The fighting is real at Serbia's medieval festival

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Two paarticipants in the Serbian medieval festival come together

Dressed from head-to-toe in knight's armour, fighters thrashed each other with steel swords in high-octane duels at a Serbian chivalry festival on Saturday.

These were not staged re-enactment shows but full-contact fights in a combat sport known as historical medieval battle.

Around 60 fighters from European countries spanning France to Romania participated in the tournament, wielding blunted weapons as they skirmished across a grassy pitch in the shadow of a 15th century fortress in eastern Serbia.

The intense, highly-physical matches -- best described as mixed-martial arts but with medieval weapons -- are refereed and scored based on a point system.

"I have a background in boxing and I love history, so for me (this sport) is a good mix," said 28-year-old French fighter Victor Rousseau, 28, as he prepared for a group match.

While the fighting is rooted in old traditions, the modern form of medieval battle has only become formalised as a sport in the past decade, helped by the launch of a world championship called "Battle of the Nations."

The tournament in Serbia was part of a three-day medieval festival, called "Just Out", in a river gorge home to the 600-year-old Manasija monastery, which is fortified by massive stone walls and towers.

Festival-goers in medieval garb, many carrying swords of their own or bows and arrows, have been camping out in tents for three days of jousting, archery, crafts and meat-heavy medieval meals.

"This fighting and this culture... it's wonderful," said Velimir Birmanac, a Serbian spectator wearing "civilian" medieval dress with a loose shirt and belt holding a dagger, satchel and hollowed animal horn for drinks.

"It's an extraordinary experience," he added, watching as the next pair entered the ring.

The festival is aimed at fostering "respect of moral values" and aiding in the "uncompromising fight against violence on women, children and weaklings," according to the official "Just Out" website.