“We just want to see how you react to being hit.” Amy was coaching me through my first time in armor. “It’s going to be loud. Much louder than you’d expect.”
The Ren. Festival at Thanksgiving Point found a group of us shivering in the rain as I waited to try this sport called Armored Combat. Four months since I had first met a group of ACL knights at the CrossFit Games, I had finally contacted Amy and asked if I could come join the team.
“You might be able to go against Ryan.”
“Oh, okay.” My heart felt as if it would explode. I wasn’t sure I wanted fight anyone. Four months and I could already feel my brain talking myself out of this sport.
Amy led me to the field towards the other fighters. I was shivering uncontrollably and it wasn’t from the rain. She picked up a sword and hit me in the head. The metal clanged loudly as I took a step backward.
“What do you think?” She asked.
“I think it’s louder than I expected.”
She laughed and beckoned to a fighter just finishing a round. They exchanged a few words and the next thing I knew, I was being ushered towards the ring.
“Okay, Ryan is great with beginners, he’s going to go easy on you. Just hit him as hard as you can and keep your shield up.”
“Okay.” These people were crazy.
I approached the knight. I couldn’t see his face, but I couldn’t see much in my borrowed helmet. He came close, weapons down.
“I’m not going to hurt you. We just want to see how you do.”
“Okay.” I felt hot tears gathering. No, don’t cry. Visibility was limited, I didn’t need tears making it worse.
The round started and Ryan came towards me. I swung the short mace at him, hitting his shield with a dull thud.
His short sword clanged somewhere against my ear – the ringing echoed as he hit my head again.
“Lift your shield,” Ryan yelled through his helmet.
I obeyed, lifting my shield as he swung again, this time at my side.
We were closer now and I tried to hit him. I connected with something, but I couldn’t see what.
“Good, hit harder.” Ryan began to coach me through the steps until the round was called. We backed up and he pulled his visor up to help his air flow. “Next round, try to hit harder and punch with your shield. That’s a weapon too.”
I nodded, too winded to reply. The ref came towards us again and we reset our position. This time I struck harder, but Ryan was faster and blocked.
“You’re fighting yourself. Relax.”
Relax? I thought. How could I relax with his sword hitting me every second? Backing up, I took a few deep breaths. The hits weren’t hurting me, it was just shocking. They were muted taps, nothing more. We advanced towards each other again, this time I tried to swing behind Ryan. I felt my mace connect on his back. I relaxed a bit more.
On the third round, all I remember was Ryan shouting, “Keep going. You have a bit more in your tank.”
It was in that moment that I knew I liked this sport. I liked these people. They saw something in me that I’d been dying for someone to notice: I have more to give. I can keep pushing.
I hope that we can all find that thing that makes us want to give more, and the people who know when to ask it of us.