The Benefits of a Mentor when Fighting


When I started attending heavy fighter practices, I knew before I ever picked up a sword that I wanted a mentor. I knew I would succeed more under someone’s instruction than I would on my own. It’s just something I’ve learned over the years about myself and have come to terms with.

You know how they always say ‘don’t you wish you knew your parents were right when you were a kid?’ or that ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ I’ve learned my lesson. I enjoy being the student and take direction well. Based on my experience as an equestrian, LARPer, and marksman, I knew that my skill would develop faster with the guidance of an expert.

Heavy fighting was entirely new to me and very overwhelming at first. So many different pieces of armor, than different forms and on top multiple different shots to learn. And that’s just the fighting aspect of it. I wanted to learn about events and the pomp and circumstance that went into everything at SCA. I knew I was in over my head and was okay with it.

I had the chance to meet a lot of extremely nice Knights and Masters, but one stood out. I went right up to him and told him that I’d like to be his squire. Something I never would have had the guts to do but I knew I would learn a lot from him and he would push me outside my comfort zone with fighting. I also now know that’s not really something one does, but I had the ‘charm’ of a new fighter to soften the bluntness of the question. Yeah, let’s just go with that. Sir Brennan’s face of shock is one to remember, but thankfully he took me on as a student. That’s another story for another time.

Not only is having a Knight benefiting me in ways that I knew it would, it supports me in ways that I wouldn’t have even thought about. Here are three recent situations that stood out to me.

I never imagined how many amazing people I would become friends with when I became Sir Brennan’s student, him included. Photo Credit: David Holland

Personal Knowledge

When you’re in a relationship with a Knight or Master, you get the chance to know each other better than you would not working together. This gives your mentor a chance to know your limits and what works best when teaching you.

This past week at practice was my first time back to fighting after six weeks off due to a surgery. I knew I had to take it slow and get back into the groove. I had multiple people remind me to take it slow and stop if anything hurts. The first practice back I did better than I thought I would. Granted, my overall cardio was horrible and I died a lot, but nothing hurt.

Taking confidence from that practice had me pushing myself a little harder the next day at another practice. Once again, was doing really well besides just being out of practice. Then I dropped my sword because my hand wouldn’t hold it anymore. I sat down and stretched out my shoulder, I wasn’t too surprised as I realized I was pushing myself.

Once I caught my breath again I went; this time I lost control of a swing and couldn’t stop it when I missed my target. My arm just flopped. Well great… now I had everyone telling me to sit down and give it a rest.

When my Knight speaks, I listen.

When you’re heavy fighting you tend to go against your inner limits constantly. You’re wearing armor that tends to incite claustrophobia and is heavy and uncomfortable until you’re used to it. Then you’re pushing yourself into a fight that you know is going to take a lot out of you and most likely hurt at some point. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, even sometimes not at all but your brain is usually reminding you that this isn’t the BEST idea when resorting back to the basics of survival.

You get hit and push yourself through the pain. You get winded and push yourself to breath. You get disheartened and push yourself to the next level of motivation. You’re constantly pushing yourself mentally and physically when fighting. Injuries happen and so often does a fighter continue fighting through it or comes back too soon or too hard after time off.

I always said I wasn’t going to be that guy… but found myself being that guy this past week. And even though I had multiple people tell me to stop, I wanted to show I could be strong. As stupid as it now sounds and my rational brain realizes it, but in the heat of the fighting and you’re all armored up, what’s one more fight? Maybe I’m just babying my arm. Maybe everyone is just being overly cautious. They don’t know my limits or what I’m feeling; can I trust their judgement?

My second time sitting down had my knight coming over to ask me seriously how I was feeling. My brain felt fine but my shaking hand gave me away. Seems some scar tissue was pressing on some nerves and wasn’t happy with the amount of fighting I was doing.

With one look from him I knew I was done for the night. He didn’t even have to say anything and I respected his call. It gave my mind a sort of relief that if he says it’s okay, than it HAS to be okay to sit out. And I trust him because he’s usually the one motivating me to push harder in a good way. If he says sit, I sit.

Even though other people were telling me I should sit, even my own brain was starting to yell sit down but having someone who knows my limits and I respect telling me to sit finally made sense.

Standing at Guard during the Crown Tournament. Learned alot of what goes in behind the scenes at a tournament like this. Photo Credit: Lorraine Nilson Kanter

Event Experience

A Market Day at Birka is coming up in two weeks. I’m extremely excited as I’ll be fighting and I have a few goals set for myself. Granted up until a few weeks ago I had no idea what Birka was, and this is one of the events you don’t want to attend without knowing what is going on.

Not only are hotel rooms sold out from multiple hotels months in advance, but the overall feeling of the event is like none other. It’s earned the nickname BirkaCon because it’s much more like a convention than an event with hundreds of vendors and fighting in the ballrooms. The fighting is also something unlike anywhere else. Three hours of nonstop bear pit fighting. It’s long and tedious. One point if you lose the fight, two if you win. At the end they tally up the points and have a ranking system. It’s a great chance to fight people you wouldn’t normally get to fight, plenty of fighting to satisfy yourself after not fighting much all winter, and a chance to set goals for your fighting.

I knew NONE of this and probably still wouldn’t know much of what was going on without having my knight there for me to ask a million questions. He helped me find a room, explained how the event runs and what tips he can give me when fighting in the bear pits. He also helped me set reasonable goals when I would have otherwise had no idea where to start. It’s given me motivation to push extra hard this month in working out and getting in fighting shape. His confidence gives me confidence and I can focus on my training rather than worrying over details.

One of my favorite SCA trips. We traveled to Quebec City, Quebec for the Festival of Ice, something I would have never done on my own. Photo credit: Pierhugo Chiasson

Highs and Lows

I both love and hate when my Knight watches me fight. I get nervous but it usually fires me up to try harder and I tend to remember what he’s recently told me which is usually breathe or push through on a shot. When I make a stupid mistake or die repeatedly in front of him, of course I feel like I let him down in some way. Who wants a man at arms that sucks?! That’s a joke but I’m sure people have felt that way at one point or another.

The great thing though is when I have those bad fights he’s there to see what I’m doing wrong and it gives us a chance to work on it. Or he’ll show me a different shot that would have worked instead. Even though I’m feeling shy when I lose, it benefits me in the long run.

And when I win… oh man, when I win a fight or execute a well placed shot and my knight is watching? I literally want to jump up and cheer for joy! I want to run laps around the list and scream ‘did you see that?!’ I want to totally high five him but of course… gotta play it cool. Like oh! Hey Sir Brennan! Didn’t even see you there… did you see that fight? Went pretty well, huh? It was nothing.

Having your mentor there with you through the lows and highs seems to make everything more sharp and in focus in my mind. Because he’s paying attention, I need to pay attention. I want to show him that him putting time into my training is paying off. That I really am trying and listening to what he says.

These are just a few moments that stood out to me and had me thanking the stars that I followed through with my desire to have a mentor early on and go with one that wouldn’t make things easy.

I will be writing about more moments where having a mentor is beneficial to me but tell me about your moments! Can you relate or have you had your own stories with your Knight or Master that stood out to you and were happy they were there?


Featured Image Photo Credit: Cateline La Broderesse, Eye of the Beholder Studios

4 thoughts on “The Benefits of a Mentor when Fighting

  1. As all Society Knights are connected as Brothers and Sisters,
    so do I feel all Squires are likewise connected. So, Lord Ciarán, Squire to Duke Albert von Dreckenvelt, salutes you Sister.

    Keep up the good work and the service you perform to our Society!

  2. The knight I am working with has helped a lot this past first year of fighting and being in the sca ( there is possibly talk of me being squired to him) I’m from the kingdom of Ansteorra. Just this last weeks fighter practice that just happened, I was fighting my knight and he noticed that I wasn’t fighting him like i normally do. So he took me to the side and told me to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths slowly, and when I open my eyes when he said ready, that I would be fighting him like I was in a tourney. When I had open my eyes (on his mark of corse) and fought him, I had become more aggressive and fought better and landed some better shots. For me, sometimes my fighting is mental things and he has found a way to calm my mind by just talking to me on the field and bringing me to where I need to be. I’m glad I have found my knight. All of the Knights that I talk to regularly help a lot but this one, I understand the best. So I understand what you are saying. He has also said to me that he has never trained a female fighter so we are learning this teaching thing together. Which made me happy… Do you have some mental block issues or what are somethings you had/need to work better on? I always like to hear from other female fighters about what they had or going through to help them become a better fighter and how they overcame it.

  3. I have suffered all my life from a chronic lack of self-motivation. I have excelled, those few times I have, when in exactly the kind of personal relationship you describe. With a teacher, a friend, my lady. All I have ever done well, I did for someone else. So yeah…I get it :-)!

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