Instructor Interview: Ritter Brion Landgraf von Bellatrix

Sport of Kings is honored by the caliber and expertise of the instructors that share their knowledge, skills and time at this biannual event. Periodically we interview instructors to highlight the paths they have taken in their SCA journey. Recently we caught up with Ritter Brion Landgraf von Bellatrix.

Ritter Brion Landgraf von BellatrixSOK: How long have you been in the SCA?
B: I have been in the SCA the whole of my life. My parents were quite active for years before I was born. In fact, my Mother was pregnant with me during her ducal reign as Queen.
After I became conscious of my choice to play or not, I was “hooked”, primarily due the set of values taught to me by my parents, and seeing those values as an integral part of the SCA. Additionally, my social core had been established in the SCA by that point. And eventually the marshal/combat aspect of the SCA was an attractive pursuit. And as an additional attraction, I have pursued various artistic endeavors.

SOK: I understand you’ve lived quite a few places – which kingdoms have you lived and played in?
B: I have lived primarily in the West, where I am from, and was knighted. I have also lived in the Midrealm and briefly in CAID. I have visited and fought in many kingdoms, including: West, An Tir, CAID, Atenveldt, Midrealm, Artemesia, Outlands, Meridies, Northshield, Atlantia, Aethelmarc, Gleann Abhann, and Lochac.

SOK: What is your persona?
B: Although I typically try to reproduce a 16th Century German knight, I have not succeeded in doing so as accurately as I would have liked. So at the moment, my primary fighting kit is comprised of a mix of components. I am working toward something more accurate to my goal.
I also have an earlier period “norse” kit I fight in for wars. My documentation is loosely based on various texts, and input from “authorities” on the subjects.

SOK: What do you teach?
B: In general, I teach multiple aspects of fighting. My main focus is on sword & shield, as well as 2 sword techniques, with particular emphasis on foundational basics, like stance, balance, and footwork. But I feel I am fairly well versed in a variety of combat forms, including some melee techniques.

SOK: How did you come to teach those particular classes?
B: To be honest, Sport of Kings will represent only the second formal class I will be teaching. Most of my instruction is one on one, or small groups, in an ad hoc form. I love to teach. But teaching a formatted, large class is a whole different animal. One that I am only just now trying to wrangle.

SOK: Is there a class you taught that puts a smile on your face whenever you think about it?
B: Well, the only formal class I have taught before, was a 2 sword class for the An Tir Winter Workshops. It was fun, challenging, and rewarding. I still have people approaching me about it, 2 years later.

SOK: Why do you teach?
B: The single-most important aspect in the promotion fighting is the furthering of the art through example and instruction. To that end, I seek out opportunities to teach, through formal classes, formal students (squires, etc.), and general input given in more casual settings.

SOK: What activities beyond fighting are you involved in?
B: I have been active in running events, restoring regalia, metal work arts, diplomatic efforts, discussions and debate of chivalry and re-enactment, encouraging new SCA participants.
I suppose I am most proud of my efforts to restore, preserve and even create regalia. I am very proud of my family legacy. As for my own legacy, it does fill me with pride, when I get feedback from others reinforcing my efforts to live my life honorably and fairly in all my pursuits.

SOK: What is it that inspires you to encourage and grow the SCA?
B: I am mostly motivated by a desire to encourage the “magic” of what the SCA can be. There is an intangible aspect to the SCA that speaks to my soul. It is that aspect the fuels my desire to cultivate at atmosphere of honorable action and intent on the part of all who participate. It is also something I try to take into my everyday life.

SOK: Who were you squired to?
B: I was squired to two different knights. Initially squired to Sir James Gael McTyre. When he essentially dropped out, I was released and the re-squired to Duke Sir Stephen of Beckenham.
I squired to Sir James because of the complete package of a knight he represented to me. Of note, I was both his page and man-at-arms consecutively. I have always felt, and still do to this day, that Sir James represents the pinnacle of chivalry, if such a thing can be achieved. I have always judged my actions based on what I felt he might do in a similar situation.
I squired to Duke Stephen about 5 years or so after Sir James essentially stopped playing. Duke Stephen was always a close friend, an excellent example of knighthood, and a superb fighter and trainer. So it was a natural transition for me.
I was knighted August 1998 by King Jade and Queen Siobhan

SOK: What do you recommend for new fighters?
B: In the context of fighting itself, I cannot stress enough the importance of learning a core foundation of fighting techniques. It is important to do so, while keeping in mind the stresses that some techniques and actions can put on the body. Additionally, a good foundation can truly carry a fighter from their first time in armor, to reaching the highest levels of skill in our art. I avoid saying the “right” way, as this would simply open the door to straw man debate. So I will instead that an ideal fighting form would minimize destructive forces on one’s body, thereby increasing longevity, while allowing the fighter growth into great skill applicable to all levels of opponents.
In terms of one’s fighting kit, I would recommend that a new fighter starts simple and work toward something more “accurate” and in keeping with something that speaks to them. I found that learning to make armor, was a very valuable experience. It is a wonderful experience of discovery and skill-building. But it is also a way in which you are more likely to have armor that fits your body and personality.

SOK: When did you start fighting?
B: Well, SCA fighting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. So it was a natural fit for me. But much like some of the very traditional Eastern Martial Arts, I really enjoy the mutual respect and admiration that is common with other combatants in SCA combat. It is also so unique, that I am not sure how I would replicate it. I have done other martial arts and sports. But the “must win” attitude pervasive in Western Sports and Western Martial Arts can turn me off at times.
I have been “fighting” for as long as I can remember. But my first time in armor, for heavy combat was at the age of 13. I also did combat archery for a couple years as a young teen.

SOK: What style do you favor?
B: These days, I fight pretty regularly with both sword & shield and 2-sword. I am also fairly accomplished with single (handed) sword and sword & dagger. I also fight with glaive occasionally and some other weapon forms on occasion. I believe it is important to continue to learn new weapons forms, and to push one’s self in fighting as much as reasonably possible.

SOK: Who influenced you as a new fighter?
B: My early fighting influences included Duke Radnor of Guidemar, Sir James Gael McTyre, my father Duke Paul, my brother Duke Stephan, Duke Stephen of Beckenham, and a couple of others.

SOK: Do you prefer Tournaments or Wars?
B: I suppose I lean more toward tourney fighting than war fighting. But I enjoy both, and am fairly successful in both. And yes, I definitely differentiate, as I believe they incorporate different skill sets from each other, even if they share some.

SOK: What’s the most important aspect of a Tournament for you?
B: I think SCA tournaments are very important to our fighting art, as there is no substitute for the competitive environment of tournaments. I do not think I can point to ONE, most important aspect of tournaments. But I can say that almost all the romantic virtues of a knight are important when participating in an SCA tournament. The most enjoyable aspect is well-fought, hard fight, with an honorable opponent you like and respect, with your consort looking on with pride over what they see. I have experienced nothing like it.

SOK: How do you think a brand new fighter should get started?
B: For new fighters, I like to recommend a period of time in which basics can be taught (typically unarmored). I know it is easy to want to jump into armor right away, and start getting hit. But it can stunt one’s progress of learning. Also, it is important so seek out and even vet a consistent trainer. Don’t just put all your eggs into one basket with one person without seeing what is out there, and what a given trainer is like. This is equally important with the aspect of their skill, as it is with their ability to communicate and teach well. There is also personality aspect that must be recognized. Will one get along well with their chosen trainer over a long period of time?

SOK: What do you do to train?
B: When I am “in training”, my weekly regimen goal is the following:
-Workout at least 3 times a week, including cardio, strength, and muscle endurance
-Pell work every night
-Fighting in armor 2-3 times a week (more if feasible)
-Periodic unarmored drills/training

You catch up with Ritter Brion at the Twin Creeks weekly fighter practice near San Jose, CA and sometimes at the BART practice, in the Province of the Mists (Berkeley, CA), the oldest practice in the SCA.

HL Vivien NicUldoon
Staff Writer & Editor, Sport of Kings