Kult of Athena


Friday, May 13, 2011

Western Martial Arts Sparring Gear

My last post was in February. Most bloggers keep at it day in and day out, but with the sword industry being such a niche (to say the least) hobby/lifestyle/obsessive passion, keeping up daily becomes a bit of chore. Plus, there were some smaller things keeping my attention, I started selling things on EBay, put in a new lawn at my old house, oh, and my engagement to my beautiful girlfriend of 5 years, you know, no big deal.


But amidst all this crazy work and changes there have been some very interesting developments in the my little microcosm of steel: the graduation of from Zugadore to Compagno in the Schola St. George, and the purchase of all my vital training equipment.

While a Zugadore, these are the people who come for a few lessons, "players" really, and then decide learning the medieval forms from Fiore are not for them, can borrow equipment, it is a requirement for a Compagno, literally someone you "break bread with," a brother, to have his own swords (plural) and protective equipment.  I have seen men and women come and go from this class, and shrink from this challenge, frequently, for what would seem valid reasons. If you aren't 1) serious about learning a complicated martial art, 2) don't have the extra cash to spend on lessons and equipment, then consider yourself weeded out my wayward warrior. 

This class, as I am only now REALLY learning, is no joke.

My self serving sojourn (with saving for an engagement ring, I have had very few spending sprees) began back in my beginning, say January 2011, when I was told I needed to buy a wooden practice sword. I had seen them advertised on KOA and other places, but I decided to go the EBay route. 

Big mistake. I thought I was getting a great deal. But, as the axiom goes, and it rings so true, "you get what you pay for." Take a look at what they sent me for the "two-for-ten" sale:

 I know. Just awful. The sword is bent. It curves to the left. It's held together with tiny nails and glue, and, if the first photo is any indication, someone might have used it as a bong at one point. Totally Frankenstein's dick. I was devastated. But, in truth, I kind of deserved it.

Rather than suffer the embarrassment, I borrowed my teacher's sword again, but this time ASKED where I could go to get the good stuff. Answers all lead me here:

$95 (yes, for a wooden sword guilty) later, I had the real deal. I had the only practice sword I would ever need. I was thrilled. See what I mean:

Sleek. Stylish. STRAIGHT AS AN ARROW. This thing was something a man could be proud to bring to battle (mock). So, as I practiced, learned Elephant Plays, Poste, and the medieval forms and counters of Fiore, I began to plan out the rest of my gear and how I would set aside the cash. 

You cannot, as stipulated in the by-laws of the Schola, practice with just a wooden sword and a smile. You need the following at least to begin to spar:
  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Gambeson (think big padded sword sweater to protect your vitals)
  • Gorget (what is a "Gorget"??)
  • Nice pair of medieval Nikes (optional but optimal)
  • Synthetic Sparring Sword (to prevent serious injury. The kiss of a cherry wood sword to the head sucks!)
Now, for someone who holds down a decent job (and pays decent bills) these items wouldn't seem to be too much of strain on the wallet right? Well, as honed as my bargain hunting skills are (thanks mom), there comes a point where a man says "Leave the shopping to the mad women at Marshalls, lets just get this done."

You're the boss: 




Oh, and to tie it all together, it is best to buy a sword bag too to carry your weapons:


And that's it for the Sparring Set...$700 later. I think I will be OK as soon as the debit card and my PayPal account stop smoking. Then comes the Steel Set...I cant even imagine...

But, this is nothing new to the world of Western Martial Arts. In the Middle Ages, only the wealthiest nobles could become knights. It wasn't because their incredible bravery and man-prowess was greater than the common mud man, working to support his lack of contraception, no, it was because he could afford it. The medieval knight had to pay for horse, armor, sword, squire, lance, secondary weapons (axe, mace, etc), food, lodgings, gifts, tournament entries, weapons master's training, jousting trainers, horse trainers, and a host of other things that made him the PGA all star of 15th Century Europe. If he did well, he might win a purse, but nothing close to paying all of his expenses. That came from daddy, and then, eventually, when daddy died, he held the purse strings.  

Course, they did get all the medieval trim for all their spending. My  fiance doesn't bother to let  people know I am "warrior."

For all my nickel and diming in this post, I love it. Money is nothing but numbers on a page. It can be taken away so easily and there is always a way to make more. 

But, what you earn, yourself, through sacrifice, effort, and devotion, cant be weighed. It can't be bought. Most importantly, it can NEVER be taken away.