Do you ever get the urge to dress as a fictional character, pick up a weapon, and play fight with friends? You may be surprised to hear this, but YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Urban Ronin, is a Miami-based group (with a hierarchy and everything) that devotes itself to exactly that. Not only do they practice stage combat, but they actually perform their costumed stunts at private parties, conventions (like last week's Miami Comic Con), and movie premieres. These stunt-hunters were even hired to perform (in costume of course) at all three Pirates of the Caribbean movie premieres.
Jez Diane, Ambassador for Urban Ronin, says, "We do stage combat, but no historical reenactments. This is purely for entertainment purposes. We offer a zero educational value."
Take note, however, this is not your typical medieval reenactment group. The members of Urban Ronin practice cosplay, which means they play in costume, specifically those costumes of contemporary characters, such as those from video games, mangas, and comic books rather than barmaids, princesses, and knights.
"Reenactments appeal to a 30-and-over crowd. They have that down. There wasn't any kind of activity for people who wanted to learn weapons and combat, but just have fun doing that. We wanted to provide that," Jez continues.
One member named Kez (no relation), who has been with the group since September 2010, says "Ronin may seem scary -- the people in it are wielding big weapons after all -- but there is no experience, thrill, rush, like the bond of friendship -- nothing like it under the sun."
We know what you're thinking: What a bunch of geeks, right? Well, you're right, but think of it like Geek 2.0. Lame geeks stay home playing Runewars while post-modern geeks actually go outside and socialize. So, is it geeky that any given member of Urban Ronin can name 20 mangas off the top of their head? Of course it is. But isn't it pretty cool that they can do so while wielding a 6-foot staff and dodging ninja stars?
Urban Ronin (ronin means samurai), currently has about 30 members and meets every Sunday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Miami's Tropical Park. Membership is cheap ($5/month or $50/year) and it's a great way to work out without it feeling like a workout.
Says Kez, "I have dropped 35 pounds. I feel better and wake up more rested now. Aside from the health benefits, it does wonders for my self-esteem and confidence. I was overweight all my life and wouldn't even talk to half the people I do now. Urban Ronin helped bring me out of my shell. I have also learned to do things I never, ever thought I would do. How many people can say they know how to use a sword?"
Urban Ronin provides a choice. "It's a safe alternative to wandering around getting into trouble. It's a safe place to be outdoors and meet like-minded people. Ronin mostly appeals to outcasts. It's where chess club nerds can be friends with the football team," says Jez.
Kez agrees. "Urban Ronin is just the geek way of saying 'family' in my book. You gain a lot more than friends when you get there -- you gain people you are learning to trust with your safety. In these stunts you grow some of the strongest friendships around and people willing to stand up for you and defend you as well as people willing to help you grow into a better person."
In the below video, Kez performs a staged fight in slo-mo:
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Most members are in their early twenties, but you won't stand out if you're in your thirties or late teens. And seriously, apart from the drills and instruction, taking part in Urban Ronin feels like you're 8 years old again, playing He-Man and Skeletor with your little brother. Except you're both in costume. And you have real swords. And there's a real tiger. Okay, there's no tiger. But that would be cool, right? Hey Ronin! Get a tiger!