I joined the SCA about fifteen years ago (though I first heard of it five years before that), and my immediate desire was to put together some armor and be a heavy-weapons fighter. This, I have since noticed, seems to be the first desire of many undernourished, unmuscled, glasses-wearing computer geeks, who, upon joining the SCA, are barely able to hold a sword for more than two minutes before their arms get tired. I can get away with saying this, because (a) at the time I joined, it described me perfectly, and (b) people who fit that description can't do much physical damage to me if they take offense.
Anyway, my local group had weekly fighter practices, run by a guy named "Richard Who Hasn't Bothered To Come Up With An SCA Name". He'd been in the SCA for about seventeen years (though he'd heard of it in AS III), and had been fighting pretty much the entire time. He put a sword in my hand, and taught me a few basic moves, which I practiced against the pells (which is a singular noun, much to my surprise. The plural is "pellses", or, in some groups, "newbies").
Rather than giving each move a brief name, like "snap" or "wrap shot", he used allegorical descriptions to describe the motions; these included "serving a tray to high table", "throwing aside the tapestry", and "repairing Richard's armor". For some reason upon which I was unclear, that last move was rather less of a metaphor than the others. After I was able to do these well enough to serve high table at feast without embarrassing myself, he strapped a shield onto my left arm and told me to keep practicing.
Several months later, after the reattachment sutures were removed from my left shoulder, I was permitted to put on some loaner armor and actually go up against another human being. I looked forward to this with great anticipation. When I arrived at fighter practice, there was someone new there. He appeared to be about twelve feet tall, weigh several hundred tons, and, as I watched, consumed two entire buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken in under five minutes. Given my general size and weight, I had a faintly disturbing premonition about what might happen in the near future, so for the rest of the evening I stayed as far away from vertical red and white stripes as I could.
Richard produced the loaner armor. The helmet, which was constructed out of eight-gauge steel, had an eyeslit approximately one inch tall, but fortunately there were three quarter-inch bars of steel welded horizontally across it to prevent a sword from entering. It weighed somewhere around 25 pounds, which I think was slightly over one-third of my body weight. The armor itself was made of green carpet. A very ugly green carpet. Shag carpet, to be precise. Once I put it on, I didn't look so much like a fighter as I did a punk-rocker Wookie wearing an oven on its head.
The armor was made for an average-sized fighter, which meant that three of me could have fit into it with plenty of room to spare. I quickly learned to hunch my shoulders so that the base of the helmet rested upon the pauldrons of my armor (also made of carpet), otherwise my pencil-thin neck would have snapped in twain under the weight of the ancient helm. Due to the six inches of foam padding that had to be added all around the helm, I found it difficult to hear, and thanks to the eyeslit, I now knew what the Cylons from "Battlestar Galactica" could see, which was absolutely nothing.
Once Richard was satisfied that all of my major senses had been deprived (except, unfortunately, the sense of smell, since apparently the last person to wear the helm had died of halitosis while wearing it), he shouted that he would put me up against "Edmynd". I knew nobody of that name, and immediately my worst fears were confirmed as the devourer of chickens stood up and put on his helmet. I later learned that this was "Edmynd Ferretflattener", who had been in the SCA for twenty-two years (though he heard about it slightly after World War II), and he eventually went on to become King of the East. His name is, of course, a pseudonym, because although I am much less undernourished now, he could probably still swat me all the way to Drachenwald from here if I angered him.
The infamous boxing match between Mike Tyson and Marvis Frazier lasted approximately thirty times longer than my first actual fighting experience. Richard said "Lay on", a runaway freight train smashed through Richard's property, and then I was being pried out of the neighbor's back yard. This, I learned later, was what Atlantians refer to as a "light blow".
Now, I've heard that when you fall off a horse, the best thing to do is to immediately get back on it again. So one of these days, I plan to take up horseback riding, since a fall from a horse is undoubtedly a walk in the park compared to being a human tent-peg.
I related this experience whenever people were trading "no excrement, there I was" stories, because (a) it was the only fighting story I had, and (b) it never failed to make people laugh at me (instead of with me). Unfortunately, it got back to "Edmynd" in a much less comical form, and he assumed that I had some sort of grudge against him. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I'd just like to state that fact for the record in case I ever meet him again at Pennsic. Although I would like to see Drachenwald some day, I'd prefer that it not be while I'm burning up during atmospheric re-entry.