Sunday afternoons are sometimes when Stanford’s campus is at its quietest. That’s, until you had been to stroll by Arguello Discipline and spot a dozen college students sparring with handmade longswords, spears and ball-and-chain weapons.
The scholars belong to Stanford’s jugger group, an unofficial scholar membership that fashioned in the course of the fall of 2022 and has been assembly for weekly practices ever since.
“I might describe jugger as a five-versus-five discipline sport with the target of rugby, the place you attempt to transfer a ball to the tip of the sphere,” mentioned Jordan Xiao, fifth-year Ph.D. scholar in biophysics and co-founder of the group. “However as a substitute of tackling folks, you struggle with foam padded sticks.”
Xiao first found jugger as an undergraduate scholar on the College of California, Berkeley in 2015. In accordance with him, Berkeley’s group was one of many first in California. The game itself was created in Germany within the Nineties, impressed by the cult basic sci-fi movie “The Salute of the Jugger,” which includes a comparable fictional recreation.
Xiao’s love for the area of interest sport impressed him to begin a group of his personal at Stanford. The group has been rising steadily since its first look on the membership honest final yr. It’s not unusual for teams of pals passing by an outside follow to ask about what’s going on, choose up a weapon and be part of within the recreation.
“It seems to be form of goofy, however when you play, it’s plenty of enjoyable,” Xiao mentioned.
Like seize the flag, however with swords
Julia Gershon ’25 was initially one of many curious college students who handed by jugger practices on her method to class. She determined to attend after being satisfied by a pal on the group.
“It was a bit of bit intimidating at first as a result of among the folks on the group are actually good and have been doing this for, like, eight years,” Gershon mentioned.
As soon as she arrived, nevertheless, Gershon was pleasantly shocked by how supportive of newer members the group was.
“I didn’t do any group sports activities in highschool as a result of it’s a bit of bit anxious to not wish to let your group down,” Gershon mentioned. “However I’ve by no means felt that right here, everybody simply needs that can assist you.”
A typical follow begins with an evidence of the sport’s guidelines and one-versus-one sparring matches, based on Gershon. Gamers then select their gear earlier than they’re cut up up into two groups to have interaction in a full recreation of jugger. Weapon selections embrace foam longswords, dual-wielded shortswords and an extended spear with a foam ball and chain connected to it.
Zinnia Cooperrider ’25, a pal of Gershon’s who additionally attended a jugger follow on a whim, anticipated to look at the sport from the sidelines throughout her first follow. When she was instantly invited to take a weapon and begin taking part in, she was shocked by how shortly she was in a position to choose up the methods of the game.
“It’s form of like driving a motorbike,” Cooperrider mentioned. “You bought to get again on there and preserve going.”
Open to everybody
One of many core appeals of Stanford’s jugger group is how accessible it’s for gamers of any talent degree, based on Cooperrider.
“It’s at all times good to strive new issues, however I really feel like there’s a extremely excessive bar for that at Stanford,” Cooperrider mentioned. “It’s actually refreshing to have the chance to do one thing with out having to have earlier information.”
In accordance with Xiao, the group has additionally attracted members of the better Stanford group, from highschool college students in summer season packages to Wilbur eating corridor employees members. A number of group members are additionally alumni from UC Berkeley’s jugger group and function mentors to newer gamers.
Jacob Szymkowski, a current Berkeley alum who now works in Mountain View, is a daily at practices. He joined after studying in regards to the group from Xiao.
“Jugger appealed to me as a result of it’s very pleasant, though it’s aggressive,” Szymkowski mentioned. “You simply come, you’ve enjoyable and also you make pals.”
Szymkowski additionally helps create many of the group’s handmade weapons, or “pompfen.” The group hosts “construct days” the place gamers construct pompfen collectively whereas socializing or watching motion pictures.
“We prefer to have that additional connection as a group. It’s good to have whenever you’re a school scholar,” Szymkowski mentioned.
The way forward for the group
The group’s welcoming group has not held it again from aggressive success.
This October, Stanford’s jugger group confronted off towards seven completely different groups from throughout the west coast in an annual event often called “Juggerlandia.” Stanford gained the event, defeating UC Berkeley.
“I’ve been very impressed with [our players’] dedication and maturity in regards to the sport,” Xiao mentioned. “They’re all coming in with a really growth-oriented mindset, which I feel is great.”
In comparison with European nations, jugger stays a “very small group” in the USA, based on Xiao. Nonetheless, Xiao is keen to see Stanford’s group develop and obtain official voluntary scholar group standing whereas nonetheless retaining an inclusive group.
“I feel jugger is a chance for anybody to get an opportunity to let off after an extended week and meet some actually cool new folks,” Gershon mentioned. “I imply, there’s nothing extra iconic than getting sword-fighting suggestions at 4 p.m. on a Sunday.”