Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Iron Bog 3/19

You know, I carry a phone with me everywhere I go. My phone has a camera. It should be easy to get video of my practices, but I never do. I tell myself this all the time, and have been since long before we all carried a camcorder in our pockets. You'd think now it would be automatic. Nope.

All of which is to say that I wish I had video of my last two practices (there is video on FaceBook of me at Aedult Swim. It's humbling).

Radnor is a disciple of Musashi. He believes in fighting without attitude. Worrying about my stance, guard, wards, etc. is fighting with attitude. At some point you have to stop worrying. Fighting should be the same as walking across the field. So I was trying to fight without attitude, without technique. It was more or less working. The one blow I specifically decided to work on was Ron's off-side leg shot. It's a simple shot off a wavy on-side head fake. I landed it twice.

I've been getting to the gym. What I've been doing there is simple: my regular work--50 push-ups, 50 squats, century (in this case I use a heavy stainless steel bar and do 50 1/2 combos with each arm in the mirror)--plus some yoga, and some dumbell work. That's it. No barbells, no weight machines, no heavy lifting. I did get on the treadmill the other day, just to get my steps up.

Ah! Iron Bog! One of my best days in awhile.

Whether or not to use the A Frame or the high closed guard, or even the high open guard, was incidental. Count Gemini taught that you can use the high open guard when you are out of range, but as you get into range you should close to either an A Frame or a high closed guard, then at close range always be in a high closed guard. But the movement between them is fluid and without attitude, just like your steps. This is how I approached all my fights.

I fought Quintus first, as a warm up. I mostly fought him at medium range and used a high closed guard, looking over the top of my shield, but also an A Frame. I went in without a plan and tried not to care. I took his leg several times and he killed me once.

The reason I'd gone down to Iron Bog was to fight Ron. I fought him next. We only had two fights, fairly long, but I won them both. They were great fights. In the first fight I took his leg (maybe with his leg shot, maybe with an upsilon leg fake, I can't remember) and then, after a time, beat him with an arm and body fake that went left, then right, then struck straight down the middle. I was almost out of range, so I slipped inside his sword block and struck him in the chest. In our second fight he took my leg really easily with his off-side leg shot, but my defense was very good. I threw a wavy rising snap and shifted my weight, hitting him in the face--a shot that was pure Houghton. He was impressed. He said I was nowhere near so predictable as I had been two weeks ago.

Next I fought Gavin (Dave Goldstein). Those were really good fights, but Gavin uses a fairly small center-grip heater shield, which is pretty easy to move around. I just worked on controlling range and moving his shield around with combos, creating openings. We double-killed a couple of times, and he took my arm twice. He also short sticked me REALLY HARD in one of our double kills--hardest blow I've taken in awhile (love my new helmet!). My best strike on him was a hook/thrust to the body.

Next I fought Bill McCrimmon). Our first fight I totally channeled Radnor--High open form, strive for height, wavy the sword around behind my head, fakes from long range, option shots, etc. I took his leg with an upsilon leg strike and then killed him with a butterfly (but Gendy's version, not Radnor's). Our other fights I was a bit closer and tightened my defense up. I beat him 3 to 2 at that point.

I wanted to fight Mord and Harold as well, but they both were beat up and got out of armor, so I fought Harold's squire Matt. He's gone to a center-grip kite and more of a VDK style (good choice for him. I made that work for awhile and only gave it up because the center grip kite was giving me tennis elbow). unfortunately, hes really really wild. His first couple blows are ok, but then he starts to stick his shield too far out in front of him and move around behind it, and all sorts of angles open up.

For the end of the day I got in a polearm fight. I borrowed Harold's light 6 foot glaive, and the guy I fought (I'm sorry, I forget his name) was using a seven footer. Oddly, the thing that usually work best for me--opposed thumbs and swim moves in close--wasn't working and caused the two losses I took. But everything else was working. I wound over the top of his pole and cut him. When he switched to a left hand grip, I faked high to his right and cut his left hip. I shortened my grip and got him with both thrusts and shoulder cuts. I beat his glaive aside and came over the top of it. Then I used my money-shot, the fake face thrust, circle disengage as a leg fake, then real face thrust with a step. That worked too.

My big problem is the same--A-Frame vs high closed form, tight defense with few offensive options vs more open defense with more options, counter punching versus attacking--in other words, everything. Oh yeah, and (possibly due to the soreness I've been having in my back, which flared up in one fight) I've been doing the old-man fighter things of squaring up to rain blows down on my opponent, which cost me my arm twice, my off-side leg at least once, and my ribs a time or two. Really, I think that accounted for all of my losses, come to think of it. But not worrying about any of that stuff--which is always the est place to be mentally--was what worked.

It is 45 days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will be this Saturday at Mudthaw.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Barren Sands Schola

There are lots of ways to work out. Lately, I've been a minimalist: 50 push ups, 50 squats, 100 sword, strikes, every day. I haven't always made the steps (and I do it by average, so 70,000 in a week--usually I rest on Sundays, and this week we had a snow day).

It's the century drill that is hardest. I am on day 66 as I write this. For 100 days you hit the pell 100 times. If you skip a day you start over at 1. If you loose count you start over at 1. There are variations. Radnor, who taught me the drill, suggested that if you can't hit a pell use the knife edge of your hand against a pillar doing slow work. I can't get to my pell due to some construction in the courtyard so I've been using a concrete pillar in the basement and some old broomed swords. I started out using my flex bar for days I traveled and doing slow work on a door jam. At the gym one day I did swings with a heavy steel bar used as a handle on the cable machine. Lately, I've been striking a soft target with my Indian clubs. But 100 strikes a day for (so far) 60 days.

There was a small tournament last weekend in Barren Sands. I mean small. There were five fighters and Gui and I were the only knights. The good of this tournament was that I got in some great sword and pole arm fighting. I lost the pole fight to Collin (I had a borrowed  halberd and he just beat me on speed). The greatsword fight was in the finals against Gui. And time you get to fight Gui with a greatsword it's a good thing. It's his best form. But beating Gui in a finals with a greatsword is a great thing. He went for a leg shot, tried to duck my blow but didn't. Pretty as that.

The best stuff was the fights at the barriers. In the first one Gui and I were given a total of three lives--not each, just three lives. I resurrected once, he did not. The unbels got three resurrections each. That's 12 to 1. We lost, but it was epic. Then we did some single sword at the barrier, a game I'm really good at and we had a blast.

This was at their Witner Schola. It was a very fun event, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

It is 50 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be Sunday in Iron Bog.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Iron Bog

There were five knight's besides myself at Iron Bog practice: Duke Ronald, William, Harold, GUI and Mord. My plan was to work with Ron and maybe fight two more guys, but I ended up fighting all the knight's there, plus Bran, a bruiser with a center grip. 

I fought like ass. 

I'm half way through my Century Drill. I've been doing 50 push-ups and 50 squats daily. I haven't made 70,000 steps a week every week, but I hit 78,000 last week. 

At Nutley, Brenan helped figure out what's wrong with my snap out of the A Frame. I was cocking the tip before throwing it, instead of punching to the shoulder like I should. This was my main technique on Sunday, and I focused in it too much. I also tried a bit of weak (goofy foot) A frame.


Warmed up against Bran, and found lateral movement at the edge of range was best. He wants to bull rush. When he pulls his defense in he's very vulnerable. 

He dissected me. He said I was being predictable, which is bad. My only real grace is *not* being predictable. It was probably because I was working on that A Frame snap so hard. Too focused. I did get him with a nice hook thrust and with Martin the Temperate's leg shot (which he was really impressed with), but then he killed me. As with Brenan, my off-side leg was easy for him. I was squaring up too much and floating my shield out to protect the on-side leg. My sword is brooming, or I must get have gotten him with one deep wrap. 

I had corrected my shield issue. Bill tried several off-side shots that I blocked. Like Ron, he scored a big hit with a simple snap as I was throwing a combination. Bad. I won most of our fights, but my mistakes were huge and costly. 

I couldn't take Harold's leg to save my life, but I was winning most of our fights. After the first two I switched to a weak A Frame, working some of the Lucan techniques (with the wrong shield). This was really effective. I did set him up for a beautiful rising snap. 

I did well against Mord. Most of my kills were timing shots from the high guard. He got me with a couple of back hands. 

All of the problems of fighting a left handed fighter are magnified when you fight Gui. Then they're magnified again when you fight him with a greatsword. He totally tattooed my right hip. I got a few double kills when he did it, but mostly he timed it off of blocks and ducked real well. I could not get the thrust I kept looking for. I did best with downward cuts along the line of his blade to his right shoulder. Fighting Gui with a greatsword is awesome, because it's a *fight.* It's more violent than most Sword and shield fights. I put my body armor on. It was a great way to end the day. 

It's 60 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be next Sunday at Iron Bog. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Nutley, Ash Wednesday

Nutley! Odd thing. I journaled each of my first 13 sets at Aedult Swim immediately, as I came off the field. But looking at some of the video, I still got a lot of things wrong. 

Tonight was Nutley and I really needed some helmet time. I only had four opponents, but that was enough.  I fought Stephan, then Arne, then Aquila, then Brenan.

The only technique I was practicing was remember how to fight. Somehow, i had forgotten. 

Ok, that's not true. What was really happening was that, per Brian's advice, I was trying to find ways to end the fight quickly. This meant abandoning the thing I've been working on most over the past five years, defense and counter punching.  I am back to being aggressive and taking the initiative. Not really a good plan against Stephan.


Stephan, as usual, hit me so hard I wanted to re pad my helmet. I never laid stick on him. He said Immade him work, but I think he was just being kind. 

Arne won our first two fights, then I bore down. He's improved his snap, meaning there's something else to guard against besides the off side body now. He's still susceptible to wraps and an only school figure eight attack rattles him. 

Aquila, being an inch taller than I, takes away all my good angles. He's tough, but I managed to take his leg  three times and kill him a few times.?

Brenan was a great fight. He is also great at breaking down a fight and analyzing it. 

I know how to throw the right uppercut, and how that becomes the right cross with a broadsword. I teach it. It's the same shot Brenan was drilling me on tonight. But I can't throw it. Not from the A frame, which is where it comes from. That's, as Brenan puts it, the Master Farrell boxing style. I've been working it into my pell work. Brenan and I spent some time going over it. 

Brenan's advice was not to cede the center. I can control the center with my thrust, but I went away from that for the practice. 

Anyway, great practice!

There are 65 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be this Sunday at Iron Bog 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Aedult Swim 2017

Five hundred fighters converged on Milton Pennsylvania this weekend for Aedult Swim 2. Sir Agro came the farthest, flying in from Australia. Really, what more need be said? 

In a large way, Aedult Swim was a bit of a failure for this year. I did not seek a lot of people out. There were kings there, but I never fought any of them. I think I fought one Duke (maybe more, I fought a few other knights). I missed my shot at Branos. A lot of this was because people were seeking *me* out, which I guess is kind of cool. I kept getting challenged the minute I got on the floor.

I only fought on Saturday because of a minor injury. I had hyper extended my elbow at Birka and not fought since. The second fight it flared up. I was worried I wouldn't get to take advantage of the big smorgasbord of fighters in front of me. But I got it taped up and it didn't bother me again till much later in the day. 

I don't treat Aedult Swim like other practices. I'm not there to work on a specific technique. I'm just there to fight a good variety of fighters and to work on my endurance. I fought the first 13 fighters between 4 and 8 fights each. After that I broke for pizza. I had a new goal: fight more fighters than I'd fought the first day at last year's Aedult Swim. That meant I needed eight more. I was feeling sore and wanted to quit. The elbow was a bit sore again. I wanted to quit--so I fought on. I just put my helmet on and went out to fight two or three fights with eight fighters so I could call it a day. 

The big technical take away, if there was one, was that pell work is helping. In particular with my old-school Bellatrix attacks. I tend to start with that style against fighters who don't use an A Frame, because I don't have to worry about that quick back hand that I can't block with my shield in my normal stance. I was doing REALLY WELL with simple Bellatrix attacks--the off-side head/snap with a tear-drop return, and the snap/off-side body with a tear-drop return. 

1) Sir Kelick, Midrealm
He was *not* a good warm up fight. He was all over me. I was breathing heavily too fast. My wind was restricted. Got him twice with hook wraps, once with a great short stick as I side stepped. He window parries and leaves himself open to a face thrust.  I figured that out right at the end--fake the leg then throw a short thrust at his face. Big hole there. 

2) Herodotus from Aethelmearc
He's a big guy and a hard hitter but he leaves his off side open a lot. Got him with a snap/off-side body, a slot shot, a shoulder shot, and a slot after taking his leg. This is the fight in which I hurt my elbow. 

3) Sir Silverthorne, Midrealm 
Good two sword fighter. Mean off side thrust. Killed me twice with that. I killed him with slot shots to the body and twice with a butterfly. 

4) Teague AEthelmearc
Only fought four fights iwht Teague. I won 3. He rushes forward and stops his shield. Patience wins a slot shot or back hand. 

5) Sir Baldrik, AEthelmearc
He has an incredible off side. It's strong and he times it well. But that's all he's got. He will fall for a rising snap or a double tap to the legs, and that off-side can be timed to take his shoulder once you know it's coming. . 

6) Ozar (kingdom unknown)
He is a very wiry 2 stick fighter. He favors the off-side thrust. Jerky movement. He tries to stay at range and pick at you, so I killed him by rushing forward and jamming his swords. 

Training with my Man at Arms, Patrick. Ron and I worked with him for a few fights.  

7) James Edgersom, Ealdomere
Tall heater fighter. Was having knee trouble, so we just called out leg shots. He is about my height and my range. I got him with slots. I got a good leg shot on him I'm proud of because I saw the opening, I set up goofy foot, threw the head shot, passed off left, and hit the leg, like Lucan's body shot. It worked really well. 

8) Wulfar, Atlantia
He has an odd problem. His follow through is so strong it carries him past me, opening him up completely. Killed him several times that way. Also got him with the trick that's been working a lot lately--the rule-of-three trick throwing a rising snap after setting up with two double-striker to the leg. 

9)  Olaf, AEthelmearc
He's a two-stick fighter. His tips drift apart when he's unsure where you're going. He has a deep basket hilt block for his leg. I won all our fights by coaxing those tips apart. 

10) Sir Evander Ealdomere
He wears a very nice german kit, with a globose over a waffenrack and a wide-brimmed helmet, with a small heater. He's very wriley.  I won our first fight and our last three, and we traded in between. I beat him with that same rule-of three set up rising snap, a hook wrap, sanp/off-side body, and closed with a butterfly. 

11) Sir Galen Midrealm
Galen is a fomrer squire of Duke Stephen of Beckenham. Beck and I are from the same town, and we authorized on the same day (1st Mists vs. Cynagua War, AS 13). We use a lot of the same techniques. Before I changed to a more Eastern style, I probably fought more like Beck--at least when I was fighting with a heater--than anybody else. We have the same molinee, use some of the same combination of Radnor/Rolf/Bellatrix inspired technique, and a lot of the same fakes. So, naturally, I used my super-secret Beck knowledge on his former squire. I used some old-school Bellatrix technique on him, the off-side/on-side head combo, and it worked. I anticipated his blocks well. Then I started setting him up with some Beck techniques, hoping he'd anticipate where I was going. He did. Best one was our last fight, when I set him up with a Beck style millinee, doubled it, knowing h'ed thing it was a leg shot, stepping off-line to my left and short sticking him in the face. Too much fun. 

12) Duke Cygnus from Aethelmearc. 
Great fights! We'd fought last year, and it had been one of the highlights of my trip. He still uses a fairly wide but short Scutum. Cat got good videos of our fights. Once again, going old school Bellatrix worked best. I was proudest of breaking down the opening he presented when he threw his deep leg shot and hitting him with a cut from a high guard. 

13) Elkhart, Calontir
Wow! He's a great curved heater fighter. Tight small circle offense, super defense. I could not beat him on the inside at all, but on the outside he couldn't beat me. Bellatrix technique was best--I got him three times with a Bellatrix style back hand/snap of a tear-drop.


Fighters 14-21 were in fairly rapid succession. My goal became fighting more people than I'd fought last year. So I stayed out till I'd fought at least two fights with eight more people. Meg, Lothar, Sir Tash, Wulfstan's son--can't remember the rest of the names. Now I'm done. That was just fighting through. My sloppiness by now was getting sloppier. The soreness was getting sore-er. It was such a fun tired.

Sunday I did not fight.

There are 75 days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will be Sunday in Iron Bog. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

BIRKA! 2017

Still the same. I'm on day 24 of my century: 100 strikes on the pell daily for 100 days. I'm back up to averaging 10,000 steps a day (last week was just over 70,000). Also, I'm still doing 50 push ups and 50 squats every day.

Stay alive and fight fast.

You've got to be careful at Birka. It can overwhelm you if you're not careful. It's easy to take it too far, lose track of how tired you are, and pass out from exhaustion.

I don't actually try to win Birka.

If you're unfamiliar, the tournament at A Market Day at Birka is a holmgang inspired "bear pit." There are ten "oxhides" -- 10'x10' squares, numbered, laid out in two rows of 5, the inside edges touching. Each fighter has a number taped to the right side of his or her helmet. One fighter starts on each oxhide and they feed fighters in to the oxhides constantly. If you step one foot off the oxhide you lose your leg. If you step both feet off you are dead. If you win, you stay in. Wounds are retained. If you lose you report to the MOL and give them your number and the number of the person who beat you. If there's a double kill both report to the MOL. The MOL and several assistants sit at a table recording losses and wins on laptops. You get one point for each fight, one point for each win (or two points for a win and one for a loss). Each fighter in a double kill gets one point. Once you have reported to the MOL you can get back in the line to fight again. It cycles through very fast. This goes on for three hours. There are a lot of fighters (124 this year). Total number of fights recorded was 3,091 (17 fights per minute). The people who win Birka (usually Sir Douglas Henry) have very short fights and almost never take a break. This year he fought 177 fights in the three hours. A few people had a higher winning percentage than he did, but didn't have as many fights.

I pop my hat every three times I die, sit down, and drink water.

My goal for Birka was simple: have at least one run of ten fights (which means 9 straight victories). In fact, I had the best Birka I've ever had: 10th place, 85 fights, 68 wins, 14 losses, 3 double kills, for an 80% win rate. I had a run of 15 and another of 13. Only once did I walk in and lose my first fight. Only once did I lose my second fight.

I won maybe 5 of my fights by using the space. I realized that I was starting too close to the edge of the matt, while my opponents were rushing in to take over the center. So I started closer to the center. I managed to hold my ground against three polearm fighters and maneuver them into stepping out (without pushing--no bull rushes allowed). Of course, with 68 fights, I can't remember most of them, but I do remember a few things.

I killed one guy with the same technique I'd killed Bill with at Iron Bog last week: Double strike to the leg, then another, then a leg blow followed by a rising snap. Rule of three.

A-Frame kept me alive but was taking too long. I fought a lot of Bellatrix style because, win or lose, I wanted the fights to go quickly.

I kept seeing the same three polearm fighters from Canada over and over and over again.

A fighter from Trimaris threw a hook/thrust at me. I dodged it, but it was the first time I'd ever seen anybody but me use that technique .

Most of my kills were simple snaps from a hanging guard.

People were ignoring my leg shots.

I killed Pelandreas twice (at least), once with a technique similar to the one I taught at Iron Bog last week. I engaged his sword with mine as I closed, squared up and pressed. Then I side-stepped to my right and threw a snap a la Bellatrix. Duke Kenrick looked at me and said "you're really sharp today."

I killed Donnan twice, because he couldn't back up.

I killed Avaldr.

I lost to Doug once, then killed him.

I killed Willy with a hook/wrap.

I killed Arne.

I am pretty sure I killed Zippy.

I killed Herjolf, a big tall lefty knight from Northshield who was Lars' squire (so in our lineage).

My worst loss was to Cullyn. I was just too tired to do what it would have taken.

Here is the best part: I was the last man standing. As it came down to it, after they'd closed off the line and everybody had fed in, they started to consolidate the fields. I had to beat Arne, then Doug, then another fighter, then I was the last one left. I never in my life thought I would be the last man standing at Birka.

The results are located at . Be sure to look at "expanded results by fighter."

It's always a good idea to take a week off after Birka. I'm still sore.

There are 93 days until Crown Tournament. My next time in armor will likely be next Thursday.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Iron Bog and other stuff

It's good to be back in armor. Yesterday was only the second time I've fought since Crown. But it's not like I have been idle. Two weeks ago, in honor of Kido, I began doing the century drill. I haven't done it in years. It's quite simple: you hit the pell 100 times a day for 100 days. If you lose count on any day you start over again from blow #1. If you skip a day you start over from Day #1. It is about discipline as much as it is about form.

There's lots of ways to do pell practice. I have a pell in the back garden, a concrete pillar in the basement, and various items upstairs in the apartment. I've got old swords, sticks, and a flex bar. So far, I've used the flexbar twice, just as an experiment. The rest of the time has been in the basement. Sometimes I do the 1-6 drill (which, when I do it, comes to 78 strikes) plus 22 other strikes. Sometimes I just throw 100 of the same blow in succession. It's important right now because power generation has left me for the moment.

On Saturday, I also took another German Longsword class.

Yesterday was practice in Iron Bog, and we were essentially practicing for Birka. I held a short class on closing range, then we warmed up, then we did a bearpit.

Have been great. In addition to my 50 push ups and 50 squats everyday, I have been throwing 100 blows at the pell.

There are many ways to close range, but as Firoe and Liechtenaur and Silver and everybody else explain, you always want to move the hand before you move the body or the foot. I refer to this as clearing a path then following it. In SCA combat, we usually have a shield, this means that, in contrast to what Silver teaches, we can step without striking, so long  as we step behind our shield.

I used two exercises to demonstrate this point. The first was a silver-like cut and step (time of the hand, time of the foot) using an exercise Duke Paul teaches. From just outside range, throw a blow at your opponent's shield, and let the momentum of the blow carry you forward into a step. You are advancing behind your sword. Once your sword impacts their shield, step forward with your left foot, so you are now square to them, bringing your shield up to crowd them and fame them. Then step out tot he right, opening up a new angle for you to attack, either with a snap or a wrap to the head.

The second exercise was following the shield. When someone throws an off-side body shot, block it, then follow the block, by first stepping off line with your left foot then passing with your right. Essentially, you move the shield into the block then follow behind it. As you pass on the right, you again square to your opponent, throwing a snap or wrap as you do so. This also has the advantage of demonstrating Old Castles technique of attacking on a tangent.

I was fighting without a thrusting tip, so I was working on edge technique. I was unfocussed otherwise, and it lost me a few fights. I was intending to work mostly on the A Frame, but I found I needed more offense. I was having trouble generating power, and the A-Frame only exacerbates that problem, so I worked in some technique from the sword behind my head, but I was tentative a lot.

This was a great practice. Brennan, Harold, and William were the other knights there, and I fought each of them at least once going through the bear pit. My wind is such that I will have to be careful at Birka. As expected, I can barely remember most of my fights. A few stand out. Brenan took my leg then pounded me, inspite of my knowing it was his plan. Still having trouble with leg blocks. I had a couple good fights against William, including one where I beat him with a "rule of three" game: fake high, strike low twice, then throw the wavy-rising snap (fake high off side, fake low, strike the on-side head). This worked. I killed someone else with a rising snap too. I beat Harold at least once with a backhand. My best fight was against Donnan. I use paul's technique, were you square up to the pole arm and sort of waddle toward him with short steps. It worked extremely welll, especially considering that Donnan is taller than I am and has a wicked back edge cut. I managed to take his leg then hit him with a body shot.

I also looked lost out there too. I fought a different pole arm fighter and tried to wait for his attack before I rushed in. I peaked over the top of my and he snapped my head back with a face thrust. Terrible technique. Since I didn't have a thrusting tip, my mind was not always where it needed to be, including in that fight. I was thinging that I couldn't use most of my recent attacks against polearms, because U body thrust them a lot. Also, mys usualy ward agaisnt a polearm presents the tip, which you shouldn't do if you don't have one. After my fight with Donnan I was incredibly winded, and struggled through three more opponents. However, some stuff was working great, especially my cuts from a high guard.

There are five days until Birka, which will be my next time in armor.