Oct 6, 2009

Sword fighting lives on

by Tim Mattingly

On this battlefield, blades bounce off bones and blood flows only from the imagination. Laughter mingles with the cries of the dead, who rise to live and die again. It is Saturday on the circle intramural fields, where the Sword Fight Club (SFC) musters for battle, brandishing homemade foam weapons in the afternoon sun.

“The Sword Fight Club is like ice cream on Sunday,” senior Nate Hundley said. “It’s that sweet treat you get once a week.”

 The gameplay varies from quelling a massive zombie attack to capture the flag.  There are also chess-like games, such as “regicide,” which end only when a team’s king is slain.  The club battles rain or shine.

“The SFC lets every little boy live out his Braveheart fantasy,” junior James Genter explains.

But the club is not “little boy” exclusive. There are also little girls, littler girls and littler boys — “littler” referring to the children who battle alongside their parents.

Apparently trained from birth, these wee weapon wielders are not to be taken lightly. Their voracious appetite for foam-related violence was witnessed during College for a Weekend, as senior Joshua Blaine jested swordplay with the children. Like a pack of wolves, they leapt upon Blaine, howling, “For Honor!” as he curled into a defensive ball.

Through their act of aggression, the children displayed an important aspect to combating in the SFC — honor and teamwork.

“Sword fighting cohesiveness is dependent on good teamwork and concentrating on things like honor,” graduate student Tyson Smitherman said. “And it is always fun to cut your enemy’s arm off and bathe in their blood.”

Smitherman is the proud warrior-parent of Lisha, 4, and Rowan, 22 months, who were partially responsible for the beating of Blaine.  Although Blaine survived the children’s onslaught, such attacks raise the ever-present issue of safety when sword fighting.

“We use foam padded swords but it is not all straight bashing,” senior Peter Young explained. “It requires skill and like any other sport, you can get hurt.”

The SFC takes both physical and spiritual measures in order to minimize the potential for bloodshed and pain during every event. The first measure involves rules, including a light-touch combat system. The second measure is prayer.

Before the campus can be littered with fallen combatants, the SFC opens up in prayer, lead by junior Patrick “Pastor Pat” Carlton.

“Sword fighting edifies the body, mind and soul,” Carlton said.

The body benefits from the exercise, the mind from the fast-paced strategy and the soul from the Christian fellowship, Carlton explained.  He prays for safety and fun because without both of these elements, the SFC would not exist.

“The only requisite is fun,” Liberty alumni Josh McDaniel said. “We just go out there to have fun in an alternative-sport.”

“It is great fun and despite popular belief, it is not a recruiting ground for sociopaths,” junior Gary Watts joked.

The SFC is a glass-half-full approach to Matthew 26:52, “If you live by the sword you will die by the sword,” which does not seem like such a bad thing to do with friends on a Saturday.

Contact Tim Mattingly at tmattingly@liberty.edu.

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