You’ve made it this far in your Google searching and Facebook clicking, you’re pretty sure there are swords involved and at least a few people who are dressed funny. One of these things likely appeals to you. But wait. Is it a party? A show? A tournament? A workshop?
CombatCon has a unique niche, and it warrants some explaining every now and then to those who have never been.
The first year I planned to attend CombatCon was in 2012, and it was… overwhelming to the say the least. It’s gotten to be about twice that size since then! It’s a good overwhelming though, I promise. Overwhelming… in that same way that a theme park can be overwhelming the first time you attend if you don’t plan anything out.
Thankfully we’re here to help!
Honestly, let’s start simple. CombatCon is about… well… combat. Martial artistry in ALL of its forms. That’s what usually drives people around in circles for a few minutes when they first hear about us – you might, at this very moment, be trying to sort out whether it’s a martial arts expo, a stunt and stage fighting workshop, or a fandom and nerd culture convention.
So let’s orient ourselves around those three things, and speak to each of them a little bit.
CombatCon has a major area of focus in actual, break stuff, hurt things martial arts. Most of the martial arts featured at Combat Con are western in nature – you’ll find a lot of Historical European Martial Arts in the form of classes, tournaments, and free fencing.
There is also plenty of classical fencing and more traditional “white jacket + pointy thing” type of free play and workshop opportunity going on. There’s a major presence from the Martinez Academy of Arms in New York (where several of the Maestros attending CombatCon typically instruct), and other fencing schools around the country.
Additionally, though, CombatCon also provides the learning opportunity for a variety of “oddball” martial arts, like World War II era combative techniques, macahuitl (a traditional Mesoamerican obsidian-bladed club), and Tibetan wave whip (highly recommend this class if it’s offered again).
On top of all of that, there is a healthy dose of modern or more traditional Eastern martial arts as well. Everything from instruction for tactical response and modern everyday concealed carry, through traditional kenjutsu and the use of the katana. The whole event is a melting pot of amazing martial talent, and a whole bunch of really friendly people who know some really unique ways to cause you an immense amount of pain (which they won’t, unless you ask!).
Another major area of CombatCon’s focus at present is fighting for the stage and screen. All of those martial arts are well and good, but when it comes down to performing them in a fictional setting, some of the best instructors and “translators” for getting that violence safe and repeatable are teaching at CombatCon.
There are more traditional stage combat style classes in weapons like rapier and dagger or unarmed fighting – the classics, you may have touched on in college or be an expert in yourself. Additionally, you’ll find classes in some of the finer techniques like selling for camera angles, long-take fight scenes for film, and even breaching tactics and how to make it believable when playing military or police in a film or TV show!
The combat for stage and screen instructors at CombatCon come with a healthy amount of real-world experience too – last year alone, we had instructors who had worked on Star Wars, the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, Jet Li’s Fearless, Indiana Jones, Karate Kid, Troy, Spartacus, and more! It’s hard to say no to the opportunity to learn how to crack a whip from the folks who taught Harrison Ford how to do it.
We also quickly learned that, for the most part, fight people are also REALLY big nerds and vice versa! Our favorite iconic pieces of media so often involve violence of one kind or another it is really inseparable from the idea of a CombatCon like this one.
We have, for example, had the Juggers of the Wasteland there demonstrating their awesome full-contact Jugger sport (a reference to the cult film Blood of the Heroes), a post-apocalyptic full-contact sport involving mounting a skull on the enemy team’s spike!
This year, we’ve got the Saber Legion; a full-blown group engaging in fighting with the most iconic saber from everyone’s favorite sci fi universe. They apply real martial principals to compete in full contact competition.
In addition to groups like this, we’ve got steampunk and cosplay and fantasy groups of all kinds attending and dressing up for our Time Traveler’s ball and costume contest on Saturday night of the event. There are also authors and media guests in attendance, who are probably just as passionate about the method and theory of violence as the folks one room over slinging steel at each other.
Ultimately, CombatCon is a haven for anybody who ever felt the call to pick up a sword or a blaster and play pretend – for one reason or another – and wants the opportunity to live that fantasy with hundreds of their new closest friends.
Besides, when ELSE do you have the opportunity to challenge somebody to a duel over the next night’s bar tab?