During spring break, foam weapons fighting club will be anything but normal in Normal, Ill. when they battle 300 to 500 people in the foam weapons yearly event
A mass of people charge at each other, armed with foam weapons and shields, dressed in Renaissance-era garb. They jab, block, swipe and dodge. Their laughter and shouts fill the gymnasium. This is Wolfpack, a foam weapons fighting yearly event.
“It’s pretty crazy and it’s the biggest event we go to every year,” said Cameron Wintersteen, junior and vice president of Niflheim, Concordia’s foam weapons organization.
The Wolfpack event involves 300 to 500 people gathering at Horton Field house on the campus of Illinois State University, according to Quentin Markfort, president and interim treasurer of Niflheim.
“It’s five hours of constant fighting with fighters and other groups that are some of the best in the game, with limited breaks,” Markfort said. “It’s essentially like going on a five-hour jog and only taking ten-minute breaks every couple of hours. Usually we are really outclassed, but we have a lot of fun learning from some of the best [fighters].”
All of the teams will have costumes that resemble clothing as far back as the early Renaissance. Weapons are all “pre-gunpowder” according to Wintersteen.
“Some people dress like Stone Age barbarians,” Wintersteen said.
Wintersteen has also taken steps to create new garb for Niflheim to wear to Wolfpack. He and his sister sewed a dozen tabards, decorated with green and blue checkerboard patterns. The Tabard is open on the sides and cinched at the waist by a belt.
“Imagine a bro tank that goes to your knees,” Wintersteen said. “It looks pretty authentic.”
Wintersteen, Markfort and around 10 other Niflheim members will be traveling to Normal, Ill. to attend Wolfpack.
Other groups that may be there include all of the big realms in Illinois, a couple of groups from the Fargo-Moorhead area, groups from Bismarck, N.D. and from Thunder Bay, Canada, according to Wintersteen.
Tyler Wellner, a sophomore and first-year member of Niflheim is looking forward to Wolfpack. He has never been to this event, however he has been to another event called Snowball which was more low-key.
“I’ve heard [fighters] are much more serious about [Wolfpack],” Wellner said. “But we are foam weapons fighters, so we are not that serious.”
Wolfpack will be an event filled with fighters on various skill levels — some experts and some first-years like Wellner. He hopes to learn a lot from his peers.
“At Wolfpack you can walk up to someone and ask to spar and fight,” Wintersteen said. “If you want to get better you fight the scary people who are standing doing nothing. … One of my favorite things about Wolfpack and the sport is that everyone wants everyone else to be better.”
Wellner fights with a red sword, which means it is a longer sword. It requires two hands and it can be used to break other fighters’ shields. He is confident in his choice of weapon, however, Wellner has a unique way of fighting that makes it hard to survive.
“Other people have observed my fighting style and Chris [another member] calls it reactionary,” Wellner said. “Basically I wait until my opponent makes a move until I make a move myself. I will block, then hit.”
Other fighters, according to Wellner, will attack in a flurry of hits and being able to react to that could be difficult. Wellner said in order to win it’s important to know how the opponent operates.
Wellner needs a strategy to survive, especially when his chosen weapon creates another disadvantage.
“I have been told that for my particular weapon choice I am going to die a lot,” Wellner said. “If you look at this weapon, there are not a lot of places to defend yourself from being hit and especially in team fighting you have to see multiple people fighting and I don’t have a shield.”
However, there are weapon types that Wellner can work against. He listed single blue swords or one handed swords, other red swords, and Florentine-style swords or two swords.
Wintersteen primarily fights with Florentine swords when he is up against a single fighter, but for a group battle like in Wolfpack, he prefers to fight with a spear.
“I like [fighting] spear,” Wintersteen said. “It requires me to do a lot of work and if I do a good job, then it makes the fight easier for everyone else that is involved.”
Markfort prefers to fight with a sword and a board, or shield. He hopes to learn other weapons as well in order to broaden his fighting abilities.
In order to prepare for Wolfpack and utilize each member’s skills, Niflheim has transitioned from a focus on individual weapons and fighting skills into team fighting. Wintersteen said that it’s important everyone know their role in line or team fighting. He has put the club through a team-fighting drill of six people on each team to show the lessons the hard way.
The other week, Wintersteen was running one of the drills. Two groups of six were facing each other off. One side with double the shields, his team with one shield, a few polearms and Florentines. Wintersteen’s team charged, and was slaughtered.
“I said here is the lesson,” Wintersteen said. “You do not charge a line when you have half as many shields as they do. Shields are the most important part of the charge.”
Along with practicing with the club, Markfort has decided to prepare for Wolfpack in another way.
“I’d like to say that I’m running and lifting and all of that jazz,” Markfort said. “But the reality is I’m mostly mentally preparing. It’s Belegarth’s (our sanctioning body) first national event of the year so a lot of people are going to be there and it usually gets overwhelming. I’m just trying to mentally prepare myself for the demand that Wolfpack Opener brings.”
I’m the editor for the variety section. I will be graduating in 2017 and I am a double major in multimedia journalism and political science. This is my third year writing for the paper, but my second year on staff. On campus I also like to perform in spoken word events. In my free time I enjoy writing poetry, reading a good book, or just getting off campus and spending time with my friends.