By CHP Staff Report

“Lay on!”

With a shout of commencement, Edgar Gonzalez leaps through the air, his weapon brandished, leather wristbands glinting in the sun as his opponents draw back in fear. Weapons collide, and warriors fall to their knees as they wipe the beaded sweat off their faces.

This scene, reminiscent of “Lord of the Rings” or the knights of the Round Table, is simply another Saturday afternoon for Belegarth, a sport that has intrigued a group of UC Santa Cruz students.

A national medieval combat society, Belegarth is a sport in which members dress in medieval attire and fight one another with foam-padded weapons. Gonzalez, a second-year student, has been an active participant for the past six years and introduced the sport to his peers at UCSC.

“It started in the ’70s,” Gonzalez said. “A bunch of guys read ‘Lord of the Rings’ and wanted to do that.”

The sport has since evolved into a national organization that boasts chapters around the country, which practice and combat in different fantasy realms. Hundreds of Belegarth members come together for national events and tournaments each year. Players compete in a variety of battle games, which involve striking opponents in the torso and limbs with their weapon of choice.

There are a variety of weapons, which are homemade and typically composed of foam and PVC pipe. They include swords, daggers and bows and arrows, all designed with safety as a top priority. The ways in which players are “killed” in battle are very particular.

“A torso shot is a kill,” Gonzalez said. “The butt and groin are legal, but frowned upon. Two limb shots is a kill. Head shots aren’t legal, unless you’re hit with projectiles. A lot of people wear cups. I don’t blame them.”

This strong emphasis on safety in Belegarth is reflected by the group’s motto: “Safety first, playability second and realism third,” Gonzalez said.

“This is an actual sport. We have had people chip teeth,” said second-year Merlin Jones, an active Belegarth participant. “It can get pretty intense.”

The makeshift swords and bows and arrows are specifically designed not to cause pain upon contact.

“I got shot in the eye with an arrow once,” Gonzalez said. “It felt like getting hit with a pillow.”

Jones explained that members have different names for battle to distinguish their warrior personas from their everyday selves.

“My name is Hephaestus because that’s the Greek god of weapons,” Jones said. “I make most of our weapons.”

The UCSC group consists of about 10 to 15 individuals who meet every weekend and engage in medieval battle. Although the majority of members are male, females participate as well.

“History and fantasy kids get really into this,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like I’m making up for lost time in my childhood.”

The combating group often draws attention from many students who pass by their practices at the Porter Squiggle. Eventually, Jones hopes to see the group become an actual chapter of the Belegarth society, as well as receive university recognition as a club sport.

“Some people come and watch. Others try it out and become regulars,” Jones said. “Either way, we give them a good show.”

Students are drawn to the sport for various reasons.

“I had heard of it before because I fence,” third-year Kat Foley said. “From the perspective of someone whose main sport is swordfighting, it seems like it would be fun.”

With their impressive sword skills, the members of Belegarth are sure to be UCSC’s go- to knights in shining armor.

“Some people come and watch. Others try it out and become regulars,” Jones said. “Either way, we give them a good show.”

Rula Al-Nasrawi, Ashley Glazebrook, and Brett Leader contributed to this article.