North Vancouver (CUP) — A shout of “pillow fight!” might conjure up images of frilly, panty-clad females, with hair done up in pigtails, but the girls of the East Van Pillow Fight Club (EVPFC) strip the cute factor for all-out ass-kickery. With an arsenal of feather pillows and dubious alter-egos, the EVPFC will have you associating all-girl pillow fights with knock outs and glory.
“[The EVPFC is] an all-girl troupe beating the crap out of each other for your enjoyment,” explains founder Melanie Watts. Unlike mud wrestling or the WWE’s female “wrestlers,” EVPFC drops the idea that female fighting requires sexual objectification.
“We’ve been turned away from venues because we’re not slutty enough. We take pride in our shows—that they’re not sex-based but still entertaining,” she says. Rather, the women get to brawl in a supportive and fun environment with scantily clad ring boys taking the bulk of the cat calls—and for a good cause to boot. The roster of fighters volunteer their time and bodies to help raise money for women’s charities around Vancouver, including the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.
“This idea came from a few years ago. I heard about the pillow fight league in Toronto and I either wanted to fly there and be in their club or start my own,” proudly explains Watts.
The club is made up of female fighters who came together thanks to a common interest: empowerment. With a range of different characters developed in their former East Vancouver training facility, the tough personas are diverse. Anything from a deranged fairy to an escaped asylum patient can be witnessed taking swings at EVPFC events. The fighters include Lil’ Dread Riding Hood, Hanky Planky, Medikated, Melitia, Angella Kill, Tinkerhell, The Iron Maiden, Tragedy Ann, Prim Reaper, Miss Treats, Blonde Bedlam, and the Serbian Scrambler.
“Pure fun, athleticism, and entertainment are what make the EVPFC a unique experience to Vancouver,” says Watts. “Pillow Fight Club means, to me, keeping people off Granville St. on the weekends and bringing them to East Van to see something unique.”
Ana Krunic, AKA Serbian Scrambler, is the reigning champion of the EVPFC.
“I first discovered the fight club through a friend at work who said his girlfriend had been doing this pillow fight thing, I guess for exercise,” she says. “I just thought it was fantastic. I didn’t know it was going to be so tough.” Krunic shines a light on a fun paradox between the women involved and the weapons they wield.
“You know, [the pillow] is a very good comparison to a woman. It’s soft, fluffy, delightful, but at the same time, as we found out, it can do some serious damage,” says Krunic. “You know, we can be strong and feminine at the same time.”
Between their pillow-fighting events and the bike wash fundraisers, the EVPFC has raised over $3k for Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter since their humble beginnings in 2012. The women of EVPFC are bringing a whole new combat sport to the city and fights have steadily grown in attendance, gaining a cult-like following among locals.
Every eight weeks, the club emerges to let the feathers fly at different venues around Vancouver. To date, much of the unbridled, teeth-clenching action has been held at the Astoria, which once more played venue to their recent event Pajama-Rama on October 19. Attendees were encouraged to don their best PJs and onesies for some hot and heavy “pillow on pillow” action. The fight, which celebrated aggression married to femininity, was hosted and narrated by the city’s own M.C. Crazy P.
Regular matches consist of three two-minute rounds, whereas rookie matches shorten their rounds to 60 seconds.
“Six minutes in the ring is very intense, and it’s very foreboding when you have a fight coming up,” says Krunic. “Challenging that and coming through that in a fight is a very good feeling.”
Results are determined by a judge, unless there is a total knock-out, disqualification, or forfeit. A complex point system keeps both the judge and audience on their toes, with bonus points for combos, dodging killer blows, special moves, as well as pure theatrics. All points of contact between fighters must be made with the pillows themselves. But just because pillows may be sweet to sleep on doesn’t mean they don’t pack a punch—taking a full-out swing to the noggin can land you unconscious, bleeding, or simply hungry for more.
“It’s challenging. It’s scary when you’re going up against someone who is bigger than you,” says Krunic. “It’s a challenge to get in front of a crowd if that is something you haven’t done before. I think that’s the biggest thing—we all have anxiety before our fights. You want to entertain everybody. You don’t want to mess up. You don’t want to embarrass yourself.”