by Milena Cinosi
If you are a Dominican University student, maybe you have seen a group of people on Sundays on the library lawn with foam swords and shields fighting each other. You may have even stared and wondered what that was about, with its specific clothing and rules. This is not a game and this is not “Live Action Role Playing, or LARPing” as you may have mistaken it for. It is Belegarth, a sport centered on simulating medieval battles and you can play it too.
“It is not hard and anyone can do it,” says Joe Rothembuhler. He, with the help of his friend Andrew Knight, have opened a new practice, or realm, called Gray Haven in Hellman’s Hollow, in San Francisco's park every Saturday at 12pm. However, they are not known as Joe and Andrew. They are Morder and Udrid, as those are their fighting names. They have both been involved in this sport for over a year and consider themselves ready to ease new fighters into the experience. “I believe that anybody, it doesn’t matter whether they have things wrong physically with them or not, can come out and play this sport. There’s not a giant learning curve or anything you just come out here and swing foam swords," he comments.
“It’s an exciting time to be in sword fighting, especially in Northern California,” says John Lambert or Marrow as other fighters know him, who has been trying to start a new realm in Merced Community College for nearly a semester. On rush week, “I just grabbed my gear and a table to see what happened and within an hour and a half I had 25 people signed up.” For Belegarth this means bigger and more diverse battles. “It’s been a great experience, seeing without trying to reach out, just how many people were willing to come forward and make this happen. I’ve got 25 swords coming to me today that were shipped to me just because I said that I had 25 people.”
New possibilities to fight are appearing everywhere, but you can still come to the usual Sunday practice of the Armored Penguins. Kayla Mahoney, fighting name Pip, the club president, said, “We welcome community members as well as students to participate and blow off some steam. We attend national events every year to promote our realm and our club.” If you are a woman and want to fight, she thinks that “women are welcome [in this sport] especially on March 28. Dominican University is hosting the March of the Penguins. It is a day event that we will be holding on the softball field. We will be having fighters come from all places as far away as Fresno and as close as the dormitories to fight all day and participate in tournaments and win prizes.”
Belegarth is a community sport. Everyone has a smile on their faces off the field, and when things become serious, safety and having fun are more important than winning. People that play in Northern Carolina are “a well-integrated group of people that are willing to help out," according to Marrow.
The invitation is clear for everyone that has even the slightest interest. “Come fight," finished Pip with a smile on her face. There really is no reason not to come meet the welcoming group of people and get involved in this community that brings medieval fighting to today’s parks, making it available to everyone. Have you already chosen your fighting name?