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Stepping into a full-contact stickfighting ring

Two competitors take part in a Dog Brothers stickfighting event.
Two competitors take part in a Dog Brothers stickfighting event.
Courtesy of Dog Brothers

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Parks on Sunday morning are typically reserved for dog-walking or quiet picnics, but for members of an anything-goes fighting organization, Sunday mornings are anything but a walk in the park. Off-Ramp's Raghu Manavalan went down to Hermosa Beach to see the action.

Twenty people have gathered here from as far as Canada and Germany for the latest Dog Brothers event. Wooden sticks, knives, whips, and whatever else fighters agree to use against each other are all fair game.

"No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day," Marc Denny, founder of the Dog Brothers, said in a past interview on Off-Ramp. "This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came."

Eric Bryant has been taking part in these events for six years. He says the trick to staying healthy is to be a little cautious.

"If you can see it's...a little bit dangerous. So you’ve got to be a little bit careful," says Bryant. "You’ve got to still have a job and all those things, too."

Why would anybody be willing to take part in a full-contact fight? Bryant says it has to do with the rush of adrenaline that comes from knowing you may be in danger.

"Honestly, it’s the intensity of it. It’s hard to replicate anything else that feels like this. Even having kick-boxed before and stuff like that, when a stick comes whizzing by your head at 90 miles-per-hour it's like, 'Whoa, I’m awake now.'"

"You see the guys out here with the aluminum knives doing our knife sparring, when you get thrusted in the body it really, really hurts," Bryant says. "And the stick, it’s like the worst sunburn you’ve ever had – and then someone rubbing it with sandpaper. It’s pretty bad. It stings really, really bad. And then if you get a really solid shot, it makes it ache. It stinging on the outside, and it aches really bad on the inside, and it makes a nauseated feeling all at the same time. So it’s very unpleasant, but for some reason we’re addicted to it."

But, according to some of its participants, the real satisfaction of being in the group comes from fighting through the pain.

“It's just an amazing thing, to feel that pain and know you're in a fight and to keep going," says Roy Starr after taking part in his first Dog Brothers event. "It's addictive, it really is, in the best sense. People may look at it and think it's an alpha-male-macho-thing but it's not that at all. I’m hooked. As long as my bones are intact, I’ll keep going into my 50s if I can."