The Hundred Swords is a Canberra-based 'battle sports' group, left: Greg Holland of the 'Crimson Company', Jake Patten, Erica Moy known as 'Shield Maiden' and Ashley Charlton known as 'Death Reign'.

The Hundred Swords is a Canberra-based 'battle sports' group, left: Greg Holland of the 'Crimson Company', Jake Patten, Erica Moy known as 'Shield Maiden' and Ashley Charlton known as 'Death Reign'. Photo: Katheirne Griffiths

Don't let the carefully designed costumes fool you: this is not merely play-acting.

Canberra mediaeval enthusiasts The Hundred Swords insist that their battle sport is hard, even bruising, work.

The group's co-founder and captain, Neil Stork-Brett, of Turner, likens the hobby to boxing.

Erica Moy known as 'Shield Maiden' surrounded in battle.

Erica Moy known as 'Shield Maiden' surrounded in battle. Photo: Katheirne Griffiths

''After a one-on-one, intense, three-minute bout, you'll be absolutely exhausted,'' he said.

''You'll be panting like you've just done a wind sprint. When you're in a battle, you get really tired really quickly.''

The group held its ''boot camp of doom'' beside the National Library on Sunday afternoon, confusing, and amusing, some passers-by.

The Hundred Swords held a 'Boot Camp of Doom' training session on the lawns in front of the National Library.

The Hundred Swords held a 'Boot Camp of Doom' training session on the lawns in front of the National Library. Photo: Katheirne Griffiths

About 35 warriors, from boys in their early teens to men in their late 40s - and a couple of shield maidens, too - practised killing each other with foam weapons.

There are strict rules that guide this live-action role-playing, which is becoming increasingly popular worldwide.

All fighters must wear eye protection, and only trained combatants can use larger, two-handed weapons, such as quarterstaffs and battleaxes.

A points system determines when participants must leave the battleground: most ''die'' after copping three hits, though those who wear armour can survive an extra hit or two.

And while there's no prize for looking the part, many combatants go to great lengths to make their costumes stand out, especially for the group's full-scale monthly battles.

In this month's battle, on July 27, a team of werewolves will attack brave townsfolk defending their land.

Mr Stork-Brett, who prefers to be known as Gorehead when dressed in full armour, was unsure what was behind the battle sport's growth.

''It could be Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit,'' he said. ''For me, as a kid, I was always into knights and castles.''

Would-be-warriors can find The Hundred Swords, and details of the next bloodbath, on Facebook.