As I sit here, on my long flight home from Europe, eating the last of my snacks purchased in the open medieval market, a blog strikes me for many reasons.
Mostly, mental exhaustion.
I have been on campaign for two weeks of fighting, of adrenaline highs and lows, of extreme physical activity and of never truly being able to relax and unwind like you can at home. I know most of you will not think its a very big deal but when you are out of your norm, experiencing the highest of highs, it is inevitable that you will also experience lower lows. That roller coaster can take its toll on a person in the best conditions, add to it that you are there, by yourself, away from your family, and competing in an extreme sport, it’s compounded greatly. So bare with me while I try to put some semblance of order to the chaos that was this past two weeks…
Battle of the Nations, Prague CZ
It’s a hard event to describe in general when you are not a fighter but I will do my best.
This is my second year participating in the World Championships and from all accounts, it has only continued to get better. This event is a culmination of hard work, training and achievements many fighters experience over the season and in many countries, the competition to be on their national team is fierce.
This year, a fifth day was added to help spread out all the categories. You have Men and Women’s triathlon duels, which consist of fights with sword & shield, sword & buckler, then longsword. You also have Pole Arm duels, which are their own category.
BOTN is based off the Olympic model and in official competition, women do not compete with men. In my personal opinion, I feel we should be allowed to if we want to, but that process happens in baby steps.
For bohurts, which is what Europeans call melee fights, the female category is 3 vs. 3 and all vs. all. In the Men’s bohurt category there is 5 vs. 5 and 21 vs. 21. All bohurts allow for legionaries or as some call them, mercenaries, which is how I was able to fight for the Netherlands Team.
I would love to see them add a 10 vs. 10 category as well someday, but that is yet to come. Women had two of our categories listed as experimental this year, pole arm duels and 3 vs. 3, but last I heard, these are now officially part of the championship.
When you first arrive in camp, most of the teams have large tents set up. Some teams sleep there. Others, like the American team, use it as their base camp for the week. The air is filled with excitement, adrenalin and testosterone.
This year we had almost 800 fighters descend upon Prague’s Petrín Tower, mostly men whose age ranges from 18 to 35. You do find older fighters in most teams but it is by far, not the norm. Female fighters are plentiful this year, we fielded 8 teams of 3 to 5 women each and that is phenomenal. You also find merchants, ground crew and support for the teams. The logistics alone of bringing a national team to the World Championships can be harrowing.
Before any fighting begins you see friends finding one another, opponents and friendly rivals getting reacquainted and many new friendships forming. Overall, this sport still continues to bring chivalry and honor to the field of battle and you see it constantly in almost every camp you visit.
It has been interesting to be a veteran Knight on campaign with “the new guys”. To see how they interact, how they blend and how they mesh with those of us who have been through this year after year. I’ve found that some men were born to this life, and some still need to figure out how to navigate it, both socially and mentally.
When so many alpha males and alpha females are thrust together in a small area, an interesting dynamic occurs and its not really something you can prepare for if you don’t even know its happening. I was talking to a woman who had not really experienced her partner being possessive, yet he was decidedly protective of her and she noticed many things about him changed when that happened. I told her that he may not even be aware of the change, its simply a matter of male posturing that is part of their genetic make up.
The males of our species are the hunters, the protectors, the fighters. You put so many of them together and the roles start to sort out. Just like in a pride of lions, you have one dominate male lion, the rest fight for the few slots allowed to other males, others fall away to other prides. Within teams you tend to find that hierarchy as well. There are distinct Alphas then the other male fighters. It is a dynamic I have observed for many years and I always have a few surprises as to who strives for leadership roles and who tend to let others lead the way.
That aside, the fighting on the field, regardless of the numbers, is always fierce. You will see teams completely decimate other teams and come back to help them off the field or afterwards see them congratulate the victors or losers on fights well done. Being in the crowd watching is one thing, being in the holding area with the fighters before and after fights is an entirely different event, and one that I am always thankful to be a part of. When I am not fighting, I am there to support my male counterparts. I help keep them healthy, fed, hydrated and geared. I don’t think I could stay away if I had to, not being there to help my team is something that is incomprehensible to me. You are part of something larger, and you make sacrifices to help the team…its just what you do.
When my pole arm fights were scheduled at the same time as USA 1 5-man fights so many of our guys were truly distraught that they couldn’t be there for me, but I knew I would have someone there to help and that’s all I needed. The rest of the team needed it more and that’s OK! In the end, it all worked out for everyone and I was able to go help after I fought and that meant the world to me. And when I fought with in the Women’s bohurts, looking up and seeing the team cheering for me, screaming out my name…absolutely made me cry on the field. Something I never thought I would do…but emotion takes you at the weirdest times lol.
When Team USA takes that field, it is largely by the grace and help of ground support, which is most often wives, girlfriends and family members of the fighters. This year we were very lucky to have our own photographer, our own armorer and our own team doctor. I hope in future years we are able to support these positions so we can always have them available because they are paramount to our team’s success.
BOTN is a great event and I look forward to going in 2017 with a full team of USA Women to fight with. While I loved every moment of fighting with the Netherlands Lionesses Team this year, I want to face Russia 1 as USA, not as a mercenary. With the number of women stating they want to fight in 2017, we may well be able to make USA 1 and USA 2 Womens teams, but I will be happy with anything.
I want to kick some ass this coming year and I know we have the women to do it!
I had friends and fans come up to me throughout the event and talk to me, support me, exchange gifts with me and best of all, make me smile, cry, laugh and feel amazing.
There were some hard times this trip, I can’t lie, but being surrounded by people who love me, and care about me helped a ton. Sometimes support comes in strange packages, and I will never look at some people the same way again but there are some that opened my eyes to so much more…and for that I am thankful. I am truly a blessed woman.
Now, on to phase 2 of our trip!
KMM.dk is a Medieval Market in Copenhagen, Denmark and it was the 2nd stop on this wild adventure for me. I traveled by bus with most of the Iron Phoenix team and while it was arduous at best, it was still fun. Aussies have a way of making everything fun…and this event was no exception. We got some great fighting in, I did a little bit of shopping and made some amazing new friends, while visiting with old friends from championships past. It may seem odd having friends all over the world that you only see once a year, but honestly, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Getting to see these people when I can, makes it all worthwhile for me. And while its hard being away from my home, my husband and my furbabies, knowing that I get to spend time with people I love half way across the world is worth it. Every. Single. Time.
So whether you are a fan, a friend, a lover or a fighter, being on campaign is an amazing way to spend two weeks of your life.
Life is an adventure just waiting to happen…take the first step and the rest will fall into place.