The knight’s tale

Brad Stapley, 39, is a heavy equipment operator by trade. But he prefers handling a bastard sword over a bulldozer any day. So twice a week Stapley suits up in medieval garb and proceeds to whack other grown men with foam weapons.

Brad Stapley, 39, is a heavy equipment operator by trade. But he prefers handling a bastard sword over a bulldozer any day.

So twice a week Stapley suits up in medieval garb and proceeds to whack other grown men with foam weapons. He’s the ringleader of the Yukon Swordfighting Company, a medieval reenactment group that formed last autumn. They meet twice a week on the field of Selkirk Elementary School.

This evening he’s just put the finishing touches on his latest weapon, a seven-foot poleaxe, and is using it to clobber four aspiring apprentices over ther heads. They’re decked out in a mishmash of sporting equipment: baseball helmets with faceguards, hockey gloves and motorcycle armour. Each wears a colourful tabert, or sleeveless surcoat, over their gear.

Swords are made from lengths of PVC piping, wrapped in pool noodles and bound with duct-tape. Shields are built from plywood base, coated with camping foam and edged with pipe insulation.

Stapley’s infatuation with the Middle Ages started when, at the age of 14, his parents took him to a medieval festival near Leamington, Ontario. He quickly became hooked, despite acquiring bruises “as big as a football” while sparring, and rose through the ranks: starting as a lowly fighter, up to foot soldier, feudal sergeant and squire before finally becoming a knight.

Along the way he progressed from using padded weapons to wooden ones, and later, dull metal blades. Stapley has a steel and molybdenum bastard – or one-and-a-half – sword that was forged in Quebec.

Right now Stapley doesn’t have anyone to spar against with his metal blade. For now, Whitehorse’s other swordfighters are still working on foam weaponry.

Stapley fights under the pseudonym of Hugo DeBracey. He encourages others to adopt fighting names as well. “It’s like professional wrestling,” he says. “These guys are the rock stars of the medieval ages.”

Lake Pearson, 34, fights under the name of Titus Pullo, a character from the HBO show Rome. He’s a stay-at-home dad, and “after staying at home with the moms all day, this isn’t too bad.” During evenings he’s taken to making a chainmail cowl for himself.

His brother, 27-year-old Land Pearson, goes by Stilgar the Stiff. The first name is borrowed from a character in the sci-fi book and movie, Dune; the second is a nod to the ironic titles awarded to Vikings – the younger Pearson is unusually flexible.

The two brothers take up arms and take to smiting each other. A strike to the leg requires the injured player to kneel for the rest of the match. Arms can be similarly lost. Headshots, needless to say, spell game over. The loser, with dramatic flourish, collapses to the ground.

“I’m not having a good sword-and-shield day,” says Land, following a defeat at the hands of his brother.

Ask 22-year-old Jon McCormick, also known as Alucard, about the appeal of swordfighting and he responds with a blank stare, as if the answer ought to be self evident.

“You get to beat people with swords,” he says.

Various medieval reenactment groups began to spread across the Western world in the 1960s, following the foundation of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Berkeley, California. While some groups hold feasts and other social activities, the Whitehorse organization is strictly about fighting.

“It’s a martial art,” says Stapley. He expresses regret over how the Western world has largely come to ignore its old swordfighting techniques in favour of eastern fighting styles, like karate.

“Everything’s out of Asia,” he said. “My family’s English and French.”

But surely karate is a more practical asset – allowing practitioners to defend themselves without the aid of a sword and shield?

“You’d be surprised,” said Stapley. “I find the reflexes you develop in this can really help you out.”

It’s good exercise, particularly when you’re wearing armour. Stapley says knights in full armour were known to sweat off as much as 10 pounds of weight during a day’s fighting.

While fighting in “live steel” competitions in Ontario, Stapley says “I’ve had the tip of my finger almost cut off, and broken bones.

“When you see the chipped steel, and the chainmail links flying, it gets neat.”

The group has kept a low profile so far. It currently has eight members, seven of which are men. But women medievalists are out there, “and the ones who do come out tend to hit hard,” said Stapley.

Two high school students showed up at this evening’s practice. Stapley equips both with a sword and shield and teaches them some rudimentary drills, and they set to work, taking turns whacking their partner’s shield.

“They can find out who they are in there,” said Stapley. “I’ve seen the geekiest, skinniest ones do this and they totally dominated.”

The group meets at Selkirk Elementary School on Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m., rain or shine.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Yukon Liquor Corporation delays plans to hike booze prices

After business owners raised concerns the corporation says it will go back and consult on changes

Yukon chooses Dempster fibre line route

“We needed this last piece”

RRDC to require non-Kaska hunters in Ross River area to get special permit

People hoping to hunt in Ross River area this season need a permit from the Ross River Dena Council

New routes top priority for Whitehorse transit plan

Full Sunday service still off the table, though plan proposes pilot project

City mulls replacing Handy Bus with taxi vouchers

‘Whitehorse Transit must take steps to provide a sustainable solution’

Missing Oregon family found after possibly getting lost on purpose

Officials say family of four was found near Dease Lake after their vehicle was apparently abandoned

Yukon Roller Girls, North Coast Nightmares face off at Scar Wars

‘Our jammers had to work a little bit harder than they’re used to’

Big Cruise doubles down on the Skagway cruise market

The world’s largest leisure travel company is doubling down on the Skagway… Continue reading

Neighbours slam proposed Copper Ridge townhouses

Property values, parking cited as cause for concern

New Wolf Creek accessible trail nears completion

‘It’s a totally different trail and they barely touched anything’

Competition topples Tippy Mah’s Whitehorse condo plans

Work suspended on 44-unit project after pre-sales fall short

One-day event focuses on Yukon housing woes

Territory suffers from low vacancy rate, aging rental stock

Mosquito Enduro-X kickstarts racing season

‘It’s fun, family-type racing and it gets the kids out and riding’

Most Read