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At Gladiators NYC, full-contact MMA meets weapons and armor

Gladiators NYC brings full contact weapons and armor fighting to Central Park
Gladiators NYC brings full contact weapons and armor fighting to Central Park 03:06

NEW YORK - A New York group is honoring medieval history by celebrating in the present. 

In Central Park, Gladiators NYC are a dedicated band of warriors who bring history to life on green lawns dotted with picnickers. The clash of steel weapons and real armor echoes with a different kind of rhythm. 

"Like football with weapons"

"Steel weapons, full contact MMA. Team fighting without weight classes. So it was like football with weapons, and I'm like, that's it, I'm in," Damion Digrazia said. 

The blades are dulled, but the intensity isn't. The competitors say the most common injury is bruising. They're glad the armor works. 

At Gladiators NYC, combatants engage in full contact fighting with dulled weapons and real armor.  CBS2

"Under here is a soft kit. This is essentially what absorbs the percussive force of what happens against our armor," Orlando Mendez explained. 

Putting on the armor offers a kind of escape. 

"When you put your helmet on, your vision narrows, and all you can see is the guy in front of you, and that's it," Jake Meddaugh said. "When I put the armor on, I feel like I'm invincible. I feel like I could be hit by a bus right now and I'd be perfectly fine."

"What brings joy is a greater level of violence"

Unlike live action role playing, Gladiators NYC requires brutality. 

"I'm not going to condescend, or say anything about people like to LARP. That's great. We have a lot of people that like that stuff. Whatever brings joy to someone is what they should do. But for some people, what brings joy is a greater level of violence," Digrazia said. 

Spectators enjoy the show at Gladiators NYC.  CBS2

It's a workout in steel plating. 

"You require from your body this explosive amount of energy," Mendez said. "I can't see myself using my energy any other way." 

"Life is too short" 

Some might say they strike at the core of being human, where honor and bravery are not just words, but a way of life. Every knight in shining armor battles for something different. 

"When I really felt I need to commit to this was after my dad died five years ago," Digrazia said. "He worked 73 years to retire and died two years later. Don't do that. Life is too short. Every second of it - enjoy it... instead of spending your whole life just chasing that dollar. 

For some, it's a chance to touch the past, feel the weight of a helmet, dream of living a different life, if only for a moment. For them, history is not just something read in books - it's alive, vibrant, and can be felt in the very air we breathe - even in the most unexpected places. 

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