Arts and culture Courage and initiative People

Swords, axes and maces – a new world for Dayna

Dayna in her medieval armour with her bardiche (medieval pole axe).

Medieval fighting will again take Dayna Berghan-Whyman to Scotland and Europe.

In February she competed in the Pacific Cup at the Levin Medieval Market and qualified for this year’s International Medieval Combat Federation at Scone Palace in Scotland and the Copenhagen Medieval Market in Denmark, both in May.

In Scotland she will represent New Zealand in two women’s categories – 1 v 1 poleaxe and 1 v 1 longsword.

Dayna had already qualified for the combined New Zealand-Australia women’s team to compete in the Battle of the Nations in Rome this May.

However, for financial reasons she has opted not to attend the Denmark competition this year.

Medieval fighting and the interesting friends she has made through it have taken Dayna (Ngāti Kahu) across the globe to represent New Zealand in this specialist sport.

Dayna was part of the New Zealand team at the International Medieval Combat Federation World Championships hosted by Denmark in May 2017.


Dayna, left, fighting Christa Heysen Martin from South Africa at the 2017 International Medieval Combat Federation World Championships in Denmark. Photo: Caroline Walsh

It was an old English literature course at Victoria University about 16 years ago that opened the door to medieval combat fighting for Dayna.

Battles and fighting soon captured her attention.

It led her to Wellington’s medieval re-enactment society, The Company of the Dragon, and the related sport of buhurt.

What is it about medieval sports that Dayna enjoys so much?

I started for the physical release that fighting gave me; I stayed for the friends I have made and the interesting community of people that I have become a part of.

“There is always something interesting being made, studied or tried out. As many of the references for the items are in museums overseas a ‘give it a go’ attitude has had many of us in New Zealand figuring out how to make things, or try new moves based on the manuscripts or videos available on the internet.

“You learn as much from your failures as you do from your success, and there’s always someone in the medieval community ready to try stuff out – especially your home brew beer and mead,” Dayna says.

Dayna became the third woman from Wellington and the country’s fourth to compete internationally in the sport that involves wearing a heavy set of traditional armour and wielding medieval weapons. Photo: Capturing Heartbeats Photography Studio

All medieval fighting sports have different sets of rules and armour standards, so before Dayna could represent New Zealand overseas in buhurt, she required a new set of armour and weapons. Dayna sought the help of her friends and fellow fighters who run All Fired Up Armouries in New Plymouth and they made her a bespoke set of armour and weapons.

These involve a lot of metal parts and a full helmet. The complete armour set weighs about 35 kg and alone costs around $5000.

Competitive buhurt fights are either one-on- one, or a group against another group.

Competitors use a range of weapons (e.g. swords, axes and maces) that come in one handed and two-handed varieties. Most medieval weaponry has rural origins and those used for medieval battle sports are deliberately blunt, with no points or sharp edges.

Points are primarily scored by hits to the opponent.

Dayna’s buhurt club, called Felag (Norse for fellowship), meets at Epuni School in Lower Hutt.

She says the group has been welcomed by locals and some have become involved.

The one thing we all like doing is medieval stuff. And the one thing that is not accepted is giving up.

“It’s helped fill a local social need too – the local kids pitch up and watch us run around on the field in our armour and some local families have come to watch us in the hall. Also, with us on the school grounds after hours, it means we help keep an eye on the place,” Dayna says.

With the potential cost to attend international events around $7,000 per person (the excess baggage charges can really mount up) Dayna bakes cakes and jam and sells raffle tickets to help fundraise. She was fortunate to get $2,000 commercial sponsorship towards her 2017 trip and is starting soon to fundraise for her next trip.

If you liked this story, join up to our Daily Encourager Media Facebook page by clicking here

More information:


Help Daily Encourager grow our unique content and coverage by making a small monthly contribution.

Become a supporter
The Good Registry

The Good Registry is a simple way to give joy and goodness, without giving ‘a thing’.
Find out more at

Leave a Comment