Monday, March 30, 2009

ROM Pas d'armes

Presentation of the appellants to the Patron of the tournament
Photo credit: Ray Barlow

The day began as any other day at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), except that there was something different in the air that spring day on March 21, 2009, which had little to do with the moderate weather the city was experiencing, nor the exhibits in the museum. There was a sense of excitement as the growing numbers of spectators began to accumulate, jocking for the best seats around the fighting lists, feeding the air with expectation awaiting the commencement of the second annual medieval pas d'armes (tournament). Tiny subtle battles between spectators vying to protect their "investment" as more people began filing in to possess available seats offering the best vantage to spectate the armoured combats soon to be unleashed on the floor of the Currelly Gallery later that day.
Combatant defendant Aldo Valente with combatant appellant John Woods from OMSG
Photo credit: Ray Barlow

Combatant defendant David M. Cvet with combatant appellant Dale Gienow from Muskoka
Photo credit: Ray Barlow

Towards the end of the morning approaching high noon, the Gallery was filled with children of all ages, parents, friends, wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, all awaiting the fanfare which denotes the opening of the grand tournament. Number of spectators having achieved as high as 1,400 spectators during the day. The spectators were treated with a presentation of "How a man shall be armed in the 14th century" by David M. Cvet, with the assistance of his squire Larry Brydon.
Defendants' herald, Dr. Robert Mason (ROM)
Photo credit: Ray Barlow
While this presentation was being made, all of the other combatants defendants and appellants were arming themselves in preparation for the ensuing armoured combat bouts. Immediately following the presentation, the anxious spectators were not disappointed with a lavish opening procession lead by a medieval musical ensemble, followed by heralds and pursuivants bearing their beautifully decorated tabards depicting the arms of the combatants defendants and appellants. These were followed by the marshals, responsible for the monitoring and tallying of strikes in the bouts, who were then followed by the combatants defendants and combatants in full armour wearing jupons depicting their coats of arms, preceded by their squires and banner bearers. Lastly, the combatants were followed by the Patron of the tournament, Robbie Sprules, Lord of Wrentnall and his wife, Lady Lucinda. The final grouping were the lovely ladies of the tournament who had undoubtedly inspired the combatants in each and every bout.
Combatant appellant Mat Ravignat from OMSG with combatant defendant Aldo Valente
Photo credit: Ray Barlow
Combatant defendant David M. Cvet with combatant appellant Jeremy Oneail from Boston
Photo credit: Ray Barlow

Once the tournament was officially opened by the Lord of Wrentnall, the bouts began in earnest. The fighting was intense, the spectators intimidated with the realism of the combats, perhaps not entirely understanding that the combats were unscripted tests of prowess, in which each is attempting to best the other.
Appellants' herald, David Birtwistle (RHSC)
Photo credit: Ray Barlow
Weapons chosen by the combatant appellants were one or more of sword, dagger, spear or poleaxe. This year's tournament featured the first female armoured combatant, Nikki Fourtzialas-Oneail who was accompanied by her husband and armoured combatant, Jeremy Oneail both from Mass., USA.

The first bout matched Matt McKee from the Ottawa Medieval Sword Guild (OMSG) who challenged Matt Brundle (AEMMA) with sword. The bout began without incident, however, in one of the early
Procession herald, Geoff DeMille
Photo credit: Liz Woods
exchanges, Matt Brundle delivered a thrust to the armpit while gripping his sword in the manner known as "1/2-sword". Unfortunately, the odds of incurring serious injury, although low, reared its ugly head, combined with looseness of the mail over the upper arm allowed the sword to penetrate between the mail and gambeson sleeve and struck Matt McKee squarely in the armpit. This injury drew blood to the surprise of Brundle, and McKee was removed from the lists, and had his injury treated at St. Mike's hospital, no stitches required. McKee was able to make it to the post tournament dinner party at the salle, and assured everyone there that he was fine and was on the road to recovery.
Combatant appellant Nikki Fourtziales-Oneail from Boston with combatant defendant Kel Rekuta
Photo credit: Ray Barlow

Without too long of a pause, the tournament continued forward with the next series of bouts in the first round. David, who involved with two battles, the battle against a flu bug, engaged in yet another battle with Jeremy Oneail fighting with spears, who promptly struck David on the inner elbow with the spear. The trauma to the elbow did not manifest itself till later at the post tournamenmt dinner party at the salle where his left arm began to swell and cause pain, which was duly handled with dark rum, purely for medicinal purposes.

Combatant appellant Nikki Fourtziales-Oneail from Boston
Photo credit: Leslie Lemar
The level of prowess was superior to last year's tournment, an obvious testament to improved, dedicated and enhanced training on both sides of the lists. The second round was a bit shorter than the first, due to fighters having become absent, McKee, Brundle (emergency at home), David out due to fever and congestion, and Larry Brydon (who replaced Brian McIlmoyle who was involved with his own family crisis) incurred an injury to his hand. However, the appellants John Woods, Mat Ravignat, Dale Gienow, Jeremy Oneail and Nikki Fourtziales-Oneail demonstrated their prowess to the delight of the spectators, the rest of the defendants including Kel Rekuta and Aldo Valente satisfied the appellants. All fighters had fought with gallantry and good sportsmanship. The combatants defendants identified Nikki Fourtzialas-Oneail as the "first amongst equals" and most deservedly so.

Lady Lucinda and Robbie Sprules, Lord of Wrentnall posing with the OMSG clan
Photo credit: Liz Woods
The conclusion of the tournament included a procession of armoured combatants and their banner bearers, to receive the traditional tournament medalion placed around the neck of each combatant by Lady Lucinda. This year, the medalion's silk cord tincture was "Or" or gold, representing yet another tincture found in AEMMA's coat of arms. The prize of a beautiful poignard dagger for the combatant selected as "first amongst equals" was given to Nikki by Robbie Sprules, Lord of Wrentnall. This was followed by a closing ceremony, equal to the pomp and circumstance of the opening to the delight of the spectators.

AEMMA wishes to thank the Royal Ontario Museum for allowing us to hold the tournaments in the Currelly Gallery, a fine venue and most appropriate for such an event, given the medieval murals painted on the walls. AEMMA also wishes to thank the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada for their support and volunteers, in particular to Society's members, Robbie Sprules and David Birtwistle, the combatants appellants herald.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"The Aldo's" Free Scholar Challenge

Aldo Valente, a dedicated and committed student of "l`arte dell`armizare", joined AEMMA March 29, 2004. It was evident at that time that he had already possessed good martial experience developed from his boxing training. He demonstrated excellent footwork, and continues to display this today. His recruit training led him to challenge for the rank of scholar the following
A sterling silver Free Scholar lapel pin awarded to those who successfully challenged for the rank of Free Scholar. Pin was created by Nicolas Facundo Rico
year, and successfully achieved it on May 29, 2005. From there, he was faced with a significant challenge of the next rank, Free Scholar, and realized the amount of work in endlessly studying the treatises by Fiore dei Liberi, and developing his skill in each and every play and technique described by the historical figure. During the period of his rank as Scholar, Aldo developed his abilities to the point of leading training classes. He also took the Getty, Morgan and Pisani-Dossi versions of Fiore's treatises and translating these into English, thus contributing to AEMMA's own improved understanding of these treatises.

On the Sunday, March 1, 2009, the Free Scholar test was scheduled at 11:30am. Provosts David M. Cvet and Brian A. McIlmoyle presiding over the test, along with Free Scholars Anton J. Cvet (OMSG), David B. Murphy (Guelph Chapter), Frank Williams and Kelly Rekuta were present and engaged in the test. All of the recruits and scholars in attendance at the earlier training remained to observe this most comprehensive and intimidating test. Other visitors included John Woods, Nick Conway, Chris Penney and Leanna Falkenhagen all from OMSG, Bill Brickman and Martin Taves from AEMMA Guelph. The Free Scholar test was 4 hours long, and gruelling to say the least. Aldo had spent many hours and days prior to the test tuning his knowledge and intimacy of Fiore's works with the help of his "zugadore", Beau Brock. It became a regular event for the pair of these students to be at the salle prior to regular training, working through the plays in every minute detail. From Beau's perspective, he learned an incredible amount on Fiore and therefore, found the training with Aldo to be quite beneficial for himself as well.
Aldo demonstrating abrazare techniques with his zugadore Beau Brock.
Aldo demonstrating spada in daga techniques with his zugadore Beau Brock.

The test began with almost two hours on the concepts, principles and structure of Fiore's works, combative principles, drills, and the application of the concepts to physical realities. The first portion was the segment on "abrazare". Aldo's "zugadore" Beau, was bent, twisted, turned, thrown in every which way, and in ways he didn't even know was possible. This portion of the test continued to the section on "daga" followed by "spada" and "spada longa", "lanca" (spear) and "aza" (poleaxe). Questions posed by the Free Scholars and Provosts were designed to keep challenging Aldo's knowledge and intimacy of the material, and his "repostes" adequately demonstrated his thorough understanding through his excellent presentation of technique and their application to the physical, using Beau as his "zugadore" to help convey the concepts to those present. This portion of the test was both intellectually and physically challenging for Aldo and of course, for Beau as well.

Kel Rekuta attaching the Free Scholar gold garter below Aldo's right knee, the symbol of the rank of Free Scholar
After a short rest, Aldo and the Provosts and Free Scholars dressed to engage in the second portion of the test comprised of physical bouts. The Provosts and Free Scholars selected the weapon of choice to combat Aldo, and Aldo was to simply "comply". The bouts would last to the satisfaction of each of the combatants challenging Aldo. Most bouts were long and fatiquing, but Aldo resisted his desire to rest and reaffirmed his commitment by continuing his acceptance of the next bout and the next, always knowing that the choice of weapon is the challenger's choice, not Aldo's. This portion of the test along with rest stops took about an hour. These bouts were physically demanding and at the end of each of the bouts, the challenger indicated that he was satisfied with the performance of Aldo.

After another short rest, Provost Brian McIlmoyle and Free Scholar Kel Rekuta decided to test Aldo in harness, to which Aldo was both prepared and accepted. By this time, Aldo was nearing fatique, but he remained strong and confident, and donned his harness as did his two challengers. The first to challenge Aldo was Brian who challenged with longsword. The bout was intense, ending up with a take down to the floor, however, both ended on the floor, and Brian attempting to retrieve his dagger for the finishing left his hand and skittered across the floor out of reach. It was at that point, the bout was concluded. Brian was satisfied with Aldo's performance.

Kel challenged Aldo to poleaxe and dagger. By virtue of a disarm of Aldo's poleaxe followed by the dagger, it was clear that Aldo's skill and capabilities matched those of Kel and at the end of yet another, physically demanding bout, Kel was satisfied with Aldo's performance.

Aldo and Brian enjoying Montechristo "a" cigars in the office after the Free Scholar test
The Provosts and Free Scholars retired to the Armory to discuss Aldo's performance and it was agreed by all that Aldo was a worthy Free Scholar. Aldo was presented with the AEMMA's traditional symbol of Free Scholar that being a gold garter worn below the right knee, and was also presented with a sterling silver lapel pin representing the official coat of arms of AEMMA. Most everyone remained after the test for libations to celebrate Aldo's success at achieving the rank of Free Scholar. Aldo and Brian each enjoyed a Montechristo "a" Cuban cigar, which by coincidence were brought back by Brian's wife, Betty from a recent vacation trip to Cuba.