By Lexy Immerman
The Medieval and Renaissance Recreation Combat Association (MRRCA) is revamping their activities this year, teaching members to handle a variety of medieval weapons and spar with each other in the hopes of preparing members for competitions.
The MRRCA has been around for almost thirty years, according to captain and senior, Thomas Mueller, but this year is different.
“We’re getting it more formalized, and doing a lot of stuff that they just didn’t do before,” he said. “We want people to leave at the end of the year having rudimentary knowledge of how to use a sword. So far it’s working.”
The association strives to learn historically accurate techniques for medieval and Renaissance-style fighting, and to apply those techniques in various game scenarios to develop strategic thinking and enhance their abilities.
“There were six of us in beginning,” Mueller said. “It wasn’t very formal, and no one knew anything for real. [Mark] Wicker, the instructor this year, has done sword training since he was 14 or 15. We have just started sparring.”
According to Mueller, the club was previously against sparring and, as a result, “no one learned anything.”
Wicker is bringing new light into their practices.
“We’re learning more from someone who knows what he’s doing rather than using a small bit of knowledge passed down over the years or learning from books on our own,” said Christy Mendiola, a junior and co-captain.
The MRRCA has about 20 members who routinely attend practices, which are held at the grassy area outside Stuyvesant Hall on Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30-5:30.
“I’ve always been interested in medieval history and that stuff, and combat is something that is easier to practice than building things or farming, something that I can experience firsthand rather than reading a book,” freshman Colin McGarry said.
Sharing similar interests, freshman Evan Fitzpatrick, said that he used to be interested in medieval history, and enjoys learning the swordplay.
“Basically it’s beating […] each other with fancy plastic,” he said.
The “fancy plastic” described is hand-and-a-half swords or broadswords, daggers, spears, and shields, made from polypropylene. Although they are safer than real metal, but they still pack a hit, which is why anyone sparring wears armor.
The armor is comprised of thick, padded leather suits paired with fencing helmets and protective gloves like the kind construction workers wear. In addition to the plastic weapons, the association has bamboo and wooden swords, some of which are donated from alumni.
“You will get hurt if you take a clip to the hand,” said freshman Jonathan Bethiel. “But our armor is thick leather, so getting hit by a sword doesn’t hurt that bad.”
In addition to weaponry, the group will also be learning grappling and hand-to-hand combat. Bethiel used to fence and practice martial arts, but was interested in medieval combat because it was such a novel concept.
“I mean, who will mess with you if you’re carrying a broadsword? That wins fights,” he said.
Senior Victoria Licata also used to do fencing and swordplay.
“I’m a medieval studies minor, so this is in my field of study, plus it’s fun and a good workout,” she said.
Typical practice activities include members sparring against each other using different weapons, doing drills, and practicing forms, slices, and blocks to form muscle memory. During sparring, opponents generally wield bamboo swords, exchanging a calculated flurry of blows designed to take down an opponent. Unlike in fencing, where a light touch to the body wins a point, medieval combatants put enough force behind their blows to knock their opponent to the ground. After sparring, combatants are red-faced, sweaty, and breathing heavily from the exertion, and nursing a few bruises.
“We will be trying to expand in a couple of years,” Mendiola said. “We know there’s a similar organization at Ohio State that we want to get in contact with.”
Until then, members of the MRRCA can be seen having rapid sparring matches on the lawn outside of Stuyvesant, honing their skills and practicing their passion.