Saturday, January 30, 2016

Birka!!!!

You know how you occasionally find a great stick of rattan? One that sticks really well and lasts a long time? Like vorpal rattan. I just retired one. I used the same sword nearly all last year. It took me through two tough Crowns and Pennsic. Yes, I was injured part of last year, but I was amazed at how many people were taking all of my shots from a year old sword. It's a bit frayed, and after the tourney I reverently cut the basket hilt off of it, and then threw it out. Thanks Death Tongue (all my swords are named Death Tongue). 

Birka, in case you don't know, is a three hour, ten field "holmgang" bear pit. You get a number and stand in line. You fight until you are killed or step out of the list. One poin for each fight, one for each win (or two for a win one for a loss). About 150 fighters compete, and they fight more than 3,000 fights. It's the toughest tourney in the Knowne World. Great place to kind of ease into things just coming off of surgery, because I csn drop out or drop back in at any time. I usually try to rest after five times through. 

So this year I kept a running journal. Every time I rested I dictated a bit on my fighting. Not quite live blogging, because I waited till now to post it. I hoped I'd remember more of my fights. No such luck. I had planned to just do some technique work, limit my self to one shot for a fee fights, that sort of thing. Ha! That went out the window as soon as I walk in (which was about ten minutes late because they laid on before court was over). 

FIGHTING
First rest break. My first six fights were Arn, Breeder, Thorson, Brian, Frithiker, and Doug. Not ego building. I beat Arn and Thorson, lost to Doug and Breeder, also Lost to Brian and Frithiker. On the one hand I'm not doing well. I haven't put together any runs. On the other hand, that's one hell of a tough list right there. My fight with Brian was particularly good, because I started out wounded in the hip, he went to his knees, but of course he could rise up. We fought good and long in my defense was good and it was a good flight.

Second rest break. I don't know how many times I went to the line this time, maybe three. However, I just put together my longest run. Nine victories. Including Sterling. But no knights. I don't think. A blur. Two of them I killed with wavy rising snaps. At least two I killed the top edge hooks, the same thing I killed Thorson with. That's the first time today I won more than one fight. 

Third rest break. I really can't remember who I've been fighting in this round. I think I went to the line four times, maybe it was five. I had a medium length run. it was kind of fun because I lost my trusting tip during the first fight. I haven't put it back on and don't intend to. I'm fighting fine without it. The added tip speed is helping right now. I taped it back on so often it was really weighing the sword down. I had a medium length run, and a very long run, longer then the one I had last round. I lost count. Once again old-school stuff like top edge hooks, figure eights, and hesitation wraps are what I'm winning with. Fatigue is what killed me this time around. I lost to a madu fighter I should've taken apart. But I just couldn't put anything together. Good round all in all.

Later, after a long rest. Legs are heavy. Arms are heavy. Sat down for a long time. Not dizzy just really fatigued. That kind of "I'm not sure I can walk anymore" fatigued. Feeling better now, but still moving like I'm trapped in quicksand. Now's the time to suck it up and put the hat back on.

Fourth rest break. Oh my God I'm tired. I just did four multifight runs, the last of two which were very long. I lost count. During that last run I managed to work my way entirely through the line, fighting the same person twice in the same run. That's one of the big goals for Birka. I wasn't tired for a long time. I was putting on a clinic on old-school sword work for a while. I got somebody with Ed's butterfly, stutter wraps, top edge hooks, but also just really quick double taps and rib wraps. Then I got a fight against a polearm guy that lasted forever. I won, but I could barely stand after that. Killed two more people, then I died. Don't ask me who killed me. I know that Ryo killed me one of my earlier runs but not this one. Great round, really tired!

OK, last time out. I'm done. I dropped out with 15 minutes to go. I was starting to put my helmet back on, and then I realized that I didn't want to be hit in the head anymore. I don't think I have a concussion, but Evaldr one shorted  me and it was kind of hard. My last loss was to a polearm fighter, I had been on my knees for a long run, which is a good accomplishment, I'm very proud of it. Anyway I took his leg and we wrestled a lot till he gave me a double tap in the face with his butt spike. It felt like my neck jammed a little bit. I took off my helm and, got some water, rested, I was still really really really fatigued, they called 15 minutes, and I started to put my hat back on and I said "wait a minute, I promised not to push myself. This is it. I'm done." 

So that was it. I managed to kill breeder during that last run. earlier I had killed Willy. He killed me in another round. I probably had one or two more victories over knights, but the only ones I can recall are Breeder, Thorson, and Willie, once each. Some other odd stuff: without the thrusting tip, I fought really oddly in the A-frame. That's weird, because a lot of people without thrusting tips use an a frame defense. But for me that thrust out of the a frame seems to set up a lot more than I realized. The high closed form is still not so good against the chivalry. That's how Evaldr was able to one shot me. Another knight one shot of me earlier in the day, but that was because my shield was in an A-frame position and my sword was in a high open position. My shoulder felt great all day, but now it's freaking killing me. This was a very good Birka for me. It was helmet time, it gave me a lot to think about, and boy did I do some good sword work. 

So I just checked my results. 19. At first I thought that was the points they were giving me, which seemed low, but it was my rank. I had 105 points, 60 fights, I won 45 and lost 15. I am shocked. I am shocked because I didn't think I fought that many fights, and I'm shocked because I placed 19th even though I was at court when they started, I dropped out 15 minutes before the end, and I was coming off surgery six weeks ago. An even 3 to 1 win to loss ratio seems fantastic to me. 

The winner was Doug, then Arn, then Breeder, which is how I started my day. 

Crown has not been scheduled. My next time in armor will probably be next Sunday. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Western Twelfth Night

Yes, Twelfth Night. I did not fight (though there is often night fighting at Western 12th Night), but I did get to hang around talking about fighting with lots of my favorite dukes, including Hauoc Bender, Thorfin the Cruel, and Alaric Von Drachenklaue. This is actually part one of a two part post. I'm writing it because, as he dropped me off at the train the next morning, I said to Alfred "read your Silver." 

Let me elaborate. Alfred if Carlysle is one of the best two-sword fighters I've ever seen. He is getting back into fighting after a very long hiatus. That's not as big a deal as you'd think, since so much of his game is mental. It's a very tactical fight with him, and a bit zen. Alfred has not fought much since the adoption of low profile thrusting tips. My full statement to him was "watch out for those low-profile thrusting tips, they will blow you up.... Read you Silver. Silver will teach you everything you need to know about low-profile thrusting tips." And he will. 

George Silver in his two books "Paradoxes of Defense"  (http://www.umass.edu/renaissance/lord/pdfs/Silver_1599.pdf) 
and "Brief Instructions On My Paradoxes of Defense," (http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/brief.html) 
was famously antagonistic toward the thrust. He did not eschew it himself, he used it a lot: rather, he objected to rapier fighting, which relies upon the thrust almost exclusively. He favored the edge because, as he put it, it takes a strong arm to ward a cut but the strength of a baby can ward a thrust. One of the big paradoxes of the SCA is, the way we determine victory, the unarmored combat manuals--Silver's most particularly, are the most useful for what we do. I should have referred Alfred to Fiore di Liberi's techniques for the sword in one hand as well, as it uses many of the same principles. 

In simplest terms, the way to avoid a thrust is to step off line, so that the thrust passes you by. Yes, you can parry it with either your blade or your hand, and you should, but this is your backup defense. Your primary defense is to step off line. Fiore has a technique for the sword in one hand wherein your ward (he only uses one ward for one handed sword) is with your feet in line, as in a modern fencing stance, your weight primarily on your back foot, and standing on the balls of both feet, with the sword held at the left hip, pointing backward, and your left hand on your right hip. In this way, the sword is more or less in the position it is normally in when in the scabbard (you can use this technique on the draw). Talhoffer uses this same guard, and it's similar to the first guard in I:33, but with your weight more to the back and without the buckler. The point is that you are keeping your arms and hands as far away from your opponent and as close to your body as possible. Should your opponent thrust at you, your parry is to flick your sword out. Flick is the best description--it's not a big, sweeping cut, but just a flick, deflecting his thrust and brining your sword on line, pointing at his breast. However, as you do this, and this is your main defense, you step off line with your right foot slightly to the left, taking your body out of the path of the trust. Either one is a good defense, but you use both to be careful. You could, at this point, incressare and thrust. I've used this technique in rapier fighting with good success. However, Fiore has you pass forward on the left, gaining the place, and cutting off your opponent's extended hand with a short chop.  (This is the way bob Charon teaches this technique). 

Silver's variation is that, since he uses a basket hilt (impregnable hands) he holds his sword in front in a hanging guard, and his left hand folded against his chest, instead of on his left hip. According to Stephen Hand, Sliver will do something similar, stepping off line, deflecting the sword, and passing on the left, but he is more likely to employ the elbow push, turning his opponent away, then thrusting home.  When I fight two weapon, as I noted a few posts ago (BBQ), I nearly always use arming sword and short sword, and employ a not very accurate style based on Silver's sword and dagger technique. In this, the dagger is used almost exclusively for defense. I present the dagger forward, hold the sword back, both tips more or less even with one another. I tie up their swords with my dagger and either cut or thrust with my sword. It works surprisingly well, even against dukes. I wouldn't want to try it against bellatrix, however. 

Alfred uses a high/low technique, in which he holds his right hand on his shoulder, as in a classic bellatrix sword and shield stance, and his left hand sword low near his right hip, with his feet in a normal sca fighting stance, left foot forward and right hip cocked. He should be able to use variations of the silver and Fiore techniques against thrusts. Against sword and shield fighters, stand so that, if the opponent is using a thrusting tip, you use an opposite stance (Right foot forward against right handed fighters). Your forward arm should hold your sword near the opposit hip, and the other sword should be cocked on your shoulder. No matter what they do, bring the low sword up in defense. If they thrust, step off line, parry as in Fiore, then attack with the other sword while passing forward. If they cut, do more or less the same, block with the forward sword, attack with the second sword while passing forward (at sometimes you may want to incressare, as in Fiore, or use a grapevine step, as in Silver: but the idea is always the same: the key is to get past and outside your opponent's weapon, passing forward so that you gain the place--close and square to their hip/shoulder (FIroe says you should be able to piss down their leg). Then their ribs and the back of their head are totally open to you. 

I probably didn't explain myself. Anyway: everybody should read their Silver. 

It is three days until Birka. I was just cleared for fighting by my surgeon about an hour ago, and I'm not sure I want my first time in armor after recovering from surgery to be the toughest, most grueling tournament in the Knowne World, so I am not sure at this moment when my next time in armor will be. I start training again on Monway (this is the start of my semester, so it makes it easy, as I've got a good gym available at CCNY).  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Iron Bog 12-14

On small shields and the rule of three.

I went to practice Sunday. I'm having surgery and will be out for six weeks, so I wanted to fight. 

I'm pretty good with a small shield. By small shield I mean one that is 24 inches long or less. There used to be a western conceit that a smaller shield would beat a bigger shield even in the hands of a less experienced fighter. It's not really surprising that they believed this, since small shields were really all they knew. And besides, there was some evidence of the best fighters used the smaller shields. Between AS 5 and around AS 30 or so, The most dominant fighters in the SCA, judging at least by international reputation as well as by the success at the big inter kingdom wars, we're all coming out of the West or their former principalities of Atenveldt and An Tir: Paul of Bellatrix, Radnor, Torgul, Jade, and Brion. With the exception of Brion, they all used either 24 inch round shields, 22 inch bunny rounds, or relatively small center grips. The belief was that the smaller shield give you better visibility and a better offense, while you could use a big shield against the wielder.

There was a lot of social pressure do use a smaller shield as well. Some people did not maintain the smaller shield was superior, but there was a strong belief that using a bigger shield was unchivalrous. I won both my royal tourneys with a 32 inch long heater shield. By both the bio metric measures that were in use at the time, inseam length or length of your torso chin to pubis (if you know anything about ideal proportion's you know that that should be the same measurement) this was the proper shield length for me at 6' 3". And yet I was often told that my shield was way too big and unchivalrous. 

However, I also spent a lot of time using a 24 inch round shield, a 24 inch bunny round, and occasional smaller shields as well. It was the aesthetic with which I grew up.

WORKOUTS
I made my 10,000 steps per day, and my 50 push-ups per day, during the last weeks. In fact I haven't missed my push-ups in almost 2 years, though that will change beginning tomorrow. I've also been doing some work with the Indian clubs.

A BRIEF DIGRESSION
last Monday we did hold a practice and McCarren Park. I did not fight but I did do some training. I did all of my work with unarmored fighters. There were two fighters and armor, and three new people without armor. I got all five of them to work with me doing warm-ups. I taught them my wrist stretches, how to warm up swinging the broadsword holding the blade, I showed them hammer exercises, Zach showed them the pipe exercise. We did some striking and walking drills, and that I taught them about the time of the hand body and foot, and the medieval strikes: fendente, mezanno, and sottano, from both sides, and a thrust. The key was not actually the strikes, it was stepping properly for each strike (passing forward on the side you are striking, but always following the hand). Afterward we did slow work. 

TECHNIQUE
Two of my most useful techniques are the rule of three and striking out of tempo. I vary my tempo in a couple different ways--through breathing (striking between breaths or out of time with my breathing), moving my body in a different tempo to my sword, or setting up a rhythm and then breaking it. The best way I've found, at least for me, is to switch between and old school Bellatrix style and a more modern sword forward style, which strikes faster. Sometimes, when you switch from the faster to the slower style, you can  strike behind someone's block.   

The rule of three I've explained before. Do something twice then break the pattern on the third time. These are what I was working on. 

FIGHTING
There were three knights in armor besides me--Ron, Mord, and William. I fought all three of them, plus three unbelted fighters. My defense in the A frame was very solid. I transitioned out of it to a standard high closed form against Ron, and that got me killed, as my shield lagged out of position. Still, Ron rated my defense as excellent. My best moments against Ron involved high wraps, which he normally defends very well.  I killed him once with a stutter wrap and once when he pushed his defense to his right  I countered with the high wrap. That was one of the best kills I've landed on him. 

The rest of my fights I worked on triggering attacks to the off side--that's where you throw the off side head in time with and over your opponent's attack. It's the most effective counter. I also worked in some changes in tempo. Against one fighter I switched to a Belatrix style, became super aggressive, used his counter hip technique without success, then used the rule of three--fake high/throw low, fake high/throw low, fake high/rising snap. That worded. 

Harold's squire is using a small center grip peaked heater, probably 22 or 24" long. One of the unbelt's was razzing him about how small his shield was (he's not tall, so it's not that small on him). I said "I'll fight you with that shield." His reply was that he'd tear my leg off if I used that shield, so I picked it up and said "let's go."  I one shorted him. I used Hauoc's high closed weak form, baiting with the left leg open but back, and when he threw for it blocking low with the shield, a high hanging guard with the sword, and firing straight down  on contact. Since he's reaching for the leg his head and left shoulder are always open. Then I fought him in the standard Western high open form. In our last fight he thought he had me after we were both legged, but u killed him by sitting down to change the angle of my shot. 

I'm about to go in for hernia surgery (really, in writing this in pre op). I don't know my next time in armor. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Iron Bog 11/14/15

Ok: so I'm actually writing this post before starting my post on last week's Crown Tourney. I was pretty busy last week and there was a lot to write about. But I'm going to write this first because it's fresh in my mind. And it was a good practice. I'll publish it second.

WORKOUTS
I'm only getting to the gym once a week now. They've cancelled classes at my neighborhood gym and, after seventeen years and three locations, I'm thinking of dropping my membership. Have not missed a day of push-ups (50), and still getting 10,000 steps most days. 

TECHNIQUE
I ended up working a couple of things: controlling range, especially in the A Frame, and trying to develop my trigger fighting better. I used a variety of shots and defenses, but I think I only threw one thrust and that did not land. It is all about edge work right now. 

FIGHTS
It was Southern Region Sunday, so while it was a big practice most people were out there working on melee fighting. I was interested in training for singles. Ron had wanted to just do some singles training off to the side so I hung out there. We worked with a new trainee of Bill's and a few unbelteds. I fought one set each with Sir Mord, Jonathan, and .... (I'm not sure--I think there was another set...), two sets with Ron and three sets with Critter. I used three--actually four--different defenses: an A frame, a high open Western guard, a high closed guard (looking over the top of my shield), and a sword foot forward guard. I was flowing between them easily. 

Critiques: when in the high closed guard I am still vulnerable to a slot shot. Ron noted that my lateral movement is too broad and is opening me up too much, especially to off side leg shots. I pulled a couple of off side hip shots, a common problem for me. I thought I was getting tunnel vision, especially against Mord. 

Positive take  aways: Ron said I'm fighting as well as he's seen me fight in the past few years. I killed him a couple of times. The best one was when I took his leg with a dropping leg wrap, a la Collin de Bray, and then killed him with a top edge hook. 

Against Critter my counters were working. I found a great one that worked every time I threw it (he was using a center grip kite, which helped). I used to employ a small shield technique from Hauoc. Fighting in a weak (sword foot forward) high closed form, leaving the on-side leg open, when the leg is attacked, defend the leg with a rotation block while defending the arm, shoulder, and head with a hanging sword guard. On contact, you throw a shot straight down at the shoulder. Sometimes you will hit the head. I've killed dukes with big kite shields while I was using sword and buckler with this technique. I've used it with a bunny round and with a center grip kite, but it's never worked with heater shield. I hit Critter with it five times by starting in a standard strong (shield side foot forward) high guard and, as he threw at the leg, passing back on the left and doing the block/counter as above. 

I found, no surprise, that my defense was best in the A frame, but Ron had little trouble taking it apart. I won most of my fights but was indecisive. 

On the whole I felt slow. 

There are 70 days until Birka. I don't know when my next time in armor will be (I will be missing 100 minutes this weekend for opening day of deer season). 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Crown Tourney #92, East Kingdom, Fall, A.S. L.

Ok—Crown.

This blog is late. Sorry. I’ve been very busy.

Crown was awesome.

There were lots of complaints about the marshaling. People were saying the marshals were interfering too much with the fighting. The marshals wanted to make sure everything was pristine and all the fighters understood that if they walked off the field the fight was over, and that if they weren’t satisfied they had to say so now.  Marshals were also policing all conduct—not just calibration—heavily.  Of course, last fall they were told they needed to get involved more, so they are in a no win situation.

But Crown was awesome.

I didn’t mean to take as many arms as I did (I don’t know the number). Several years ago I made a conscious decision to fight like an Easterner. One result of this was I stopped giving up my arm in fights. This was a big deal for me because in the West it is expected, and I like and am good at the single-sword fight. The Easterners have one of two reactions to that—they either ridicule you or (more common) they feel insulted. I’ve never in the East , in seventeen years living here, had someone, not even a duke, give up his shield for me after taking my arm. I did not target arms, but I took a lot of them, and I won all those fights because I kept my shield.

Crown was awesome.

I can easily count the number of times/days I’ve been in armor since the last crown: At Riverfest Demo, three days at Pennsic, Horic’s barbecue, Southern Region, once at Cloisters Demo, and once at McCarren Park. Since August, I’ve only fought with my short polearm. Not a good training regimen.

Still, Crown was awesome.

I was in a really tough pool. Of the six fighters who made it to quarter finals, three were out of our pool. Ouch. There were twelve fighters in our pool. The knights in our pool included myself, Duke Brion, Sir Luis de Castillo and Harold Haakonson. Among the unbelted fighters was Sterling, Fergus, Collin, and Hrafn Bonesetter, who (spoiler) went to the final round. I can’t remember all the other names, but most of them were very tough.  I lost two fights in my pool, to Brion and to Collin. I normally fight Collin well, but he beat me pretty quickly. My biggest win, of course, was over Hrafn. He is a very good two sword fighter who uses more of a western than Milwaukee style—Double strikes and cross blocks. When I fight a two sword fighter, especially one who’s swords are out in front of him, I flatten my shield our and hold it slightly away from my body. This allows me to pick up his leg and body shots easier, as they are coming equally from both sides. I guard my head mostly with my sword. I close range, and then jam his swords with my shield, rotating it so that it covers as much side-to-side as possible, and crouching. Then I try to take their leg or thrust them in the chest/shoulder area. This is how I beat Hrafn.  I took his leg then his arm then killed him. The loss to Brion was quick. I took both Sterling’s and Luis’ arms. My victory over Harold is on FaceBook (I can’t copy it here). It’s old school and beautiful.

My first fight in the round of sixteen was against—who else—Wulfhir of Stonemarche. This time he was fighting with a shield. A coffin-shaped shield—long and thin. He was way too hesitant. I took his arm and then killed him. He needed to be more aggressive.

My next fight was against Baron Simon, a pole arm fighter who (Spoiler) went to semi-finals.  He was really, really tough. Against glaives I like to go into a low modified A Frame, presenting my thrusting tip. Sir Kuma says he can only see one of my eyes when I do it, making me really hard to hit. After a thrust I like to follow up and try to control the glaive with my shield while striking at the leg. I was defending really well, but eventually Simon took my leg and then stayed out. I turtled and tried to sucker him forward—that was the only time I was hunting an arm, and that because it was the only target that got close to me—but eventually he got me.

In the losers list I drew Duke Gryffith. About ten or twelve years ago I drew him in a tourney and one-shotted him with a simple molinee/head cut—like Radnor or Eric von Steinhouse used to throw. It’s a molinee at the head that misses, but the sword just follows around into a snap. After that one time killing him with it, Gryffith never fell for it again. I pull it out once in awhile—I’d used it on Collin in the pool, but he’d blocked it. I had not fought Gryffith in at least five years, maybe more, so I figured I’d try it again to see if he’d forgotten it. He had. After one-shotting a duke and knocking him out of the lists, I really didn’t care about what happened the rest of the day.

The next round I got to fight Ivan, who had so thoroughly destroyed me last crown. Last time he was super aggressive. This time he was cautious. We spent a good five minutes or more staring at each other. When we finally engaged, he was still just as fast, but my defense was a little bit better. I took his leg, then he took mine as I took his arm. I managed to kill him after that.

That led me into the quarter finals again. Because Ron had not yet fought Brion and I had, but Ron had fought Simon twice already, I got to fight Simon again so Ron didn’t have to face him a third time (He had won their fight in pool play). This time I fought Simon much better, but I was a bit fatigued, and he could still run faster backward than I was running forward. I did something I occasionally do—not just against polearm fighters but especially against them: I threw a spinning back fist. Sisiulle said “You know better than to show boat” but it wasn’t really show boating. I’ve won fights in crown with that shot, including against really good polearm fighters. When a pole fighter is using a right hand forward grip, he’s more vulnerable to shots from the off side, which is where the spinning back fist strikes. I timed it well, throwing it right after a thrust that missed to my right, so I wasn’t in danger of being hit while my back was turned. He picked it up, but that was ok. I got my weapon and my feet reset. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my shield reset. It was probably fatigue, or maybe I just wasn’t thinking. The combat computer had a glitch in it. Anyway, my shield was just a bit too wide to my left and he hit me with a thrust to the face. After the fight I realized that I had been too focused on his leg. I’d thrown a few cuts at his head while I was running him down. I picked up his leg shots well that second fight. I realized that he was circling mostly to my shield side, so I was able to cut him off a bit. But what I don’t think I did was throw a wrap. I was concentrating too much on trying to take the leg, which he had defended. I needed to throw a high wrap when I was close to him and he was blocking my leg shots.

ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!! For the third time (maybe fourth) since I moved here I got knocked out in the quarter finals. I have yet to make it to semi finals in an Eastern crown—which is where you can really call yourself a contender. On the other hand, only one guy beat me in the knock out round, and I went to quarters, which I hadn’t done in a while (I think since 2010).

Anyway, Crown was awesome.

My big take away is that I’m in a good space with my fighting. I fought really well. I continue to believe that I will win another crown one day.

The victor of the day was Duke Keneric over Hrafn in three straight. Vivat!


I’m skipping 100 minutes war because it’s (once again) opening day of deer season. It is 72 days until Birka. I don’t know when I will next be in armor.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

How to run a practice. Or two.

I've been to a couple of practices recently that I haven't written about. Frankly, I didn't do much at either one of them. Still nursing my wrist injury, And fighting only with my short pole arm, I didn't want to push anything too far.

I have harped on this before, but I'm going to ask the question again: what's the best way to run a practice? Our natural inclination is to get out there and fight. That's what we do. It's what we love. We love the adrenaline, we love the competition, we love the contact. Real hard-core fighters; they love hitting and they love being hit. So the tendency is just to pair up with people go out and fight between three and eight fights. That's how we practice. It's been that way forever. It was that way for me 35 years ago, and it's that way for me most of the time now. 

But I trained quite a bit with the Duke Paul. If you read his article in the known world handbook, you know that he advocates training based on that you will find in martial arts schools. He used to advocate a year of unarmored training for new fighters, working just on form and movement for that year before ever putting on armor. Nobody wants to do that, but the guys who actually worked with Paul and trained for a long time without strapping up were hell on wheels the first time they put armor on. 

Every time I have tried to run a series of unarmored classes, I've been met with great enthusiasm on the first night followed by a steep drop off on the second night. Most people want to just go out and fight. 

Paul also has some ideas on how to run an armored practice, and I try to use these as much as I can when I'm dealing with less experienced fighters. In the past two weeks I've had the opportunity to run or participate in practices that were geared more towards training then fighting. Both worked well. 

MCCAREN PARK
our first McCarren Park practice in a long time was quite a success. There were four unbolted fighters plus myself in armor. Ervsld was there wearing some of his armor to do polearm drills, and Sir Gui was there to help train.

While people got an armor, slowly, I spent time training a new person who wanted to learn about fighting. We worked on stance and blow delivery for about 20 minutes. Hardly enough time, but I had a lot of things to do.

Because we had two right-handed fighters and two left-handed fighters, I worked with the right-handers and Gui worked with the left-handers. While Gui discussed numerous blow combinations with his pair, I did situational work with the two fighters I was training, using some of Paul's training techniques. 

We started out just doing blow drills in armor. You block with the sword, throw the same blow as your opponent blocks, repeat. The blow from the standard hanging guard, saber parry number five, and the reverse hanging guard, saber parry number six. Then we took a break.

During this break, I thought a few fights with Samale using my pole arm against his sword and shield. I discovered that I still cannot use the thumb supposed grip.   Fights were fun. 

We used Paul's offense/defense drill, where in one fighter gets to attack nonstop while the other fighter has only three blows, and the fight ends with that third blow his thrown. We did this standing a few times, then with each defending fighter kneeling. Then we took another break.

During this break I worked with Ervald on Palarm drills. I have about five or six Palarm techniques that I use I showed them each one and how to drill with it on the pell. 

Next we ran a simple bear pit. Each of the fighters had to fight it to the others once. Then we took another break. 

Last, to finish up, we did melees, because that's a great way for people to get in a lot of fighting with slightly less risk of injury. Since there were four fighters we ran multiple melees where in each person teamed with each other person at least once.

I ended the night doing some Fiore-based long sword technique with Ervsld. 

I maintain that in this type of practice fighters learn much more than they would in the standard bashing. The trouble is, bashing is so much fun!

SOUTHERN ARMY SUNDAY
this past weekend's southern army Sunday was a pretty good practice as well. There weren't that many fighters in armor, perhaps 12 or 13, but we did a lot of good work.

The only single combat I did was when I warmed up with my pole arm against sir Mord fighting sword and shield. I won all three of our fights, and felt pretty good about what I was doing. But my wrist was already bothering me. The rest of the day I stepped in and out of the melees with either polearm or spear. Spear didn't bother my wrist at all. 

We started out with a shield wall drill. This drill is kind of not fair to the shields, and it bothers me. We worked out a way to make it more fair and I think it works better. We put all the shields on one side, and rotated the Spears in two at a time on the other side. In the first part of the drill the shield are just supposed to stay alive as long as they can. If they are killed they step out and then step back in as the resurrected. This cannot go on too long, because it's sort of the fish in the barrel thing. That's the part that's really unfair to the shields. We solve this problem by giving the marshals the ability to call a charge at any time. When the Spears we're getting cocky or lazy, or it had just gone on for a little while too long, the marshals with yell charge, and the shields would charge forward and cream us. The second form of this drill that we did was an advancing drill. We set up a line and the shields had to advance across it against two or three spears at a slow steady walk. By the time we were done with these two drills, the shields were almost impossible to kill with just two or three Spearman alone. They were working together very well overlapping their shields and staying alive.

Next we did some situational work. We started out just using triads, with a random teams of three. Then we mixed it up a bit by doing uneven sides. We would add a fourth and the fifth fighter to the first triad, and have three on four, then three on five, then four on five etc. A couple of times we would stop for instruction about the best way to attack a superior force. (The answer is to attack a flank say that you can stack them up, crossing their T like Nelson at Trafalgar). 

After that we ran a set of several resurrection bridge fights. This is another way to get a lot of combat in, so people really enjoy themselves, and works very well at the end of the day. 

The point of neither of these practices was to fight. The point of both of these practices was to train. We interspersed situational drills with instruction, and in both cases there was a marked improvement just over the course of the day among the unbolted fighters.

I received a clean bill of health from my doctor and permission to resume normal activities with my wrist. Just in time. It is seven days until crown tournament, and my next time in armor will be a crown.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cloisters

What do you do when you're injured? Do you quit fighting, do you work on parts of the body that are not injured, or do you find a way to keep fighting anyway? Mostly I have been nursing my injury by not fighting, but that doesn't always work. I have been so depressed not being able to put on armor for most of the summer.

Sometimes, all you want to do is put on armor and hit people. I have been in armor exactly 6 times since the last crown tournament and that includes the three days that I was at Pennsic. Last week I finally got in to see my orthopedist, who put a brace on my wrist and said wear it every day all day long for three weeks. It makes swinging a broadsword absolutely impossible, but I wasn't fighting anyway. I've been through this before: I broke the same wrist several years ago. More on that below.

WORKOUTS
I have gotten into the gym a couple of times recent, including once this week for a very good leg workout: leg presses, calf raises, leg extensions, leg curls, five sets of 10 reps on each exercise, building to max weight. Also did some yoga that day. Unfortunately, my gym has canceled yoga classes due to a mold outbreak in the classroom, with no clue as to when it will be eradicated. Classes at school conflict with my teaching schedule this semester. So mostly it's been 50 push-ups every single day, and 10,000 steps most days. The doctor said no more PT, so the Indian clubs have been set aside.

TECHNIQUE
With my wrist in a brace I was fighting left handed and with a pole arm. That's about as deep as my technique got. 

FIGHTING
I put armor on and fight. It's what I do. It's what I love. OK, it's not the only thing I love: I love acting, and singing, and teaching, and cuddling with my girlfriend. But mostly I love to fight. I also enjoy the cloisters them a lot. 40,000 people show up to the medieval fair and most of them walked past our field even if they don't stop. We always get a great crowd!

In other words, getting out and fighting made me feel about as happy as I've been recently.

My right wrist is currently in a brace, and I cannot break it over which means fighting with a broadsword in my right hand is extremely difficult. But I am from the West, and I have a certain history. One of my mentors was Sir William the Lucky, and he instilled in me the ancient western value that you always fighting crown. Only Dukes get a pass on that. Fighting in crown is what we are here for, and everything else is kind of a sideshow. It's prepping for fighting in ground, or it's what we do to perform as or for the king. Crown is how this game started, and crown is really what it's all about. So you fight in crown. When William didn't particularly want to win crown, and he won three even though he only uses the title count, he would fight left-handed. When I broke my wrist years years ago, I fought in both Cynagua coronet and the subsequent crown tourney with my wrist in either a plaster cast or brace and fought left-handed. When I broke my leg in the champions battle a few years ago, I fought in both the following Western and Eastern crowns in an air boot (they were both that October--I did pretty well too). 

I don't think I had fought left-handed more than once or twice in the last 25 years. And probably no more than 20 times my entire career. However, if there is one thing I can do left-handed it's throw a really good Bellatrix snap. I pulled my center grip Viking shield out of storage and went to it. My fights were all classic Bellatrix, only once did I bring my sword forward into a high closed form guard. I probably fought more fights with pole arm that I fought with sword and shield however. With pole arm I csn fight right or left-handed and do so with pretty much all of my normal technique. One thing I did discover was that the thumbs opposed to grip, (like the common, erroneous idea of quarterstaff), which is used by Duke Vissivald, and is what I like to use again sword and shield fighters didn't work very well -- or rather it was very painful. It involves a short very hard punch to the head, and that put a lot of shock on why sore wrist. But I still won two fights that way. 

I'm currently the rapier champion of Oatgardr, so I fought that as well. We did three shows and I split my time between rapier and heavy in the first half-hour show, I fought only heavy in the second show, and only rapier in the third.

A couple of things stood out. There were three unbelted fighters there, Owain, Ansel, and Ronan. I killed each of them with both my weapons forms at various times. I had a couple of great fights against Ansel where in he was using great ax and I was using my short pole arm. Against Ronan I had a really good kill with my pole arm. My go to technique for pole vs sword and shield for years was a three phase fake. I would fake a  thrust to the head, do a circle disengage so it looks like I was going for the leg, and then come back up with the face thrust. I often use this with a two-handed sword as well. Ronan is left-handed, and I was fighting him with a left-handed lead grip on my pole. I have never thrown that shot left-handed, but it works really well. Later, in a sword and shield fight against him I threw and upsilon leg shot, then another, then faked it and turned it into a rising snap. Rule of three. Faked him out of his jock. Owain was using lots of different forms. I took sword and shield against his two sword and pole against his shield. All in all I died a lot but I won more. 

I was really happy how I fought over all. We ended both shows with a grand Mellee, and I won them both.

I will be fighting in crown. Maybe I'll be fighting left-handed, maybe I'll be fighting with pole arm, but I will be fighting in crown. It's what I do.

It's 32 days until crown tournament, and I don't know when my next time in armor will be.