Week 15: Chivalry is Alive

Ahhh, such a dreamy sunny morning as I walk my horse along the reflective waters of the stream. My family castle in view just beyond the river’s bend. Wait…I see something ahead, blinding, coming towards me. Dear me, is that a knight in shining armour?

 

I am prepared. My longsword is kept beside me at all times. The knight gallops towards my position and pulls up one swords length away. Perfect, so I can cut him easily upon a possible attack. As he halts, I notice such brilliant blue eyes, golden locks of hair, and a welcoming smile. “Good morning, I am Sir Miles from the North, summoned by your father for your protection.” I must thank my father later.

 

“And a good morning to you too Sir Miles, as you know I am Dame Rosalie, Order of the Dragon, so I need no such protection, as I am most excelled in the art of swordsmanship. You sir should be wary of a woman with a sword,” as I surprisingly point the sword at his heart. “But, I dare say that your skills may be useful in other ways…,” as I give him a wicked smile.

 

My knight in shining armour swiftly dismounts the horse, and captures me in his arms. “Shall I show you to my bed chamber?” With excited breath we….what? Oh gosh, I’m dreaming again. Man I must really need some, or was it that medieval sword fighting class I took…

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***

My friend Lacy had a Groupon for a fencing class, but she noticed they had a class entitled Swords of Chivalry: Historical Sword Fighting. Well, she told me about it, and next thing you know, I’m there swinging away with a wooden long sword. I did this one solo, and almost didn’t walk in because I was late (buildings in Sorrento Valley are not that easy to find), but glad that I did. The class is held in the Team Touche studios whose owner Tedd Padgitt gladly showed me to where the sword fighting group was already starting.

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Scott Farrell, owner of Chivalry Today, who runs the classes, welcomed me into the group. His wife April must have noticed that I was a complete novice and lost with all the terminology being spoken, and gave me a one-on-one instruction. My WTF is he talking about face probably gave me away. Luckily another beginner showed up, so we could learn together.

sword april

It really wasn’t that bad, and if you’ve had a little bit of martial arts training, or yoga in my case, your core and balance will be fine. And women can maneuver around and attack just as easily as men. But honestly, there’s a lot of terminology, and I was lost remembering what was a cut or an attack. April was very thorough, which I did appreciate. She taught us the different cuts, ranges, stances, methods of attack (Zornhau: wrath-hew, Krumphau: crooked-hew, Zwerchhau: or Twerhau thwart-hew, Schielhau: squinting-hew, Scheitelhau: ‘part-hew’), and the guards (vom Tag: from the Day, Ochs: ox, Pflug: plough, Alber: fool). Not that I even vaguely remembered any of this, I have to thank Wikipedia for that. I did like that helicopter movement where we swing the sword above our head, but I can’t recall whether that was a range, a stance or what — it’s just plain fun to swing swords around helter skelter.

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Oh, the swords aren’t real by the way (otherwise, all my recent bruises would have been accompanied by tons of superficial cuts). We practiced with wooden swords, roughly four feet in length. There are plastic swords too. The wooden swords reminded me of the ones my kids have, given to them when they were much younger by their Auntie Liza as a souvenir from a trip to England (half the size). You hold the sword with both hands, with the thumb of your upper hand always on the inside by your body. Your lower hand is placed underneath on the grip or cupped at the bottom, which gives you greater control. It’s actually a very natural hold.

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When you are holding the sword properly, standing open towards your opponent, and learn to mimic their movements, you can do quite well. We didn’t spar during this first lesson, but one day. The rest of the group took turns sparring, some wearing those medieval-like vests and covered masks. No body armour though. I believe those are reserved for historical reenactments.

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What fascinated me most was the history of longswording – is that a word? April explained that their group, Chivalry Today, teaches historical methods written down in authentic manuscripts from the 14th Century. Primarily German methods are taught, and sometimes Italian techniques too. They also stress the ideals of chivalry, which are essential to the concept of the knight as an elite warrior sworn to uphold the values of faith, loyalty, courage and honour. That’s why renaissance men are so attractive!

I’ve never been to a Renaissance Fair, or any type of historical reenactment. I think it would be quite fun to dress up in period attire, and walk around looking regal. I guess that is if I presented myself as a lady. I could dress up as a wench – were they called wenches in that era? I sure do have a lot of questions; I better start researching some more. I love reading about the middle ages, and historical fiction. I must have lived during that period in a past life.

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I think anytime you reinvent yourself into someone other than yourself, whether a different occupation, different lifestyle, different time period can be like a fantasy come true. Just as long as you remember it’s a fantasy, not reality. If I start wielding a sword around, while wearing chains and armour, riding a horse towards my office in La Jolla, I’d probably be sent away for good. Ehh, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to reinvent myself as a crazy person…

 

***

I’m still in a sword swinging mood when I get home. I crazily start searching the house for those wooden swords that my sister gave the boys. One is in my older son’s room, darn the handle guard is broken. Okay, now where is the other one? Not in the younger kid’s room. Not underneath beds. Not in my room. Where is it? Downstairs I look through the family room, don’t let me bother you boys, and then the living room. There it is, mixed between rice paper umbrellas and plastic recorders, and in perfect shape.

 

I take the sword and excitedly tell my son and his friends what I did that morning. I show the proper stance (they say it’s wrong, but I’m not swinging a baseball bat here), step here and there, show some cuts, and my helicopter sword move thingy. My son Grant, with his deadpan expression, tells me that I’m really embarrassing. They continue to play on the xBox while watching YouTube videos of gamers playing the exact same games. Well, I did my job. Isn’t every parent supposed to embarrass their kids?

 

***

team touche

Notebook: The Historical Sword Fighting classes are taught by Chivalry Today http://chivalrytoday.com/ at Team Touche Fencing Center located in Sorrento Valley http://teamtouche.com/ on Friday nights and Sunday mornings, or Lionheart Fencing Academy in El Cajon http://www.lionheartfencingacademy.com/ on Thursday nights. Youth and adult classes available, your first introductory lesson is free. See more photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/teamtouche/9034370959/. Chivalry Today is part of HEMA, Historical European Martial Arts, which has been around since 2010. Check their website for future historical reenactment events. I plan to go, maybe I’ll find my knight in shining armour. In the meantime, I’m returning to my dreams…yes, we rush up the stone stairs to my bed chamber and he…sorry, the curtains close here.

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