Weekend warriors battle in armored combat league - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Weekend warriors battle in armored combat league

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)-- Nestled in a Hardin County neighborhood, the fire burns in Steven Fuller's homemade forge. There's a rhythm to every movement the blacksmith and weapon-smith makes as he twists the hot iron.

"Some people hear noise, but that ringing of the anvil you're bringing something to life," said Fuller.

He heats and hammers to mold the metal.

"Sitting in a cubicle all day is for somebody. Some people thrive there, but I need to see what I'm accomplishing," said Fuller.

He practices the ancient trade as he prepares for epic battle. Fuller is a real-life gladiator who engages in hand to hand fighting for fun.

"It is considered one of the most violent, legal sports in the world," Fuller.

Fuller leads the Louisville Wild Bunch, an armored combat league for true adrenaline junkies.

"You're out there, you'll be fighting. You could even get hit in the head and you'll just get that rush," said Fuller.

"There's this thrill when you're getting hit by an ax and not dying," said Nicholas Homa, who participates in the league.

Dressed like 12th century knights, they suit up in up to a hundred pounds of steel armor. Axes, swords and even gauntlets in hand they clash in suffocating heat.

"I grew up playing ice hockey since I was three. This is the most brutal sport I've ever done. The heat that you're fighting against, the carbon monoxide going into your helmet. Your brain is triggering telling you you're going to die," said Homa.

The brutality of their battles were on display when the Wild Bunch recently hosted its first full-sized tournament. A crowd of spectators watched as the mayhem played out.

While injuries aren't rare, the historically accurate helmets and shields along with strict rules keep it safe.

"The armor works, it's what keeps you safe and be able to hit our best friends," said Wild Bunch member, Ricky Rayome.

For Fuller, the league has been a life changer.

"I was drinking, I was very violent, I was aggressive to everybody," said Fuller, an army veteran who did three tours in Iraq.

He calls the armored combat league the best medicine.

"I felt more peace and relaxed since I started fighting and blacksmith shop than I ever did on medication, therapy dogs, hospital therapy. This thing here has been the best treatment for me of anything I have ever found," said Fuller.

Now he's engaged in the greatest test of strength. But the weekend warriors insist they're one big family, just a very aggressive family.

"Some guy could come up and smash me in the back of the head and i fall to the ground. I get back up and I'm giving the guy a hug," said Fuller.

The Louisville Wild Bunch welcomes new members. They practice Sundays from 4:30 to 6:30.

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