"I have come so stinking close, I can taste it," Lord Takamatsu Sadamitsu no kami Tada­yoshi says as he prepares for battle. In the past four Crown Lysts, he's finished in third place, second, third, and second, respectively — but he's never had the big chair for himself.

"Maybe this time, if I keep my feces coagulated into a single locale, I should be able to pull it off."

Lord Taka is one of 14 fighters filling up the tournament bracket. Short, stocky, and definitely not Japanese, he's stuffed into a beautifully intricate kit of blue metal pieces arranged like fish scales and cinched around the middle with a white belt — the sign of a knight. Younger warriors spin around him like a pit crew working on a racer.

The author: Medieval badass extraordinaire.
Kyle Swenson
The author: Medieval badass extraordinaire.
Kurn and Eridani, the king and queen of Trimaris.
Kyle Swenson
Kurn and Eridani, the king and queen of Trimaris.

Despite the Japanese name, Taka is actually a 53-year-old lab technician from Lakeland with the redneck-hellraiser vibe of a lovable but loose-cannon uncle.

"I know, I sound so Japanese," he drawls. "The running joke is that I'm from Kyushu, the southernmost island in Japan. The battle cry is 'Bonzai, y'all!' "

A lifelong adrenaline jones brought Lord Taka to the SCA more than 30 years ago, when he was a college student. Back then, his "armor" consisted of old pieces of shag carpet sandwiched between canvas. His interests have always strayed east — at one point, he spoke fluent Japanese and had a purple belt in karate — so he took on a Japanese persona.

Now, instead of the standard sword and shield, he battles with a long stick known as a naganata. At only about five-foot-seven, he's light on his feet in combat, usually racing around the ring until his opponent's energy taps out, opening up the possibility for mistakes.

Lord Gavin de Chateau Gaillard is on the other end of the spectrum, an untested no-name looking to piece together a reputation. (In the Mundane World, he's a pool cleaner and engineering student from Cocoa Beach.) The 30-year-old squire is the youngest competitor going for the crown. Despite a bed head of curly hair and a goofy smile that seems permanently stamped onto his face, Gavin wins praise from older fighters for his game as if they're scouts marveling at a pitching prospect's fastball. He's doing something rare — fighting for the crown even though he isn't even a knight yet.

"One of the things my mentor told me early on is you can't buy into your own hype," he warns.

Lord Gavin readies for combat, his armor under a dark-green tunic emblazoned with a wolf, his entourage consisting of some friends and his wife, Lady Miranda. Gavin found the SCA around 2007, and it drew him away from kenpo karate, the American strip-mall version of the Japanese staple. "You do your time, you fill out your card, you take the test, you get your belt," he says of that martial art. "It was lacking of a whole culture."

The first time he strapped in, he felt the difference between karate and the SCA: In martial arts, you never really get to bust up an opponent's face.

By Saturday noon, the sun's a bare hot bulb, and the heat feels like a fat kid squatting on my back. The first blows of the Crown Lyst start flying. The applause coming off the crowd sounds like the same excited but polite pitter-patter you hear when a PGA stud parks a fairway bomb near the pin.

But suddenly, not long into the action, King Kurn stops the fight. From a corner of the crowd, three hooded figures walk to the royal tent. Triskele Team Six had completed its mission. The queen, a short woman with dark curly hair trailing down from a silver crown, had returned!

"It is time for us to celebrate!" Kurn announces to the crowd. "And drink beer!"


The squire, a huge he-man with stringy blond hair, stiff-legs it over to the tent. His wide face is the clammy color of baloney. He stands rock still with his eyes shuttered for a moment.

"Are you OK?"a knight asks.

"Cup shot," he manages to eke out. "And I think it broke the cup."

The pain seems to spook the strength from his body all at once. He drops. Friends quickly close in to catch him. All men present die a little inside.

I realize I forgot to bring a cup.

But I could not let this slow my own hot pursuit of warriorhood. By now, I am amped up, eight-balling off all that secondhand adrenaline like a kid 30 ounces into a Big Gulp. As fight after fight had unfolded, the field slimmed. I should probably have taken it as a sign that guys were getting unceremoniously steamrolled.

Gavin leaves body parts all across the field. In his first fight, a faceoff with a left-handed lord, the young fighter gets off a few slaps before his opponent nails him on his sword hand. After ditching his shield, Gavin switches his weapon to his weak side. The opponent cuts him down on the next exchange.

The bracket then shuffles Gavin out into a matchup with another knight. After the pair trade some hits, Gavin takes a blow that will cost him the use of his legs. From his knees, he fends off the next barrage, but the match ends with a body blow to his back.

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4 comments
anon
anon

If you think it's impressive in Trimaris, you should see the UK branches. We all use 4-H grounds and sometimes freed-up pastures. They get to rent castle grounds...

brinvinn
brinvinn

Sounds ike some crazy smack to me dude. Wow.


www.Privacy-Planet.com

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

I had no clue that the SCA was here in Florida.  Used to hang out with a group in St Louis and ended up learning how to make chain mail.

 
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