Thursday, August 28, 2008

First Performance

My father-in-law, Ron, and I decided we would take what little we know about sword fighting and present ourselves at Men’s Game and Hobby Night at my church. Our hobby is to dress up as post-Crusader knights (we’ve taken a few liberties, but we’re fairly authentic), a time before full plate armor was employed, when those who could afford it wore mail along with assorted armor pieces, such as greaves, pauldrons, gauntlets and helmets. Actually, this was our hobby about a year ago. Since we haven’t had heart attacks from wearing 40-50 pounds of armor yet, we thought we’d see if we could use swords without injury as well.

We initially began the evening in our full outfits just to look our best. After dinner, we got rid of the helmets, gauntlets, capes and decorative shields and changed surcoats so that I would be the black knight and Ron would be the red knight. (We didn’t want to get our “dress blues” dirty for our fight.)

Ron and I practice fighting with either wooden wasters (so named because you end up wasting them) or blunted steel, and we wear Kevlar gloves along with fencing masks. That’s plenty of protection for us given what little we do, so we decided that for the fight, we would stick with the Kevlar gloves but wear our helms instead of fencing masks. At the last minute, we found that the helmets just weren’t fitting well, so we opted to just wear our mail coifs and try not to hit each other in the head.

We had choreographed our fight in two stages: a series of exchanges with sword and shield that would end with Ron “injuring” me. Then we would move to longswords, and after four exchanges, I would “kill” Ron. When we began the fight for the crowd, Ron and I took turns whacking each other’s shields as hard as we could while backing me up. On Ron’s second or third hit, his waster broke in two just above the handle.

Ron ran back for his longsword, so I traded up as well, thinking we would go to stage two of the fight. My father-in-law thought we hadn’t given a good show, so he went unscripted for a while, and I took a glancing blow to the head (the mail protected me well enough). Eventually, we settled back into the routine, and Ron met his untimely demise.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad performance. The crowd applauded, and we felt pretty cool. For me, it’s about taking my interest in medieval history to the next level. There’s nothing quite like wearing armor and fighting someone, even if the weapons are wooden. I highly recommend it.

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