Almost 90 fighters from around the world gathered in Springfield, Illinois for The International Tournament of Chivalry. Included in their ranks were nine fighters from the California team Ursus. My husband and I have been driving down to San Jose every weekend for team practice and to build my armor in just over a month. It’s been a whirlwind getting everything finished and learning the basics. Big thank you to all of Ursus for helping me get into kit, especially my husband David, Steve, Mark, and Chris. We finished putting the tie points on (places to tie armor onto the soft jacket worn underneath) at 2am on Thursday before leaving for our flight at 7am.
We had nine out of twelve of our team all on the same flight. Everyone had a checked bag for their armor and my husband brought an second checked bag for extra team equipment. Out of the ten checked bags we brought we only had to pay for one because of a combination of military identification and united cards. Security is always interesting with armor in carry-on bags. Only two of the fighters were stopped and had their bags opened and searched. Some of us didn’t have seat assignments and received them at the gate. Unfortunately my husband and I both got isle seats, but at least they were across from each other. We started comparing seat assignments and it looked like we were only 2 rows away from most people. David and I had early boarding thanks to our united card so we were the first of the team to board. The 47th row was missing and the rows jumped from 46 to 48 meaning Steve was actually in the row behind us! Next was Mark who was stuck in a middle seat next to Steve; he waited in the isle seat hoping his neighbor wouldn’t come, or at least it would be someone small. Lisa ended up being across the isle from Mark. Then her brother Jeff came giving Mark a smirk look, “Your in my seat”. We played musical chairs so Mark and Jeff got isle seat and I took a middle seat next to Steve and David (I pretty much always get 3/4 of a seat and David gets 1 1/4 of a seat). Lorenzo was next to saunter down the isle. Once he found his seat two rows behind us the woman next to him asked “Can my husband please trade seats with you so we can sit next to each other?” He replied “Sure, where is he sitting?” “Right over there.” She pointed at the seat next to Lisa. 8 of us ended up sitting in 2 rows all together. Ursus party on plane! We landed in St. Luis, Missouri a short 4 hours later and then caravaned in a large SUV and car to Springfield, Illinois (just a 90 min drive). We had a team dinner in Springfield and went to bed early to prepare for the next day.
In Historical Medieval Battle (HMB) there are three types of fighting: melee, singles, and pro fights. Melee is typically either 5’s which has 5 fighters on your team taking the field at a time and up to 3 alternates or 21’s which is 21 fighters on the field. In melee you keep fighting until there are 3 points of contact on the ground: a knee, hand, back. There are other safety rules but those are the basics. In singles fighters use a specific weapon set to score points from strikes landed in a given time limit. Pro-fights are similar to singles but punches, kicks, and “take downs” are also counted.
Friday included the singles round robin tournament with the finals being held on Saturday and unarmored seminars. I was undecided if I would enter any of the singles tournament until the last minute when I got the input of some of the other woman fighters. Bottom line, I didn’t fell prepared and I have no idea what I am doing with sword technique. I do not have years of SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) like many others do and I suspected this would turn me off of the sport entirely. Throwing punches and leg sweeps I could do and I was training for but sword technique and counting points? Nope, not ready. I found 3 women who had brought armor on Friday who were willing to do 60 second pro fight rounds so I could feel being hit and getting knocked over. I spent half the day taking my time to get all of my gear on and addressing any fit issues I found. After a few hours walking around I decided to gear down to practice gearing up again. I found out that I could take off everything still attached to the gambison (padded jacket worn under the metal armor) and slip the jacket back on later. After singles were over Sandra did two 60 second rounds with me and Lisa did one. Each round I remembered different things from training like “Oh yeah I can kick”, “Oh right, the while point is take downs, NOT hitting with my sword.” Big difference between training and actually doing it! That’s all I had time for before packing up all of my gear to store in the provided armor room with security guards. Once we got back to our Route 66 hotel we had to finish sewing 2 more bears onto surcoats for the next day. Our team’s new surcoats turned out pretty sharp!. Finally made it to bed by 11:30pm.
We got to sleep in until 7:30am (Yes, that’s sleeping in when your used to getting up at 4am for an 18 mile run to beat Fresbo’s summer heat!) before getting breakfast and jumping on the bus to the convention center. All of the women were asked to arrive at 9:00 and be armored up by 9:30 to get some extra practice and melee rounds. There was a US record of 13 women fighters in attendance at this weekend’s tournament. It was a huge stride in women’s fighting and hopefully we will soon compete with 5’s teams instead of 3’s. I was able to participate in 4 of the practice rounds. In each one I learned so much especially about keeping my feet and remembering to stay in a more centered stance. Everything changes in armor. Your momentum and the area you take up are the biggest changes I noticed. The schedule for the day was opening ceremony to introduce teams at 10am, 5s mixed with singles finals, then women’s 3’s mixed with men’s 5’s finals. All of the fighting was scheduled to conclude by 4pm Since the women were at the end of the schedule we were in kit from 9:30am until 4:30pm. That is a VERY long time to have a 50+ lbs suit of armor on.
After the opening ceremony I took of the top half of my armor and just kept the legs on so I wouldn’t be as tired. We got confirmation that the first women to fight would be at the end of round 4 and my team, the battle witches, would be at the end of round 5. Each round was taking about one hour each since they had 4 sets of teams fighting in each round. Ursus’s men’s team had a by in round 3 so I decided to get suited up then while Steve had a little down time instead of hoping someone could help during round 4. I’m glad I did because just 10 minutes after getting ready they called our team early to fight at the end of round 3!
I fought in the second round of our team’s first fight. I was the last one standing and got some really solid punches on the other girl. It was over 4 minutes long (that’s a really long time in these competitions) when I finally got a successful leg sweep I went down with her. You can watch the clip here. The second fight I was out pretty quick.
The best part of this sport is the comradery and festivities after. I love these people! I’ll leave the after party just for the fighters.
As my husband got into this crazy sport I always thought I would never like doing it because I don’t want to get hit with a sword, it would hurt! And I have a very low pain tolerance. I am a huge baby when it comes to getting hurt. Well, it doesn’t. Honestly you don’t feel a thing under all that armor. I had a lot more fun than I was expecting and part of that is probably because other fighters were surprised I was only training for 1 month and I feel I did pretty well as a new fighter. There is a ton for me to work on if I choose to peruse this. Regardless this is an extremely exciting time for women entering the sport. I can’t wait to see how the US women’s team does next year at Battle of the Nations or Dynamo Cup if they are invited to participate. If you are interested in getting hooked up with your local chapter please use the “contact me” or contact the women’s captain Amy Graham (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can hook you up! Remember to find joy in the journey and Create A Life You Love….and as Amy says, “Always Fight Like A Girl!” Until next time!