MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This fight club is one worth talking about. The Memphis Armored Fight Club was started by some friends with the hopes of competing on a national stage, and compete they did.
Nick Homa, one of the founders of the club, learned about the Battle of the Nations, a tournament where about 30 different countries come together for a battle with steel weapons, and he and friends knew they wanted to take their love of sword fighting to the next level.
“It’s like MMA but with steel weapons,” Homa said. “You don’t have to hold back. You can just go all out.”
Homa was the 2018 U.S. Sword and Shield champion in the Battle of Nations, and he took gold this year in the duels national for the Armored Combat League. Not only is Homa a sword-slinging champion, he also teaches fifth grade math at Peabody Elementary School.
“Some of them have come out to see some of the fights,” Homa said of the children he teaches. “They think it’s pretty cool. They’re like, ‘Okay, my teacher is hitting someone with a sword. That’s interesting.'”
Homa has been fighting in steel armor for about three years, and he said he enjoys seeing the sport grow. He said when he started, the United States had 400-500 fighters, and now there are about 800. And in Memphis, when he started, there were 3 fighters, and now it is up to 25.
The club is accepting new members, but Homa said new members should be prepared to fail at first because it takes about one year of practice to be good enough to compete with other clubs.
One new member, Nathan Camp, said he knows that failure firsthand.
“I tried it out, got suited up and got the absolute snot beaten out of me,” Camp said. “I’ve been doing it for a few months now, and it’s probably one of my favorite things to do. It’s my main thing I do on weekends. I love it. I still get the crap beaten out of me.”
Looking ahead to being in his first tournament in a couple months, Camp said he knows he improved.
“I can actually fight and not get hurt quite as much,” he said.
Fighting with steel weapons can still hurt, as Camp said. Homa said he has had three concussions, and armor can sometimes fail, resulting in more serious injuries. But most of the time, no injuries happen.
“It’s fairly safe,” said Powell Crider, who has been with the club for two years. “I’ve not gotten injured doing this any worse than I have playing intramural sports. The armor, it works.”
Crider has been in the Air Force for 28 years. He said is coworkers often think he’s “crazy” when they hear about his armored fighting.
“It’s not LARP. It’s not pretend,” Crider said. “We’re really hitting with real weapons, but we have controls—we have rules.”
He also said people are encouraged to join, but like Homa, he said they should know it’s harder than it seems.
“It takes time. It takes effort. It’s a martial art,” Crider said. “But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a rush.”