Medieval combat returns to town

Sarah Pruys

No, these “guardians” are not here to protect Fort Frances. Rather, they fight each other with quite a large assortment of foam swords and weapons.
“Belegarth Medieval Combat is essentially a combat sport that was created to reenact medieval-style battling,” explained Jordan York, co-founder of the Fort Frances chapter.
The university student began playing in Thunder Bay.
“Matt McQuaker also organizes this with me, too,” he noted. “We brought it back from Thunder Bay last year.”
While the game seems complicated at first, it is quickly learned just like any other sport.
“It focuses more on the combat aspect rather than the role-playing in terms of how it separates itself from other forms of ‘larping’ [live action role-playing],” York remarked.
“You get all those other groups, where they run around tossing lightning bolts and pretending to be orcs and elves,” he noted.
“This is more of a physical sport rather than incorporating the fantasy element and role-playing.
“There’s a whole history of it,” York added. “It was created back in the ’70s or ’80s.”
He said the game was created to be an outdoor sport, and is not based on movies or video games.
“There’s big events that go down in the States that have hundreds of people out there, and it’s required for people to wear ‘garb,’ some form of outfit that would predate about 1750 just to keep in the reenactment mentality,” York continued.
When the group practices, however, wear their regular clothes. Right now, the majority of the participants are in high school, although there are a few youngsters from elementary school.
They get into the game as much as the older youths, with everyone playing fairly with each other and respecting the rules if they get “killed” or “injured.”
Sometimes they fight one-on-one while other times they’ll go up against each other.
Different games within the game help to make sure it remains fun and interesting, and to ensure everyone has a chance to be involved.
The group holds practices every Sunday and Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Legion Park, with anyone aged eight and up welcome to attend.
If enough people attend, they split into two groups, with high school students having the opportunity to earn volunteer hours needed to graduate if they help to supervise and referee the younger children’s games.
“One field will be 15-and-under and the other field will be 16-and-up,” York explained.
“So far that’s a work in progress,” he admitted. “I’m allowed to give out community hours, but I haven’t had too many people volunteering.”
Still, the group has grown since last year, with 69 people currently in the active Facebook group and about 20 attending each practice.
Over the winter, the group voted on their Facebook page to change the name from “Fort Frances Belegarth” to “Guardians of the Fort.”
“Already we’re having more people out every practice,” York enthused. “We’ve been averaging probably about 20 kids at a practice for the past two weeks now, and we’ve only been going for the last month.
“So it’s been good.
“We’ll be keeping it on until August, for sure, and hopefully it will be going on past then,” he added.
York said McQuaker likely will continue to run the practices.
“He has a job here, so I assume he’ll keep running it after I’m gone in the fall.”
In addition to practices, York noted they “do get together and make our own weapons.”
“Some of them we make, some of them we buy, but all of them are made from basic materials,” he remarked.
“There are regulations to make sure they are all safe and okay,” he stressed. “There are all different kinds of weapons, and there are different rules for the weapons.
“There are weapons that can slash, weapons that can stab, some that you can throw.”
So far, the feedback on the group has been very positive.
“It’s awesome,” 11-year-old Garret Elias said at practice last week.
“I’ve been here twice and I’m going to keep coming.”