What an incredible event! Likely one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever attended. Rosa e Spada were all on form. There was no one there who could be taken lightly. Some were defensive and tactical. Others were aggressive and always attacking. Everyone there was well trained and focused.Melissa and I arrived early in the morning to help put things together (or more accurately stay out of the way of people putting things together). I was hoping to get a little sparring in early so that I was all warmed up for the competition, but unfortunately things overran and we kicked off the whole thing a little late.
I was one of the first to fight in the Team Side Sword. This meant our team’s fates were entwined as we shared points.
My team was on first. My first fight was against someone who had never used a side sword before and was flailing his blade like it was a war sword. I lost the fight, because I felt like none of what I’d learned applied here. I was too ‘in my head’ and Marco, my instructor could see it. I had another few fights and by the end of the third, which I ended with a thrust to my opponent’s chest, I felt like I was in the game. I was ready. Nothing was going to stand in my way.
And then my team was eliminated…
That’s the way it goes sometimes.
But Melissa was still in, and she was fierce. Her first fight lasted around ten seconds as her opponent moved toward her and she lashed her point across his face in a savage cut before he even had time to lift his sword. Another of her fights saw her exchanging a thrust and driving the point into the throat of another opponent. A third saw her parrying furiously against a much larger opponent before striking out and lashing her blade across his throat.
In the end, Melissa and her team came away with silver medals having lost only by a minor margin. There was certainly no shame in that loss as the team who won, though, as they specialised their training in side sword.
Sitting on the side lines gave me a good opportunity to take some distance and view the fights. It meant I could help Melissa by being her coach, telling her not to get greedy and pointing out some of her opponents weaknesses. I nearly bit through my fist watching her fights and I was very audible in my celebration whenever she landed a blow.
Then the longsword tournament began. I had something to prove in having been eliminated early on. I had some fantastic fights and made it to the final where I fought my good friend, Mario de Lorio, an awesome fencer. It was an intense duel. He managed to land a couple of blows on my hands which put him in the lead. When the last thirty seconds were called, I knew my only chance was to land a deep strike. Mario pulled into Vom Tag and I thrust into his chest before coming into Posta Finestra for cover.
Evening the score, our fight then went into sudden death. The first to land a killing stroke would win the fight. I landed a cut to Mario’s hand and we parted, then we came in close. Our arms shot up in a strong bind. In zogho stretto, I reached forward to get a wrap on his sword arm, but Mario is a strong man and muscled through the bind to strike me in the head, loosing the fight and getting silver.
I was able to take gold in the sword and buckler after some very technical duels. In the quarter final, my right arm started cramping every time I took any of the I-33 wards on the left side. As a result, I had to adopt some of Talhoffer’s wards instead. Fortunately, it had the desired effect as my opponent had only ever studied closed types of sword play and was unfamiliar with Talhoffer. I beat him, but not with ease.
By the time the finale rolled around, I was up against someone I had come across before. We had fought in the south of Italy some months before. That was then. He had been training. But so had I. I finished the fight by bringing a thrust to his wrist which prevented him from landing a blow on me.
I did fairly well in the other disciplines, getting through to the quarter finals with the longsword. It was very interesting to see the difference of approaches between the people wielding steel and nylon. Among those who trained in nylon, I observed a notable increase in how aggressive their attacks were compared with those who trained in steel.
At the end of it, Marco announced our leaving to the company and we were presented with T-shirts and bandanas bearing the symbols of Rosa e Spada. It surprised me that these tokens meant more to me that any medal could. Marco told the company that we would be brothers in a distant land. It had been my GREAT honour to be a part of the company and I hope that it will be the beginning of a lasting and binding relationship that will strengthen us all.