oday I went to my first Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) meeting. We learned some knot tying techniques which I was familiar with from my mountain infantry experience, but it was a great refresher. I am part of the Shire of The Mountain Freehold group since I live in Northwest Vermont.
Afterward, I partook in the heavy listing training since there was no calligraphy sessions today. I’ve been looking forward to this for a few weeks since I recently purchased some gear to look like a St. James Templar Crusader.
I had the look down with my new outfit, but did I have the skills down? I watched a bunch of movements and fighting techniques online to improve my initial understanding. I have been exercising pretty regularly which includes cycling for 30 minutes each weekday which I figure is a pretty good start for any new physical activity.
Since it was my first day the only thing I had was a cup, and a strong will for melee combat- the rest I had to borrow. The loaner gear did the job although it was too thick for my crusader attire to fit over. A thick padded blanket (of sorts) was my undergarment and on top of that a plastic padded leather armor. Forgive me for not knowing the exact terms of what it was. It was not exactly a period piece with a name. It was more “padding so you don’t get your bones broken” type stuff. The helmet was standard SCA metal brain bucket that rings like a church bell when you get hit. Standard sword and board was my preferred choice of fighting style as it fits my crusader look.
I first started with stance and several basic attack techniques. My first realization was that it was nothing like the movies. I mean, go figure, but still, its was so different it was foreign. There was no sweeping assaults and jumps over swords. It was two men pitted against each other shield to shield swinging rattan wooden swords towards openings in their opponents defenses. It was fun!
I then got a chance to spar against a polearm fighter. This posed a new set of problems as their long melee range is tough to get past. With a burst of energy sprinting to my opponent I could close this distance fairly well pitting my shield up against his weapon. The key was to keep advancing as he stepped back and to the sides. A few times on uneven ground I went off balance and was swiftly punished with a spear to the helmet or leg, but, in the end I was able to put several hits down and continue to advance on my opponent fiercely.
This, of course, came at a heavy cost. The weight of the armor was more than I had anticipated. It wasn’t too heavy to wear or too constricting of my mobility. Nor that the armor tired my back muscles, which it did. It was that even in the cool Vermont fall I started to overheat. I initially did not recognize my body temperature. All that I realized was that it was time to hang it up for the day and that my initial training went well. I went back to the resting area and suddenly became nauseous and light headed. I asked my friend to assist me in pulling the armor off as I started to feel claustrophobic. I laid down lifted my legs up breathing in the cool Vermont air.
I quickly recovered, but it was an odd experience. I have exercised all my life. I played lots of sports that involved severe cardiovascular capacity. I’ve always been lightfooted and have quick reactions thanks to my years of playing dodgeball. But never, ever, have I overheated on a cool day. I am glad I was able to recognize my situation even though its effects baffled me in the moment. The short bursts of movement with the added weight cost more each maneuver than I had realized they would. One or several bouts in a row could sit you out resting for a few minutes.
Ultimately, it was a great time. I will certainly need to find some armor that accommodates airflow to allow my body to breathe, especially on not so cool days. In the end, I realized what beasts of fighters the medieval ages were. This certainly wasn’t Hollywood or a tabletop role-playing game. It was real, simulated combat, and it was TOUGH.