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.

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