Medieval fighters battle in armored combat league
By CELESTE WHITTAKER
Apr. 17, 2018
EVESHAM, N.J. (AP) — Sean Krachun is a knight in shining armor. And he has the armor and sword — as well as a few battle scars — to prove it.
The 25-year-old Marlton resident is a medieval fighter, who got into armored combat a few years ago by chance.
He learned that fighters from the Armored Combat League — an international league started in the U.S. seven years ago — would be featured in an episode of TLC's "Cake Boss" filming at Coliseum Fight Club in Voorhees in August 2016.
"My friend's wife is really into baking," Krachun said. "So her friend sent her the link to that and she contacted me because she found out there would be knights fighting there and thought I would be interested in that.
"I went and they said, 'Hey, we've got a local team if you're interested.' I went to the practice the next week. I think I had bought armor within two weeks."
Krachun's first fight was on New Year's Eve 2016. The "knight fight" — a one-on-one fight with a scoring system similar to MMA and boxing — consisted of five one-minute rounds.
"I won my first round and lost the second and third rounds, and was knocked unconscious in the fourth round," said Krachun, who fights with the Philadelphia Rhinos. "It can get a little rough ... There's always a little part of you that's a little worried about getting seriously injured. You're wearing armor that for the most part works very well. The reason I got knocked unconscious, it was my first time fighting. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have the chin strap for my helmet put on properly.
"You see some concussions. Big bruises are mostly the injuries we get. Someone hits you in the hip with an ax and a couple of days later your entire hip is this gross, black-and-blue color."
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Krachun loves the camaraderie of the armored combat fighting and the teamwork involved. He played football as a kid growing up in Marlton.
Andre Sinou, one of the league founders, feels the same way. The Toms River native and Alloway resident enjoys every aspect of the sport.
"You have to be tough," said Sinou, 52, who is married with three children. "It's full force, full contact. It's like the MMA but with weapons."
Sinou builds armor for fellow knights at his Buena-based firm, Icefalcon Armory.
"I've got two boys and they know that Daddy's a knight and they're kind of proud of me," he said. "My wife, when she met me I was fighting, so it's what she knows of me. I've been fighting for so long and I haven't gotten hurt, so I don't think she's so much worried about me."
The Armored Combat League has two national tournaments each year, one of them in South Jersey. This year, it'll be in October at DREAM Park in Logan Township.
"I used to play football. I'm also a retired Marine Corps officer," said Sinou, who serves as captain of the USA Knights, the national team for his sport. "I was always into contact, martial arts and that sort of stuff. I had seen people sword fighting, but with wood weapons. I had been involved in armored combat for 30 years."
After hearing about a league starting in Europe for combat with real steel weapons, Sinou and others thought it was time to join the fight.
"We formed an American team in 2011, took it to Poland in 2012 for the first world championships," he said about the origin of the Armored Combat League.
In March, Sinou and Krachun attended the U.S. National Championships in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The national tournaments help Sinou select the team for the International Medieval Combat Federation's World Championships set for May in Scotland.
"We're going to have a very solid team this year," Sinou said.
Armored fighting is rough, but it's not as if everything goes. Fighters are to avoid hitting the back of opponents' knees, and stabbing and thrusting are disallowed. Punches, kicks and other strikes are more than welcome, though.
The weapons, which must have rounded or blunted edges, need to meet certain weight requirements.
Fights can be one-on-one battles decided by successful blows, or melees — teams of five, 10 or even 16 squaring off against each other in a fenced arena. In the melees, fighters are eliminated if three body parts other than the feet touch the ground. A combatant also can surrender during a match.
Krachun hopes to be part of the team headed overseas.
"I've been trying to make the national team to go to Scotland in May and I believe that I fought well enough to secure myself a spot on that," he said.
According to Sinou, there are about 450 fighters in the Armored Combat League, including a few women, with combatants from seven countries. The world championships, which Sinou said are like the Olympics for their sport, feature fighters from 28 countries.
"It's grown very fast," said Sinou.
There are about 15 armored fighters in New Jersey, which does not have its own team yet. Fighters in North Jersey fight with the New York team and fighters in South Jersey fight with the Philadelphia team, Sinou explained.
"New Jersey will eventually have its own team," he said.
Krachun loved playing football in his youth, but blew out his knee and had to give it up. Now, swords, axes and pole arms are his equipment.
The armor weighs about 80 pounds and costs around $2,000, while axes and swords can be $150 or more.
"This just sounds crazy and ridiculous and like everything I've been looking for in football," said Krachun, who makes high precision tools for Triple-T Cutting Tools in West Berlin. "There are constantly new people coming in."
Krachun said a back injury suffered during a fight kept him out of work for a week one time, but bumps and bruises are typical.
"I find it to be an amazing feeling to put every bit of energy and force you have out there to the point where you're having trouble getting up at the end of your fight," Krachun said. "And then as soon as the fight's done, you and your buddies go out and grab a beer because you're all having a great time."
Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/