovered swimming and trained it for eight years, competing even in national tournaments, but my swimming time ended. Then, I found out that there were medieval groups in Mexico that did different kind of combats with soft and wooden swords, but it wasn’t really eye-catching for me. When I realized that what I had seen in the movies, the fights with weapons like axes and maces, was real, I said to myself: “what I have seen all my life is real, there are many people that still practice it; I want to do it as well; it’s exactly what I was looking for”. That sport didn’t exist in Mexico when we discovered it, so it was a sort of revelation. For me, it’s like being inside a movie or a videogame; having an opponent in front of you and using everything you got to defeat him: your strategy, your strength, your ability. That was what detonated the competitive spirit inside me and that’s why I train medieval combat.
At a sports level, in which stage do you think medieval combat is in Mexico?
The sport in Mexico is in a transition phase. We can’t consider us a novice team anymore, as the first time we went to an international tournament was in 2014 and we are in 2017 now, many years from that. Things in Mexico are changing; we used to have just one association that managed the sport, regulated it and imposed its rules. Today we have diverse associations that have the same chances to participate, with different points of views. At the end, the objective of these new associations is to support the growing of this sport from those different points of view. There are certain structures that have to be respected, but the way of seeing of each one of them has enhanced this primarily for good. It’s not just one entity anymore the one who decides how it has to be. Now there are diverse points that have to reach common ground. In the end, when you have contrasting points of view, there is always a discussion and the right thing to do when there’s a discussion is to reach to a conclusion. So far, it has been complicated to set in order all these parts, but this transitional period is good for the sport, as it’s integrating a lot of people that were not comfortable with only one organization regulating the sport in the past. Currently, there are different ways of thinking the sport and now people have the possibility to choose which one of them to follow. The transition is also towards the professionalism, because we still are an amateur sport in Mexico, since no one generates profits from being a medieval combat fighter. We are doing an effort for this to really happen, so the boys who had invested years practising it, who had invested their money for the tournaments, the armours, and the medical insurance, will be finally able to receive an income that allows them to even live of being an HMB fighter. We can dream, right? Who says it’s not possible? That’s what we want and the transition we are looking for.
It looks like the conversation is about to end, but Vero asks to speak and alludes to those who are the ultimate driver of the development of this sport in all the countries: “Both IMCF and HMBIA have supported a lot this transition of having various associations and competitors in Mexico; they like it and want the sport to grow, so they are supporting all associations”.
And the conversation doesn’t end there, as it is now Verónica’s turn to tell us about her role in this sport’s developement in Mexico, and so becoming the main character of one of our next articles.