Ultimate Warrior

It has been interesting watching the development of marketing materials for SCA tournament combat. I think these are a great step forward and I hope they will bring a lot more people into out game. But there is something often missing. While the flyers encourage people to discover western martial arts or to become warriors there is hardly any mention of being a knight.

I find this a little odd. One of the central themes of the SCA is the quest to better your own skills and character. Why is it that we shy away from placing the quest for Knighthood front and centre to what we do?

Perhaps it is a bit too complex to distil in a short advertising flyer. We already have the idea of warrior imprinted in modernity through games, MMA and mainstream sports. I am sure it appeals to many, particular those more familiar with levelling up in World of Warcraft. He is an idea that you can start as a couch dweller and turn yourself into a warrior, fit, ripped and ready to fight anyone who is in your way.

While I would like to be fit and ripped, I am not sure this is really what we are about. To me the image of the warrior is a little raw in tooth and claw. It comes from a tribal way of warfare. It is the cult of the individual above all else.

What then is the path of knighthood? The ideals of the Knightly arts go far beyond martial prowess. Beyond the weapons and armor of a Knight is the focus of social and personal responsibility. Here then is the shifting of a pure warrior ethos to one focused on several virtues: Fidelity, Justice, Courtesy, Honor, Prowess, Humility, Strength, Courage and Honesty.

It is the knight, not the warrior who stands on the field of combat to win honour and renown for their consort, not themselves. It is the knight who thinks of the group and others first. Perhaps these ideas of humble achievement and service do not market well in a society where the individual is everything? Yes we need our heroes, but what sort of heroes do we need? I am sure that Arthur and Lancelot would have a very interesting conversation with Conan and Rambo.   

 

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There is no spoon

The next time you are at a tournament I invite you to watch the various participants. Ignore for the moment what they are doing, but look instead at how they walk into the field. Can you pick the winner of a match by their presence alone? How do the more experienced carry themselves compared to the novice?

This is not an idle musing on deportment but rather thinking about our purpose and focus on the execution of the armed encounter.

It has been often said that you can win something by being confident in your training and abilities. I think this is often true. A person who is sure they have done the training hours, given enough sweat and effort takes this confidence into the match they now will face. This also represents a calm of mind and allows the individual to focus on the task at hand.

This is not the bravado of someone who tells you that they are awesome, despite never having been at practice. But certainty and clarity that they can do what they need to do to be victorious.

If having the right mindset is vital, how then do we arrive at that point? There are a great many books and websites devoted to what we now will call sports-physiology. If you want to read this sort of thing (and I suggest you do) then In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick is a good place to start.

One of the interesting things Orlick points out is that success does require a high level of enjoyment in the given activity. So it is essential that we enjoy what we do. We do need to seek a ‘rush’ of excitement and fun in our tournaments and wars; we cannot be all focus and intensity. Now having said that, it is important to have some level of focus or we will not succeed at all.

You often hear people speaking of being ‘in the moment’. That moment were time slows down and you do everything right. This is that critical time that we all try to replicate every time the lay-on is called. How do we get to that point? I am still not sure, and if I was I would be earning a great deal more than I am…8-)

There are some things I do to try to get myself in the right head space. Not all of this works for everyone.

Preparation

As I mentioned earlier, you must be sure you have done everything you can do in training and preparation before you walk onto the field. Sometimes this needs to be measured in months if not years. Do not be put of by this, but rather understand what you can do and make sure you can do it well. This may mean blocking that attack by His Grace until you see an opportunity to counter.

Gear

I like to ensure that all my harness is in excellent working order. Everything works and I have confidence that nothing is going to break or fail on the day. Do any repairs well before that day of the event, running around trying to fix something with borrowed tools is not the best way to keep calm. Make sure you are comfortable with your harness and that it gives you the protection you require. I make sure that my gear helps me set the right example on the field, retouch the paint on your shield, re-tape your sword and wash your arming doublet.

Walk the Field

This is something I do before any big tournament. As early as I can, I have a wander around the field. I make it mine. This is all about getting into the right frame of mind. It is the beginning of drawing in my thoughts so I can focus on the competition to come.

Consort

I mentioned the role of the consort some time ago. Something I have seen that is excellent is the couples who work out where they will stand before every bout. Knowing where to look helps in staying focused.

Be ready

Listen for the calls to arm and stand ready. I often try to be ready and waiting for my opponent to arrive at the entrance to the lists. This also extends to making sure all your gear is packed the night before. You alone are responsible your own gear.

You are a Noble

In the SCA at least everyone is considered a member of the noble class. Be one! In The Book of the Courtier, Castigilone describes the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with elegant and brave words) along with proper bearing and gestures in addition to having a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities. Everything you do must be with a certain level of ease and grace. Step confidently onto the field and perform your salutes with confidence, and poise. Look like you know what you are doing. Those watching have come to see knights performing great deeds of arms, be that knight.

The sweetest kiss of all

In my last post I talked about some of the reasons to enter tournaments. A few have noted my omission of consorts in this. This was partly intentional as this is a topic that does deserve a separate entry.

Consorts often get the bum rap of the fighting game. They are there sometimes almost in sufferance. Certainly they are often there on the sidelines looking a bit cold and bored while everyone else has fun running around in harness.

Time for this to end.

The Consort is an integral part of how we play our game. It is those that bestow us their favour that makes us more than a mere sport, more than another branch of the martial arts.

We enter the field carry the favour of some one we respect greatly and some of us (I will count myself here) are lucky enough to carry their love as well.

It is the consort’s honour and renown that are prime in our endeavors. This is what prevents us descending into a slugging match of ego. We are able to use our consort to focus our minds and settle those nerves before the lay-on is called.

Think about how we can involve our Consorts in the game we play. How can we make them a full part of our events and tournaments?

Certainly we can declare our intention  to fight for  our consort. This can be a public or a private moment.

Use this as a way of bringing your focus to the fore. Use it to find your centre and share the moment.

Do you best to be worthy of your consort. Make sure your gear is looking good, clean and in good repair.

Work with your Consort to organise were they will be during the salutes. Looking around trying to find them looks bad and will break that focus.

Have a salute that is for them alone (I will be talking about salutes in a future post).

What is important here is that you are on the field bering the honour of your consort, victory or defeat is not important.

You display your commitment to your consort by your appearance and demeanor. Bring your best to the day and all will be good.