It was a sunny day in Upper Hutt. I drove towards Trentham with my son, Connor – it was still the school holidays. We were on our way to meet Dayna, her daughter, Freya, and husband, Phil.
We arrived at Dayna’s family home at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. I opened my car door and the hot air seemed to spill out.
A nice cool breeze replaced it.
We stepped out of the car and walked towards Dayna’s quaint family home.
Knock knock knock.
Dayna greeted us with daughter Freya beside her.
‘Hi! I’m Freya!’
I know I’m going to like them already, I think to myself. They’re friendly and welcoming.
A not-yet-fully-grown Norwegian Forest Cat, named Tasha, slowly waltzes by. Big bushy tail in full array. My mouth drops as I watch her make a grand entrance, brush Freya’s leg as if to say, ‘I’m here beautiful Freya,’ and then leave.
Freya shows us around her home, ever so proudly. Makes sure we know where everything is. The bathroom, her bedroom, the living room, kitchen, and of course Tasha’s (the cat’s) grooming station.
Dayna introduces us to her husband Phil who’s working on some maniacal spreadsheets in the dining room. Music is playing lightly in the background which synchronises with the cosy jive of contented life I already feel in their home.
Meet: Dayna Berghan-Whyman with daughter Freya
Full Contact Medieval Combatant & Data Wrangler
Click here, or scroll below to download awesome booklet full of images and comments about Dayna’s medieval weapons!
I didn’t know of Dayna directly. Funnily enough, it was my home-loan mortgage broker who suggested that I interview Dayna for Little Hutt.
‘I heard of you through my friend Alan Borthwick,’ says Dayna. So how do you know Alan?’
I told Dayna how I sought Alan’s advice with my hubby years before because my hubby and I wanted some serious advice on finances, mainly how we could save for a home together. And when the time came, Alan helped us through the process of buying a home.
She tells me how Alan whom she’s worked with, as well as a close friend, helped her and her family buy her current home.
‘We were first-time home buyers, with less than a 20% deposit, on a private sale – with a 1945 house build. Ding ding ding ding! So, we had the insurance going, ‘Oh!’ The bank going, ‘Private sale!’
‘Even though Alan and I have been personal friends since university, he really did help us in so many ways. Plus, if you ever want to see Alan twisted around anyone’s finger, get him and Freya in the same room.
‘He’s really nice to her, and she just loves him. Plus, when Alan and his partner, Kat, travel together, there is no end to the Hello Kitty stuff they come back with for Freya!’
What’s your story?
Dayna tells me about her background in Full Contact Medieval Combat (FCMC) called Buhurt – she’s a rarity in this tough sport as a woman.
‘I’ve been doing medieval re-enactment for 16 years with the club, The Company of the Dragon. Only in the last 18 months have I switched to Buhurt with the Felag ‘Wellington Medieval Armoured Combat’, because there were more opportunities. And this year I travelled to Denmark to represent New Zealand in the women’s division of pole axe, which is great.
What’s more, she tells me how just recently she was approached to be part of the Dynamo Cup in Russia.
Dayna told me how being invited to Dynamo Cup was both terrifying and exhilarating all at once. How it’s especially big to be invited to the Dynamo Cup this year because it will be the first time that Russia has allowed a female 3v3 [teams of three combatants] fight at the tournament.
‘It’s a big thing because culturally men fought men and women fought women and if there weren’t enough women to fight we wouldn’t have it. But it’s not part of our culture [in New Zealand] to separate us out, but in other countries it is.
‘In a way, you sort of push the rules as far as you can go without offending anybody which is why it’s big to be invited to the Dynamo Cup this year in Russia.’
‘And when you’re invited you show up. You dress up, you show up. The sport can only get better. Because there are quite a few women fighters, but there just needs to be a push to keep it going.’
Just a few months ago she competed in Buhurt at the International Combat Federation (IMCF) World Championships in Denmark. There she competed along with athletes from 27 countries.
Above images courtesy of Dayna’s proud mum taking photos from her phone of Dayna fighting at IMCF off live television. These are the only photos Dayna has from fighting at the championships. Thanks mum!
‘When I came back from the IMCF I was picked up by Radio New Zealand. It was important to be a “face” of sport for everyone because I don’t fit the traditional mode of what an athlete would look like.’
For Dayna saying ‘yes’ to these opportunities is bigger than her though. She doesn’t just do this for herself. She knows through her actions she is modelling positive behaviour to her daughter as well as other women – well everyone, really.
Dayna is more than a feminist in her own right, for her, it’s about everyone having the same opportunities. She’s paving a new road for people to join her along the way.
‘I did my postgraduate diploma in gender studies from Victoria University. I was also the Women’s Rights Officer for Victoria University in 2000 and the National Women’s Rights Officer for the University’s Student Association supporting all the universities in the country in 2001. Part of this role involved media training, supporting all Women’s Rights Officers in the country, and doing the diversity training for gender fluid and gay and lesbian students.’
On top of competing, training and being a leader fighting in Buhurt, Dayna also runs several offices from her computer in her living room, including the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa New Zealand. She calls herself a ’Data Wrangler’ which is quite fitting for a woman with her choice of extracurricular activities.
‘I’m able to give back to the community that’s why I work for UN Women. I do that from home. I run their whole office from my computer right there [pointing to the computer in living room]. Of course, on 8 March it will be International Women’s Day. From here [her home] I will oversee 40 to 50 events which all kick from in February.
‘To me going off overseas fighting is also a test to see if my business can survive without me. Denmark was good that way because it was two weeks.’ And Dayna brings up another point about how with these new sports that don’t get as much financial backing as sports like rugby, how the athletes make big sacrifices to ‘show up’ to these competitions.
‘With sports of a national flavour like rugby, for example in New Zealand. They have money to fly people around to do training and stuff. We don’t. The medievalists that go overseas, we must fly to see each other, or drive to see one another; paying our way. Which is money, and time away from our families, time away from our jobs. It’s a real amateur sport.’
But nothing is gained by saying no to opportunities, Dayna tells me.
And in the true medieval spirit of standing tall and fighting for what she believes, she also tells me how she won’t say ‘no’ because she’s afraid.
‘Things are scary but you still need to give everything a go. Nobody will mock you for giving things a go. Nobody will think less of you for giving things a go. It’s not what other people think, it’s about what you think of yourself because the greatest burden to carry around is regret, like, ‘I wish I had a chance to do that.’ Or, ‘I wish I’d said yes’.
And back to the fact that those involved in this type of sport put up their own money to compete, train and practice. Dayna tells me how her friend, Freya, is travelling from the UK to join her for the National Association of Ancient and Medieval Arts (NAAMA) over Labour Weekend [just past]; and how she also flew to Denmark from the UK when Dayna was competing in the IMCF this year – what an awesome bunch of people who will do that for one another, I say.
‘When you’re in the fighting fraternity you find there’s a fighting sorority within that.’
And the weekend of the 28th and 29th October after NAAMA, Dayna tells me, is the New Zealand Sword Symposiumin Wainuiomata. And at this Symposium there will be teachers from around the world teaching all sorts of things.
‘There’s a lot of medieval stuff that goes on if you’re in the know. If you tune in to this type of stuff.’
And in May next year IMCF is in Scotland, and qualifying for that will happen at the Pacific Cup Tournament, which just-so-happens-to-be at Levin’s annual Medieval Market.
‘Just because you qualified for the team this year, you still need to reapply for the next years.
‘But wear your sunhats and your visors, and your sunblock. This gives you an indication of how hot we will be in our armour sweating away. My armour is 35 kgs, and all of us medievalists are begging for a cloudy day.
‘It’s a good family day though. There’s fighting to watch. You can do ‘Shoot the Knight’ – it’s great fun.’
Downloadable fancy schmancy booklet of Dayna’s weapons with comments…click on below image…