Honor your Teammates
This sport is no joke. Broken bones and concussions abound, armor failures lead to bloody scars and I've seen more than one man spit out his own teeth. I've only been fighting for a year and a half. This level of violence leads to injury, and the old saying goes “It's not a question of if, but a question of when.” Some of these injuries can be career-enders. You get a stray shot to the knee with a polearm and suddenly you're walking with a limp for the rest of your life, and get to watch your buddies fight from a comfy seat on the sidelines. We're warriors, it's in our blood, and the idea of getting retired by a blow is a very real and very terrifying thought. While good armor and training can mitigate this risk, it can never go away. Damaging another human is the core tenant of our sport. So how do we come to terms with this? We fight hard, and we fight fast, and we protect the people standing next to us. “Honoring your Teammate” means doing anything and everything to stop another fighter from hurting them. If you hesitate, if you pull punches, if you stop and worry about hurting the man on the other side of the list field, that moment could cost your teammate. If you pull your punches on an attack from behind, that might not be enough to stop your enemy from swinging his weapon into your teammates hip. That weapon swing might be the swing that misses armor and lands straight on flesh and bone, destroying both. That might put your teammate out for days, weeks, years, or retire them forever. In the context of our sport, it would be your fault for hesitating, because your opponent is fighting just as hard for his own teammate. Ending the fight quickly will be your best insurance against a friend and teammate getting injured, and sometimes the only way to end a fight quickly is by brutality. When you rely on your team, and your team relies on you, hesitation to hurt people is not an option.
Honor your Opponent
Steel Fighting takes a certain kind of person, I think we all know that. New fighters are entering the sport constantly these days, and I am seeing new faces at every event. I don't know these men, and they don't know me. So I fight them as hard as I can, and I expect no less from them. A sign of respect is treating every opponent like a dangerous adversary, even if it's their first day in armor. Part of that is respect for anyone willing to get in kit and get out on the field. It takes guts, and I admire anyone who is willing to do it. I'm going to treat them with the same level of reverence and respect as a storied warrior who has been fighting for years, because I respect the act of getting out there and fighting. Another aspect of honoring your opponent speaks to the danger inherent in this sport. Someone could have never held a falchion in their life, but it comes naturally to them, and they start swinging it with bone-breaking power. You have no idea what you're coming up against, and so I treat all comers with respect, because underestimating them could land myself or a teammate in the hospital.
When I had my second Knight Fight, I went up against the legendary Dave “The Mangler” Olsen, and he took me to task. In the last round of the fight, I was exhausted and my arms were lead, and I literally couldn't defend myself from his blows. But I wasn't kneeling, or saying yield, but I was stubbornly staying on my feet the best I could. After four or five clean, unimpeded punches and chops to my head from The Mangler, I saw him hesitate for just a heartbeat. It was a stutter in his swings, a momentary calculation. He knew he could just step back and wait, seeing if I would yield, or the ref would call a TKO. But he did me the great honor of hitting me as hard and as fast as he could until the bell sounded. I truly take that as an honor, and I know it sounds insane, but taking pity on my exhausted body and just stepping back would have been devastating to me. He had won the round, and with that won the match, but he still treated me like a legitimate threat until the end. It was an honor.
Fighting Your Hardest for Yourself, Your Team, Your Opponents
A lot of people like to talk a lot of things about honor, and off the field “honor” can be a lot of things, too many and too varied to talk about here. But on the field, this is what I consider to be the most honorable actions. It seems strange, my honor code seems to demand hitting opponents as hard as I can in weakly armored areas, or grabbing them and turning them to a friend who will hopefully do the same. It's counterintuitive until you realize what it would mean if you didn't do these things. To me, these guidelines are unwavering rules, etched in stone, letting me know that I gave my all on the field.