Like most of us, Ken Baltz sometimes feels the routine of life closing on him like a dungeon door. His escape comes when he steps out on the battlefield dressed as a medieval knight.
Baltz is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), an international, nonprofit, educational organization that studies European history by recreating the crafts and activities of the Middle Ages.
"It's nice to be able to go someplace and step out of your mundane life," Baltz said. "You become a different person. You talk different. You dress different. It's like the renaissance but we're a nonprofit organization. We're not paid actors, we do this because we love it."
Baltz and other members of the Payson SCA can often be seen battling in full period costume, complete with chain mail, at Payson's Green Valley Park.
"We try to meet every Sunday," Chris Walsh, another Payson SCA member, said. "We practice our fighting skills."
"We like to fight," Baltz said. "If you were to go down to the Estrella War in Goodyear, everything is period. The dress is period. There are people that wear full suits of metal armor. It's amazing. It's like stepping back in time."
The Estrella War, which begins this week, is an international SCA event held annually at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear. The six-day event runs Feb. 16 to 21 and attracts thousands of SCA members and spectators.
"Last year, there were 1,500 fighters on the field. It was huge," Baltz said. "It's an all-out war with two battling armies."
The opposing armies are made up of international SCA teams that will include Payson SCA members. But Baltz explains that there are no trophies or cash prizes.
"They compete pretty much for bragging rights for next year," Baltz said.
"I'm leaving tomorrow morning to set up camp," Walsh said. "We will have a Payson encampment, but if people would like to watch the war they should come down Friday, Saturday or Sunday."
In all, Payson will have 12 SCA members participating in the Estrella War.
While the weapons are not sharpened metal, participants use a wide range of blunted fighting tools that can carry a painful punch.
"We use rattan swords, spears, glaives, archers, crossbows, battle axes," Baltz said. "But there are rules. Everything we do is all on an honor system. If you take a hit, you need to accept the hit --r acknowledge that you've been hit. If you get hit in the leg, you drop to your knees ... If you get hit in the arm, you need to put that arm behind your back."
Baltz explained that in some tournaments, there are participants who try to sidestep the rules.
"If they don't take the shot, we call it rhino hiding, which means they are not playing fair. When we get a rhino hider, we'll usually have six or seven guys go after him at once."
But in a sport where chivalry is a recognized attribute, Baltz said most tournament participants are honorable.
Walsh said the SCA is great for teenagers, young people and anyone who is fascinated with the history of the Middle Ages.
"It's more than just fighting. The greater scope of the SCA is to recreate the Middle Ages. There are lots of crafts, calligraphy, arts and sciences like carpentry, clothing, dancing. I would encourage people to come down to Estrella and see that it's much more than fighting. It's a fun way to learn about history."
For more information about the Estrella War SCA event, visit www.estrellawar.org.
For information about the Payson SCA, Call (928) 978-1808.
Protect the weak, defenseless, and helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all.