Women wield swords in Spain’s Game of Thrones

The Spanish town of Belmonte hosted a medieval fight contest recently, with women allowed to compete in the gruelling battles for the very first time.

Women wield swords in Spain's Game of Thrones
Two competitors battle it out in an authentic medieval duel. Screen grab: YouTube

This year was the first time women were allowed to take part in the International Medieval Combat Federation (IMCF) World Championships, a competition that features live swordplay and intense full-contact medieval combat.

Contestants participated in a variety of events using traditional medieval weapons and dressed in period-appropriate clothing, which can weigh up to 30 kg (66 lb). 

The different types of medieval combat, reminiscent of battles seen in Game of Thrones, include longsword, sword and shield, polearm, duels, and group battles.

Sixteen European countries, as well as the United States, Japan, and New Zealand were all represented in the tournament. More than 500 participants gathered in front of crowds of over 10,000. 

Watch the official trailer:

Fights are strictly regulated to ensure the safety and sportsmanship of all the competitors. The match is finished and the winner declared when one of the competitors falls to the ground.

The official IMCF rulebook is 17 pages long and gives detailed guidelines on the rules of the fights, as well as the specifications of the armor and weapons. 

To ensure the authenticity of the equipment, weapons used "must be within the same time period and region as the weapon bearer’s armor" and must be "analogues of historic originals", according to the official rules and regulations. 

For safety purposes, the striking edge of all weapons is blunted to ensure to no real damage is inflicted on either of the competitors. 

For other unusual things happening in Spain, take a look at The Local's gallery of top ten crazy Spanish festivals.

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In Pictures: Spain’s Fallas festival returns after pandemic pause

Valencia's Fallas festival wrapped up with fireworks and the burning of colourful sculptures on Sunday after returning to the eastern Spanish city following a pandemic-induced hiatus.

In Pictures: Spain's Fallas festival returns after pandemic pause
Ninots (cardboard effigies) burn as one installation of the Fallas Festival is set alight in Valencia on September 5, 2021. Photos: José Jordan/AFP

The five-day festival is traditionally held in March but was cancelled last year as the Covid-19 pandemic swept Spain. This year, officials postponed the start of the UNESCO-recognised event until September 1st.

It was the first time that the festival was suspended since the end of Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War.

Each year, residents make hundreds of colourful puppet-like sculptures — some as big as a four-storey building — out of wood, plaster and papier-mache for the festival.

Called “ninots”, the sculptures depict fairytale characters and cartoonish effigies of politicians and celebrities.

One ensemble from this year’s event was inspired by the hit Spanish Netflix series “Money Heist”. It depicted several people wearing red overalls and Salvador Dali face masks like the main characters in the show.

The ninots are displayed in the streets of the Mediterranean city and then burned on the last day of the festival — in a bonfire called the “Cremà” — in a centuries-old tradition honouring St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

Fireworks lit up the night sky as this year’s bonfire, which features about 750 sculptures, was held without the thousands of spectators that the event usually draws.

The bonfire was brought forward by two hours to allow festivities to end before a nightly virus curfew came into effect at 1:00 am (2300 GMT).

After much debate a customary flower offering to the Virgin Mary was allowed to proceed — but without people lining the route, as is tradition.

“These are not Fallas as such, more like Fallas-related events that comply with health regulations,” said Valencia mayor Joan Ribo.

The Fallas festival is believed to have originated from pagan rituals marking the end of winter.

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of many of Spain’s most famous fiestas, including Pamplona’s bull-running festival and Seville’s Holy Week processions.