My sword life has been a journey from my first Combat Con to this one, in that time I have had failures, and wins, but what brought me through it all was the support of my friends and family.
A year ago I decided that this year, I was going to go for my HEMA Alliance instructor certification. I decided that it would happen at this event. It was important because this is where this part of my sword journey began. This was really a step it was time to take, and means to me that I am recognized as someone who knows what they are talking about not just locally but by a group of my peers.
Combat Con is a lot of things, part tournament, part classes, part self defense workshop, part panel, but it is all of these things and pulls them together well. This event does things you don't see at other events just because the net is cast so wide, but the one thing Combat Con has meant to me since early early on is family. This is not a family of blood but one of steel. I do not see my friends who come to this event often as I live many many miles from most of them, but what I do know is no matter the circumstances, they have my back. They stand in my corner when I need help, but always want to see me do well.
A year ago, when I decided I was going to go through this process, I had friends who stood with me. I had people in my corner cheering me on, offering me advise and really invested in seeing me succeed, and that kind of support makes things easier when the motivation to go on is just not there.
The process to reach my goal was not an easy one, but it is necessary, things that are worthwhile are often not easy. I had a panel of friends who wanted to see me succeed, but would not cheapen the event by letting me get away with less than I was capable of. Having people behind me that wanted to see me succeed makes a world of difference. I did not pass by a lot, but I passed and now I have things I personally need to work on so I can do what I do better. I had people cheering me on, and not letting me settle for less than my best, even going as far as to compliment me on my cutting and telling me that they would not let me fall back to something less in the future.
I watched 3 of my local fighters come home with medals, I did fighting I was proud of, and at the end of the day, that is all I can ask of myself or any other fighter. Did I give it my all? Did I do my best today? If the answer is no, then it is a question of what will you do next time. In judging, are you proud of your calls, is this something you can stand behind?
I was told at this event that at one time, one of my friends hated me when he first heard about me. I was a whiny and not willing to work for my goals. Now, he and I see eye to eye on much more. I fought, through my pools and made it to eliminations, and lost by a small margin.
We are a family of steel. I have friends who have been there through the whole process, but the thing that makes me the most proud is when I can look back and see how far I have come. 4 years ago, I failed my cutting qualifier, 2 years I passed, but barely. I did not need to do it this time, but if I had, I would have passed handily and it showed. 5 years ago I stepped into the ring not knowing what I was walking in to. When I look back at my fighting then, I am ashamed of where I was, but in comparison I can see marked progress, but more than that, I have friends from outside my club who see it as well, and that is something to be proud of.
This weekend was the second class I have taught at a big event outside of Utah, but I was honored to not only be asked, but to be treated as an equal by so many awesome people I have taken classes from since the beginning. Though my class was small, it went smoothly and I was proud of how it all went and would love to teach here again.
These events do not happen without the dedication of many hands. When I arrived on Wednesday I helped roll tatami so that we could be ready when we needed, but it all happened in a room full of people who were there to help because they wanted to see things succeed. I volunteered to help judge more matches than I remember and I can see things getting better with judges working hard to make the best calls they can. There are always things to work on, and that is acknowledged by the staff. Judging is a thankless job, and no matter how hard you try, some things will be missed, but what I saw this weekend was people giving it the best they had, and because of that, it will get better. I have said for years that the cleaner the exchange, the easier it is judge and the better everyone feels about it. Clean exchanges are good fencing. I had an exchange I refused because I did not feel good about but these things should be the norm instead of the exception.
This event is an act of love, and it shows every year I attend. It meant so much to me to be there with my friends when I took this big step. I had people cheering me on from miles away and knowing that people support you because they believe in you matters. At the end of the day, everyone is a self made man. You start with the cards you are given but you get to decide what to do with it. In this world of social media, it is easy to spout off into the darkness, and have people judge you based on how you come across, but it is what you do to prove that which makes the difference. It is not about ranking or medals or knowing a lot if you come across as a jerk, people will know you as one.
These 5 years have changed me, but I am in a much better place as a result of it. I may not have medals on my chest at the end of the weekend, but I am proud of how much people support me even if I am not from the biggest most well known club. I am proud of where I have come, and look forward to the years to come.