Growing up geek I probably take for granted what I know about geek culture. (I played Dungeons & Dragons in the 80's in high school. Before internet. Before it was culture cool.)
So yesterday while I was at the Renaissance Festival dodging a foam sword or watching dozens of teens, college-aged students, and kids as young as five (mine included) run around for hours doing the same I realized: more geek kids need to know about this.
Because football, baseball, soccer and the sports you see on TV... they aren't the only sports out there.
So if your geek kid wants to spend all hours indoors dreaming up worlds for D&D, or playing video games, or writing stories, or musing about Dr. Who, or building experiments, or doing whatever interest your geek child has at the moment and you wonder if they will ever go outside and exercise a wee bit, see if there are these types of groups in your area.
Designed to be safe, these mock battles are like tag but with foam swords, foam spears, foam arrows, foam rocks. Everything is foam. They have rules about how you construct a weapon and what is allowed. There are referees (although called by a different name such as "herald"). They value honor on the "battlefield". And if you have every played in one you know... they are definitely exercise.
Different types of foam battle organizations groups exist with different rules and flavors of play.
For example, Belegarth is a medieval combat society where the rules are simple. Head shots don't count. A hit to the chest or back = dead. When two limbs are hit (arm or leg in any combination) = dead. You are out of the game until the next round. Rounds are quick so you aren't out for long.
Battle And Magic
On the other hand, Amtgard is a medieval combat and roleplay organization. In this one you decide WHO you will play before you enter the battlefield. Make your choice wisely because different roles have different skills. Some can cast magic, some take more hits to go down. In Amtgard you design a character and level it up playing in real life on the field. There is more to memorize and understand before you play which some may like as it lends a greater complexity and behind-the-scenes character arc to your foam weapon (and magic in this case) battles.
While this is sport you may have seen on TV a lot of folks forget it exists. Real foils. Protective gear. Points. It's like tennis with pointy objects. It takes strength, agility, strategy. I'm assuming. I haven't played. But by gosh if you try to take even a wooden spoon and hold it up in the air and wave it around for five minutes you will see how tired your arm gets and how little dinner gets made.
The Society For Creative Anacromism, Inc.
Even the name will tell you: this group learns big words, intricate concepts, and a whole mess of other things related to the pre-seventeeth century. In SCA it's not foam swords, it's the research and re-creation of the skills, arts, combat, culture, and employment of the 1600's and what came before. We're talking metal swords. Metal armor. Weaving on looms. Making things by hand. Camping in canvas tents. Eating out of wooden bowls. The people in this society are knowledgeable. Skilled. And outdoors. A lot.
Some cities have straight up sword combat, like this European Martial Arts school in Santa Clara, CA that offers classes in longsword, rapier, sword and shield, kid's longsword, and more.
Quidditch is the sport they play in the Harry Potter books. In the book's wizard world they fly on brooms. In the field sport that's popping up all over colleges they use a series of sticks, goals, and ground-rules to recreate the essence of the magical sport on fields across the world. Yes, the world. There is an International Quidditch Association as well as a U.S. Quidditch Association. I saw a game in Boise. It's as serious as any sport and a heck-of-a-lot of fun for the geek in us geeks.
Everything Live-Action Role Play
Even Horror & Sci-Fi
When I was in college we snuck onto golf courses with wiffle bats. Epic battles. The sting of the hit. Why didn't we use foam? I ask myself this! Maybe because the internet wasn't big at that point and we didn't know LARP existed. It stands for Live Action Role Play and includes foam swords and... everything. Go to the LARP website and you will see all the categories and locations around the world.
But wait, there's more.
In geek culture there is always more.
Because the imagination is limitless.
Depending on where you live you might find enough kids to start a parkour-magic-role play-outdoor campaign. A parkour coach. A D&D person. Voila!
(Unless it already exists. It might. The world is so amazingly full of awesome.)
In Boise we have a place called Nerfed. This is an indoor arena with referees and nerf shooters. It's a blast. (haha) But you don't need an indoor arena to have epic nerf battles. Go outside, mark your territory, form teams, have at it.
As long as there are rules and a referee, all of these things work.
So if you engage the desire of your geeky child to embrace the problem solving, fantasy, role play, story telling, like-minded community desires they have, the sky is the limit.
Maybe even actually outside.
It's like personal growth and stuff.