By Lilli Haicken, TEAM USA PR, Support Staff Member
Swordfighting. Armored Combat. For many out there this is the grail of extreme sport. Being able to get into armor and fight with swords, maces, axes and shields is a truly amazing experience. Team USA, under the Armored Combat League (ACL) and the Historic Medieval Battles International Association (HMBIA) is this week participating in the biggest international armored combat event of the year – Battle of the Nations.
A little more than 3 years ago some You Tube videos began to make the rounds on an online forum for armored combatants, the Armour Archive. These were videos taken at the Battle of the Nations in 2009, when just 4 or 5 teams were participating. These videos made the rounds within a group of dedicated swordfighters in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) community, and talk began to spread – the USA needs a team.
James Etherton was the team’s first captain, with Andre Sinou, a US Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer and SCA participant, its field commander. Jaye Brooks Sr., also an SCA fighter, provided a training area he called the Knights Hall in New Hampshire. Others came onboard very quickly too. Scott Frappier, Anthony Lynch, Ryan Weaver, Robert Dionisio. These men helped form the divisions of the team, and helped create the first Team USA that went to Battle of the Nations in 2012. Held in Poland, with 11 teams participating, the USA won both accolades as Best Debut Team and single-best armor for Edward Lindey, and also praise for their determination on the fields.
This year, Team USA is joined by 21 other teams from all over the world – New Zealand, Denmark, Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine – and many others. In Aigues-Mortes in the south of France these teams are even now competing for the right to be called Best among those who fight in HMBIA armored combat. Andre Sinou is now Team USA’s Captain, with Jaye Brooks Sr. as the Team Executive Officer. Susan Frappier, wife to Scott Frappier, Team USA Central Division Commander, became the Support Team Chief, helping put together those who would help craft the surcoats, banners and other accoutrements that team members would need. She also helped wrangle other wives, SO’s and friends to come with the team. Brian Fields came aboard to work on the team website and help create an online presence. His work – www.usaknights.org – is where one goes to get updates on all things Team USA. He also helped create the Facebook page , the Google Plus page, and the Twitter feed – @USA_BOTN.
What does one need to compete in this sport? A good armor kit, based in history between the 12th and 15th centuries, and well-constructed of good steel. Team USA is using mostly spring-steel construction, which is not strictly historical, but saves people from getting cuts and slashes. Good under-pinnings as well – padded gambsons, padded coifs. Many of the armor items were provided through Andre Sinou’s own IceFalcon Armory, and also the approved weapons. A list of approved armor and weapons can be found here – along with rules for the combat.
Since the 2012 Battle of the Nations, Team USA and its regional groups – Eastern, Western, Central, North-Central, North-Western, Southwestern, Atlantic, Southeastern – have been busy. New team members have been training, and new ventures are being tried. Events were held to help determine who would be part of Team USA this year, and public demonstrations were set up to promote the sport. The New York Times just recently did a story on Team USA, and last year Congressman Elliot Engel (D-Bronx/Westchester) read the team’s names into the Congressional Record, giving Team USA a Congressional Recognition for having fought in Battle of the Nations. Discovery Channel is also interested in Team USA, and is in talks to perhaps produce a documentary on their historic re-creations.
The first 2 days of Battle of the Nations 2013 have been fun to watch. Via You Tube feeds on either the Team USA site, the Battle of the Nations site or via the Team USA You Tube feed, you can watch the combats and cheer the team on. So far, Team USA’s 21 man group is 4th of 7 in that category, and has 3 men in the top spot in the singles duels – Jaye Brooks, Reed Harrig and Harvey Palmer are all advancing to the finals in singles. The 5×5 category is the most brutal, and invites the best comments:
Glaukos TheAthenian: Baltics and Israel up
Lilli Haicken That looked like an Israel win. 3:0
Lilli Haicken Germany Ukraine coming up.
Glaukos TheAthenian There was an unfortunate confusion where two guys hugged when the rest started fighting
Franco D’orsi lol…Superman punch!!!! FAIL!!!!
Glaukos TheAthenian WOW self kill!
Glaukos TheAthenian Israel got it
Glaukos TheAthenian That fail was one of the funniest I have seen in this thing…
Franco D’orsi head butt head butt….freakin awesome!!!! love it
The 5×5’s are the largest of the categories, and are where the best teams shine. Russia has 3 VERY GOOD teams, as does Ukraine and Belarus. These teams are some of the oldest in the sport, and as such, have lots of practice together. They are tight, hard hitting, fast and furious. Team USA lost to both Russia and Belarus, but actually won a bout against Ukraine this year.
There are 2 more days of Battle of the Nations this year. I know where I will be tomorrow. In front of my laptop, cheering on Team USA!