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Courtesy Ironhart Vanguard

Medieval combat club ready to fight

By Rachel Woodward, February 14 2017 —

As a university student, it can be tough to expel some energy while also having fun and meeting new people. Katrina Bruce, one of the founders of Ironhart Vanguard, found a way to meet all of that criteria.

Ironhart Vanguard is a full-contact medieval armoured combat club located in Calgary. Founded in 2014, its members meet for tri-weekly classes and other events that involve donning medieval garb and engaging in battle.

Bruce says that misconceptions about the group involve a lack of education around what the group does.

“We don’t LARP [Live Action Role Play] — it’s a different thing. We have steel weapons and we are fully encased in steel armor, so we can hit full-force. You don’t have to hold back. They don’t expect you to. It’s very freeing being able to do this. You’re not as likely as you think you are to hurt these people,” she says. “We are a form of martial arts, we just practise them as they were done in medieval Europe. We aren’t just hitting each other with no technique — we do have forms and such that we gather from written and pictorial evidence, then put into actual practice.”

The group is a part of a larger collective called The Forge, which is dedicated to “training in Historical European Martial arts, as well as Modern Combatives, Maverick Combat Systems, grappling, self-defence and swordsmanship.”

Bruce says beginners are welcome in the group, as training and  equipment is provided.

“We will train you. We have people who have no martial arts [experience]. We have people who we have to teach how to punch,” she says. “We also have some loaner gear when you are starting out. We provide the weapons, some basic armour. As long as you are wearing something you can move in and indoor shoes, you’re golden.”

The Forge runs classes three times a week. Tuesday evenings focus on self-defence, Thursdays on training and European martial arts, sword fighting and wrestling and Sunday afternoons on armoured combat with mixed weapons. Drop-in fees are $25, but the first class is free for newcomers.

“[When] you go to a class for the first time, it’s free. Generally, it’s a $25 drop-in fee or you can pay for the month. If you mention this article, we are doing a 10 per cent off a monthly rate,” says Bruce.

Bruce says the equipment is a main focus for the group, as most of what is worn during battle is authentic and professionally made. The weapons are accurate to the period, but won’t cause any real damage.

“We use polearms, we use swords, shields, maces, axes — everything we use is blunted, you can’t stab someone with these,” Bruce says. “We like these people. We want to fight them and knock them over but we also want to go for drinks with them afterwards.”

The group participates in city and nation-wide events in addition to their weekly meetings. They have been involved in demos at the Calgary Comic Expo and medieval faires around Canada. The group’s members have also represented Canada in worldwide battles.

Bruce says anyone interested could benefit from participating in an event, as it provides a way to expend some extra energy and meet new people.

“A large part of it is I have a lot of fun in this. I like to fight, but I don’t want to go out and fight people who don’t want to fight me. It’s a great group of people,” she says. “University-age students have lots of energy. But to be perfectly honest, we have kids under 18 who come train with us, and we have a fellow with us who just celebrated his 50th birthday. He’s a competitive athlete in this.”

The Forge hosts classes three times a week, and Ironhart Vanguard hosts the Sunday meeting with prices varying for drop-ins and packages.

For more information, visit Facebook.com/ironhartvanguard

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