Every year, for the last 10 years, El Rancho De Las Golondrinas undergoes a physical transformation from a working hacienda into a medieval village for the Santa Fe Renaissance Fair. Over the past weekend, the 200-acre farm was overtaken by hundreds of knights and ladies dressed in their best 16th century attire.
The fairgoers were greeted by various forms of period-appropriate entertainment including their most dangerous sports such as jousting, rapier fighting and armored combat. However, for most of these sportsmen, their game lasts longer than just the weekend.
“It’s the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done, and that’s coming from a guy that has been to war twice,” Thrond Arnold said. “It was brutal.”
The Armored Combat League is a national sport league which holds its regional championship at the fair. As with any physical sport, they claim many benefits to their rigorous form of exercise, both physically and mentally.
Arnold is relatively new to armored combat with only three months of experience under his belt, but he said he has already seen many positive changes in his life since starting the sport.
The sport is tremendously physically demanding, Arnold said. While they are fighting, members of the league wear hundreds of pounds of armor and a stifling helmet, which makes breathing much more difficult, he said.
Arnold, a combat veteran who has done two tours of duty overseas, said that the experience has provided him with more than just physical benefits.
“It allows me to transition from being a veteran, and having all that programed aggression and that ‘killer instinct.’ It gives me a good venue to do it appropriately,” Arnold said.
He is not the only Armored Combat League fighter to report the benefits of the sport. Southwest Regional Commander William Woodbury II also touted the benefits for his physical and mental well-being. In between fights, he maintains his physical fitness at the gym three to five times per week, he said.
“After I come fight for a few days, I can sit in traffic all day long, doesn’t bother me at all,” Woodbury said.
The league competes on the national and international level and holds many accolades for their work. Woodbury said he has practiced armored combat for nearly 25 years, and he has won medals in the last four world championships.
Woodbury was one of the founding members of the Armored Combat League, along with Simon Rohrich, another fighter. Rohrich said he has spent 23 years in armor and started practicing combat with the start of the league in 2012. In 2014, they won their first world championship.
Rohrich said he and 20 others who had never participated in the sport before “decided to dip our toes into something ultraviolent and fell in love with it ever since,” Rohrich said.
Like his fellow fighters, Rohrich feels the mental benefits are important to his day-to-day life.
“Some people play football, some people play rugby, some people play chess. This is my outlet,” Rohrich said.
The Santa Fe Renaissance Fair proceeds benefit the educational programs offered at the El Rancho de los Golondrinas Museum and the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences, a nonprofit.
Video and text by Christian Marquez.
Christian Marquez is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @chrstn_marquez.