Medieval combatants suit up

Jamie VanGeest

Every Sunday, swords swing and arrows fly when some students battle to the death on a grassy knoll at Como Park.

Chemistry graduate student Nick Denny started medieval combat fighting as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois.

When he came to the University of Minnesota, his passion for fighting motivated him to start the University’s Medieval Combat Society, he said.

The society is named Forhirion, meaning Land of the Northern Lords in Elvish, a language from “The Lord of the Rings.” The society is a part of the national Belegarth Medieval Combat Society.

“I enjoy it because it’s an interesting sport, and it’s just fun to beat up on your friends,” said Kevin Kumlin, a history student at the University of Minnesota.

According to the combat rules, if a limb gets hit by a weapon, the fighter cannot use it for the rest of the battle. Players who lose two limbs or get hit in the torso are considered dead and have lost.

Some of the competitors have very dramatic death scenes, others use their demise as an opportunity to take a nap.

Practice usually includes a free-for-all fight or people divide into two teams and battle. Sometimes to switch things up, they will play games such as capture the flag.

Denny said he enjoys team battles the most because of the teamwork and strategy required.

“You have to have a battlefield awareness and watch out for your teammates,” Denny said.

Many types of medieval weapons are used in the society’s battles, from swords and shields to maces and arrows.

Most of the weapons are made with a fiberglass or PVC core with foam or cloth wrapped around the outside. The Belegarth Medieval Combat Society has instructions, flex and length requirements.

“We don’t want people to be injured; at most, we want our weapons to give you a slight bruise once in a while,” Denny said.

The worst injury Kumlin has ever seen was a jammed finger, he said. Most of the injuries aren’t caused by the weapons, but when players hit the ground.

To make the battles more true to medieval times, members dress up in medieval costumes.

“Some people like it, and some people find the idea of it horrific,” Kumlin said.

One man at the battle was shirtless with a plaid blanket wrapped around his waist. Kumlin had a loose shirt and pants underneath his Roman-inspired leather armor.

“I think that dressing up adds to the fighting, it makes it not look like you’re just out there hitting your friend with a stick,” Denny said.

The Belegarth Medieval Combat Society has an official dress code, but the only rule the University’s society has is no blue jeans.

Besides wearing medieval clothing, members also choose battle names.

Member Josh Bies chose “Bravin” as his battle name.

“I picked it for a video game and my girlfriend thought it sounded cool,” he said.

Some of the members have gone to nationwide medieval combat events. Denny attended Armageddon, a national tournament put on in Illinois by the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society.

The event attracted approximately 300 people and featured realm tournaments and single-sword battles.