Two new fighting clubs have joined BYU’s Clubs Night, held Tuesdays from 7-10 p.m. at the Wilkinson Student Center.
These new clubs, the Knights of the Y and the Medieval Club, are open to any BYU student and offer skills training and social interaction with other students.
BYU sophomore Bethany Hurt has been a member of the Knights of the Y since the club began in September 2021. The club surged in popularity near Halloween of 2021 and has been steadily growing since then. At the start of 2022, the club had around 150 members, but according to Hurt, as of Sept. 27, the club’s membership on the Knights of the Y website has skyrocketed to 332 members.
BYU students arrived at 7 p.m. to duel with foam swords, shields and spears to learn about honor and how to fight battles in their personal lives. They focus heavily on knowing allies, enemies, the battlefield and oneself.
“I think there’s something here for everyone,” Hurt said.
The BYU Medieval Club takes a different approach to fighting. BYU Senior Kyler Wade explained that most of the interest expressed by club members has been for fighting, but also for creating medieval clothing and armor. Wade said that while armor is expensive to make, they have made neck protection in the past.
Recently, they focused on learning about the historical origins of crests and standards that were used in medieval times. “If you think history is boring, you haven’t learned it properly,” Wade said.
According to Wade, both of these clubs sprung from the previous sword fighting club, the Quill and the Sword. Existing for over 15 years, the Quill and the Sword eventually started to fizzle out as students graduated and new students lost interest. Wade said with the creation of these two new clubs, the legacy of the Quill and the Sword lives on.
These clubs have joined the ranks of the previously established fighting clubs of BYU. The majority of these legacy clubs — Shotokai Karate, Brazilian Capoeria, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and TaeKwonDo — focus on the martial arts, while the BYU Fencing Club was the only active sword fighting club on campus.
The Shotokai Karate Club, started in 1992, focuses on self-defense. Instructors from the United Kingdom came to BYU and helped train the students, who passed it on through the years. BYU senior Sawyer Leishman said that during the COVID-19 pandemic they almost had to disband, but were able to push through.
“Learning karate is an amazing way to learn about your body and learn how to use it more effectively,” Leishman said. Most students that come to the Shotokai Karate Club are there to learn about self-defense, but others are there to learn a martial art.
For those that want to combine style with self-defense, the Brazilian Capoeria Club is there for them. BYU junior McKay Harms said that Capoeria was originally invented by Brazilian slaves as a way to defend themselves, disguised as a form of dance so it would not be recognized as a form of fighting.
“The goal isn’t necessarily to beat the other person, it’s to out-perform the other person,” Harms said. He has been with the club for four years and said that stretching, balancing and raw strength are all a part of this sport.
Another form of Brazilian martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is also offered to students. This club has been active for over a decade, teaching over 500 students how to defend themselves. According to BYU junior Nycollas Marshall, the history of the art goes back to monks who were dedicated to a life of non-violence. He said they used Jiu-Jitsu to direct energy away from themselves, stopping attackers without hurting them.
Marshall has been training since he was 14 years old. He has earned his fourth degree purple belt, leaving him just short of the second highest belt Jiu-Jitsu fighters can achieve. “Jiu-Jistu is designed for the smaller man to beat the bigger guy,” Marshall said. He also mentioned that many of the students who attend are female, but anyone is welcome to come and learn.
The TaeKwonDo Club has a similar mentality. Active for six years, the TaeKwonDo Club focuses on self-control and perseverance. BYU senior Alyssa Istook said, “We’re very very happy to have beginners. You don’t have to have any experience to show up.”
Like the other martial arts offered at BYU, the TaeKwonDo Club focuses on self-defense. Istook explains that it offers a place for returning students to practice their sparring, as well as training newer students on the basic hand and kicking techniques that TaeKwonDo focuses on.
Ellowyn Gang, a BYU junior, said the members of the Fencing Club all start out as beginners, then work their way up to proficiency. “You don’t have to know anything and we’ll welcome you with open arms,” Gang said.
As someone who has fenced for 12 years, she said she feels that fencing is a very technical sport that focuses on technique and practice to see improvements. It is a very safe sport, Gang mentioned, adding that it is rare for a fencer to be injured if participants follow the rules and wear the protective equipment.