This past weekend saw the gathering of over 90 Armored Combat fighters, 5 international teams, and 13 female fighters come together in Springfield, IL for the second International Tournament of Chivalry.
For the last six months I had been on the fence whether I would continue to fight in this sport, or if I should pursue another avenue of fitness. I realized that most of my feelings were caused by my own doubts, but knowing something doesn’t help when you’re slowly wearing down through training and have lost sight of the bigger picture.
I bought my ticket and spent the next few weeks trying to get my mind in a better place. I knew I would have fun once I was there, but I didn’t want to battle my own damn self the entire time. I didn’t want to be known simply as “Amy’s friend.” This was my chance to step onto the field of my own volition and give 100% – to see if I had what it takes to be a warrior in my own right.
Amy and I arrived in Springfield Thursday evening, and we were immediately greeted by most of Ursus ( who I consider to be my fighting family), and one of my best friends from grad school. I hadn’t seen Ursus in a year, and I hadn’t seen Brigette in almost three years. Engulfed in hugs, I knew I had made the right choice.
The next morning we grabbed some breakfast before heading to the Prairie Capital Convention Center for a full day of singles and training. This event was a meeting of minds and talents. I learned more in one day than I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been involved in this sport.
I started the day with Jeff Galli’s polearm class, and he and Lorenzo patiently worked with me until I was on a better path to understanding. I’ve never touched a polearm before, and my hips and awkwardness with the weapon gave that away, but I am determined to get my hips to work with me rather than against me! #SoSayWeAll
After introducing myself to Craig Ivey, he was kind enough to let me pick his brain on how he conditions and trains his team. It’s no surprise that I love coaching and programming, so this conversation was one of the highlights of my trip; learning from those who know more than me.
There was a great Q&A with two of the Russian team members who shared their insight. One of the takeaways for me was when asked how they train, they replied with “We train our minds first.” Anyone who’s talked with me the last few months knows that I’ve been working on meditation and visualization techniques to improve my mental clarity and it was encouraging to hear that some of the best fighters in the world have practiced this for years.
That Friday night, we all crowded into the hallway of the Route 66 motel and spent time catching up with everyone. Brigette was enlisted to help Ursus sew their final tabard and in true Ursus fashion, Steve and Mark stayed up late, keeping us company.
Saturday morning was drizzly as we made our way to the convention center. I felt an immense sense of calm as I armored up for women’s melee practice. I have been putting in hours of training, both physically and mentally, and I was ready for whatever came. There were four teams of women for the 3v3’s, and none of us had worked melees together.
The minute our first fight was over, you could see the lightbulbs going off. One of downsides to only fighting with men is that I don’t get to process the fight before I’m taken down. Here though, I was able to fight women my size and begin to work through what was going on. One of my biggest learning moments was when I hesitated going for Sandra and yelled to myself, “Make up your damn mind, Hannah!” I finally understood what everyone meant when they told me to commit to a route and just go for it.
Our fights were quick, but we learned from each one. IToC was a HUGE step for the women in Armored Combat, and I’m forever thankful to the men who support us and give us every opportunity to grow.
The men fought with everything they had, (as always), and it was an inspiration to see them in such an amazing setting. The final rounds between Iron Phoenix and Russia were utterly amazing. Russia took home a well deserved victory, and all the other teams fought with honor.
This trip was huge for me in so many ways. I was able to trust myself and my training, trust my leaders, and move past any previous mental blocks. The prior months have been some of the most difficult I’ve ever been through – feeling incredibly alone and stuck, on top of not seeing the results I wanted in my training, but I felt deep down in my gut that if I could get myself on that damn plane, I would have a revelation.
And I did.
That’s the thing about training, results don’t happen in the way you expect. Sometimes growth is slow and the valley long, but often times the breakthrough comes the moment after all hope is lost and you’re ready to give up. I will admit that I was ready to give up, but that’s the thing about fighters, you can break them, but they will rise from the ashes swinging.
The friendships that were forged on this trip gave me new life and there aren’t enough words to thank the people who helped me get to this place.
Here’s to the fires that forge us and the warriors that walk beside us.
“From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows will spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings