Posted by: wrmcnutt | April 28, 2009

Fighting in the Streets – or What I Did This Weekend

Me - showing my magnificent skill . . .?This weekend was Knoxville Tennessee’s annual Rossini Festival. Rossini  is an annual street faire sponsored by the Knoxville Opera company on Gay Street, the former commecial center of Knoxvlle.  All things Italian are welcome, so my local medieval re-enactment group puts on our Italian Renaissance clothing and does demonstrations of swordfighting in the streets.  In the action shot on the left, I’m the brilliantly talented swordsman on the right, deftly evading a thrust by the wicked Lord Jack (left). 

(Before you ask, yes – every time I lift a blade, I have to actively resist saying, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You keeled my father.  Prepare to die.”  On the other hand, I’m not above beginning a fight with, “My name is Master William.  You stepped on my punch line.  Prepare to be  singularly inconvenienced.)

And don’t let the “brilliantly talented” witticism throw you.  On our next pass, Jack put me down quite handily.  I was just luckly with the photographer’s timing.  (All photography by Lady Rayne.  All rights reserved.) 

Combat at Rossini is almost unique in my experience, because it’s on a city street in late spring/early summer in the South.  I’m not used to fighting on bricks.  Dirt and grass are the normal footing for this sort of thing.  And while fighting while the sun beats down is not a new experience, having it focused between two skyscrapers that conspire to block out the breeze adds a certain zest to the day.

Added to the general entertainment of Renaissance-style fencing was the fine art of Heavy Combat. For those not in the know, while Rapier requiries heavy cloth that covers every incho of your body to protect you from anything resembling a cooling breeze, Heavy Combat is an art that calls for a full-blown suit of armor.  And I decided that I wanted to fight in both styles.  For the first couple of rounds of combat, I changed back and forth, from my hard-shell armor to my armored doublet.  But that took to much time.  So I got the bright idea to just throw my doublet on over my heavy armor for rapier segments, and remove it for heavy combat segments. 

I don’t wear my doublet when fighting heavy anymore.  Last year while fighting heavy in my fencing doublet, one of my worthy opponents cut at my chest with a sword and caught the doublet.  Fifteen very small buttons burst from my chest and scattered all over Gay Street.  Sudden onset of partial nudity does not make for good public relathions.  I exaggerate.  But it was not my most dignified or shining moment.  So we don’t do that anymore at my house.  Anyway, fencing in a suit of armor brings up certain new challenges and insights.  For example, I was as slow as I expected.  At least initially.  The full armor on my arms and legs didnt’ seem to make a great deal of difference in my reaction time.  In the first bout.  After my second bout of fencing, gravity really began to set in. rossini21  And – in the spirit of full discloure, the picture on the right illustrates Lord Tristram teaching me humility via the rapier he’s just stuck through my breadbasket.

Rossini offers many of the classic amenities of a street faire.  I saw people with painted faces.  There were all manner of artisans, from wire sculptors to knife makers.  And plenty of good streetvendor food.  I’m going to have to try to re-create the “italian hamburger” I got.  I know it had oregano and a bunch of garlic . . .  I heard at least one marching band, so I suspect that Rossini offers more entertainment that just us, but sadly, I never got far enough away from our booth to sample anything but the food.

This year it wasn’t my doublet.  It was my cell phone.  I’ve carried my cell phone in my pouch for years without damage, but this Saturday, one of my worthy opponents managed a cut to my hip that completely crushed my smartphone.  Fortunately, my wife just replaced her phone, so her old one was available for an activation fee. No new phone required. Plus, the old phone was insured.  Never the less, important note:  cell phones make poor armor.

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  1. […] balisong), sliding and sometimes common knife folding knives (see penny knife). Usefull Posts Fighting in the Streets – or What I Did This Weekend « Will’s Miscellanous Musings…Last Post from Buenos Aires, Argentina « JONONLINE – chroniques géographiques……Top 3 […]

  2. Tormod has discovered all kinds of things lurking in his belt pouch after a day of fighting. sometimes they are even intact…….

  3. A good friend of mine discovered the same thing when he gave armored combat a try weekend before last. He had his blackberry in his pocket and one good wrap from Fenwick took it out. =P


  4. I miss doing the Rossini Festival. Next year send us a reminder when you guys are in the planning stages okay? If we know far enough in advance, perhaps we can come up to Knoxville for that weekend.

  5. I didn’t know you’d gone swishy pokey, very very cool 🙂

    • Lots of people say that, but I’ve been fighting rapier for three or four years. Just not very often, and I’m always out in two. I initially authorized to participate in the experimental Combat Archery/Rapier battle at Gulf Wars a few years back. I missed it this year. I had to be in landcrat meetings.

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