I first donned armor, which I made myself, in 1984. My authorization bout was fought with Sir Andrew Greencloak at the Squire's Revolt, in front of a huge crowd and under the eyes of King Eliahu. I was too green to be nervous, and took Sir Andrew's legs twice, and then won my first tournament combat.
Somehow I never became a squire. Too many lapses while attending law school, or doing heraldry, or after injuries, probably. I got a couple of nibbles from knights, and plenty of advice and kind words from them.
I had a real problem back in the 1980s getting people to take blows. Many times, I was complimented but informed that I was hitting too lightly. The solution was direct: I adopted swords of unusual length and weight, sacrificing a little speed for power. The first time I tried them is on videotape, and there are gratifying exclamations audible in the background. After that I was in the first rank of Stormvale fighters - not the best, but one of the three who delighted in fighting our best, Wilhelm von Buch, later knighted in Ansteorra, rather than dreading it as most did. I could hold my own with anyone locally, and didn't do badly outside.
Our local measurement of excellence is the Stormvale Champion tournament at Founder's Day each fall. I will not conceal that it frustrated me deeply that I could not manage to win this distinction back when we had a dozen entrants in this tournament in the late 80s and early 90s. On one occasion I won it in the lists, but lost it in the other portions of the contest, which included poetry, not my metier. In 1995, after the sudden shrinking of the fighter pool in Stormvale, Erevon FitzGerald and I simply agreed to be co-champions, because we were the only participants, and then we kept it for two years when there was no tourney in 1996. Finally, I won it uncontestably in the lists in 2000, to my very great satisfaction, defeating Lord Torashi, who was easily as worthy of the honor as I.
Which is all a long way of getting around to mentioning that I won it again on November 6 at Founders Day 17. There were plenty of fencers and archers, but again only Erevon and I to fight - we think the weather held down attendance. This time, however, we fought it out. We just fought until the light quit, keeping track of individual wins. I took an early lead of 8-4 and then tired, and we were tied at 9-9. We were both tired and the light was failing rapidly, so I suggested that we simply fight one more and the winner would be the champion.
Afterwards, I realized that it might have been fairer to Erevon to make it best 2 of 3. One of my meager talents as a fighter is that when very tired, I can dig deep for energy and put forth a maximum effort for one more bout. Erevon's great strength is his steadiness and persistence. For that last fight, I came out bouncy and aggressive, head clear, blows hard and crisp. Erevon stopped a flat snap to the left side of his head so close to the helm that his own sword banged it so hard he thought about taking the blow. He didn't, rightly, and I wouldn't have let him. No one should win the Stormvale Championship cheaply. A moment later, that same flat snap got him while he was hitting my right side with his own blow... but about one second after mine.
There were only two of us, admittedly, but I think we did honor to our shire. Like characters in the Morte d'Arthur, we fought to exhaustion, then went and had a drink (coffee, in our case) and told everyone else stories about how the other fought the rest of the evening.
Well, that's what I joined the SCA for.