Combat Society steps up to battle


Noheimi Rosales

Galahad, Columbia’s Combat Society is gearing up for the big Wolfpack opener in two weeks at Illinois State.

By Sports & Health Reporter

Columbia’s Galahad Medieval Combat Society is bringing a new sport to the college that many students may be unfamiliar with—the medieval game known as Belegarth. 

Caleigh Fleming, president of Galahad and cinema arts + science major, helped start the society last fall. Fleming said she started the group at Columbia because she did not want to drive hours away to play the game—which involves participants donning medieval gear and dueling with fiberglass foam swords—and thought it would be a great addition to the school.

 “The closest place to play [the game] is outside the city,” Fleming said. “I also really like the Belegarth community and wanted to bring it here because it is a really inviting community. It’s great to be in a place where you can talk about ‘Star Wars,’ diseases and swords and not have people be like, ‘OK, nerd.’”

There are basic rules to the game, said Olivia Pugh, a sophomore television major and the event planner for Galahad. One hit to the torso is immediate death and the stricken player is removed from the game. Any strike to a limb limits the person’s ability to use it—if an arm is hit, the person has to drop what he or she is holding with that arm, and if a leg is hit, the player has to drop to one knee. If two limbs are hit, the team member is dead and disqualified from the game.

“Feet and hands don’t count, and you do not aim for peoples heads,” Pugh said. “Not only does it not count, but you are kind of a jerk.”

The sport’s origins can be traced back to 1966 to a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism, which focuses on the historical aspects of Belegarth, according to  Brian Fong, vice president of the group and a junior audio arts & acoustics major. The original sport was called Dagorhir, Fong said.   SCA members inserted PVC pipes into pool noodles and wielded them as swords.

 “Since then, [players] have learned a lot about foam and weapon construction,” Fong said. “It is a lot safer now.”  

Fleming said the society competes at both the city and national levels. There are three “realms” of Galahad in Chicago and teams can go to each other’s practices to compete in their battles.

“There are also national events, usually held when weather is warmer,” Fong said. “People come from all over the country and some [from around] the world. We all get together and have massive field battles. The last big event was Oktoberfest, and there were 600 people.”

Fleming said there are certain policies in place to protect the organization from liability issues, such as requiring participants to be 16 years or older to fight at national events, and minors must have a waiver signed by a legal guardian. 

“[The Galahad Medieval  Society] is super fun, and we are super friendly,” Fong said. “We will literally let anyone  come and try out.”

Logan Henderson, the society’s treasurer and a freshman music major, said he wanted to join the Galahad team because the group looked awesome.

“I stumbled upon [the team] playing, and this guy rolled in front of me,” Henderson said. “I went to a practice, had a lot of fun and ended up falling into a bush. This is a really cool community.”  

Fleming said her favorite weapon of choice to bring to battle is a giant hammer to which she added her own twist.

“I found industrial-quality dog squeakers and put it into the hammer,” Fleming said. “That is the best part, getting the squeaky kills.”

Pugh said the most rewarding aspect of participating in the society is how it allows her to engage in a different mode of thinking.

“It’s a different headspace than I’m used to,” Pugh said. “It allows me to think about things in a different way for a little while.”

Something Fong found interesting about the society is the eclectic group of people that end up participating—people who onlookers might not expect to be interested.

“Through one way or another, they found Belegarth,” Fong said. “Now their horizons have been expanded through it. They’re more receptive and enjoy geeky things.”

The society is gearing up for the Wolfpack Opener in two weeks at Illinois State University—the largest indoor event in Belegarth.

The team holds a Columbia-exclusive practice every week in room 307 at the 11th Street Campus Building, 72 E. 11th St. Open practice is held on Thursdays at East-West University gymnasium, located inside The Flats, 829 S. Wabash Ave., from 7–10 p.m.