Why this Yukon man earned the moniker 'Centipede' in the world of medieval combat
Being an amputee means Steve Pearson has even more to prove for Yukon's Company of the White Wolf, and himself
For the last few years, Steve Pearson has been training hard in the ranks of a not-so-secret society of Yukon warriors.
He comes across as just a regular, 27-year-old Yukon guy, but he's been met with enough tests of mettle and physical endurance so far in life to pass any bar for medieval knighthood.
Every week, Pearson can be found training with the Company of the White Wolf, a group of men and women who get together and train in the sport of full contact medieval fighting.
In the dead of winter — when it's –45 C and the sun barely makes even the weakest of appearances — Pearson and his fellow fighters battle it out, carting around 80 pounds of steel and titanium armour, using only period materials like leather, wool or horsehair, and wielding massive, blunted steel swords, pole arms and battle axes.
Surgeries and setbacks
Pearson has always been active. Throughout his childhood, his parents got him involved in judo, taekwondo, and eventually even Wing Chun — a style of kung fu — and Systema — a Russian martial art. But he was in and out of the hospital, too.
He was born with a short femur. His first surgery was when he was just two years old. He'd eventually have 26 surgeries done to lengthen his right leg.
It kind of fascinated me that it was fencing and it was considered a martial art.- Steve Pearson
As an older teen, Pearson dreamed of joining the military. And that was the plan, until the end of high school. That's when his hip wore out.
He went through another surgery, but something went wrong. Eventually, there were only two options available to him: fusing the leg straight or amputation.
"At this point, I just wanted it to be fixed and I wanted to move on with life," said Pearson. "So I told them to go ahead with the amputation."
Though it was a hard adjustment at first, Pearson adapted quickly. And around three years ago, Pearson discovered the White Wolves through a friend.
"It kind of fascinated me that it was fencing and it was considered a martial art," he said.
Beware the 'centipede'
Though the medieval armour was a new touch, Pearson's martial arts background made him a natural. He could move faster and more intentionally than most other fighters, even with his prosthetic leg.
"I think the first time I was in armour we were in an elementary school gym, and I remember it was exciting," he said.
"I was nervous and the armour was extremely heavy. It was a lot heavier than I had anticipated. And when that helmet goes over and you're looking through a tiny little hole, you are fighting this claustrophobic feeling."
Other competitors picked up on his strength immediately. At his first-ever tournament in Montreal, he noticed they were calling him a name in French — "centipede."
Pearson was told because "I have one leg but it doesn't matter which way I'm pushed or pulled, I always seem to have a leg to put on the ground."
Fighters and friends
That all led up to this year at the International Medieval Combat Federation World Championships on the grounds of an actual castle in Scotland. Pearson finally felt ready. But there was a problem — money. And that's where a fellow White Wolf stepped in to help.
Pearson started training Aurora Bicudo when she joined the White Wolves, and the two formed a friendship. And when Pearson told her he wasn't going to the World Championships, she started a GoFundMe account for him.
Then, for the first time, Pearson qualified to be part of Team Canada. With funds from the successful GoFundMe, he was going to Scotland.
Hitting the big time
Pearson's hope going to the World Championships was making it out of the starting pool where all competitors are able to fight. Indeed, he fought his way out of his pool, past the quarter-finals, and nearly out of the semifinals.
In the end, Pearson lost by just a few points in the third round of the semifinals to a fighter from Poland, gaining a fan base with every match.
Pearson, the longsword fighter from Yukon, finished fourth in the world. And he's already thinking ahead to next year's battle.
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About the Producer
This documentary was edited by Acey Rowe.
Additional audio from world championships provided by Pavlina Sudrich.