New Plymouth woman is the best in the world with a poleaxe
Sophie Stockbridge is the best in the world with a poleaxe.
The New Plymouth knight took the title at the Japan Armoured Battle League in Tokyo last week, during an event which saw modern-day knights from around the world gather to fight it out.
Facing off against one female opponent armed with a three-kilogram poleaxe - an axe head on a long pole - and wearing 25 kgs of spring steel armour, Stockbridge bashed her way to victory.
"It's jocks meet geeks, there's a lot more skill and fitness involved than most people think," she said.
"When you're carrying that much weight in armour and swinging a heavy weapon around as hard as you can you tire pretty quickly.
"It's submission grade fighting which means you don't stop until you get the other person to the ground."
With three one-minute rounds to hack, slash and parry, competitors in the Armoured League score points for getting a head shot, or a "throw" where an opponent is knocked to the ground.
"There's not heaps of rules, the only thing you can't do is go for neck or groin shots," she said.
"It's kind of like MMA (mixed martial arts) with swords and armour.
"I've seen people get broken legs and arms, it's not just for nerds."
Stockbridge fights in a suit of armour based on a a real suit from 1430, the only major difference to how people would have fought back in the day is the blunt weapons.
She got into the medieval fighting scene with her husband Justin and fights with a group of fellow-minded knights called the Steel Thorns.
"We fight nationally and internationally, the struggle is getting women into the sport."
The sport isn't restricted to one on one combat as Sophie and Justin fought together with swords, maces and shields to win silver at the same tournament in Japan.
As for how she trains for battle, Stockbridge said she spars with soft weapons, in full armour and with a range of different weapons.
"We do train a fair bit, and have trained in proper sword skills, but we do get people with no experience joining the club too," she said.
But it's the travelling that comes with the sport that has kept Stockbridge in it for a decade.
"It's a real adventure sport, and the more you develop your skills the further you can take it."