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January Missive

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the Kingdom Youth Armored Combat Marshal. It’s my job to oversee, support, and promote armored youth combat in the Kingdom.

Every once in a while someone will ask why I spend so much time on the youth field when those energies could be spent furthering my advancement (or at least trying to) on the heavy field. As with so many areas of the SCA, I respond with stories.

At this past year’s Northern Realms War, we had 15 kids fighting (13 on Friday, a dozen on Saturday), mostly from the west side of the Kingdom or from the Outlands. I worked with the division 2 and 3 kids (ages 10–13, and 14–17) while Antolin worked with division 1 (ages 6–9), with both of us contributing to the other when we could. Even with my car full of loaner gear we couldn’t fully outfit everyone at once, so we swapped equipment around quite a bit. In the younger crowd, a tiny young man was hiding in his mother's skirts, waiting for armor. Finally armored, he waded into combat like a veteran and, ultimately, had to be carried back to camp because he was too exhausted to walk.

In my group I had two brothers who I had met last year. They had learned the basics from their dad, hanging around fighter’s practice and soaking up what they could and then practicing with him. The older has developed a two-stick style which was difficult for me to get through, and the younger one was eager to keep trying new techniques and weapons until he settled on one that worked for him. (He also showed up on Sunday to get his “birthday beatings,” his face still smeared with cake, and fought until he was called to the archery field for his birthday shoot.)

We had a young man from Rapid City who told me his story while assembling his loaner armor: he asked his parents for a sword when he was young and they wouldn’t let him buy one, so they suggested that he make one. His mother told me that she came home from work and found him in the back yard digging a pit. He explained that he had done some research and was making a forge. That one, he said, didn’t produce the results he wanted, so he made a second one which is working better. It’s not big enough for a sword, so he’s starting with knives. THIS KID BUILT HIS OWN FORGE. TWICE. (He did get some help from his grandfather with the second one.) He had also made his own boffer sword and shield, and on the field his enthusiasm was unstoppable. We also had a young lady who took a break from working with the goats to join us; she waited patiently while ‘the boys’ took the first turn with the armor and then, when she was outfitted, proceeded to slaughter everyone who fought against her. In two-on-two melees she would become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, and cut down her opponents, adjusting to whatever they threw at her. When I asked her later if she’d had any previous martial arts experience, she explained that she had played football until she had been kicked out, and I recognized the tone to read the underlying attitude of ‘because I was a girl’; her mom told me that she wanted to prove that anything a boy could do she could do better. “She’s my little spitfire,” she said. After fighting on Saturday, this young lady did water bearing for the heavy fighters so she could watch more of the fighting — though she spent much of the combat time refilling water bottles so they’d be ready when the fighters came off the field.

Similarly, at WW we saw 16 kids on Friday and 14 on Saturday. (Fortunately we had more people with loaner gear, so almost nobody had to share this time.) We faced the kids against a ‘dragon’ — a knight or a Black Griffin fighter — whose job was to prevent their advancement across a broken field. Each youth fighter paid close attention to the tactics attempted by the others, putting his or her own spin on every attempt to defeat or avoid the guardian, quickly adjusting to our new rules as we made them. Many of them experienced melee for the first time, overcoming or falling to their opponents and coming back stronger every time.

And, at a recent fighter’s practice, I met a young man at the other end of a blade. He was the gentlest, most polite, and most helpful opponent I’ve had in years. He understands chivalry and practices it on the field — and he’s six years old. Obligatory commercial: If you (adults) or your kids want to participate in the youth combat program, as either marshals or fighters, please contact me. I can put you in touch with local resources, or help you out myself. Heavy fighters, there’s an authorization specifically so that you can spar against youth fighters under certain conditions. I can get you set up there, as well.

The children are our future. I think we have a lot to look forward to.


Other missives from the Kingdom Youth Armored Combat Marshal
Posted by: Abelard die Elster Kingdom Youth Armored Combat Marshal on 12/11/2019

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