Upon rcommendation of Analeda Falconbridge, I have started this blog to detail my progress int he SCA. This was the Facebook post that prompted the recommendation:What next?
A couple of years ago at Pennsic, I was awarded my King’s Order of Excellence by King Edward. This was the SCA award I coveted... awarded for superior authenticity in persona and/or equipment. I like trying to be as authentic as possible in my kit... I fight in maille, with appropriate weapons, using natural materials where practical and possible. My garb is linen and wool, and I wear period shoes.
I was deeply honored at receiving the award, and I found that most people were very glad as well... there had apparently been a bit of a write in campaign to get my wife and I recognized for the award. However, it also made me sit down and take a look at my kit and say... what next?
I have continued to work at my authenticity, adding small things here and there... leather and cloth and steel and wood... I was not going to stop with that just because of the award. But what hit me was this thought... that I was letting my kit down. Everybody seemed to respect the choice I had made being as authentic as I could with my gear... but I kept hearing, over and over that the gear was what was holding me back. The maille weighed too much, the cross hilted swords weren’t as effective as a basket hilt, that the axes were inferior to an unpadded pole due to the nature of our game. “He’s as good as you can expect with the gear he’s wearing.”
I was offended. Not at the inference that I was a mediocre fighter... I was aware of what level my skill was at. I was insulted that people thought the gear was at fault. My maille and my swords weren’t why I wasn’t fighting better... my lack of practicing and physical conditioning was the reason. I decided that was was next was to stop letting my gear down, and prove that it didn’t limit me. I began to train more... I am still not training as much as I’d like, but getting in and fighting weekly, fitting in an extra practice when we can, and trying to keep myself in better physical shape. I made a vow after Pennsic 40 that i would fight with my axe every week, and I did. Every single practice, for a full year, I fought the Dane axe, sometimes exclusively. As my physical condition improved, I was able to get back to using a full sized round shield. I had injured myself years ago, and never really healed, and could only use a smaller shield... as my strength built up, I was able to again.
I noticed a difference in my fighting. My endurance improved, my technique got better (though still far from perfect). Others apparently noticed as well... this year I was invited to take the field as one of the East Kingdom Unbelted Champions. The Unbelts are a team of fighters chosen from those who are not members of the Order of Chivalry to represent our Kingdom in a battle against a team from the opposing side, chosen from similar candidates. Generally this means fighting against a Midrealm team... though this year, with the alignments at Pennsic changed, we fought alongside the Middle against the Allies. I feel I acquitted myself well... at least nobody openly told me I sucked. :) I also fought a decent amount of pickups at War, taking advantage of the time to fight folks I wouldn’t otherwise get to.
My work, and that of my Shire mates in helping me train, paid off, and at this year’s Winter War 16, I was made a companion of the Order of the Tygers Combattant. This award is an East Kingdom Order of High Merit for rattan combat, either for excellence in one weapons form, or for surpassing competence in several (that is a quote from the EK Wiki). King Edward commented that a couple of years ago, he had made the trip up and said “Nice kit... but I need to see more.” I chuckled, because it was kind of what I had said about myself, and what started this journey.
It was a great honor to be made a companion of this order. The OTC is a highly prized award in this Kingdom... I have seen fighters chase it as hard as a Knighthood, and the rolls of the Order are full of legends whose stories I have heard from my earliest days in the Society. I am humbled that they think me worthy to join them.
And I find myself again saying... “What next?”
Obviously, I’m not just going to drop my authentic kit, or stop fighting. I plan to keep training and practicing... I’m on the Unbelted Champion’s list again, and I plan to be in shape to do my triad and team proud. Also, I owe it to those who believed in me enough to make me a Companion of the Order to show them they were right to do so.
I plan to add to my gear... we have a new norse slat bed, wooden trunks and boxes for our clothing and other kit, and I am making more. I am making game boards and boxes and trunks to gift and barter and sell, and I still carve runestones. I have taken up blacksmithing, mainly to be able to make the metal parts of our gear that are simple but harder to find. I plan to still do service to the society... though I will no longer be serving as Winter War event steward, I may be taking over the office of Seneschal, and plan to play an active role in Fall Frolic this year. I have been putting in a lot of time at Marshal’s point at Pennsic, and will continue to do so.
I have never really cared for the idea of chasing awards. I have seen too many folks chase an OTC or knighthood, only to see them, upon reaching that goal, be completely burnt out. I don’t want that for myself... I love the game for the game... it’s what I do for fun, I don’t want it to be a job.
So do I need a goal? Do I need a next step? I don’t know. When I said “what’s next?” before, it was not with the end goal of the Unbelts team or OTC in mind... it was simply laying a challenge before myself. What do I challenge myself with now?