California Educator

May / June 2016

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is affiliated with Amtgard, a worldwide organization dedicated to medieval and f a n t a sy c o m b a t sp o r t s a n d re c re a t i o n , w h o s e m embers did a demon- stration at the school last fall to spark student interest. The club is sponsored by math teacher Rob Cunningham, a longtime LARPer who is practically indistinguishable from his students, which proves that LARPing is great exercise and a way to stay youthful. "Remember when you were a little kid pretending to be some- one you're not?" asks Cunningham, Rohnert Park-Cotati Educators Association. "Well, when you are doing that without a script, you are LARPing." Civil War buffs who perform re-enactments are also LARPing. And the sport is more structured than it looks. There are rules about hitting people and what to do when you are hit. Ducking isn't one of them. "Turn the block into an attack," Cunningham cheers his lunch- time LARPers. "Up and over. Yes, turn it into a or move." Lately, with the popularity of Star Wars and Game of rones, LARPing has become a hit in another sense, too, says Cunning- ham. It's become cool. Students have put on performances for the entire school, receiving favorable response. e costumes look authentic, as do the weapons, which have PVC pipes on the inside, surrounded by soft foam covered in cloth. ey were cre- ated by members of the club, numbering 15 boys and three girls. "Students can choose their own themes, and most, including our students, go for the medieval fantasy sort of thing," explains Cunningham. "If they wanted to do a sci-fi theme, that would be fine, too. LARPing encourages creative self-expression." C u n n i n g h a m b e l o n g s t o a n a d u l t L A R P c l u b t h a t m eets on Saturdays in Rohn er t Park, and has attended tournaments. " L A R P i n g t o o k m e t o E u r o p e ," h e s a y s . " I w e n t t o a H a r r y P o tt e r - t h e m e d L A R P i n a m e d i e v a l c a s t l e i n P o l a n d f o r t h r e e d a y s . I w a s a w i z a rd . We st aye d i n c o stu m e f o r 2 4 hours a day for three days. It was total immer- sion , an amazing experience." e LARPing Club at Cotate High School would love to compete with other clubs, but doesn't know if any others exist. Club members say they don't fit in with other groups on campus. LARPing has given them a newfound sense of belonging and unique- ness, they say. For Brian Davis, a sophomore, it's great exercise and an opportunity to make new friends. "I've played a lot of video games, and this is like a real-life ver- sion," says Davis, vice president of the club. Patrick Mador, a sophomore, was inspired by the costumes. "I saw members dressed up and said, 'Whoa! Why are they wear- ing that?' en I wanted to do it." But there's more than the outward appeal, says Mador. "LARPing offers a sense of acceptance of all people, all races and all genders. You can be whoever you want to be. You can make up your own story — and your own past. It's for awkward and nerdy kids who aren't accepted by everyone else." Cunningham identifies with his students who have found acceptance through LARP. "As a high school student, I was socially awkward and terrible at interacting with people," he shares. "rough LARP and pre- tending to be someone I wasn't, I gained confidence in myself. If you pretend to be confident and outgoing, you can apply that to life outside of LARP as well. ere's a lot you can learn from LARP." For more information about LARP, see Rob Cunningham and Patrick Mador battle it out with "weapons" — foam- and cloth-covered PVC pipes that do no harm. "Through LARP, I gained confidence in myself. If you pretend to be confident and outgoing, you can apply that to life outside of LARP as well. There's a lot you can learn from LARP." —Rob Cunningham 41 May / June 2016

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