RIVERDALE -- Once a week during the warm months, a group of adults gathers at Riverdale Park to do battle.
The group is part of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society, which has chapters across the nation in which participants compete against one another in a live-action battle game.
Participants are expected to wear traditional medieval garb to make it more realistic but battle with an assortment of foam weapons. "I think it's a lot like paintball, except we use sticks and armor," said 41-year-old Andy Schaffner, one of the founding members of the Ogden chapter 12 years ago.
He and a friend were looking for a hobby and came across the national society. They became familiar with the sport regulations, then set up the group, which has steadily increased in participation over the years.
Utah has six medieval combat chapters, also known as realms.
The Ogden chapter, which calls itself the Aquilonia Realm, has around two dozen participants. The group practices weekly in preparation for the larger combat battle competitions held during the year.
The largest event, Chaos Wars, is considered the Olympics of the sport with realms from all over the country participating. It is held every July in Idaho. Last year, more than 600 people participated.
The sport is not for the faint of heart. During a recent practice, Ogden members were sweating and out of breath after each intense combat session.
Schaffner, decked out in handmade leather samurai body armor with a glaive, basically a sword on a stick, said the cardio aspect of the sport comes from striking your weapon hard enough so the other person can feel it.
There is also a lot of running around on the battlefield.
Based on the honor system, a combatant who gets hit in one arm loses function of that limb, and if a leg is hit, the participant must fall to his or her knees but can continue fighting. If a second limb is hit, the combatant must fall to the ground, symbolizing death. Hits between the neck and torso immediately knocks the participant out of the game.
Just like in real battle, the last one standing wins, depending on which game is being played.
During battle, handmade weapons of all sorts are put to use. Arrows with padding in place of pointed tips fly through the air, foam swords of all shapes and sizes are swung against shields made out of yoga mats. Even nylon stuffed balls simulating rocks are tossed at competitors.
Before competing, weapons are tested to make sure they won't cause real damage. As with all sports, injuries -- sprained ankles, dislocated shoulders and knee injuries -- occasionally occur.
Sarah Greenwell, 21, of Kaysville, has been practicing with the group for the last five years.
"When people come out and see our stuff, they see we're as real as any other sport, with people from all walks of life."
The Ogden chapter consists of doctors, athletes, computer professionals and even stay-at-home moms.
One couple met on the battlefield during a competition a few years ago and were married shortly after.
"It was love at first fight," said Jacey Carter, 23, of Clearfield.
She says it's nice that she and her husband, Jason, 26, can work out their frustrations on the battlefield. "We fight here, so we don't have to fight at home."
She also likes knowing she can defend herself.
"It's a female-empowerment thing. I feel strong knowing I can sometimes take down a big guy in big armor. It's not magic and fairies at all."
One of the biggest challenges people face on the battlefield is overcoming their fears and not shrinking away when a big guy comes at them with a large sword.
"You don't have to be strong, because it's more technique than anything," said Robert Dunn, 25, of Ogden.
The group enjoys teaching new members how to fight, especially because it means they have more people to fight against.
Dunn said that, when he started, he almost walked away because it was so intense. But then he picked up two foam swords and got hooked.
"I just kept showing up and got better and better, and many people worked with me one on one, sharing their knowledge and teaching me techniques so I could get better."