Cat's Farewell Pas d'Armes - SSG Montgomery
From left to right, Chris, Whitney, Connor, and Lex "Cat" Schuilnaam--whose contributions we celebrated.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it was a medieval tradition to hold some form of tournament to mark important events (like a wedding!), or the arrival of an important personage.
In April. 2021, SSG Montgomery brought in an entirely new cohort of beginners, who quickly gelled into something of a family. Rachel, Chris, Elisabeth, Dude, Dennis, Emily, Jesus and Cat all became the "snapping turtle" cohort, progressing more or less together through the SSG curriculum with great enthusiasm. On 11 September, they fought in their first tournament, the (new) CSG founding pas d'armes.
Cohort banner made by Cat
We received news a few months ago that Cat--a key source of energy, enthusiasm, organization and talent--was to be deployed alongside her husband. While Cat was running the Valentine's Day Pas d'Armes, we wanted to do one more before she left in order to mark how important and special her contribution to the group was and will remain. Also, we wanted to hit her many times with swords, daggers, and such--and be hit by her in return.
So, on the 19th of March, 2022, SSG Montgomery ran an "errants" pas d'armes. That is, a smaller, informal armoured challenge tournament. We had a field of thirteen combatants, with members from SSG Albany, SSG Pensacola, and SSG Montgomery, with a good number of new spectators from New Orleans, the Montgomery area, and Albany, GA. Among the combatants who fought to honor Cat and her contributions were:
Brian R. Price
Elisabethe Allen, SSG Montgomery (turtle cohort)
Emily Pritzel, SSG Montgomery (turtle cohort)
Connor Pickar, SSG Montgomery (Oct, 2021)
Geoffrey Scott Morris, SSG Montgomery (Dec. 2021)
Whitney Hood, SSG Pensacola
Robert Knighton, SSG Albany, GA
Rachel Evjen, SSG Montgomery (turtle cohort)
Jesus Abete, SSG Montgomery (turtle cohort)
Mitch Johnson, SSG Montgomery (Jan. 2022)
Chris Kelly, SSG Montgomery (turtle cohort)
Lex "Cat" SchuilNaam, SSG Montgomery (turtle cohort)
Whitney's new helmet from Ivan Zadesenets
The weather cooperated, and at about 10:30 we opened with our traditional commencaille "first blood to three good blows," fought with batons. There was some new armour on the field: Rachel had a fine-fitting new brig with her signature purple leggings and gambeson, while Whitney sported a brand new helmet from Ivan .
The intent of a melee like this is to warm everyone up and set the tone for the day. Combatants wade in and choose any opponent, fighting with the baton in one hand until one or the other -- or both -- land a good blow. Then, both salute and move on to another combatant. Gradually, the crowded field winnows to just a few, and finally one. In this case, Geoffrey fought Connor at the end.
Combatants next chose colored stones to randomly determine which side they would be on for the first pass. Traditionally, the sides would be set with the sponsor/defenders as the Tenans and the challengers as Venans, but today we chose blue and yellow stones as a salute to the people of Ukraine. Rachel, Connor, JJ, Robert, and Elisabethe were among those who were venans for the first pass.
In recognition of the ongoing stand of the Ukranian people, we used light blue and yellow stones to denote sides. Graphic above by the artists at Hiatus Games, maker of the game Deus lo Vult.
Many great fights were done, and much improvement noted even since February, but especially since September. In Dennis' words (who had to sit out, but who was responsible for most of the video), "My two faves were Conner v. you [Brian], spear and dagger, and Emily v. Rachel, spear and sword."
"Whitney as always fought well and looked fun to fight. And Geoff wearing my green brig really brought a lot of energy to the tourney; he's going to go far."
For each pass, random sides were chosen using the blue and gold stones. For the third pass, we added a wrinkle that I mostly only do at the small versions of such tournaments--once challenges were made, we chose random weapons.
Black - dagger; White - sword in one hand; Red - sword in two hands; Yellow - spear.
We didn't do poleaxe or sword and buckler this time, but likely will in October. Poleaxe, because one needs armour for that. Sword and buckler...no particular reason. We might do sword and buckler and sword and shield as separate stones, too. And we might reduce the number of dagger stones, since we had six stones per weapon type and dagger oddly came up a lot.
Elisabethe in one of the SSG loaner helmets and gauntlets; behind, Rachel in Brian's helmet c. 1983 and with the torse Elisabethe made. Elisabeth hand-made the torse, which was carried by everyone during the course of the day and was presented to Cat after the tourney.
When Robert Knighton's opponent chose his stone, he got spear; just before Robert chose his, his father Tom shouted, "dagger!" from the sidelines--and so it was. Robert drew dagger. A real challenge, against the spear. Several combatants ended up with this combination.
Over the course of the day we did five full passes, plus, Jesus and Robert did turns at holding the field. Cat held with sword and buckler, using a new buckler given by Jesus. Whitney had a dagger made by her father, which she had gifted to Cat, so their first fight was with dagger, in thanks for the fine gift.
During the fifth pass, we did get in some super fun poleaxe - Brian fought both JJ and Whitney, both of whom seem to LOVE the hache!
After the fifth round, both Jesus and Robert held the field; Robert as a requirement for his green belt.
At one point, Cat boldly declared she wanted to fight everyone sword and buckler - and she did. Perhaps more than any other combatant on the day, Cat fights "between the anchor points," giving her a deadly thrust once she's made he initial fendente. Watch especially against JJ, about midway through the series...
While Dennis could not fight, he DID manage to engage Robert with a page from a German treatise...throwing a pommel...
At the end of the pas, Cat was gifted with a set of fingered gauntlets made by Peter Fuller, and the torse hand-made by Elisabethe Allen. In turn, she distributed hand-written, touching letters of appreciation to everyone, and invited us to stay with her in Germany, some time in the next couple of years.
It's tough to say enough about Cat's amazing blend of passion, intelligence, and caring. She taught many of the other combatants, emerging early as a capable instructor. We hope to see her, perhaps, at the October pas d'armes, but even more, we hope that she brings her knowledge to others in Germany, perhaps setting up her own study group. Regardless, though, she'll always be a central mamber of the Snapping Turtle Cohort.