Monday, November 3, 2014

Crown Tourney #90

I hate myself.

I was planning to start this blog by saying "I hate myself," because in the fight that knocked me out of Crown yesterday's did something stupid and paid the price by losing. But that was yesterday. Today I hate myself because I just left my bag on the train. It was my best Eagle Creek bag, and it had my regalia in it, along with my only pair of 501s. It gets worse. I put it on an overhead rack in Seacaucus to go one stop to NYC. I was on the phone when I got off the train. I walked a block to the subway. I was about to get on the F train when I realized that I didn't have my suitcase. I hurried back to Penn Station but I wasn't sure what track it was on. The track I though it was turned out to have an Amtrak train on it, but the track next toy hat one had a train going to Trenton that look right. I rushed over to that track. The train was crowded no it was about to pull out. I pushed my way on and looked around. The door started to close. I didn't see my bag. I wasn't even sure if this was the right train, so I got off. The doors closed. As the train pulled out I saw my bag through the window. It was like a scene from some pathetic comedy, like a sad-sack (literally) Woody Allen or Harold Lloyd movie, and there I was, running down the track, watching my bag roll out of my life forever. I wanted to scream and hit things. I am angry and depressed and angry. If I'd just stayed on it and gone back to Seacaucus I would have gotten my bag back. The station agent said there was no way to contact the train. I filled out a report, but I don't hold out hope. My coronet was in that bag. 

So I guess I will have to win another. 

Crown #90 was, as I have indicated, frustrating. We fought in a mud puddle, in the freezing rain, with some wicked injuries and some serious screw ups (William McCrimmon suffered a detached biceps, Duke Randal was dropped from the list by mistake after only one loss and by the time it was discovered the response was "its to late to do anything about it now" which really infuriates me)--all to see the four guys most people expected get into semi finals, the two dukes most people expected get into finals, and the duke most people expected to win win. My day was ok but, as I said, I made some mental errors and they cost me.  This photo kind of sums up my day, even though it was taken at the beginning (I fixed that shoulder on Thursday--Ha!) .

My plan had been to take it easy the week before crown, but in fact I had a great week. I rode my bike to Coney Island and back, I went to yoga, and I ran a 5k fun run at school (several students complained that they couldn't keep pace with me). I rehabbed my shoulder and did push ups every day. 

The important fights were in the rounds I lost.

The format was double elimination, best two out if three each round. It's not as format I do well in, but my endurance and defense are both good right now. I beat Duke Randal for the first time (a long time quest) and went to sixth round. I suffered my first loss to Breeder and got knocked out (again) by Culann Mac Cianain--two great fighters and contenders. That's a pretty good line and, for the most part, I'm happy with my fights, except for how I suffered my two defeats. 

Against both Breeder and Culann, I lost two zip. The first fight in both those rounds I fought well (against Breeder extremely well), but in both I had my leg taken and was then killed. They were good long fights in which I simply got beaten. The second fight is each of these rounds, that is where I was frustrated. Perhaps it's because I was mentally tired. I think it's just because I screwed up. 

Against Bredder in both our fights I had been fighting him with a boxer style. It worked well, and I almost got him with a thrust that I threw like a right hook. In boxing, a right hook (upper hook?) is a good attack against a south paw. Witness this video that's been floating around the interwebs:

Breeder said that he finds the boxing style confusing, and it seems to work pretty well against him, even if I did lose. In our second fight I ducked behind my shield to do the circling leg attack I've been learning from Gui. I noticed that he opened up his right leg when I did that, but to the inside of his shield--I could see the target past the bottom of my shield: only I focused on it. I got target lock and instead of moving out and looking for it later I just targeted the spot as though I was waiting for the opening to be perfect. It was just a fraction of a second, but it was all Breeder needed, and he threw a big dropping wrap that killed me. 

In my second fight against CulannI decided to change things up. My A frame defense had been really good up to that point, but Culann'sis better, and with that big kite shield covering his left side there are zero openings. In our first fight I almost got him with an inside dropping shot, but that shot works even better from a high open form, so in our second fight I fought my old fight, a Western heater style. It was working too, but I was fighting on automatic--that is my style, and the offense was just flowing. I stopped using molinees a few years ago becuase they don't work well against big shield fighters and they expose me too much. I've pulled a couple out recently, but they don't set up well from an A frame, so I use them sometimes as second or third shots ina  combination. I often use a set up where I throw two off side molinee leg shots then change the third into an on side head shot. I used it in the second round, although it did not work. I did not plan to use it against Culann, who is a trigger fighter, but in the flow of things, on auto pilot, I did. I through that low molinee leg shot and he threw a snap to my face. It was light and tippy, but right in the grill at about cheek level. I said "I hate myself," and bowed. (It was way too muddy to fall dead). Lucan saw it from clear across the field, rushed over and said "you know better than that!" I just hung my head in shame. "it's not like you were fighting Beck!"he said. We both laughed--he recognized that Duke Stephen of Beckenham was who I learned a lot of that technique from--or rather with, since we came up together and authorized on the same day. Of course, Beck is a Wulfsagan Von Ostensee student, so he's an even better trigger fighter than Culann. He'd have fired right through that weak ass shit as well. 


The fights I won were less informative if more fun. I beat Randal both times with a hook-thrust. In between that we legged each other and he killed me with a wicked backhand.

I fought Griffyn and I controlled the fight well. I don't know how I won those fights, but they were energetic and a lot of fun.

My second round opponent was really really tough. He jumped into my shorts and killed me with a face thrust our first fight. Then I bore down and tightened my defense up. I killed him with  awrap to the back in our second fight, then took his leg, stepped off line, and hit him in the head in our third. I was trying to use the technique below, but I blew it. However, he dropped his shield after the pass and I hit him. I could tell he was frustrated, and after the conversation I'd had with Tycho a couple of weeks ago, I was worried that I had stepped too deep on him. He and the marshals insisted that that was not so. I offered to keep fighting and he declined. Afterward he came up to me and explained that he had dropped his guard because I had been throwing on technique, stepping out, resetting,a nd coming in again, and that that time he had expected me to do the same thing so he ahd started to re-set while I was still in range. He was frustrated at himself. He gave me a very nice arm ring as a gift for having taught him a lesson--protect yourself at all times.

My first round fight was against Haakon Ragnarson. I controlled that fight well. I forget how I won the first bout, but thankfully Tally got out second fight on video. This is nice because I used two clear techniques that I talk about a lot. First, I use a leg shot off a faked face thrust. Then I use the mis-direction trick, where I flash the thrusting tip and get him to look at that while I pass forward and wrap to the back of his head. Check it out.

The video was yet another from Tally. He's got a lot of them up on his YouTube channel. Check them out.

It is 82 days until Birka. I don't know when I will next be in armor. I may take some time off for hunting season. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

MSR Practice 10/16/14

I totally hogged out at 7-11 after practice last night. This is a bad thing. Must maintain weight, 

It's important to have good equipment. I'm a generally sloppy, lazy person (just ask my lady). Like a lot of people who live in their heads (to borrow a phrase from my dissertation advisor), I'm always thinking about something: my next writing project, tomorrow's lecture, something stupid that I said on the internet --usually with such concentration that I will forget the thing I thought I should do this morning, or not notice the thing right in front of me (like that pile of laundry in the corner). Compounding this is the fact that my knight, though he taught me the value of looking good, it was only through covering up. Underneath a nice tunic, leather jerkin, and harem pants, his armor was a rat bag of gear put together from whatever bits of scrap metal, foam pads, and used sports gear he could lay his hands on. And to him, a sword was just a stick of rattan. It was not planed, it had no thrusting tip, and no basket hilt: just a bit of whittling to form a handle and a short rattan cross hilt. 

I am a bit more thoughtful about my gear, but I'm only handy when I think about it. I know what I like in a sword but I rarely put the effort into building it (the fact that I live in a Brooklyn apartment without a shop is also a factor). Usually, I don't put the effort into building my swords that they deserve, and I use my swords much past their useful life. I've also never found a basket hilt I really like that I can afford (I fought for ten years with a cross hilted sword, and I don't like them very much). Right now I'm using a Baldar cup hilt which, when combined with a fairly light stick, provides good results. The best baskets I've found for weight and balance are Iron Monger hilts, but I own half a dozen basket hilts right now, and whenever I'm at Pennsic I have better things to do with the $75 they would cost me. I just don't feel like buying one. So I stick with what I've got, and I can still kill with it. I'm kind of like Kevin Mitchel, the one-time Giants slugger, who could never find a bat he liked but he could hit home runs with anything. 

The stick I'm using right now is a broom held together with too much tape. It is way too tip heavy for the techniques I'm using these days, and it only lands a good blow one out of three times it lands. This is ok for practice, but probably explains why my arm is so tired this morning. 

This has been a good week: Push ups every day, two long hikes, and two good workouts: Wednesday was a good kettle bell workout, and yesterday I went to the gym for 20 minutes of yoga and 20 minutes on the treadmill. I did not have time to lift, but it was still effective.  

I am so beat up from practice on Thursday. I went there mostly to work on my great sword techniques, tough I planned one or two sword no shield fights as well. The two people I knew I'd be fighting great sword against were Gui and Zack, both of whom are left handed, marking them odd fights. Since I was fighting without a shield I wore my kendo breastplate. Unfortunately, both my shoulder pauldrons are blown out, and so I was without them. I've mostly fought without pauldrons for the last 35 years, but you do pay a price. My main project was to go back to my roots and use Rolf's bastard sword style, the one where I hold it in front of me, diagonally up and back guarding my head, body, and both arms. Problem with that is that against left handers that opens half those targets up, of which my right shoulder was eventually reminded. As a result I also used a bit of Gui's horse stance technique. 

Gui likes to fight in close and I like to fight at range. Usually I try to beat Gui at his own game and I get crushed. I do, however, get to practice all those cool backedge techniques he uses, and I used them to take his leg and double kill with him. My one good kill was in our first bout, where I used that straight cut/thrust, which is becoming my go to shot. 

Against Zack that shot worked very well. I got him with it from both wards (mine and Gui's). I also got him with it from my knees, as he was stepping in after taking my leg, which was particularly satisfying. As long as I controlled the range I was doing well, but when we closed distance we were more or less even. 

I fought sword and shield against Tycho. I was told I circled too far behind him after taking his leg. I was using the "One step" convention, so that surprised me. I have a technique that I use with a legged opponent (no comments about how the answer is to get rid of fighting from our knees because I have no problems with that convention). I show him my thrusting tip, slide to one side and then take a step forward. Normally, I go to my right, but against Tycho, who is left handed, I've been experimenting by going to the left. I think he thought i was "behind him" because I had gone to his shield side, so his shoulders were turned away from me. As far as I can figure out the technique is legal, but both he and Gui thought it wasn't. 

I also fought Brad and then went through the field in a bear pit. 

It is two weeks to crown. My next time in armor will be this Wednesday at Nutley.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Grants Tomb October 5th

Gui had an interesting thing to say about my fighting yesterday. He says my problem is that I push myself in ways and places that I don't need to, that instead of finding my weaknesses and shoring those up I try to learn new techniques or develop new shots that I really don't need. I think that was more of a criticism eight years ago than it is today. That is when I made a conscious decision to switch from being primarily an offensive fighter to primarily a defensive fighter. I simplifed my style, abandoned nearly all of my offense, which was based on molinee's fakes, and combinations, and went to a very pared down simple style that was mostly counter punching: so I see what Gui is talking about, and I probably need to move further in that direction.

Sunday at Grant's Tomb was awesome. I got to practice several different things. There were three knights in armor--Myself, Gui, and Luis--as well as five unbelted fighters--Avran, Torvrikr (sp), Samale, Nikolai, and Tycho.  I manged to fight everybody, and Samale twice. Not only that but I got some good weapons practice in. I fought sword and shield against Luis, Samale, Tycho, Nikolai, and Gui, I fought polearm against Avran, long sword against Samale, and single-sword against Torvrikr.

Just Yoga, walking, and push-ups.

Building on what was working at Nutley on Wednesday Night, I wanted to work on aggression and movement in my sword and shield fights. In addition, I wanted to use two specific techniques in my longsword fights that  I had not used at Cloisters--a horse stance technique with the edges held outward and the first Bastard Sword style I learned from Rolf, which is cocked with hands about chest high. In my polearm and my single sword fights I wanted to run through every technique I have.

Against Gui I won two fights and got creamed six or seven times. I had a real problem with my fights against Gui, which I discussed with him at length. I usually have pretty good footwork. Yesterday I was trying specifically to throw Gui's leg attack, which involves repeatedly throwing wraps and snaps at an opponent's leg while moving around their shield to their sword side in kind of a waddling movement (it's similar to the movement Belatrix uses when fighting agaisnt great weapons with sword and shield). I was doing it either without footwork, in which case he didn't have to move his shield to block, or I was doing it with lousy footwork, with the same result. Normally, even against left handed fighters, my footwork is good enough to win me fights. Against Gui it's terrible. I don't step into my shots enough if at all. Part of it is that he's defending it well because it's a technique he uses, but part of it is I'm not executing at all. I think I'm afraid to come out from behind my shield against Gui and so I'm not stepping out to get around his defense the way I need to. Against Tycho I had no problem with that.

Against Samale, Tycho, and Nikolai my offense and defense were both good. I was trying to be more aggressive--especially against Tycho, and that was working well. I am using a lot more movement and body fakes, so that my A frame is not as static as it has been in the past.

I like to say I have five tricks with a polearm. I used all of them against Avran. My favorite one is to hold the pole like a kayak oar and swim with it. If I can catch the fore of his pole between my hands I will usually kill him with a short chop. If he comes over to my off side and I can knock his attack down I'm on top and will kill him. This worked pretty well. All of my other techniques are more standard, with my thumbs in line not opposed. I also got him once where I just grabbed his pole, choked up and stabbed him in the belly.

My long sword fights against Sam were great. I adjusted my ward so that I was using the Bastard Sword style I first learned from Rolf 35 years ago, with the hands held at about chest level, the blade cocked back and at a slight diagonal toward my right shoulder to that the blade offers cover to both my forearms. I tried a couple of techniques against Samale--Zornhau Ort, Hanging Parry--at which he laughed and said "Ha! I read your blog!" which was pretty affirming. I got some good kills on him with countering shots--parrying and passing either under or over his blade and striking him. Then I fought three fights using Gui's technique, where he adopts a horse stance and holds the sword straight up and down in front with the quillions going parallel to his shoulders-side to side. The idea is that you can use either edge of the sword equally by turning the blade in your hand, I won all three of those fights: once with a thrust, once by blocking and countering to his right side helmet with the true edge, once by blocking and striking his leg with the false edge, then using a technique I'd forgotten about for a legged opponent, where I move my hand above the quillions, strike to the off side, wind, pass on the left, and pull back then short stick him.

Naturally, it was in single sword that I got hurt. This is because I was getting fancy, and the fancier you get the more risks you take. Single sword might be the pinacle of our art--it is certainly the hardest and riskiest thing we do. I have a very well developed single sword style based on techniques from Firoe di Liberi, George Silver, and Dukes Rolf, Paul, and Radnor. I use four wards normally, and I have been working on a 5th, and they all flow one into the other: Right foot forward, weight 70% on the left foot and sword at your left hip (Liberi); weight evenly distributed, sword in a hanging "saber parry" (Sliver); left foot forward, sword above your head (either straight up, as in Silver, or cocked for a snap as in Bellatrix/Radnor), sword cocked in front of you, held diagonally toward your left shoulder (Rolf--same has his bastard sword above), and the one I'm working on now, a fencing stance with the sword held at the right hip, point toward the opponent's face. I'll post some pictures of all of these later. The main goals are to either get above the opponent's sword to make a true edge cut; get a parry 6 (window parry) below your opponent's sword and get a back hand cut; or beat them on timing. You can also use the silver technique of, from the high guard, passing back and striking their arm when they strike at you ("This art is about the lopping off of hands, arms, legs, yea, and even heads."--G. Silver, Gentleman). I did all of this in my fights against Torvrikr. I got hurt when I ducked and he bashed me right on the crown of my helmet while I was bent over. Jammed my neck a  bit. I'm all better now.  Here is a picture on FaceBook of me just starting a technique I learned from Duke Radnor. It caught me in motion, as I've started to strike. I'm going to swing under his blade to draw his defense down, pass on the left and back hand him. If that doesn't work I just come back across his face with a forehand.

This was a great practice. I got in lots of good work. I limbered up my long sword and my polearm. I worked hard on my footwork vs. left handed fighters. I was strong and aggressive.

It is 26 days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will most likely be Thursday Night in Hawthorne.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nutley Practice, October 1 2014

I’m too much of a chameleon. It’s a theme you find in this blog all the time (in fact, it’s in the description). I mention this because Duke Gregor brought it up at Nutley Practice Wednesday night. He said he reads my blog and he sees me writing about this style and that style, identifying them with the people I learned them from, and he asked “when am I going to hear about Val’s style?” I need, in his words, to fight my own fight. It’s a fair criticism. He also said that he is amazed that I can analyze a fight I had in Crown and know exactly what happened. He says he never really knows exactly what he just did, especially in the fights that he wins. He just does it. The implication is that I am thinking too much about what I am doing.
I know what he is talking about. Every fighter seeks to find that place where he is fighting without thought, where he or she is reacting without thinking, where muscle memory and reaction just take over and the lower brain functions are in control. I call this “fighting from within the void” borrowing terminology from translations of Musashi—mostly because it’s cool and makes me sound totally Zen when I say it. But it is true—the best fights I’ve had and the best days I’ve had have always been when I was fighting without thinking. I can still often say what I did, but it was like I had observed myself doing it, not like I had told myself to do it—if that makes any sense. I certainly felt that way in a few of my fights in the Queen’s Champions tourney this summer. I felt it in one or two fights Wednesday night at Nutley too.

But Greggo’s larger point was that I don’t have my own style, at least I don’t write about my own style in this blog.  The truth is that I had a style. It was a distinct style and it was mine. It was not truly unique—it was a Western flat-heater style, based on techniques developed by Radnor and Paul, but with a slightly larger shield than they used. It was identifiable as being similar to all the right handed Western Knights who used heater shields in the 80s and 90s—Duke Christian du Glaive, Count Obadiah,  Steven MacEnruig, William of Houghton, etc. I used combination blows, misdirection, and especially molinee’s (a lot of molinees). In that regard, if it was like anybody else, it was probably closest to Steven of Beckenham—except that Steve being student of Wulf Sagaen von Ostense he was a counter puncher and I am not (most of the people who won crown in the 80s or 90s were Sagan’s students—he occupies a place in the West and now Artemesia similar to the place occupied by Farrel von Halstern in the East and that Eichling von Arum once occupied in CAID, the trainer of kings).  The only person who really fights like me in the East is Duke Ronald, because we were squire brothers and were greatly influenced by Houghton—but he had altered his style radically by the time I moved out here. Regardless, I had a style, and my style was not anybody else’s. It was mine. I had blows and techniques that I had developed for myself. I did things with my sword that nobody else did. When I moved to the East I found that my offense could not get past the longer shields used by the Northern Region fighters and my defense could not cope with an off-side face shot that came from in front of the head (Thorsen in particular destroyed me with that). I tried all sorts of things to compensate—different shields, learning a sword forward style—before finally settling into the A Frame heater style I use now, and to which I am now committed. (Yes, I should have spent a year with Ronald learning how he had coped, but even though he was in South Jersey I didn’t see him much). The A Frame still doesn’t feel like *my* style. My style is the Bellatrix influenced heater style that I fought for 15 years in the West and 5 years here in the East, but which I’ve now mostly abandoned.   

Since last I wrote on Monday night, all I’ve done is fight and push ups.

At Nutley I just wanted helmet time. I wanted to jump into the deep end of the pool and trade stripes. I wasn’t working on anything and, in fact, was specifically trying *not* to have a plan in any of my fights.

I fought Breeder, Duke Kelson, Tseitchel, Duke Gregor, and a fighter I did not know. I’d brought my old leather vambraces because since I started using my splint arms with the 5 piece elbows my neck, back, shoulder, and elbows have bothered me, and I’m pretty sure it’s the vambraces. Unfortunately, I pulled the vambraces out and then forgot to put them on, so I fought without them most of the night. I only realized they were missing after I fought Gregor. I lost my arm twice, but thankfully nobody hit me on the elbow.

Beating someone at practice doesn’t matter, but how well you execute at practice does. It feels good to kill fighters who are good at practice, but it doesn’t mean a lot. Still, I had more success against the top fighters than I am used to. I rarely kill Breeder, I killed him twice. I never kill Kelson, I killed him twice. I rarely kill Gregor, I killed him twice as well. But the better thing is that kills on all of them were basically unplanned. They were shots that I threw in combinations or they were reaction shots. I was fighting from within the void.

Against Breeder, the difference was that I was much more active. I have morphed my A Frame style into a bit of a boxer style. I am moving more. I am switching between a right and left leg lead—even against good lefties. When I killed Breeder the first time it was with a face shot in the middle of an exchange, in which he clearly thought I would be farther to my right than I was, but in which I had stepped off line to my left and got in behind his block. The second time I killed him was just  a blind shot I threw to break up his combo that ended up hitting him.

Kelson beat me handily in our first tow bouts, and I only beat him because he got tired and sloppy. But I still felt good about both my kill shots. The first was a straight down the middle head shot that hit him as he moved off line to his left. The second was a thrust that went straight up the face of his shield and into his grill. Both of these were reactions to what he was doing and I was not conscious of a decision to throw them in either case.

Agaisnt Tseitchel I was getting fancy, but of course the fancier I get the sloppier I get. I had some good fights with her and won a bunch of them.

Against Gregor we started with a very long, intense fight that involved several exchanges and ended with me hitting him in the face as he was disengaging. I killed him once more, but he killed me three or four times. Nonetheless, he said later that I was fighting better than normal: he had been unable to control range with me, and that I had a very tight defense the whole time.

My shield strap broke in my last fight and I ended up borrowing Avran’s great sword and using that as a shield. I fought pretty well, and outlasted my opponent, killing him at least twice. That was mostly for fun, and while it allowed some offensive work it really was not serious practice.   

Another thing I discussed with Gregor is that Farrel taught him, as Bellatrix taught me, that you should train your offense to the point that it is automatic so you can use all your focus on your defense. This is worth thinking about.

There are 29 days until Crown Tournament. The next time I will be in armor will be this Sunday, most likely at Grant’s Tomb. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cloisters Demo

Sometimes you don't know why you are doing a thing. Demos are great fun but they are odd. You are often fighting for a different purpose--to please an audience and put on a good show--than you would normally fight for. I have tried recently to treat demos a bit more like a small tournament, one in which I may goof around with odd weapons or techniques I would not normally use, but in which I am still trying to best my opponents and not playing so much to the crowd, but that with varying results. Cloisters demo is one of my favorites. It takes place at the Ft. Tryon Medieval Festival every year in Manhattan. It's a one day ren-fair that, like every public festival in Manhattan, draws an unbelievable crowd of people--theofficial number has been 60,000 people the last five years, that's in a park that has only one main road coming and going, is served by only two subways stops and those on the same line, one of which requires walking down a steep stairs for several hundred feet and the other to take a big freight elevator down to the platform, and for which there is like all things in New York almost no parking. The whole  fair is laid out on either side of a road about 1 mile long that runs north from the park entrance and then loops around the Cloisters Museum (probably the Best Medieval museum outside of Europe). For most people (those who don't want to brave the stairs down to Dyckman Street) There is only one entrance to the park, so what you've got is 60,000 people milling about up and down one short stretch of road. But, like a midtown sidewalk at lunch time, it is kind of thrilling--the greatest sight in nature being man in all his infinite variety.

It also means we get a great audience. For years the SCA has shared a tourney space ont eh south lawn with other sword play groups while the big choreographed shows and mounted jousting go on at an arena. Fort he second year in a row that included our friends from the Armored Combat League. This is both frustrating (because, let's face it, they draw a bigger crowd than the SCA does) and relaxing (because, let's face it, it takes some of the pressure off of the SCA). There is, of course, a lot of cross over between the two groups, and a couple of our regulars were unavailable because they were fighting in the ACL tourney and were committed to that. Their show was excellent, by the way, and they had a team come down from Quebec and a few people come in from Russia for the event. I continue to believe that ACL represents an existential threat to the SCA because they put on a more violent and athletic competition than we do and are siphoning off many of our best fighters into their game while, at the same time, presenting an option more attractive to many who are interested in the sport combat activity that has long lain at the heart of the SCA structure. The thing is, I'm content with that. While I would like to fight ACL my main focus continues to be training for crown, and I only have so much time and so many knee ligaments to give to any one art. I don't believe in fighting progress and that is what the ACL is--the next logical step in medieval style combat. The ACL has the opportunity to grow the SCA a bit as well since they have nothing to offer but the fighting, and they currently have nothing like Pennsic. Many of the dukes who have been doing ACL have kept up their SCA participation. Lucan in particular is doing great things for the SCA with The Knight's Hall. On the whole I love the ACL,

In addition to the ACL and the Knights of Avalon (a kid show) we also shared the space with Sword Class NYC, a HEMA group. I was actually as impressed with their fighters as I was with ACLs.

Anyway, it was a really good day.

It's only bee two days since my last post. I've done one Yoga class and my push ups.

I went to Cloisters planning to work on my Long Sword and my pole arm technique. I wanted to use two of the German Longsword  seen in Ken Mondschein's video below in my longsword this weekend. Did not work one bit.

I fought mace and shield, long sword and pole ax. I never use the rubber headed mace or ax heads in serious competition because, although they look good, I ahve trouble striking a telling blow with them. The just bounce off. But in Demo's i'm happy to use them. I hit a few people blows with the mace that they did not take, but I got a few kills with it. My mace technique comes from Rolf the Relentless, the best Mace fighter I know, and involves no only wraps but rising snaps, dropping face shots, and--especially--figure eights.

I also fought a few fights with the pole axe. When I do that I normally use a thumbs opposed grip (like a kayak paddle of a movie quarterstaff) and fight the technique employed by Duke Visivald of fighting in close and mostly chopping at the head with short almost punching strokes. It's pretty effective, and I even got one person to count that ax head with it. I also was victorious with my disengage thrust discussed in the last post. Mostly, however, it was an exercise in futility.

I was very unhappy with my longsword. Although I've worked the stuff I was doing on the pell I was not doing it properly in armor. I was also very indecisive. I was kind of in between using Vom Tag or Alber and using the high center version of Vom Tag common in the East (mostly thanks to Gregor). This is a totally bogus SCA technique, since it relies on the invulnerability of our hands. In it you hold the sword cocked with the hands basically in front of your face and use short chops mostly at the head and shoulders. I did not use any Bellatrix technique at all.

My two best kills were my first longsword fight, against Avran, and my last fight of the day, against Auzur. In the fight against Auzur I used a Zornhau Ort, probably the most common technique seen in  HEMA competition. In it you strike a diagonal downward strike and then thrust quickly at the face. It's the most basic technique in longsword because it works, but I don't think Azur had ever seen it. Of course, this being the SCA, there was really no footwork involved.

The other fight I was very happy with was against Avran. It's up as a video on Facebook here:

As I note in the comments, this fight started out terribly for me. I start out in long pint but leave that quickly. You can see that I want to fight in Alber or in Vom Tag and in both cases I wont commit to either, though mostly becasue they aren't drawing Avran in. Avran, meanwhile, is doing what I told him to do six years ago and using the classic Bellatrix technique. (Paul's stuff, although he developed it himself, is all found in the German manuals and it all begins either in the plow with a right foot lead or in Vom Tag). I end up in a stupid ward, fighting with the SCA version of Vom Tag but without my sword cocked the way it should be. I win this fight by going back to where I started in long point and just beating him on timing. The whole time I should have been taking a right foot lead and I didn't. The technique I won the fight with is probably my favorite cut, though, a simple downward timing strike.

It is 33 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at Nutley practice on Wednesday.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Grant's tomb and Wantagh

I started this bog on Sunday 9/14, right after the Beau Geste at Grant’s Tomb practice, but I didn’t finish it that night and for a lot of reasons (work work work) I’m just getting back to it. Too bad, because I have a few interesting things to say.

So here is a simple truth: most SCA fighting is based on the broadsword. Impact weapons aren’t fast with that second shot, but they are really good for rising snaps and high wraps. Some of the best Florentine fighters use the same sword work that sword and shield fighters use. I learned a long time ago that a great sword is just a big broadsword, and I can throw lots of the same fakes with it that I would with my broadsword.  That is the basis for the Bellatrix greatsword style: with the variation of a slightly wider stance, it uses the same body mechanics as broadsword, and the right hand travels in pretty much the same arc.

 I left my shield at home for the Beau Geste.  The biggest reason was I’ve had a mild tendonitis in my elbow. It started at the feast last Satruday after Barleycorn. I have a strong suspicion that it’s because I was using my steel arms and not my leather ones (my bauzbauds are with Torvaldr getting shortened, but I just found that I have my old leather arms downstairs. I thought they were in California. However, with elbow pain I decided that 5 pieces 16 ga elbows were just a better idea to I stuck with those). Also, I intend to have to fight with greatsword at Crown.

I also went out to Wantagh practice last Thursday. I hauled my gear to the subway, took that to the LIRR, from Wantagh station I packed my armor over to the church where practice is held (only about two blocks). Unfortunately, Tycho had forgotten his helmet and the only other person in armor was Bob Fox.

It’s been really, really hard to get workouts in. It’s not that I don’t have time, it’s my new schedule I have a 5 AM alarm Monday and Wednesday (it should actually be 4:30, but I’m trying to stay a bit sane), a 5:30 alarm on Tuesday and a 6:30 alarm on Thursday. I’ve got lots and LOTS of time to work out—Monday and Wednesday I’m done by 9 AM-- and a gym that’s open from noon till 9PM four days a week at school. Trouble is, I’m barely able to stay awake. I only have an afternoon class on Friday, so I slept in, but I *still* slept 12 hours Friday night. So it was 50 push ups every day, Indian club workouts, one kettle bell workout, and one nice bike ride on Friday (7.5 mile commute each way).

Since the 14th my workouts have picked up. I’ve been to two Yoga classes, I’ve been to the gym twice, I’ve been doing pushups every morning and Indian clubs most nights. Sunday I did a bench press WOD and pressed a personal best of 205—not a lot, but a lot for me. I also got in some cycling and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Yesterday I did the same gym workout, only instead of bench press I warmed up with dumbells and then did a clean and press from the floor with a 50 pound dumbell, ten times each arm, which is another personal best.  Those pushups are working.  

I was trying to return to my roots with the Bastard sword—the Kenjitsu based techniques that Elric taught me long ago, the Belatrix based techniques that I studied for a long time. That went out the window as soon as we laid on.

At Wantagh I was just fighting to fight, with no real plan for working on any technique.

 There were only four fighters at Grant’s Tomb—Brian (the Brian from Loch Laven, not Avran), Nikolai, myself and Gui. I was fighting with my two handed sword. (a lot of people call it a bastard sword, but to me a bastard sword is about four feet long and this is five. It has a handle about 16 inches long, which is way longer than a bastard sword). 

I warmed up against Nikolai. He got me once. I hit him using what is essentially a Kendo technique: stand in long point with my right foot forward and, as he throws, raise my sword, pass off line to the left, and hit him in the shoulder. I got him once more on a short chop to the head.
I found that most of the day I was passing back and firing,

We fought  a modified bear pit format. We each took turns holding  the field against the three others, meaning each of us got six fights total, but wins and losses only counted when you were holding the field.  Theottetically, we could have ended up with a four way tie. But we didnt’. Gui won handily.

I won both my fights against Brian and split my fights with Nikolai (although I beat him when I was holding the field). I found that I was not using any of the Bellatrix technique. I did kill Brian once with the disengage thrust I made up thirty years ago (Fake a thrust to the face, circle down toward the right and back up, then thrust to the face of neck). Gui just destroyed me.

I had a few sword and shield fights with Nik and also , after his shield broke and he took the one I had been borrowing, I did that silly thing with the upside down greatsword in lieu of a shield. On instinct, I used it to thrust him in the chest once. I fought those fights pretty well.

I had more to say ten days ago.

Thursday against Bob Fox I learned a valuable lesson. Bob has a snap that goes straight down. Usually when someone throws a straight down shot it’s a chop. It follows a wide arc, and I just move off line to the left and throw an off side, and they are usually open: but Bob’s isn’t a chop, the way most people throw it, it’s a snap. It’s a snap that comes straight down. This means that I can’t tell if it is going to be a regular flat snap or one that will travel downward until it breaks, which is too late to step around it and, besides, I run the risk of walking into it if it is indeed a flat snap. The important thing that I learned was not that, it’s that this technique eats my A Frame up. It’s really hard to defend against. When I fought a high closed style, when I fought a Bellatrix style, when I just grabbed the initiative and attacked, I won nearly all of those fights. But when I fought my A Frame, the way I would if it were a crown, Bob beat me up and stole my lunch money. It’s a very valuable lesson. Any center line attack is going to be effective against that A frame/boxer style.  Because I don’t have a downward shot in my repertoire, I’d never figured that part out. Inside line thrusts I was aware of—both throwing them and the need to defend against them—but not that downward snap.  

It is 35 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at the Cloisters this Sunday.      

Monday, September 8, 2014

Grant's Tomb and John Barleycorn.

After John Barleycorn.

Crown will be November 1, opening day, which sucks. It will be in southern New Hampshire, which is almost as close as it could have been this time since it had to be in the Northern Region. 

I managed to fight twice last week, and Grant’s Tomb on Sunday and on John Barleycorn on Saturday. We had thought Barleycorn was going to be a disaster. Rain was forecast, we didn’t know if any fighters would show: but it turned out to be a great event., especially for fighting!

I managed one Yoga workout and one Kettle Bell workout last week, plus I did pushups every day. I have to kick that up a notch.

I was really trying to work on distance. I wanted to fight mostly at my max range. This was good in all my fights but especially important against Gui.

There were four of us in armor: myself, Sam, Tycho, and Gui. Two lefties, two righties, two knights, two unbelted fighters.

I was in training mode fighting Sam. I warmed up against him with some slow work then we did some situational drills. We did a few straight up fights,  then block and strike drills. Then a few more fights. Sam is getting much better but he is not good for me. I have a tendency to fall into old fun habits against Sam because he is not good enough to beat them, and because he is trying to learn a Bellatrix style and that’s the old habit I like most.  The result is that I get a bit of indecision in whether to fight my current A-Frame style, where I need to work, or to fight the fun fight, which is what he is fighting, and do stuff that I don’t do against the better fighters. Of course I usually go for the fun fight.

Against Tycho I was nice and tight. I got him (he’s a leftie) with a shot where I wrapped to the body and, when he blocked it, I turned it into a thrust. That’s the one blow I really remember.

I fought two passes with Gui.  He had been watching Duke Branos’ fighting video  viewed here:
So he was fighting an A Frame, which he never does. Totally freaked me out and he clobbered me. I mean it was embarrassing.

Our second pass I did much better. I fought him well in both the A Frame and the high guard. When he went into a high guard I stabbed him in the belly behind his shield. When he went into the A frame I threw thrusts at his inside line. It worked a lot better than the first time. I found that, for the first time ever, I was timing his leg shot. He would throw it and I managed to block and throw in half-time a wrap to his head.  I hit him with it three times.

So there had not been a lot of fighters showing up to Barleycorn lately.  Last year I think there were four of us. This year Gui and I had made a big push to get more fighters there. Tormundr made a really cool bar mace as a prize for the tourney, plus Sir Edward’s Unbelted Challenge was also taking place. It turned out people wanted that bar mace. There were eight fighters taking part in Sir Edward’s tourney. Six of those fought in the second tourney, plus five knights: myself, Sir Balin, Duke Conrad, Duke Keneric, and King Brenan. Umm, yeah. Top heavy!  J

The list was a double elimination fight, best two out of three, with a challenge round. In the challenge round I was the last fighter left and was picked by Avran.  He wanted to fight great weapon, so we ended up using His Majesty’s matched Danish axes (no thrust, which saved my bacon in our first fight). The first fight I used it the way I normally fight Great Ax, thumbs opposed and fighting like it’s a pugil stick. This worked well. Second fight I used it like an ax, short grip at the bottom of the haft, longer swings. That was more satisfying, as I used a good technique to win, avoiding Avran’s blow and hitting him on the head from Vom Tag.

My second fight I drew Brenan. In our first fight I started out in an A Frame but switched quickly to a high guard and he showed me right away why I don’t fight that style out here—hit me in the face with that little flick from the A Frame guard that travels right down the top of my shield and into my nasal. My second fight I went into an A Frame and we fought for some time before I killed him with a hook thrust. The third fight I got sneaky. Jade has this this thrust that is like Bruce Lee’s  floating punch. It’s designed to look like it’s not coming. It’s kind of an attitude/no attitude technique. You circle to the right, out of range, relaxed, shield and sword  at your side. You step with your left foot to just outside range, then pass on your right into range, raising your sword from your side but, instead of bringing it up to a guard position, you extend it into a face thrust , turning the knuckles slightly up so that the tip drops a bit as it comes over the shield.  I put it right into his left eye.  It’s the fourth tourney in a row that I’ve beaten Brenan.

Next I fought Duke Keneric. In one of our fights he took my leg and then I put a thrust up the inside of his shield as he hit me, so we double killed. The other two fights he did what he usually does, took my leg (once by switching from a sword foot lead to a shield foot lead, changing the angle and getting a deeper passing step), then killed me with that wicked deep off side that is almost a butterfly shot. They were good long fights and I managed to take him off his game a bit with my thrusts, but in the end he got me.

Next I fought Tycho. I was really proud of my second kill because I changed the angle of that shot. I was throwing a shot that could have been a wrap from slightly to his right but, on the fly, I pulled my elbow in, pushed my shoulder up, and hit him with the true edge in the face.

My last fights were with Balin. Those were awesome. He is one of the top two sword fighters in the kingdom but he hasn't been active for several years. But he was at Pennsic and has been getting back in, and he is still pretty amazing. I think we double killed but I’m not sure. He took my right arm and I took his left at the same time, then we got into a single sword fight until he took my left arm. Our last fight he took my leg then got me with a body/head combo and landed them both. In that last fight I almost got him with a  thrust, but in my single sword fight I had picked up Gui’s sword to guard my right hand and afterward kept hold of it. It’s shorter than my sword by more than an inch, and with that extra length the thrust might have counted. I always feel with Balin like I just need to improve my timing and I can beat him. He creates a lot of slop. His sword blocks are so crisp and he’s got some nice sabre technique, and it’s a really fun fight.   

At some point during dinner my right elbow, inside, started to hurt. I may take it easy this week. I’ll still do my pushups.

To illustrate what I was talking about regarding fighting Sam, Here’s a video of me fighting Arn. Arn is a talented fighter, but new. He doesn’t have the experience to know what to do against a style he’s never seen. I described this fight back on June 10, ( . That stands out to me in this video is my indecision as to what style to fight. You can see me switch back and forth from a high open form to an A Frame. If Arn had thrown shen Iw as in that transition he would have pasted me.

It is 54 days until Crown. Unless I feel really good on Thursday, or end up going to River War in Iron Bog, my next time in armor will be Sunday at Grant's Tomb.