En garde! The Medieval Arts Club at Southern Oregon University meets every Thursday evening from 6-9 in the Stevenson Union Arena. According to the club statement via club President Emily Taylor, the MAC is “a club dedicated to the preservation and practice of medieval swordplay and arts.” This practice is entirely different than live action role-playing (LARPing), and the fighters at the Medieval Arts Club prefer to be called “Medieval Recreationists.”
In these club sessions, attendees can be seen sparring or practicing and teaching strategy and technique. Those not interested in fighting, work on craft projects, make medieval themed garb, or simply do homework and observe the fighters.
The MAC has reached out to the local Society for Creative Anachronism group (SCA), which is an international historical recreational group. The local SCA attends the Medieval Art Club meetings and help SOU fighters improve. They also let the MAC use their equipment during practices.
There are three distinct styles of fighting the MAC practices: rapier, cut and thrust, and heavy combat. Rapier is essentially civilian fighting; fighters have weapons ranging from small daggers to two-handed long swords. In rapier, if one is hit, the area the fighter was hit becomes disabled.
Cut and thrust is what one would typically see on the battlefield from a foot soldier; fighters have a long sword, broad sword, or a similar weapon, but have minimal armor. Club Vice President Tyler Hansen explained that in cut and thrust, when a fighter gets hit, they’re done. “It’s like in the battlefield if you got your hand cut off, you’d be like, ‘Alright I think I’m done for the day. I wanna go home.’”
Heavy combat is fully armored, and as opposed to the other two, fighters don’t use steel weapons. Instead, because the fighters are hitting with full force, the weapons are made of bamboo.
There are tournaments in the SU Arena during the regular meeting time twice a month. On this evening, the MAC was participating in a rapier tournament. There were three “rings”, and the rules were pretty simple. Each fighter got three lives; if the fighter lost a life, they would move down a ring. If only a limb was lost, the fighter may move down a ring, but would still be missing that limb.
Naturally, President Emily Taylor won the tournament on this night. In fact, she is the Regional Champion of the Jackson County division, the Shire of Glyn Dwfn. Vice President Tyler Hansen is also the Regional Champion of the Roseburg division, the Shire of Briaroak. The title is held for a year, at which time the fighter can defend it. Clearly, there is talent at SOU everywhere you look.
If Taylor could tell prospective Medieval Recreationists one thing she would say, “We know that our practices can seem intimidating at first with all the people in armor swinging swords, but we really like new people and everyone is welcome regardless of their skill level.”