Barony of Rivenoak looks to recover members after Camp Fire


Sir Bjorn (left) and squire Alvic (right) are instructing how to swing a sword and always aim for the head if it’s open. Photo credit: Jacob Collier

Medieval combat is something that many consider a relic of the past. The days of knights and chivalry are long gone. However, there are some medieval warriors in Chico striving to keep this ancient form of combat alive.

The Society for Creative Anachronism is a worldwide organization that aims to study the culture of the Middle Ages. The Butte County and Glenn County branch is known as the Barony of Rivenoak.

“It is statistically impossible that you don’t at least have two people in your genetic past who were successful doing this for a living,” Sir Bjorn said. “I like to think that your not only training, but you’re also remembering. It’s part of who you are.” Photo credit: Jacob Collier

On Monday night at the WREC, students were able to learn the basics of the “en garde” position. James Cornwell had spent the past 15 years earning the rank of Sir and instructed students to refer to him as Sir Bjorn. Sir Bjorn, his squires Eukrates (Sage Martin), Alvic (Seth Martin) as well as other members Justin Eden and Jeanie Plude.

The night began with finding your natural ready position, leading with your foot, putting your shield hand near the top of your rib cage and ended with learning how to swing a sword straight by imagining, “you were a robot with a belly-button laser,” meaning you could only swing in a straight line horizontally.

Although no lives were lost for the Barony of Rivenoak, the Camp Fire affected the branch by destroying suits of armor and forcing members to move away. New members are necessary for the SCA branch to stay active and it has been a struggle to start over.

“When the Camp Fire hit, not only did it destroy lives and spill blood, but it also burned up a bunch of suits of armor. It caused fighters who were well established to relocate. The Camp Fire affected everybody. Our sport is affected just a little bit, but that’s what we’re faced with. We never had to rebuild a program from the ground up like we’re doing now.”


A student eagerly swings at her Justin Eden’s sword while being in full “en gaurd” position. Photo credit: Jacob Collier

“I reached out [to the WREC] when we realized how hard our program had been hit,” Sir Bjorn said. “I couldn’t think of a better environment to look for active young people who are looking to do something new and interesting. The WREC seemed the obvious choice and they have been incredibly supportive through this process. It has taken months for us to get here.”

Safety training was also heavily emphasized in all aspects, from helmets being 12 gauges thick on top and 14 gauges thick on the side. Gauges measure sheet metal thickness for steel and are based on a weight of 41.82 pounds per square foot per inch of thickness. The higher gauge a helmet is the less thick it is. The helmets are 4.3 pounds per square foot at the top and 3.1 pounds per square foot thick on the sides. Sir Bjorn demonstrated the importance by swinging forcibly at his squires’ helmet repeatedly, leaving not one scratch on the steel.

The swords that were used for sparring were made of rattan stems from a palm that is as hard as steel when turned into a sword. They are light but very dangerous if someone were to be hit without the proper protection

Eukrates (left) and Jeanie Plude (right) are instructing their students that when they take one-foot forward that they stay 50-50 with weight on each foot. Photo credit: Jacob Collier

Instructors took turns and ensured that everyone in attendance received proper training on their footing and stances, making it a safe environment for beginners to learn.

“If you join the society, you don’t have to be a full-paid member, you can just hang out with us,” squire Alvic said. “It’s a very welcoming community, full of lots of really cool people and it’s a really diverse group.”

The session ended with a ceremonial holding of a large stick. Participants were to introduce themselves and say what they most enjoyed during the lesson, while everyone else cheered them on. The name of the activity is “sticka thinga,” which means “stick thing” in Anglo-Saxon.

Sir Bjorn (right) is instructing Nicole Geiger. Sir Bjorn advises to “imagine you a robot with a belly-button laser” to emphasize the straightness in how you must cut. Photo credit: Jacob Collier

“I always wanted to go to a renaissance-style event and never really had the opportunity because of geographical location,” Nicole Geiger said. “So, when I saw this I thought it sounded fantastic and something that I’ve always wanted to learn how to do.”

For anyone curious about sitting in or joining the Barony of Rivenoak, they meet twice a week. Sir Bjorn leads on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. If you are interested in acquiring gear, Sir Bjorn will help by starting you with armor kit from his loaner gear for free. You must set an appointment with Sir Bjorn by email at [email protected]. The second practice is held on Sundays at One Mile Recreation Area in Bidwell Park, this Sunday it will be held at noon.

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.