BY SARAH ROUSSELL
The scorching hot sun blazes down on a ragged grass field as tension builds. Standing at each end of the field are two men who are suited up in heavy silver plated armor complete with a shield and a broad sword. As if someone had pressed play on a movie, a scene from a medieval battlefield is displayed as the two men spring into action. After picking up their swords, they begin to strike at each other with all their strength. Each sword pounds thunderously and a metal on metal clanking becomes the soundtrack to their warfare. Beads of sweat drips endlessly from each knight’s dirty face as they attempt to dodge the agonizing sting of their opponent’s blade. Fighting courageously at one end of a sword is Cooper City High School junior Thornton Davis, a well-trained and practiced modern day sword fighter reenacting the pageantry of a bygone era as a member of the Adrian Empire.
Introduced to sword fighting almost nine years ago, Davis was inspired to learn how to fight when his older sister took an interest in the sport. The rest of his family soon joined in and turned it into a group recreational hobby. Ever since then, sword fighting has become a permanent pastime for the Davis family, not only because of the enjoyment they get out of it but also because it provides them with the perfect opportunity for some quality family bonding time.
“Fighting allows us to meet up with each other to hang out, have fun, and fight,” Davis said.
Although learning about the various fighting techniques was a goal, learning about the history and culture associated with the activity was equally important. With this in mind, they joined the Adrian Empire, a national fighters group dedicated to the study and re-creation of Western European culture. With different chapters throughout the United States, The Adrian Empire strives to recreate the arts, skills, and culture of the medieval and renaissance eras. Meeting on a monthly basis, local chapters often hold tournaments featuring combat, archery, and the arts throughout the year and even have regional and national wars.
After joining the Adrian Empire, Davis was anxious to put on a set of shining armor, pick up a sword, and jump into heated battle, however, there was a long learning curve ahead of him before he would be able to do so. Just as it was during the actual medieval and renaissance eras, in order to advance to a knight in the Adrian Empire, one must show the proper skills, and through a five-year process, this is exactly what Davis did. Starting out as a “page”, Davis was assigned to a specific knight. As a page, it was his job to run errands for the knight which included getting him water, getting him his equipment, and taking care of any other tasks that were asked of him. After his time served as a page, Davis was next bumped up to a “man of arms.” In this position, he received instruction in how to take care of equipment and also learned the basics of combat fighting. Davis then became a “squire”. This is when he truly learned how to take care of weapons and equipment and learned more in-depth fighting techniques. After this long and seemingly never ending process, Davis finally advanced to knighthood. All of this hard work taught him the endurance, agility, concentration and strength that sword fighting requires.
“It’s definitely a good sport to learn and keep with you,” Davis said. “It’s basically teaching you how to use your body. The sword is like an extension of your arm, and in a sense, it teaches you martial arts.”
Although sword fighting may seem to be all fun and games, there is actually a lot more to the sport then just swinging around a sword. In fact, there are a lot of safety precautions and responsibilities to consider before even touching a sword. In his group, Davis is the Minister of Jousting War, an important title that carries a lot of responsibility. Along with being in charge of all combat scenarios, it’s also Davis’s responsibility to make sure that everything runs smoothly, that everything’s safe, and that everybody’s armored up properly and nobody gets hurt.
Other than recreational practices at their monthly meets, Davis and the rest of his group often showcase their skills at various events. Unlike other combat fighting groups that choreograph their performances, the Adrian Empire actually performs spontaneous combat fighting at their demonstrations. Since the group performs such unique fighting techniques, they are frequently invited to perform at fairs, festivals, libraries, and schools. They also fight at The South Florida Renaissance Festival. Davis has attended the festival for several years, and every year he has loads of fun performing and interacting with the crowd.
Over the years, Davis has learned that like other sports, sword fighting definitely requires a lot of hard work, time, and dedication.
“Sword fighting is a sport like any other sport,” Davis said. “It requires physical strength and endurance, lots of practice, and lots of handwork. You get out of it what you put into it, like any other sport.”
With this in mind, he continues to work extremely hard at his passion every chance he gets. Currently a junior at Cooper City High School, Davis stills has his whole life ahead of him to accomplish his goals. No matter what is thrown his way in the future, Davis knows that he will continue to pursue sword fighting for the rest of his life.
As the heat of the battle carries on, exhilaration escalates from both fighters. Reaching the peak of the fight, Davis courageously charges, screaming at the top of his lungs. With just one swing from his mighty sword, his opponent stumbles to the ground in defeat. Davis drops his sword and lifts his hands in triumph. As sweat drips from his tired face, he picks up his sword again and walks away with another victory to savor.