“If you make one wrong move, you’re dead. If you’re lucky, you might wake up in Valhalla. If you’re lucky.”
The three journalists nod sagely. These are wise words from our Viking warlord Maximas Von Bracey, founder of the Miklagard Ulflag – the world’s leading Viking organisation who compete in battle reenactments and also lend their services to film and television, most recently for the History Channel’s Vikings.
Still a bit out of breath from dashing about trying to find a car park space, Max – dressed in a selection of furs and leathers, with hair flowing down his back – hefts a steel sword above his head. “Viking combat is like a martial art. The most basic steps are called ‘The Fives’”.
[Above: Max attacks]
It’s Esquire’s turn to step forward. Max brings his sword down and we swing ours – heavy, blunt – up to meet it, holding our enemy’s weapon inches from our face.
It seems we may not be cut out for this.
We’re here, at the GymBox in Covent Garden, to learn steel MMA (mixed martial arts) with Max and his two assistants (dressed in similar outfits, complete with chainmail and huge battle bruises from the weekend’s Viking fighting exploits). First on the agenda is mastering “The Fives” with real weaponry, then we’re given heavy shields and told to form a “shield line”, a classic Viking defence, but one that’s easily breachable by axes and swords as Max demonstrates by thrusting his weapons through the gaps and towards our ribs.
After an hour, we’re exhausted and sprawled about the room. But sword fighting is only part of the Viking lifestyle. A GymBox trainer bounds into the room looking like the Energizer Bunny on protein shakes. Our limbs still aching from combat, he has us up and ready for the hardest workout we’ve ever faced.
The idea was to re-enact a Viking raid, with the first part of the workout a torturous rowing/planking exercise, swiftly followed by a carrying the biggest weights we’ve ever seen around inflatable pillars (meant to represent the dash from the beach to the enemy), followed by lifting said weights above our head (climbing the enemy’s wall) then another sprint session carrying a log-like weight over our heads (the final dash back to the ships with our treasure).
[Above: posing with the Miklagard Ulflag]
It’s the sort of workout that eight hours at a desk each day leaves you utterly unprepared for. The sort of workout that leaves you gasping and only able to speak in expletives.
All the while Max has been banging on his shield and chanting strange Viking phrases we don’t quite understand. Lying on the ground, soaked in sweat with dots dancing in front of our eyes we begin to feel a strange connection to our ancient ancestors. Max leans over us and helps us to our feet. “You did well today. You handled the weapons like true Vikings.” Modern man is at one with the Vikings and all is well.
Max nods. “Right, I’m off before the parking runs out.”
Vikings Season 2 is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 3 November with interactive features only available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. To take the Viking workout head to Gymbox Farringdon on Monday’s at 6.15pm. For more information go to gymbox.com or call 02030060797. Available to members only.
Could you survive?