What It Takes …

Nick Baker

Dagorhir demands honor, athleticism

Kent State student Cody Kersting, “Mongoose,” leaps at Will Wiencek, “Cirrus,” at the Medieval Fighting Club on Sunday afternoon. Daniel Maxwell | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

You have probably, at one time or another in your cross-campus travels, passed a group of students, clad in homemade armor and medieval garb, beating the hell out of each other with blunt, padded sticks.

If you’ve never stopped to inquire as to why these people are wailing on each other with big sticks, then you are probably unaware that the Kingdom of Rotharin, the Kent State medieval fighting society, is training for national battles in which the combatants’ skills will be laid on the line.

The Kingdom of Rotharin is a group that participates in battles as part of Dagorhir, a sport started in 1977 that stretches across the country and into southern parts of Canada with the intention of carrying out medieval-style epic battles.

National events, such as Gates of Fire, Ragnarok, the largest event, and the most recent, Battle of Baden Hill, which members of the Kingdom of Rotharin participated in, attracts thousands of participants each year.

And from the “thuds,” “whacks” and “oohs” that can be heard during and immediately following the blows when a pair of fighters square off in the middle of a crowd, one can see (and hear) that it most certainly is a sport that requires preparation and training.

Chris Wunderle, known in the realm of Dagorhir as Z’Kell Taldor, acts as the leader of Rotharin. He was helped with his homemade armor on his forearm and torso, that he described as being “designed with rank in mind” as he prepared for practice.

“It is very much so a sport,” Wunderle said with a grin as he looked over his shoulder at the sound of somebody getting popped. He loosely held his weapon, demonstrating its weightiness.

“You’re going to feel it when you get hit. It is very much an active sport,” he said.

Wunderle added that non-combatants are welcome in the group.

On the surface, the rules of Dagorhir are simple: If you are hit in the arm, you lose an arm, likewise with a leg. This means a combatant must drop on one knee if hit in the leg or hold an arm behind the back if it’s hit, as well. The loss of two limbs results in death. Torso shots cause instant death, but headshots are generally illegal.

“We try to pad the weapons,” Wunderle said, “Not the people.”

Michael Nousak, known as Goron, explained how combat works.

“It’s honor,” Nousak said. “You play on the honor rule. If you lie, people will notice. People will start hitting you extra hard if you do that a lot, because nobody appreciates a cheater in this game, and then everybody will become your enemy quickly.”

Weapons are generally homemade and fashioned out of PVC pipe or some other plastic object, foam and duct tape. In official Dagorhir competitions, officials must clear a weapon for use in battle.

According to the Dagorhir Manual of Arms, weapons are categorized by size and usage and then color-coded. Blue weapons are one-handed slashing weapons, two-handed weapons are red, stabbing weapons are green, yellow are projectiles, such as arrows, and loose projectiles, like rocks, which are only effective as head shots are white.

A fighter can choose any weapon and can carry any number of them.

Carissa Gregory, known within Rotharin as Jewel, utilized two short blue weapons in either hand as she held her own against several male fighters twice her size as she practiced one-on-one drills.

Dan MacGregor, also known as Skathi, on the other hand, held a large red weapon called a partisan in both hands. MacGregor said he had previous experience studying kendo and used his sword-fighting knowledge in Dagorhir.

As pairs engaged each other in the center of a circle, one fighter, with his right arm behind his back, mentioned with annoyance that someone’s cell phone was ringing.

As Nousak said, the goal of Dagorhir is to keep battles authentic and in the spirit of the Middle Ages.

“You can’t have modern stuff. If someone brings a lightsaber we’re just going to laugh at them,” Nousak said with a smile, “And not let them fight.”

Contact features reporter Nick Baker at [email protected]