Trying to know a little more about the buhurt experience in other countries, we went abroad in a trip to the distant Spanish lands, fascinated with the enormous castles and the epic stories of our ancestors. We were fortunate to cross paths with José Luis González de Lara y Gómez de Urda, a warrior with a formidable name and an interesting past, who stated how honoured he was to collaborate with his overseas brothers telling his story.

José Luis is thirty-three years old and, when he leaves his armor aside, he’s a businessman. He lives in southern Spain, but he trains in a club named Urna Regnum, located in the north of this country. Even when he barely has more than a year practising this discipline, he has been in numerous local tournaments and he also fought at IMCF 2015 and 2016, and at Battle of the Nations 2016, where he was chosen as the National Team’s captain.

Photography: José Luis González de Lara y Gómez de Urda.

– What made you start this sport instead of another?

– Since I was a kid, I have done all kind of martial arts and sports in this world. My family has medieval heritage and since childhood I shared the enthusiasm for everything medieval with my father and my grandfather. One day, watching videos in YouTube, I saw one about all this and thinking it looked like a sport, I googled its existence in Spain. At that very moment, I contacted them and decided to dedicate a considerable time and effort in a sport I had just seen five minutes ago, which I didn’t really know what was about apart from being hit with an armor.
My grandfather and I talked a thousand times about the tournaments that took place in our town’s castle, and realizing that our so fantastic dreams were real… For me it was like a dream came true, a sport tailored to the size of my dreams. I decorated my gym according to the sport; the truth is that this is amazing for me, it’s a lot more than just a sport.

– How did it feel to hold a sword for the first time, to put an armor on, reenacting those epic battles that you have desired for so long?

– The reality is that I had already worn an armor for the first time many years ago. We have a few in our house as a decoration. Since I was a child, I have heard stories of how the House of Lara, my family, highlighted between the others in the invasion against the Muslims for the eight hundred years that it lasted. When I knew more about the sport and saw that the surcoat had the symbols of the ‘Orden de la Banda’, the second faction of my family… Well, you can imagine the pride it was for me being part of it. A sport so deep-rooted to the story I have so deeply impregnated is an extra motivation for me.

Photography: Alex Calleja Marin.

– Do you remember your first battle?

– My first fight was the All vs. All at IMCF 2015, where I did kind of a crazy thing*. If you watch the video, I’m at the first line, the second fighter counting from the right, and I managed to get to the end of the list all by myself.

* Here the crazy thing.

– It’s amazing how you faced so many opponents in your first fight! Not anyone could have done it… Was your grandfather able to see you fight?

– My grandfather died shortly before I started fighting, but he spent his last days watching the pieces that arrived for my armor, the shield painted with our family heraldry… My last memories of him are the same that the first ones: sharing a dream with him.

– What moves you when it comes to fighting? Personal glory or something else?

– Personal glory goes against the values of chivalry. I pursue the glory for my team, for my people, since I always use the coat of arms of my dearest ‘Alcalá la Real’. I want my family to be proud, including those who watch me from the sky. But what motivates me the most, is the National Team. You arrive there and have teammates that are like brothers, with which you share the responsibility and the honor of representing the country that, for us, is the best in the whole history. Giving everything, achieving just a little… But always giving everything. I have the flag that we take to the world championships here in my gym. When I have a lack of spirit or strength for training, it’s enough with a look and a thousand memories that come back, and I end training more than ever. The National Team means a lot to me; every one is a friend that I admire and from whom I learn.

Photography: Alena Kučerová.

– I imagine that those values were one of the reasons why you were elected as the captain of the National Team. What kind of responsibilities come with that position?

– The truth is that my team’s captain called me and told me ‘we made you captain of the National Team’. I first rejected that function, because I knew there were a lot of fighters more prepared, but they insisted so I finally accepted. About the responsibilities there isn’t much to tell. It was a real teamwork. The experimented fighters were in charge of the captains meetings, others who are in military forces worked through the logistics, and everybody had something to do. My captaincy has been celebrated a lot, but I think that the credit was in everyone, with me in the last place. I don’t really know why I was elected captain –laughs–.

– This year, you participated for the first time at Battle of the Nations. What kind of differences you felt with IMCF?

– Yes, it was the first Battle of the Nations, but not the first tournament organized by HMB, since last year I fought in Belmonte Challenge. There are differences in the organization and the tactical and technical aspects due to the regulations. The size of the list and the distribution of the wooden strips was a great change, because there were holes and they took you off the list through them. But beside that, the people was amazing and there was a great environment.

– Do you have plans of participating in Belmonte this year?

– Yes, of course!! By the way, will you come from Argentina?

– I don’t think so. The main difficulty is in the price of the air tickets, as most of the fighters have already done a huge effort to travel to Battle of the Nations. Which would be the weapon with whom you feel most identified?

– Until now, I’ve always fought with a mace and a shield. I like it, because it doesn’t hit in the holes of the armor. Consequently I have the confidence that I’m not damaging anyone, something that no other weapon gives me. The fear of hurting somebody has always been an obstacle for me, even more if you add up the fact that we are among friends. But little by little I lose the fear and I hit stronger every time.

– It’s always hard to get past those barriers… Do you have any other fear when fighting?

– Not really. Well, maybe leaving the country. I only went abroad four times in my life; three of them for the world championships and one for my brother’s wedding.

– How did it felt like leaving the country for the world championships, meeting people of cultures sometimes very different from your own?

– The truth is that I normally work with people from others countries. But seeing fighters from so many countries fighting for the same objective is something impressive and I’m really proud of it.

Photography: Medardo Dia Cano.

– Changing the topic a little, do you have workshops in Spain to make the armors or you have the possibility of buying the pieces in other countries?

– We have a few armourers that are just starting, but they are very efficient in the weapons manufacture and they are already making pieces of armor that have nothing to envy to the ones made in the eastern part of the continent. For example, my helm mask is from José María Rubio, a blacksmith from the south of Spain. Buying in other countries is a problem, because the customs stop everything and the taxes are brutal. For example, last week they retained a gambeson for which I paid 156€ and an extra 90€ for customs. If you don’t pay, they send it back. The problem with the national blacksmiths is that they have this occupation as a second job and they have times when they doesn’t have anything to do, alternated with others where they can’t satisfy the demand.

– Is it too difficult to buy steel plates, fabrics and other materials required to make the armors and gambesons?

– We don’t have a commodities problem here in Spain, leaving titanium aside. Steel can be bought in sheets, that later can be trimmed over templates and then shaped to make the pieces. I’ve been lucky to see how it’s done.

– Have you planned to get involved in blacksmithing in a future?

– I don’t think so. I have so many other responsibilities. During this year, I have closed a gym and a nutrition store, so I can have more time to train and start a family. I once had the idea to start working with a blacksmith, but it stayed only as an idea.

– What kind of goals or expectations do you have for the future?

– For the future, I’m planning to keep training and fighting. I’m already working on my technical and physical deficiencies, so I will be able to do an enhanced role in next year’s world championship.

-Any thanks or comment you want to do?

-Well, to Salva, Jordan and Cristian mainly, who helped me in my first steps. To my club, Urna Regnum, and to all the fighters, as every event organized has their unconditional support and assistance, and sometimes it means a great effort for us. And primarily to the people who like the sport, pay the entrance to see us fighting, travel many kilometers and encourage the organizers to plan more events by making the events profitable. When they came to Portugal to see us, it was really touching; hearing the people on the stands cheering in your language and waving your flag… It’s really motivating. THANK YOU. If you let me, I want to do a last acknowledgement to the events’ organizers, since the castles of Almodóvar, Pedraza and Belmonte are privates, and their owners took the risks that come with organizing medieval combat events, depositing their trust on us. Fitz-James Stuart de Soto family, owners of Belmonte castle, at an organizational level were the main promoters of the sport in Spain, since they organized the medieval combat league, completely financed the National Team’s trainings, and invested in funds to pay for the world championship. To this day, theirs is still the castle with more ‘buhurt movement’. In fact, from August 24th we have the Belmonte Challenge once more, it’s an international tournament that is among the best events worldwide. I also want to thank Enrique de Villamor, who has organized a tour with eight exhibitions in southern Spain to promote the sport, and it looks like it’s going to be huge.

-It has been a true pleasure being able to share this words with you. Thank you very much!

-Thanks to you for promoting this sport!

Photography: Cris Gutiérrez.

This way we say goodbye to José Luis, the main character of another great history related with this sport, and we keep not only his values as fighter, but also his human warmth and valuable memories. We hope this story inspire those who are beginning in this wonderful sport.

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