MEDIEVAL PORTRAIT
Amy Graham
TEAM: Salt City Heretics
COUNTRY: United States
 

What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your journey?

Finding suitable armor quickly. My first tournament was with IMCF in Spain. We had less than three months to prepare for our first National qualifying tournament. As it was, I wore some of my reenactor mild steel armor while I waited for my custom armor to be made. Also, understanding the level of athleticism that is required for this sport. Going in I had no idea. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, but I soon learned I was only at a beginner level and I now train seven days a week for our sport.
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Can you tell us an overview about the tournaments you fought?

It was announced May 31, 2013 that women were finally going to be allowed to start competing. I started training June 1, 2013 and I haven’t stopped since. I competed in IMCF 2014 in Spain and captained the USA Valkyries and we won the gold medal. I was the only female from the USA to compete at IMCF 2015 in Poland and one of the two USA females to fight at Battle of the Nations 2015 in Prague. I was the only female fighter from the USA in Battle of the Nations 2016 in Prague.
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That’s a lot of international experience. Which was your favorite one and why?

So far, Battle of the Nations 2016. I feel like I have enough experience now that I know what I am doing and I really enjoyed my bohurt fights this year. I was a legionnaire for the Netherlands team and our team ended up being a mix from Netherlands, USA, Germany and Chile. It was a great team and we did well for having a language barrier and some who had never fought bohurts before. This year I am only fighting Battle of the Nations. I won’t be competing at IMCF unfortunately.
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Which weapons do you usually use? What do you think is more functional for your role in the team?

My weapon of choice is a halberd. I am the heavy, the tank. And a pole weapon works best for me… not necessarily because of my position but because of the issues I have with my hands. I have arthritis in both hands and it’s hard for me to grip smaller weapons for extended periods of time. This is also the reason you will not see me dueling. It’s just beyond what my body can take now. Plus, I love the way swinging a full halberd feels… It’s much more natural for me than any sword ever was. I am a born halberdier!
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What can you tell us about the USA female team?

The 2017 USA Women’s team, the USA Broad Swords, will be comprised of women from all across the United States of America. We do have a few clubs that have more than one woman within their ranks, but only one that has more than three. My club, the Salt City Heretics here in Salt Lake City, UT has myself and Hannah Hudson in the club. I know Iron Phoenix has three active females currently fighting and right now there are 12 active aspirants for the USA Broad Swords bohurts team. I am the USA Women’s Team Captain for 2017. I will lead us on the field at Battle of the Nations. Aveloc Twiceborn is the overall USA Captain and I answer to him ultimately. This year, the USA will be bringing a full bohurts team, a full line up of duelists and a few female mercenaries as well. I want none of our team to be left out. I will be looking for spots for those that do not make our bohurts team, so that everyone that wants to fight, has a chance to. Then we will all take the field in the All vs. All.
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Considering the development of the sport across the United States, there aren’t so many female members on the teams. Do you think that the sport is unpopular among the feminine population for any special reason?

It is a very tough sport. Not one that most women come by naturally. In my opinion, it takes a very special sort of woman to embrace what we do. It’s not all about violence but there is violence inherit to our sport, thus some women I think, shy away from that, as do some men actually. There is nothing wrong with that, but the number of women who can actually embrace that type of thing positively is relatively low. You see it universally across all aspects of violent sports. Its not something women are typically raised with. While boys are outside playing in rough sports, girls are inside playing with dolls and being taught how to run a household.

I grew up with brothers. I had no choice but to learn to defend myself and I never shied away from men. Fighting with men came very naturally to me but learning to counter their aggression with my own was something I had to figure out. Inside I feel like this raging beast of a woman, hitting and grappling like a thunderous wild boar… but when I viewed video of myself, it was like a meek little kitten attacking a fluff ball.It was a very big learning curve and its something I still have to work on during every fight. It is common among women. It’s not that we have to get angry to fight, we just have to figure out how to channel our power into forcefulness and be aggressive. And I think that finding that path, to being more forceful and showing their aggressiveness is something not all women are comfortable with. Thus, I think it’s a less popular sport for women because fighting for the sake of fighting is not something that comes naturally for women. We are fierce protectors of our family and children but to go out and put yourself into the fray because you enjoy it is something very different. It’s like the difference between women who like to kickbox at the gym and women who become MMA athletes. There is a very distinct level of commitment required for the latter. If you take into consideration the cost of armor, the cost of child care, the cost of training, no only monetarily but in time as well, it’s a cost a lot of women are not able to pay, whether they want to or not.
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How was your experience in Terramágica tournament?

I thought the tournament was wonderful. The folks running it did everything within their power to help us and to make sure we were comfortable, fed and taken care of. I can not speak highly enough about everyone involved. They went above and beyond trying to accommodate those of us from out of country. The trip to the Pyramids was magical. The entire trip filled my soul with joy and rejuvenated my heart. The fighters, the support team, the marshals, the crowd… They all were so wonderful to me. Even after having the worst asthma attack of my life to date, I felt so completely taken care of. I know it sounds strange when talking about a tournament, but it was truly a beautiful experience for me on so many levels.
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In this particular time where the world is judging both North America and your politicians. How did you feel the climate in the tournament? What do you think about sports like HMB helping to go through the prejudices and the segregation that sometimes get so massive between a country’s population?

The climate of the tournament was extremely non-political and that was amazing. I had not expected that. As far as how I think sports like HMB are helping to push through prejudices and segregation… This is why I fight. I have fought every year since female fighters have been allowed. I have been part of a team and I have been the lone female fighter from the United States. I have fought as a mercenary/legionnaire. I have not been able to represent my own country in bohurt and I have had to wear other country’s colors, but I have done so as an American fighter… and as a female fighter.

This tournament was very different for me personally. I was seen as a strong, powerful woman who fights with men. Not as a female fighter who got a chance to take the field with the men’s team. There is a distinct difference. Skye Burnie from Australia, who was the other female fighter on a bohurt team, and I both consistently fight with men. We train with men, we fight with men and when we take the field, we are part of the team, not a token girl. There are several women who do this, simply because they have no other choice, we either train with men or we don’t train. But we both know men that have refused to fight us, train us or take the field with us. I think now, more than ever, we have to push harder to have that chance because of the incoming political climate.

I have given talks all over the USA in regards to what it is like to be a female fighter and one of my mantras is “Always Fight Like A Girl”. There are some people, women included, that do not like that phrase, because they feel like a fighter is a fighter, regardless of gender and to a certain extent that is true. But I use this phrase to take it back and to claim it as a positive, not the negative that historically it has been used. Growing up, using the term “you fight like a girl” was a negative. A condescending put down, something to be ashamed of. For me it was empowering. I am a girl, therefore I will fight like one, regardless of my training, my strength or my power, I will ALWAYS fight like a girl. Because it is who I am.

Before I started fighting in the steel community, I was a medieval reenactor and I always tried to hide the fact that I was female. I wore male costume, and reenacted as a male participant. Not because I was ashamed of being a female, but because it’s what I felt like I had to do because of prejudice. When I started our sport, we used our own names, we embraced who we were as a person and who we were as a fighter. As a Knight. It was hard to get used to being called by my given name, and seen as the woman I am instead of the persona I had created from history. But when little girls come running up to you after you have fought, with tears in their eyes because for the first time they have seen a woman fighting in armor as a Knight, you can’t help but be convinced that being a female fighter is the best thing on the planet.

Women of all ages have reached out to me, talked to me, come up to me just to tell me how much of an inspiration I am to them in their regular lives. And quite frankly sometimes it’s absolutely unnerving to me, because I never think of myself like that. I simply do what I do because I love it and I want to share that feeling with every person I can. Living a life, happily and completely enthralled with your passion is something I could have never counted on, given my childhood being raised in an abusive home. But now, at 50 years old, I know I am the woman I am supposed to be. I am doing what I was meant to do and that is fighting. Fighting for those who can’t. Fighting for the rights of others like me who still have to train in secret or get turned down because they are a girl. Fighting for the rights of women everywhere because politicians feel like they can control our bodies better than we ourselves can.

I am just me. If my experiences help even one person get through something horrible, then it was worth me going through it. I would never change any of my past, because it made me the woman I am today, but I hope to change the future for female fighters everywhere, so that they have the ability to fight, should they choose this path. A Warrior’s spirit comes from within, regardless of gender, race or political view, but it is up to each of us to discover it within one’s self.

 


Photography: David Skirmont.

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