By Siân Kavanagh, photos by Guki Giunashvili
It takes a lot to get the average person out of the house and sprinting when it is -8°C outside, but watching the members of Ask Viking Group (Ask Vikingekampgruppe) in battle at Godsbanen on a cold Sunday, it made the winter seem insignificant. They meet together dressed in wool, gear up in protective gloves and boots, and prepare to tackle whatever the afternoon has ahead of them.
The group assemble twice a week to practice their skills in competitive fighting. The biggest mistake you can make is calling what they are doing roleplay. “It’s not roleplay,” writes Chairperson of Ask, Anna Bech Lund, “We fight with Viking age replicas as a sport.” There may be as many as 6,000 competitive, historical fighters all across Europe today. The Ask Viking group are one of the largest with 75 current members and one of the oldest as they just celebrated their 25th year in 2017.
Community and trust are a large part of the Ask Viking group, as a consequence of the intense bonding they continue to return. “I have never before been involved in a hobby where men and women are joined together across age, personal beliefs, political opinion, job and education. We are one big weird family from all parts of society. It creates a very special atmosphere where you are constantly challenged on your own prejudice, perception and open mindedness,” writes Anna, “I suddenly found myself being friends with people the same age as my parents – and everyone is equal. Age, gender and occupation is secondary. That is an amazing community to be part of.”
Though they only accept new members once a year, every September, it is possible to watch the Ask Viking Group in action Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons practice their craft outside of Godsbanen. There are many international members of the group, yet authenticity is the aim so the commands are executed in Danish and therefore practice becomes a great Danish immersion for new, international members.
The process to join the fighters is extensive. New recruits have to spend 18 months as probationary members learning all the proper safety methods and fighting techniques. A big part of the Ask Viking group is that they make their own weaponry, a skill that the new members start to learn after six months. “The probation period is so long because we have to make sure each new member is compatible with the whole group. Not everyone has to be best friends, but we have to trust each other when we travel together and fight side-by-side.” remarked Niels Moeller, a teacher who has been fighting with Ask for 10 years.
Alfred Daval-Markussen, 18, is one of the newest members of the group, but he is considered a legacy because his family have been involved in Ask all of his life. He joined the group in September 2017, as people have to be at least 18 to join. “It’s a good contrast to school and the stillness of homework,” said Alfred.
Even though it is not possible to join the group yet, for those interested in seeing exactly what it is that they do, Ask are gearing up for the season of competitive fighting to start and there will be a special event at Moesgaard in July, 2018. The 42nd Moesgaard Viking Moot will involve 500 fighters from all over the world, as well as reenactors and a market. . It is possible for the public to come and watch these events and learn more about competitive fighting in a historical context.
For more information about ASK Vikingekampgruppe, visit their website at: http://www.ask-viking.dk/