I make no apology for another swordy post, it’s that time of year – there are a lot of events on. Arguably the biggest event in terms of attendance in the Historical European Martial Arts calendar is Fight Camp, they managed to fill their capacity of two hundred places this year. To explain, it is a weekend of classes and tournaments, all outdoors, held at The Grange in Coventry. As you can probably guess from the title, there is camping involved, unless you take the civilised option of booking a nearby B&B.
This was my second Fight Camp, after last year, and I was happy to see that the schedule featured a lot of variety: axe, wrestling, pugilism, pollaxe, sword and buckler, lots of sabre, broadsword and targe, as well as the usual longsword and rapier classes.
After setting up camp on the Thursday afternoon the rest of the evening was spent catching up with friends, eating and drinking. I have to applaud the staff at the grange, the food was excellent value for money, and after a day of fighting in all weathers never is a meal (or a beer) more appreciated. The bar is always a great place to hang out, talking to people who I have mostly only ever spoken to online.
Friday morning after breakfast and the opening speech the heavens opened, but I’d already decided by then that I was going to take Peter Smallridge’s ‘how to fall safely’ class (which happened to be indoors, by luck not design, I swear) as I have very little experience of grappling and often freeze up because I don’t know what the options are.
This was essentially an hour of intense warm up (the mirrored wall was running with condensation by the end) and gradually building up our confidence physically. I soon realised that in wrestling all inhibitions about physical contact are swiftly abandoned. It was a liberating, and exhausting experience. Wrestling uses all of your muscles, you are moving in all directions and I was constantly learning about myself. I did my first cartwheel ever, followed straight away by two more.
My enthusiasm for this did me in for a lot of the weekend, as I soon learned that wrestling is far harder work than swordfighting, and I paid for it in lactic acid over the following days. I did manage to attend a Stav Axe class which was interesting for being a different weapon, with a different weight and balance, but included some very sound principles which will hopefully translate across to my other training.
I spent some time at the barriers. This is an area reserved for free sparring, essentially like a disco but without the music and you fight instead of dance. People continuously fight here over the entire weekend. Some spend all their time there (I had considered it), and you have the option to have all your bouts scored in the Passage of Arms tournament. The champion of this arena for several years, Mark Gilbert, set a new record of one hundred undefeated bouts. I’m rather pleased to say that my one exchange with him was 5-4. At one point it rained very heavily and we all crouched soggily in the tent with all our gear while a few ardent souls continued. When I was asked to judge a couple of exchanges I discovered a shield can be a great impromptu umbrella.
I decided to take the plunge and enter two tournaments this year – the rapier tournament and the Eggleton cup – a mixed weapons competition. I was in the first bout of the rapier against Swordfish 2011 Sword and Buckler champion, Kristine Konsmo. This was an honour and I was really looking forward to the fight, having sparred with her the previous evening at an impromptu ‘sword and buckler party’ (bring a sword instead of bring a bottle). Sadly under the tournament rules we doubled each other out and that was the end of the competition for us both. I am very happy to say that Pim, my husband, went on to win all of his fights and take the victory. That makes his fourth tournament win in a year – we are all very proud of him.
The Eggleton cup on the Sunday was great fun, and I was pleased that so many of my fellow students from The School of the Sword took part, for several of them it was their first tournament experience and I know how nerve jangling that can be. Everyone performed admirably, and the title, after a three way tie, went ultimately to Simon Thurston of Schola Gladiatoria, an excellent fencer and a pleasure to watch.
In summary it was all over far too soon, I ached all over for most of it, but loved it. I will miss the chatter, the fireside, the people, the classes and most of all the fighting. Roll on FC2013