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I drove down to an SCA event on the other side of the province this past weekend and I had a pretty good time on the armoured fighting field. This was a somewhat unusual trip for me — it’s the first time in more than two years that I’ve soloed an event — The Wife™ decided not to go because she needed a break from everything this weekend. She was polite enough not to explicitly add my name to that list, but I got the message (perhaps I’m starting to get the hang of this whole “being married” thing.)

There were two tournaments — a free-for-all melee event which cycled through various weapons forms from “basic” sword-and-buckler (or in my case sword-and-dagger) all the way up to greatswords and polearms. That was… interesting. A friend and I made a deal to watching each-others’ backs in the melee (which is a period practice, by the way) for all the good it did us; typically we ended up being among the first killed in any given bout. But it was fun, and it definitely helped teach me about situational awareness and quick tactical assessments.

Since it was the first time I’d ever done it (even in practice) the melee also taught me a couple of things about fighting with only a parrying-dagger in my left hand — specifically that a four-inch dagger is not as effective as a shield or even a buckler, especially if you don’t hold it right. One of the Chiv explained to me what I was doing wrong… although only after he’d taken that arm and killed me on his follow-through. (Tuck the elbow in and make sure the dagger sticks out to the side because waving the point of an off-hand dagger at someone is pretty useless when he’s got a sword.)

What I found really interesting about the melees, however, was that teams formed quickly — each melee usually had two or three groups work together, generally forming around the fighters of one or another household or canton. The teams would do some damage to each other and then, as the numbers got smaller, dissolve and re-work themselves into pairs or triples, which would later dissolve again. One thing caught my attention, though: There was no betrayal. The impromptu alliances would come together and the guys in them would fight alongside each other with every confidence that they wouldn’t be stabbed in the back… and when it came time for the alliance to dissolve, the participants generally spread out a bit, looked at each other to make sure everyone was ready, and then re-engaged in their new alliances. I think I only saw one or two incidents of “fratricide”… and both of those were obviously being done light-heartedly. That automatic instinct for loyalty and fair play was a subtle thing that took awhile to notice… but in retrospect it was pretty obviously an example of the unconscious culture of chivalry in this Kingdom.

The second tournament was a more traditional “double elimination” one-on-one tourney… with a slight twist. It was a “Toys for Tots” tournament: you had to “buy in” with a donated unwrapped toy; the twist was you could donate two toys and get a third “life.” The armoured combat Toys for Tots Tourney was mirrored by a fencing tournament on the other side of the hall with the same general rules; between the two tournaments 90 toys were collected, along with about $200 in donations to charity.

The combatants were random-draw, so there was definitely an element of chance as to who you were going up against (one novice fighter ruefully commented to me afterwards “I drew two Dukes and His Majesty!”) but I had the good fortune of drawing people I generally don’t fight a lot. One bout in particular was amusing because I ended up fighting a gentleman who was at pretty much the same level as me; same experience, same size, same speed… and he made the same mistakes. We ended up double-killing each other four times in a row because we’d each make the same error at the same time — typically it was dropping our shield during an attack — and we’d both take advantage of it simultaneously. I ended up winning that bout, but only just slightly; he took my arm at the same instant that I took his head. We ended up leaving the field together laughing. (I heard later that he got his AoA in court that evening — I’m sorry I missed it, but I had dinner plans with my mom about half an hour’s drive from the event.)

I also (finally) got the chance to fight six-foot-spear in a tournament bout — although it was against one of the more well-known “spear gods” in our Kingdom. It wasn’t over as quickly as I feared, so I’d like to think I acquitted myself well. Certainly it was nice to try spear-fighting against someone other than the limited number of opponents I’ve been able to face in practice. As an aside, there’s a bit of a vogue for spear-fighting in Ealdormere at the moment because His Majesty is quite fond of it and has been trying to encourage it; this is a very good time for me to try picking up that particular weapons form. Spear-fighting has also forced me to think about footwork, body mechanics, targeting and especially range.

So yeah, I had a pretty good event. It felt a little odd, since I ended up going to the event without The Wife™ but it was also kind of nice to go out and not have to worry about anything other than the fighting.

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