Monday, May 8, 2017

Crown Tourney #96

Me vs. Rory

I'm closing in on 100 Crown Tournaments. I'd better win that second one soon.

As I wrote on FaceBook, I did not meet any of my goals for this Crown. I did not win more fights than I lost. Usually, having a winning record in a double elim means going to the 5th round. Because they had some early elimination bouts, and because they were calling rounds in the loser's bracket separately from the winner's bracket, I think I officially went to ether 6th or 7th round, but I only had four fights, making me 2 and 2. I did not kill any chivalry. I did not get to semi-finals. I did not win. Those are my benchmarks, and I didn't achieve any of them.

But it was an awesome day!

I fought really really well. All of my fights were against really good opponents, and all of them were epic. Three of them -- against Rory, Arne, and Avaldr -- were against legit contenders, and Luther is damn close. I totally had a blast in all my fights. I am also satisfied with both my preparation and my performance. There's room for improvement, particularly in my on-side defense and power generation and targeting with that weight/balance of sword. But I know where I need to improve. My offense and footwork were working really well.

Plus, Gracia was there to watch me champion her, and we hung out with our new family/household and had a really good time. And one more thing, that's below.

TECHNIQUE
You don't want to change anything before a Crown tourney. This is why, even though they are slightly heavier, I stuck with my bauzbands instead of repairing my lighter leather arm harness, and put off making my new legs and new shield till after Crown (the shield will be about an inch shorter, but better balanced). I didn't want to change what I was doing. But my sword died and I needed a new one. I didn't have quite as light a piece of rattan as I'd used before, and I wanted to use my Michael of Bedford style basket hilt. The sword I made was maybe an inch longer in (the blades are the same length but the basket hilt is different, so it's effectively longer), but it's much better balanced. This may have affected my fighting a bit, but nobody had been taking wraps from the light sword I'd been using, so it was probably a wash. Gui thinks I should cut an inch off of it. I like the new sword a lot. I turned the blade aorund on the other one in case I needed a backup but I never used it.

The big deal about my technique was that I had really moved away from the A-Frame. I was fighting almost exclusively in a High closed form, like in the picture above. This is obvious when you look at how I died. In the last few tournaments, I had been dying mostly to off-side shots or slot shots. I adjusted to a high closed guard to better defend the off-side. both of my deaths were to on-side head shots, little molinees from high over my shield.

WORKOUTS
As you should, I dialed down my training in the week before Crown. I didn't fight at all last week. i didn't run every day. I Friday and Saturday I didn't even do pell work, just my push ups and squats. That's what a lot of boxers do, let themselves heal and recover from all the training they've been doing.

FIGHTS
I warmed up with Horic, which was great. It just got the blood flowing and got me in the right head space.

Standing in Line next to Duke Randal, I remarked that It was silly to have Luther as the second in line, because he is really a chiv-level fighter. He's Sir Stephan von Dresden's squire, in perfect shape, like Stephan, and has been fighting for more than a decade. He's one of those St. Adrien's guys who started out in Acre--where's he's a Duke -- but train mostly in the SCA.  Let's put it this way: he was one of our heroic champions at Pennsic last year, and he won his bout. As soon as I said that I knew it would come back to bite me, because I was second from the *end* of the line. Sure enough, Ray, who was first, challenged Randal and Luther challenged me. It was a good, tough fight. He was fast but sloppy. He tried to overwhelm me with speed but was pulling out of his shots early and was a bit wild. A real wake up for me. I got his leg with Martin the Temperate's leg shot, and once I had his leg it was done with (though i can't recall how I won the fight).

Then I sat and I sat as they whittled down the fighters to 32 for an even bracket (essentially, they front load the byes).

Speaking of whittling down, my next fight was against Rory. I had said that I was more scared of Rory than I was of Arne. Rory's defense is just so incredible that he's next to impossible to lay stick on. Arne at least gives you some openings--though with Arne you've got that incredible speed and reflex to deal with. My fight with Rory was brutal. We fought for awhile trying to break each other down, till I threw a hook thrust and took his arm. I retained my shield, as that's the custom in the East. Then I took his leg, and then I killed him. And that took a long time. He's really hard to kill.

So here's the one frustrating part about Crown, and the thing that suggests that, even though I *think* I was in a good mind set, and *think* I never lost my focus, I may be dead wrong about that. The two fighters I specifically prepared for were the two that took me out of the list. I fought both of them extremely well, but I did not crack either of them (though with Avaldr I came really close).

It was obvious at Practice that Arne was, if not sandbagging, then certainly not going full bore. I put no truck in the fact that I'd beaten him a lot the past two weeks because, as Alan Iverson put it so well, we're talking about practice. This time it was just a tight fight. My defense was where I wanted it. He didn't land an off side shot on me. My offense was good. As usual he ran away whenever I pressed him. I tried the shield hook but he got in a good sword block. I tried to press and take his leg but he stepped out of it. Eventually I pressed him and his tactic worked. He caught me with a high molinee while backing out. It was a really good fight. There's some video on FaceBook.

My fight with Avaldr was even better. I mixed in some BVellatrix technique with some high closed form. The brief moment I switched to an A Frame he threw a slot shot at my body, so I closed that off and went back to the high guard. He tried a butterfly as well but we were out of position for that. I had watched some tape of him fighting Duke Cygnus at Aedult Swim and saw that he has a window that opens up for a simple slot shot when he throws on side, and sometimes when he moves to his right. I think this is how I killed him at Birka. I slipped past his guard a couple of times, both with a saber cut and with a bellatrix combo, but didn't stick them. I managed to move his shield really well with a shield fake and some foot work, but my leg shot was a dropping wrap that hit low. Eventually, he did to me exactly what Arne did and got me with a high on-side. I'm told that he threw it extremely high with a broken wrist to get it to land.

I LOVED both of those fights. Sir William said I was in total control of the fight, Avaldr just slipped a desperation shot it. Maybe, but I need to improve my on-side defense if I use that guard. Duke Vissivald said--twice--that he thought my fight with Avldr was magnificent. That's high praise--as high as it gets.

A FURTHER WORD.
I've lived in the East now a lot longer than I had planned to when I got here. I always thought I'd go home to my home, to California and to the West, once I finished grad school. The only reason I didn't, really, is because I fell in love with Gracia. I also fell in love with the East. I will always be a Western knight, I will always have my imaginary lands, my viscounty in the Mists and my county in the West. I will always be a bard of the Mists and a Knight Banneret of the West, and a member of the Rose Lief and the Leaf of Merit and the Pied d'argent and the Order of Valor and the rest. By royal contract, I have dual fealty to both the East and the West. But my primary fealty is to the East. I made a conscious decision about twelve years ago that I was an Easterner.

In the East, the fighters come up in a specific fashion built around Pennsic (it's the same in the Midrealm). Eastern fighters train to be on the Unbelted Champions team. For an Eastern unbelt, that's the highest honor. They go to the war practices and work hard and hope they are chosen. When they are, they train with the team for months, working toward that roughly 2 minutes of glory in the champion's battle. Sometime they are on the team for years. At some point, they are admitted to the Order of the Tiger's Combattant, the East Kingdom fighting award (recently it was made a grant level award and a second AA level award was added, the Silver Tiger). Since around 1980, every fighter knighted in the East has been made an OTC first. This is the fraternity of Eastern fighters.

The whole time I've lived in the East, almost 20 years now, I've never felt like I was one of the guys. Most of the chapters of my epic happened in the West Kingdom, where I was a prince and a king, where I earned glory with the Tribe and won most of the accolades an westerner can earn before gaining a peerage. I did not have that shared history with my Eastern Brothers. I didn't train with the other knights of my era for the unbelted team, I didn't share that experience with the upcoming unbelts, and I wasn't an OTC, because usually it's given to unbelted fighters. I received My OTC on Saturday before the tournament. I'm not the first foreign made knight to get an OTC, but I think the others would agree that this makes me feel like I am truly an Eastern fighter now. I'm part of the fraternity. I am as proud and as happy receiving my OTC as I was winning crown or getting knighted. When the other members greeted me and hugged me, with huge grins on their faces, I finally felt like I belonged.

According to Gui, who had this made, these are "Arabian Tygers"

It's 81 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Nutley next week.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nutley 4/26

Nutley 4/26

So how do you prep for crown? How much do you train? How often do you spar? You want to fight all the time, but that is not a good option in our game. I definitely did not fight as much as I wanted to the last two months, but I trained pretty hard. Crown is this Saturday, and I’m very happy with how much I’ve worked the past couple of months. It wasn’t near the level I’d want to train for a prize fight, but it is pretty good nonetheless. It may not help me to win, but it was a good journey.

A lot of dukes say that, to be ready for Crown, you should be in armor four times a week for the three months prior to the tournament. A few people really do fight that much, but it’s overkill. But once a week won’t cut it either. Me, I’ve tried to manage twice a week the last two months, and failed (especially over break).

WORKOUTS
I’ve made it to the gym at CCNY and worked out on the heavy bag. I have cut my running back a bit due to, well, not injury, but over use. I ran two days in a row in minimalist running shoes, and really needed to rest that third day. Still doing the 50 push-ups, 50 squats, and either peel work or the heavy back every day.

TECHNIQUE
I kind of hit on something Wednesday Night. In my fights with Arne, I started fighting in my old high open form. He managed to nail me at least once in that off-side slot, but it prompted me to be more aggressive. Then I closed it down but kept that aggression. I wore my body armor, which always winds me a bit, and I fought so hard I was running out of breath faster than normal.

FIGHTING

ARNE
Arne was an awesome fight as always. I did better against him than I did at Mudthaw, but that doesn’t mean a lot. I stared out in a high closed form but transitioned to a high open form quickly—not off the shoulder or down my back, but the way I fought when I moved here, with the sword above my right shoulder ready for a power blow. This turned out to be really useful. He probably took my arm once, but I killed him several times.

JAN. 
Then I fought his knight Jan. I quickly transitioned into a high closed form, but was very aggressive. I pressed him steadily but not wildly. He beat me two of three, but I was fighting great.
PRINCE ANTON: Anton was out for Balfar’s, and came to Nutley. I took a polearm against him. It was a really light one,  and twice I had trouble generating power with it. Anton fights with a left hand lead, and it confused me because he’s so good with it. I took his arm once and killed him two or three times. He killed me 4 or five times. When I went opposed thumbs I was hopeless against him. It just got me slaughtered. Otherwise I fought him very well.

BEATRIX. 
Beatrix has been offered the accolade by Aethelmarc and will be knighted at Pennsic. As with our fight at Birka, I was really impressed by her technique—especially her footwork—and her aggression. I found after a while I was able to pattern her into a window parry, so that I knew where she was going and could move there to cut her off and strike her. They ere excellent fights.

GREGOR: 
I fought Gregor till I nearly puked. I stayed right in middle range with him where he wasn’t comfortable, and I defended very well, but once again the only time I could kill him was with a hook thrust. I’ve seen some video from that night (if possible I will post it) My targeting isn’t as horrible as it had been the week before.

I’m not at all where I want or need to be going into this crown, but I’m fighting better than I have in years.  I'm very happy with this journey, and I'm looking forward to this weekend. 


It’s five days till Crown, which will be my next time in armor. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Nutley and Iron Bog, with Video!

Fight practice is a commitment, and training for Crown more so. For instance, the good practices around here are in Jersey. Being one of those New Yorkers who don't own a car, getting to practice is a real hassle. (when I first moved here, and for several years, there was an excellent practice in Union Square, but the City closed us down by renovating the park, turning where we fought and parked into an event space/market, and now the only good practices are on the other side of the Hudson).  For instance: to get to Iron Bog practice yesterday, I left the apartment at 9:00 AM. After a set back (I got to the subway and realized I'd left my wallet at home) I had to take a cab from Brooklyn to Penn Station ($40) in order to catch my train. There being no traffic on Sunday Morning, I got there with enough time to grab coffee and breakfast at Pret a Mangier. Catching the 10:07 to Rahway ($10) I started to Jersey. However, there was both a busted switch and some single-tracking due to maintenance between Secaucus and Newark, so we were 45 minutes late. Practice? Great! Dinner with my camp-mates afterword? Fun (and $22)! I caught the 8:42 back to Penn Station ($10) and made it home at 10:30 PM. So (and this was counting dinner) practice yesterday cost me 13.5 hours of my time and (counting dinner) and $82 (counting dinner). While I was there I picked up a set of Cet's leg splints, but that's $80 I was going to spend at some point anyway. Take out the dinner (yes, I would have eaten anyway, but I would have cooked for myself), and it's only $60. So, it's a commitment.

Oh: I had a great time, and a great practice.

WORKOUTS
I finished the century drill on the last day of Spring Break. I've kept up the same workout, save that on Thursday I did not run. But I *did* run after I got him from Nutley on Wednesday night, of which I'm kind of proud. Just now, I went down to the gym at school, did my workout, with 20 minutes of yoga, then ran (in my 5 fingers) a mile and a half.

TECHNIQUE
I have transitioned now into a modified A Frame/High Guard like Gregor uses. I can take that into a standard high-guard if need be (like against Arne, because it defends my off-side better). I have mostly but not completely abandoned the Bellatrix High-open form that I'm most comfortable with. I am using Gemeni's technique of being in high open form when I'm out of range or right at the edge of it, and closing up when I move into range.

FIGHTING

NUTLEY

At Nutley on Wednesday I could not get in enough fighting. It was a great practice once again, with about 20 people in armor. I only fought five people, and only three of those were with sword and shield.

For the most part, I stank.

I started out fighting Jan Janovich. My first fight against him was great. I worked him till I took his leg, then killed him. Then we more or less traded fights till he nailed me in the cup. And not one of those annoying little tip shots either. This was a full on cleave you in two shot. Thankfully, the cup worked.

Next I fought an unbelted fighter from ICOD named Michael. He nailed me. Then he nailed me again. I killed him three times, all with a hook/thrust. I was bad!

Then I fought Gregor. He said my defense was really good. Ha! I got him once with a hook thrust.

Wanting to get some training for Crown I fought Eric Hundeman with his preferred style, sword and "broken lance" with a thrusting tip on one end. Here's the thing. If I fight it like I'm fighting sword and short sword, or case, like my usual two weapon gig, I do well. If I fight it like he and Radnor do I'm doomed.

Then I fought James, a Tribal fighter from the West. We fought Sword and Buckler. That was fun.


IRON BOG
I fought Sir Harold. Sir Mord, Sir William, Arne, and a polearm fight with Dan. However, before getting into armor, I did my whole workout-- pushups, squats, yoga, and a run around that big fighting field (I did my pell work at home). I was beat! I wanted to be tired out. It worked. My targeting was awful! My power was weak!

Harold was SUPER Tough yesterday (he was knocking Arne around). We only made it through two fights, and we split them. He was bringing a lot of heat and I couldn't get near to hitting him.

Mord killed me once. I killed him more than once. My targetting sucked and it felt my blows were really slow.

Against Bill I had a great set of fights, but that light sword was starting to broom, so a couple of times my technique worked to get an opening but didn't kill him.

Against Arne I fought really really well.

I went against Dan with the pole arm because big choppy things is one of the forms for finals. I fought it like Diablu, with downward chops from a vertical guard and did ok. Then I fought my normal pole style and did much better.

So check it out, Video!

Here's me and Gregor. Note how the "tight defense" he mentioned. Especialy at about 1:12. It reminds me of the great Michael Pope's comment about my fight with Michael San in the Cynaguan Novice Tourney, AS 13 (the coronet where it snowed--you know....). "So Valgard here says to Michael San "here Mike! Use my shield as a coffee table?" Michael said "Thank you very much sucker, eat flaming rattan death!"



More of me and Gregor:




So here's me and Bill at Iron Bog. Check out how terrible my targetting is. I'm way way off! Note how I gracefully slip and nearly faceplant right in front of him!




And finally my first fight with Arne. This was a good one, but not my best fight of the day.



It's 12 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be Wednesday at Nutley.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Iron Bog, 4/9/17

Best laid plans and all that.

I had planned to step up my training over Spring Break. I've unfortunately been frustrated by Ostgardr, and by God.

WORKOUTS
I've added Yoga and running to my daily routine of pushups (50) squats (50) and pell work (100 strikes). I'm currently on day 95 of the Century Drill. The yoga is just a warmup. I've got set yoga combinations of 5, 10, and 20 minutes. I've mostly been doing the 10 minute one. That will increase soon, and I'll start taking full classes eventually. My runs have been either a mile, or a mile and a half, or the one day I did wind-sprints, though the day of Iron Bog my run consisted of getting off the train in Newark to change trains and realizing that I'd accidentally left the station, and had 5 minutes to run around the block, across a busy street, back into the station and then up to the platform, all while dragging my armor. I made it. It was a workout.

The problem was with helmet time. I planned three days in armor--Iron Bog on Sunday, Midland Vale on Tuesday, and Rusted Woodlands on Thursday. I made it to Iron Bog. On Tuesday my trainee up in Midland Vale was hurt. Midland Vale is a 4 hour trip by four different trains--meaning I'd have to stay the night--so I decided to go to my local practice instead. Trouble was, I was the only heavy who showed up. Then on Thursday (today) somebody posted that, due to Holy Week, there'd be no practice at Rusted Woodlands (it takes place in a church).  Frustrated. One goal not met, and lots of good helmet time missed.

TECHNIQUE
I am trying to guard my right side more, fighting more in a high guard than in an A Frame this week, and practicing more overhead returns. I had not replaced the bolt on my shield, and I didn't have a spare. It's the bottom bolt on the palm strap, so I can still use the shield, but it doesn't hang correctly and leaves my leg open. I borrowed a shield from Thomas for most of my fights. This was kind of awesome, because it was well balanced and guarded my leg well most of the time (I did over block once), and really forced me into a high guard the way it was strapped. It also just wasn't my shield, so it got me killed more than once.

FIGHTING
First up I fought Mord. He killed me twice, mostly because I was using Jonathan's shield. I found my attack from the high guard felt a bit slow.

RON: I used my own shield against Ron. He was being very careful and very precise, so he basically carved me to ribbons. He took my leg twice out of three fights. I felt my defense improving against him. I could not quite get my sword moving. I didn't lay stick on him.

MATT: Against Matt I did very well. He had gone back to his heater shield, which I don't think is his best form--he fights me better with his center-grip kite. I took his leg a couple of times, I killed him with slot shots and with a rising snap.

RORY: Fights with Rory were great. One of the forms for Crown semis will be sword with broken lance, which will have a thrusting tip on one end. We both went out with sword and bastard sword held upside down to simulate this. These were vicious fights, because it's not the best form for either of us. My best kill was when I struck at his leg, stomped my foot, then hit him with the thrusting tip in the chest. He tagged me with a good face thrust and with a slot shot. I accidentally punched him in the face reaching for a top-edge hook.

JONATHAN: Great way to end the day. Jonathan is a great fighter with hand speed and good judge of measure. We had some awesome fights. I took his leg a couple of times and killed him with a hook/wrap and a butterfly. He pounded me at least once with a haymaker. Really good fights.

The list for crown is out. It's thin at the top, with only four royal peers, but very heavy in the middle. There's 39 fighters in the list, and at least 16 of them have a legitimate shot at winning. Thankfully, I'm one of them.

Duke Ronald Wilmot fighting for Duchess Bronwyn Dawntreader
Duke Randal of the Dark fighting for Duchess Katherine Stanhope
Duke Achilles son Asia fighting for Shaunna
Jarl Valgard Stonecleaver fighting for Lady Gracia Vasquez de Trillo
Sir Wilhelm von Ostenbrucke fighting for Mistress Vienna de la Mer
Sir Zhigmun Czypsser fighting for Bannthegn(Baroness) Aleyd Czypsser
Sir Sichelgaita von Halsstern fighting for Sir Harold Hakonson
Master Ryan Mac Whyte fighting for Mistress Kay Leigh Mac Whyte
Sir Culann mac Cianain fighting for Mistress Aneleda Falconbridge
Sir Cedric of Armorica fighting for Mistress Brid ni Sherlais
Master Ãvaldr Valbjarnarson fighting for Mistress Eva Woderose
Sir Pellandres, dit le frere fighting for Baroness Mari Clock van Hoorne
Sir Ivan Ivanov syn Dmitriev fighting for Baroness Matilde DeCaden
Master Dmitri Stephanovich aka Deacon de Chatillion fighting for Mistress Nadezhda Voronov
Sir William MacCrimmon fighting for Lady Susanna of Dragonship Haven
Master Sigurthr Vigurhafn fighting for Baroness Medhbh inghean Ui Cheallaigh
Baron Jonathan Miles fighting for Baroness Teresa Perez
Lord Donnan Fitzgerald fighting for Lady Aurelia Alfaiata d’Alcáçova
Baron Duncan Kerr fighting for Mistress Eleanor fitzPatrick
The Honorable Lord Richard Crowe fighting for Lady Ameria Browne
The Honorable Lord William RavenHair fighting for The Honorable Lady Albreda Aylese
The Honorable Lord Turi Mac Kinnon fighting for Baroness Marguerite de Sainte Nazaire
Baron Rory Maclellan fighting for Baroness Astridr Sigrun Ulfkelsdottir
Lord Ingvar Thorsteinsson called Critter fighting for Lady Hasanah bint al-Kalil ibn Habib
Baron Vachir Artslanjin fighting for Sarvuu Arslanjin
The Honorable Lord Gawyn O’Clery fighting for Maeve O’Clery
The Honorable Lord Klaus Winterhalter Von Wallachia fighting for Lady Anastasia Wolfe
The Honorable Lord Arne Ulriksson fighting for Lady Anna VonBaden
The Honorable Lord Galvyn Lockhart fighting for Lady Rhiannon of Ayres
Lord Dorian Kalogero fighting for Lady Aziza al Shirazyya
Lord Martin Wasser Speier fighting for Master Donovan Shinnock
Lord Berkhommer Von Nuemburg fighting for Lady Auriora de Bianco
Lord Brick James Beech fighting for Lady Nadia Hart
Lady Vasia von KÃenigsberg fighting for Lady Ãesa Sturludottir
Lord Patrick Lumhalghs fighting for Lady Melody
Lord Abel atte Watere fighting for Ãesa assa
Luthor Von Eisenfaust fighting for Lady Mabel Fortune
Onryo fighting for Esmeralda

It's 23 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at Nutley next Wednesday. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nutley, April 5

At Nutley, they hit real hard.

So I needed to get back into armor to humble myself after Mudthaw. If that wasn't the intent, that was certainly the outcome. It was a really really big night, pretty deep, very painful.

TECHNIQUE
None. All I wanted to do coming into the night was to relax and let the fight come to me. I didn't want to o A-Frame or Bellatrix style, I just wanted to go out and fight.

WORKOUTS
I've been working with dumbbells and indian clubs a bit, but not much. I'm just doing my dailies: pushups, squats, steps, and 100 strikes on the pell. I'm on day 88 of the Century drill.

FIGHTING
Oh, wow! There were seventeen people in armor at Nutley last night, included seven knights. It was a deep night. I fought a good variety of guys, but I played in the deep end of the pool quite a bit.

DUNCAN: He's a guy I don't now very well. He hits hard on his first shot but then loses power. I got him with lateral movement to my left.

ARNE: This was tougher than Mudthaw. I had some great fights with him. I managed to take his leg twice and I won those fights. I avoided the thrust. He took my arm and my ribs once each, but I was guarding the off-side much better overall.

ALEXANDROS: He uses a heater and fights very tight. His defense is good and he doesn't fall for fakes, but you can freeze him with double pumps.

KING IOANNES: As I've said on this blog before, I wear a lobster-tail gorget because my biggest fear is a neck injury.  Last night I got all dressed up to fight Ioannes, then realized I'd forgotten to put my gorget on. Good thing, too! He was out their grand-standing and posing, trying to throw me off. I don't think it worked. I mostly stayed on my game and came after him. Once I mirrored him, but that was the worst it got. I don't think I laid stick on him at all. He has that wicked high shot that Duke Anton from Atlantia used o throw, which is nearly impossible to guard, but he jumps into the air wen he does it. Twice he hit me with it, and the second time was right across the lobster tail of my gorget. When he's air born, it lands REALLY deep.

ERIC HUNDEMAN: I manged to get him with a couple of thrust, including when I was on my knees, thrusting him in the belly. That was satisfying. I also got him with a top-edge hook. Nonetheless, most of my plans were not working at all, and he took my head off a couple of times.

STEPHAN: When you fight Von Dresden, you have to be prepared for the thunder to rain down upon you. He hits harder than anybody at that practice. In fact, he also hit me on my gorget, and it was so hard I felt it in the palms of my hands. He also got me with one of those short-stick strikes he trows, which are his hardest blow. The thing is, both the really ard shots he hit me with were follow-up shots. When Stephan hits you, you kind of go limp for a milisecond, or maybe its just that you cringe. Whatever. It means you are totally helpless for a second. If he thinsk you took his shot he will stop fighting, but normally he's so fast that his second shot has landed before you can get "good" out. To me a very good practice is one wherein I land a stick on Stephan somewhare. I did not do that. However, when we went toe-to-toe (literally--it's a game he likes to play, stand with your toes touching first one to step back or get hit loses), it was savage and I did great. When we were done everybody watching went "whoa" and somebody applauded.

HORIC: I mean, how could I not wait to get a shot at Horic? Those were very good fights, and I won them both. I almost got him with a butterfly. I did get him with thrusts twice, once with a hook/thrust when we were both on our knees. His is such a great fighter!

It's 30 days until Crown Tournament. My next time in armor will be Sunday in Iron Bog.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mudthaw 2017

Everybody keeps telling me what a great Mudthaw I had, how I made an incredible run, how I had some epic bouts. All of this is true. I did great. I fought well, I think I fought honorably, I had a great time. But when it really comes down to it, I had two fights against two unbelted fighters, one of whom I'd just beaten, and that was all it would take to get me into the semi finals--and I couldn't get it done.

Mudthaw, if you've never fought it, is one of those big tourneys that rival Crown's for size and quality. In most kingdoms (the West, with three crowns and six coronets a year is an exception) have one or two tourneys that are as big or bigger than Crown Tourney, and as hard fought. Mudthaw is one of those. There were 70 - some odd (I heard, but all I remember was 70 something) fighters--bigger than most Eastern crowns. There were four royal peers in the list, plus Doug Henry, who is one of our two non-Dukes (he's better than nearly every duke in the kingdom, he just doesn't want to be king. He usually wins Mudthaw and always wins Birka). And there was a passel of knights and the usual hungry unbelts. It's a very tough list. It also draws from all over. We had a couple of guys down from Montreal.

They fight it as a double elimination list, but did something odd this time. They started out as though they were going to fight a winners and a losers list, but they forgot to front-load the byes as you need to in that situation (to make that work you need both the winners and losers lists to be powers of two by the 3rd round). So they were mixing the lists up, but they still wanted to get down to two fighters with one loss and two with none, so they could run the semi final the way they usually do. More on that later.

I can't recall all my fights in detail at this point. What I can recall is this: I went in without a plan. I fought some A Frame but a lot more of a traditional high-guard and some Bellatrix. Bellatrix attacks lost me two fights, but I was more relaxed, moving better, and was fighting my own game, not anybody else's. I got compliments from both Ron and Viz on that.

As far as I know, Eric Hundamn and I were the only knights paired with another knight in the first round. This was a tough fight, as is taller than I and uses an odd sword and spear (ish) style. I managed to kill him with slot shot but it was hard and very close.

My next fight was against a bastardsword fighter, I was warned that he was very sharp, so I was cautious. I used the same modified A Frame I use against pole arm fighters and, when he attacked, I stepped in and just pounded at his leg till he went down. I actually got a hook on his sword then I hit him in the body.

My third fight was against an unbelted fighter named Godric. He was really good, but had no idea how to handle an old-school figure 8 attack. I got him with a back hand.

I think fourth round was my bye. This was what really lost the tournament for me. They were fighting byes and I got Tiberius Naughtious Maximus, a scutum fighter who is taller than I and who put a loss on me at the Crown Brion won. We fought and took each others arms. Called that a double kill and fought again. Called that a double kill and fought again. I won, but I was so winded I could barely stagger back to camp. No we were in 5th round when things start to get hairy. Sure enough I went right into my next fight. I draw Brennan. As I said, now is when it gets tough.

So Brenan has been taking my off-side leg very handily of late. I knew that going in. I'd been thinking about it for two weeks--if you fight Brenan watch out for the off-side leg shot. After some feeling out and cautious range games, I attack. I want to get him with a hook thrust, but I've been killing him with that too much lately, and he knows it's coming. He is countering by twisting his body out of the way and leaning to his left every time he feels my hook. He throws a blow at the same time that almost gets me. I then decide to use an aggressive Belatrix style attack: I throw the off-side head, do the tear-drop return to the on-side head and step forward as I do, and as soon as I take that step he nails my (off-side) leg. Ok, that's a ducal move and I just did what I swore I wasn't going to do, lose my off-side leg. After that we have a very long fight. I almost get him with a hook thrust from my knees but he dodges it again. I almost get him with that slot shot to the belly. My head and off-side are well guarded but he works me over till he lands a (hard) wrap to my shield-side ribs. Ok. That was an epic fight against a duke.

Next I draw a really fast, wiley fighter from Canada named Reinhardt who just blew up Bill in the first round. That was a hard fight and, to be honest, I was tired and don't recall how I won it. I probably took his leg. Maybe?

Next round I drew Arne, who is the toughest unbelt in the list and finaled here last year after taking my arm when I knew better than to throw the foot-stomp thrust. This fight was truly epic. We went for a long time. I knew the off-side was coming, so I had that guarded. Unfortunately, he's also developed a very good attack down the middle agains the A-Frame. He nearly took my arm. He usually leaves himself open to high wraps when he steps in, but with my brand-new fairly light sword I couldn't get those to stick. Finally, in one of our more violent exchanges, I got his leg when he over-blocked and I moved off-line to my left. Then I worked him for awhile until I got a good shield hook and snap on him.

That was 7th round, unless I'm leaving something out.

Now it comes down to this. There are two fighters without losses, Doug and Horic. Did I mention Horic? This is a song about Horic.....

Well, not really. Horic is a count from Long Island, he was Gendy's squire, he's Gui's grand knight and was Von Dresden's knight. He's a great guy but he dropped out of the SCA for awhile. Oddly, I was the last guy to fight him before he dropped out, at a practice in 98 at Kisena park, and the first guy to fight him back in armor, at a barbecue at his house 18 months ago. He's been going to the Wantagh practice that Gui and I go out to sometimes, mostly to see him and Mordreth. So he decided to drop 45 pounds and come out of retirement. He's still got amazing hand speed and great reflexes, and he shocked a lot of people (but not those of us who'd been going to Wantagh). He did great. I never fought him. This is just a shout out to him for the great day he had.

In addition to Doug and Horic there are five fighters with one loss: me, Arne, Thorson, Brenan and an unbelt named Victor. Now there's lots of things we can do at this point. We can keep running it as a single-tree list, like many kingdoms do, until there are two fighters for the final round. We can fight three more rounds with the unbelts, which will give us two from that group. Thorson pressed hard for a roman style melee. But, in the end, they decided to fight a round robin among us five, mostly because Arne wanted that instead of the melee option. That's right, at the END of the tournament, we had to fight a five person round robin. It figures the youngest kid in the bunch would want the option that was the most tiring. Oh joy.

My first fight was Count Thorson. Thorson is the reason I adopted the A-Frame. One, he makes it work so well, but two, it was the only defense I could find against his quick off-side face shot, which every A Frame fighter uses (when he threw it, and I was in an open guard, it just sailed down the top-edge of my shield and there was nothing I could do about it). We fought hard for a minute or two, but I took his leg then killed him. That, killing Thorson in a tournament, is one of the great moments for me lately.

Then I got Brenan again. This time he did not get my off-side leg. Again I threw the hook thrust and again no dice. My defense was much tighter this time. Eventually he got my shield-side leg, then we fought a long time before he got me with a  wicked shoulder chop.

And that was the moment when I looked around and said I can do this. I've got a win and a loss. Brenan has a loss (to Thorson) but Thorson just lost to Arne. Arn'e has lost to Brenan. If I win these next two fights against Arne and Victor I'm in semis against Horic.

I settled down to fight Arne. I worked out of my A Frame. We had a couple good exchanges. He almost got me with that slot shot once,. The second time he threw it is caught me solid in the belly. Not really hard but good and clean and just enough.

Then I fought Victor. That was a short but powerful experience. I don't remember having fought him before and had no book on him. He was using a tear drop kite. I've been having good results using a Belatrix attack against that form. I threw the first blow, started the second, and he stepped into my advance and hooked my shield. Nobody in this kingdom uses shield hooks but me. And apparently this guy. I'm like "Oh shit" he bends around and cuts me off, then brings a hammer blow down on the top of my helm. Great technique, and I am out.

Adendum: Victor tagged me in this photo on Facebook of the moment he took my lunch money. You can see the hook, the blow, and how fucked I am.  I never should have let this happen.



Semis was Brenan against Horic, with Brenan needing to win twice, which he did. Doug made short work of Arne, then Brenan beat Doug in a one-fight final with single broadswords that included at least one double kill.

So yeah, I had a great day. Yeah, I could have done better. I was totally gassed at the end, which I know is why Arne got that shot in, and probably why Victor beat me as well.

Oh, then I served high table at the feast, because royal peers and barons should do that sort of thing. Fighting Mudthaw and serving feast equals 17,800 steps according to my fitbit.

I feel tired this morning but it was an awesome day.

Addendum: so I couldn't find any video of me, but I found some great video of Brenan fighting Victor. Victor uses a hook/thrust!! Yay! I developed that technique about five years ago, and have had real success with it. I don't know if Victor figured it out himself or saw me do it, or if he reads my blog, but he's only the second person besides me I've ever seen use that technique. Yes, it was unfortunately against Brenana whom, as I noted above, has a counter for it.  But good on Victor.



It's 41 days until Crown. My next time in armor may be this Thursday in Hawthorne. If not the following Wednesday at Nutley.


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).

TECHNIQUE
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.

WORKOUTS
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.

FIGHTING
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.