Tournament Of Chivalry

9 Sep 2014 by gebhard, 1 Comment »

Image3I used to dread TOCs. Some years ago, I skipped a lot of them. Before I get into how I stopped being afraid and learned to love the TOC, I should cover a little history about them.

Before the Tournament Of Chivalry, Unbelts had to gain renown (word fame or name fame) throughout the fighting community if they wished to be considered for Knighthood. This was problematic in the early years of the Middle Kingdom when it could be several hour’s drive to the nearest knight.

The most significant thing an Unbelt could do to gain renown was to fight in Crown Tournament.  The King and Queen invited a list of worthy fighters, and that list was published for all to see in our newsletter, The Pale.

In yesterdays of the Kingdom, when tales of glory were handed down from bard to bard, (ya know – before the internet), people waited on letter carriers to arrive with mail, and in the mail would be our newsletter. Found inside would be more than a hundred names of those accepted to fight in crown. Your heart would swell with pride to see your name in all its printed glory. If people didn’t know your name, they would soon inquire about you. You stood out amongst the giants of the realm.

Over time, this led to some problems.  In the days long past, the Kingdom was very large. Crown could be an eighteen hour drive from your home. If you didn’t attend Crown, you might not be invited back for the next Crown, and your name might be forgotten.

This could put people in difficult positions both in the SCA and in modern life.

Since we all need to keep our day jobs, an idea sprang up to help Unbelts gain renown without needing to strain their mundane lives. Thus, the TOC was invented. The idea was that any unbelt fighter could test him or herself against the Chivalry and learn where they fit amongst our ranks, and prove themselves to knights of the kingdom directly.

What was it I didn’t care for about TOCs and what changed my mind? I’m glad you asked.

I have a internal thought process that says you should avoid games/fights/risks that you stand no chance of winning. I was aware that I wasn’t a very good fighter. I didn’t need to prove how not good I was.  I didn’t want to get knocked around for a day by people I stood no chance against. It seemed like maybe avoiding the whole thing was the best idea. Sometimes the only way to win is not to play.

Normally my friends would tell me I was being silly and drag me along anyway. However, that didn’t help the sick-to-my-stomach feeling as I moved up to the front of the line to play wheel-o-death with whichever Knight freed up next and would soon be smacking me upside the head.

If you have read my other posts about how bad I was when I started ( linkage ) you can imagine just how well any of these fights went for me. Needless to say, I got a lot of advice. So much I couldn’t remember any of it, and that was frustrating.

Staggering back to the end of line, trying to remember if it was step in sooner or later… or was it to the left? I would look up and see the 87 other unbelts in front of me, and hope I could get in another set of passes before a break was called. Eventually, just as I get to the front of the line, “Last Pass” would be shouted, and would return to my day camp to ponder what I had learned, and why did my leg, rump and shoulder hurt so much?

Once in a while, I would stand in line for the entire session never getting to the front before the break was called.

While sparing, if by some miracle of all that is good in this universe, or if the ground abnormally slippery, and got in a shot, was it because I did something right? Or was it because he/she was so tired that even Gebhard managed to get a shot in? Whatever Knight I had drawn had already fought 475,394,123 others before me that day.

I did get over all of these issues, and now TOCs are one of my favorite events. Much like all things, a positive change starts with a positive attitude, and I made a change in my expectations and my goals.

When I was new, I thought fights had a winner and a loser. No one wants to be a loser, so the fights needed to be won. That attitude was what was leading to a frustrating day at a TOC.  More than that, it can be a roadblock to self improvement.

Much like in every other area of life, the only person I’m competing with is myself. When I fight an opponent, he or she is showing me, without saying a word, where I need to put my efforts in order to improve. At the same time, I get to see a good fighter fight. Up close. I might even see them do something extraordinary. Extraordinary deserves celebration even if it’s on the side of my head.  At a TOC, I get to see a lot of Extraordinary…. and that is exciting.

By fighting so many talented fighters, I get a glimpse at the next set of skills I need to be working on. Then at the next TOC, I can fight them again and see if my new theory and skills are working. Then I can make more adjustments and try again.

However, I don’t believe a TOC is the place to prove my worth as a fighter, as it was in days of yore.  Instead, I show my worth every time I put on armor, with every person I train, and how I treat every opponent.

The Tournament of Chivalry is a place of refinement. Skills are built by fighting as many different people as you can, and as many really good fighters as you can and TOC is an opportunity to fight a large number of highly skilled fighters which will show you the way to stepping up to next level of your game.

Picture was taken by: Wendy Peacock of Duke Dag fighting Chris McDonough.

Kingdom news letters can be found at:

Please also take a look at: where I explain how much natural ability I lacked when I joined the SCA.
and also, Sir Alric theory of what to do when you are stuck by a worthy blow.

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One Comment

  1. […] upon a time, our kingdom also had 100 person lists.  Then, as covered in this article, the Tournament of Chivalry (TOC) was born. The TOC is a way for unbelts to be “seen” […]

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