An Experience of Orcball

Orcball is a team sword sport similar to a touch version of Rugby League except with padded weapons. I can only find references to it at Waikato University. The day I joined was a training session. I intend to publish a more technical article for those with a background in sword sports.

The people are friendly and welcoming. The emphasis seems firmly on having fun and improving skills. Players can borrow weapons from the Orcball club. You can see play videos online here.

As a new comer I was asked to use a single long-sword. This is a sensible safety rule until they figure out that I’m not going to bash through the opposition while ignoring all hits. That did make my life a bit difficult because I was up against people with sword and shield and long/short sword dual wielders. Apparently the game itself has rules that reduce dual wielding and shields.

The boffer swords are heavy compared to foam swords and even to sport-fencing weapons. They are made from PVC pipes padded by dense foam and wrapped in duct tape. The construction also has “thrust-safe” tips. They were still light enough to thrust single handed.

The weapons are heavy enough that a hard swing still inflicts damage. The rules require a gentle touch and no strikes to the head. These are sensible safety rules given that nobody wears protection. Afterall, this is meant to be a casual game that almost anybody can join. Valid target areas are: above the knees excluding the hands and head.

Mutual strikes in Orcball are termed “Irish” and do not count as a hit but there seems to be a wide interpretation of this rule. Irish includes mutual hits when the swings are simultaneous (even when the strikes are not) and therefore excludes counter-attacks.

The no-head-hit rule did get a bit frustrating. Opponents often left their heads open and I couldn’t strike! But this is Orcball and them’s are the rules and for good (safe) reasons.

I’m about average height but I happened to be taller than the opposing team. I switched to a finger grip where the index finger goes over the cross-guard and around the front of the blade. This made lowering the blade angle easier and increased point control. I wouldn’t have done that if the fingers/hands were valid targets.

It also takes a reasonable amount of fitness to play well. I’m not fit and sat out more than once to rest. Also, Orcball’s play on grass and tons of lateral movement meant I ruined my ankles. Oh well.

Verdict: would play again.

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