California Classic, by Lora Dixon

December 21, 2015

The HMB California Classic
Fighters came from San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, and places in between. They also came from Ukraine and Russia. They were all at the 150th Scottish Highland Games to fight in The California Classic, one of three international tournaments sponsored by Historic Midieval Battle International Association in their 1st Class Tournaments.  Anton Trubnikov, the President of HMBIA was in attendance said “it was a wonderful and cool event.” The event was presented by the Caldonian Club of San Francisco and held at the Alameda County Faire Grounds in Pleasanton. Many in the crowd who had come to Scottish games for years said that this was their favorite attraction ever, and they looked forward to seeing the fighters next year. Some even hoped to join them in the arena!
As the temperature hovered in the nineties, the action in the arena was even hotter, and the audience was treated to some great fighting. The world champion 5x team from Russia, Club Bern Partisan 1, took first place in the one day tournament. Competing from club Bern were Dmitri Kunchenko, Andrey Kiselyus, Igor Kravchenko, Evgeniy Gladkov, Dmitri Kovrizhin.  

Second place went to The Company of the Iron Phoenix, a very strong club, who came down from the Seattle area.  Their team was comprised of Colin Campbell, Derek Gabreski, Matthew Creedican , Richard Star, Scott Strickland, Santos Sanchez and Eric Mallory.  Ursus, who competed as USA’s team 1 in Prague at the BoN World Championships this year, is headquartered in San Jose and took third place. Fighting for Ursus was Jeffrey Galli, Dmitriy Ryaboy, David Dixon, Scott Wattenbarger, Jedon Thompson, Lorenzo Sorrentino, and Chris Wemmer.  Vanguard, a new and promising club, traveling up from the San Diego area took fourth. Adam Larios, Greg Costa, Dan Lohnes, Will Hoffman, Billy Hamilton, Alexander Casillas, Jonathan DeSalvo, Makoto Mason made up the Vanguard team.  The crowd also had an opportunity to witness mixed singles competitions. First place went to Derek Gebreski of Iron Phoenix, Lisa Galli of Ursus took second, and Lorenzo Sorentino, also of Ursus took third. 

Day two consisted of mostly one-on-on exhibition fights, and some small melee fights. The only fighter from Ukraine, Vitaliy Tkachenko from Ukraine 2, won his one-on-one fight, displaying excellent “pro-fighting” skills. Also from the Ukraine was senior marshal, Valentyn Kalyn who was a wealth of information and a fount of knowledge on the rules and marshaling know how.   Unfortunately, some fighters had been injured during the first day of competition and were unable to participate in exhibitions on day two, but so far the reports do not point to anything serious. 
Steven Schroeder, Captain of Ursus, hosted two of the Russian team members as well as Valentyn Kalyn the Head Marshal at his home, and finds that traveling and sharing experiences with fighters from all over the world is one of the most important aspects of the sport. “I think getting the opportunity to know people makes it easier to find commonality in our humanity, regardless of the religion, nationality or orientation,” said Schroeder.

Schroeder, who earlier this year fought in Poland at the IMCF World Championships and in Prague for the Battle of Nations, said it was “maddening to be on the sidelines” at this tournament. Due to a recent car accident, he was unable to fight, but instead served as marshal. He will be back in armor soon! He did have the opportunity to learn a lot due to the fact an International Senior Marshal with so much knowledge and experience was also serving. As a marshal, Schroeder was also unable to act as coach from the field. During breaks between sessions, he was able to call a team meeting and try to address problems Ursus seemed to be having. “I asked them when they were going to start fighting our fight, the way we have trained and fought in the past, dynamic and decisive,” he said. “…we typically have a line of bigger guys who work together to impose our will and establish the fight as we choose to dictate, setting the table for our flankers to take advantage of the opportunities provided.” Although missing some key players, they were able to bring that Ursus style back, in the final set against the Russian team. Although too late for the tournament, it helps as they look to the future. 

    He learned a lot from the Head Marshal, Valentyn Kalyn, and by having his team fight the Russians: “What impressed me the most was their uncanny balance and awareness of the battlefield.  I saw several instances of one of the Partizan fighters being blindsided with great force, but still able to keep their feet when tripping over fallen bodies.” He said, “watching films is drastically different than facing them on the field.” Glad to have hosted them, he called them “great ambassadors of their sport.” 

    David Dixon, organizer of the event, admitted that it was a lot of work, since he had never organized an event before, let alone anything of that magnitude, but he praised members of Ursus, as well as Iron Phoenix and Vanguard, for stepping in to help with everything that needed to be done. Even guest fighters from out of the country helped with packing down after the event. HMB is really like a family. Dixon commented, “I hope that the U.S. and Russian teams can continue to build upon this event and our friendship and continue to work together to make this sport better.” He said, “I feel like we made a great connection with fighters from Bern, and besides the great fighting, there was awesome exchange of culture and brotherhood….Most important take home was that even though we come from different parts of the world, this sport is so much a part of us, we have so much in common.” His summary of the experience- “The weekend consisted of hard and honorable fights and great friendships.” Each fighter who competed in the tournament was very much appreciated, and helped to make it already heavily anticipated for next year! The Russian fighters also look forward to returning. They said that American fighters have “the warrior spirit” like the Russians do. When asked what advice the best team in the world could leave for them, they told their hosts, “just keep doing what you are doing…be yourselves.”