From zero to 60 participants in only a few years, the Belegarth Club has begun to turn some heads. It’s easy to see why fighting each other with foam swords, flails and axes tends to do that.
This group hacks, slashes and bashes each other into submission while adhering to safe violence. As one of the more underrated clubs on campus, they show that they’re here to stay.
Though they’re technically considered a club here at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, on the national level they are known as the "Sands Plains Militia" realm, or a geographically restricted area for fighting.
The rules are easy to follow in Belegarth: If sparring (two people fighting), you tap swords together and start. If in a big group situation, a herald (referee) dictates if it is everyone for themselves or team vs. team, and begins the battle.
At first, each of the players is a squire of another squire. They can be brought up for knighthood when their squire is knighted or when they do something incredibly noble. Chris Johnson, president of UWSP’s chapter of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society was actually picked to become a knight for trying to bring the group to the national scene.
At first, each of the players is a squire of another squire. They can be brought up for knighthood when their squire is knighted or when they do something incredibly noble. Chris Johnson, president of UWSP’s chapter of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society, was actually picked to become a knight for trying to bring the group to the national scene.
"It’s a little nerve-wracking because you have to go through a bunch of tests including 100 fights (1-on-1 battles) with no breaks. However, as a veteran I enjoy this a lot, not only because I get to hit stuff with sticks, but because it’s very therapeutic," Johnson said.
The battles are based off of a point system: One point for a limb shot and two points for a body shot. If you have two points against you, you’re out. You must have sufficient force in order to win.
"Fights sometimes last just over two seconds and sometimes five to ten minutes at the national level. It all varies, just like in martial arts. We were at a tournament two weeks ago in Illinois where 400-500 people were playing. That battle took about 20-25 minutes," Johnson said.
Belegarth is not only similar to martial arts, but also similar to LARPing (Live Action Role Playing). You might even be familiar with LARPing from the movie "Role Models." However, do not go around thinking this is a LARPing group.
"It’s actually an insult. We don’t have identities that we have to act out - we just fight. Weapons that they use in LARPing are actually considered "unsafe" in our sport," Johnson said. The weapons are standard medieval equipment, even using bows weighing up to 35 lbs. that players have seen at larger tournaments.
The Belegarth Club was founded by Joey Shlagenhaft and Aaron Burg who then recruited Ethan Ostopowicz. Mostly through personal funding, the paperwork was filled out and they became official.
"Jeff Hamilton appeared from the north and scared us with the fact that he not only came with his own weaponry but could beat five guys attacking him at once...It was kind of threatening," Ostopowicz said.
Although at first they were primarily personally funded, they are now one of two groups in the Midwest that receives funding through the university and one of few on the national level.
To learn more about Belegarth check out www.belegarth.com, Facebook interest groups, www.geddon.org, or the Belegarth at UWSP Facebook page. You can also email Chris Johnson at Christopher.E.Johnson@uwsp.edu or show up to one of their practices every Saturday from 1-4 p.m. in front of Debot.