So the honeymoon is now in full swing — we’re in Ottawa at our favourite hotel at the moment, and The Wife™ is still asleep. Our first day of the honeymoon was exhausting… and you can get your minds out the gutter, we were at an SCA event.
Yes, gigantic nerds that we are, we spent the first day of our honeymoon at an out-of-Kingdom day event, in this case Border Spat, which was hosted by the Barony of l’Ile du Dragon Dormant in the East Kingdom. It’s about an hour and a half east of Ottawa, just outside of Montreal, so it was an easy drive from our hotel. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the event (our out-of-Kingdom experience has been limited to the big War events) but it turned out to be a rather small, intimate occasion: perhaps a hundred attendees and only about sixteen armoured fighters on the field. It reminded me a lot of Tournoi du Coeur de Glace, actually, which is a small winter event held near Belleville every January.
For the record, la Tournoi du Coeur de Glace is my very favourite event on the Calendar, so taking a day out of our honeymoon to go to a similar event, full of new people, was absolutely no hardship. I had a blast. Of the sixteen heavy fighters on the field half were Ealdormerean, half were Easterners (or, in one case, a former Easterner now living in the West.) It made the melees fun, the tournament interesting, and the pick-ups educational. I had very productive discussions with a number of fighters, both Knights and unbelts, from Ealdormere and the East Kingdom. I got to see a lot of friends from the Barony of Skraeling Althing and got a lot of feedback on my fighting, weapons, and armour.
One particularly fascinating discussion was with that Knight from the West Kingdom (and I thought I travelled a long way for the event) was on the challenges of awareness in a fight — particularly paying attention to the location of your opponent’s feet and torso. It seems sort of obvious when I just write it down, but being aware of how your opponent is moving their body can allow you to anticipate how they’re going move to attack you and how you need to move to overcome their defence; it’s not exactly easy to perceive that in during the speed of a fight: a lot of times your reflexes are running the show and your muscle memory is what’s keeping you alive; you’ve got a big shield blocking your vision (two, if you count your opponent’s) and a sword snapping around at your head and limbs which tends to draw one’s attention. Perception, this gentleman was trying to explain to a few of us, is something that needs to be trained and practiced as much as the correct footwork or combinations of strikes. I’ve been mulling it over ever since, and I suspect that’s going to be simmering away at the back of my consciousness for the next little while.
Some might find it odd that I had such a good day at the event, because it was definitely not my best day on the field. I had trouble with my focus, I wasn’t throwing the best shots or combos of shots and I was dragging around my big war-door, trying to use it as a tourney shield. But I had fun meeting new people, trying new things, and the war-door was definitely a plus in the melee scenarios. I got some longsword work in — and got some advice on a couple of very knowledgeable people on how to fix my new longsword — the balance has never been quite right, so one of the other things I’ll be doing on this honeymoon is tearing apart a bastard longsword in my hotel room and moving the quillons up the blade about a handspan or so, shortening the blade but lengthening the grip and changing where I hold it relative to the point of balance. Hopefully it will make it a faster longsword, which will be of immense help at Crown Tourney next Saturday.
That was another thing that I found interesting: even considering it was a relatively small, out-of-Kingdom event, three out of eleven challengers on next week’s Crown List were on the field… as well as the sitting King of Ealdormere. There were several knights on the field, and everybody was unstinting with their time to give advice and assistance to those of us who had less experience and prowess. The fighter who gave me advice on how to fix my longsword, for example, is a friend from Skrael who I will be facing at Crown, and she seemed to have no qualms at all in trying to make me the best longsword fighter possible at next weekend’s tournament. Improving my sword, improving my stance, improving my strikes and handling, and above all improving my mental game… all with the stated intention of getting me ready for Crown. “Try that next week,” (and this was said with a smile as we discussed a poor habit I need to correct) “and I’m going to hit you in the head on general principles.”
That’s what I love about the SCA: even with the highest stakes in the game on the table — the Thrones themselves — my soon-to-be-opponents are still giving me feedback and advice to make me a better fighter at Crown Tourney. You just don’t see that in other games. And that’s what I enjoyed most about this event: it was an example of the very best behaviour the SCA has to offer. It was, in the truest sense of the word, an inspiration. The fact that I was one of the recipients of this largesse is far less important to me than the fact that it was offered, freely and generously, to everyone who needed it.
I’m profoundly grateful to everyone who gave me advice and assistance, but especially to my fellow-comptetitor on the Crown List. And I’ve already decided how best to show my gratitude to my her next week — I’m going to do my level best to hit her in the head. I think it’s the kind of gesture that will be appreciated.