Saturday, June 18, 2016

War camp + practice.

Yikes! ! I am A week behind on this blog!

On the other hand, not a lot is happening.

I was in armor twice last week, at the southern region war camp, and at McCarren Park practice on Monday night. And I am still using that huge crusader pot helmet. When I realized on Monday is that it makes me extremely top-heavy. I'm having trouble moving, and I am losing my balance. Plus there's the whole vision thing: it's almost impossible for me to see an offside shot in that helmet, let alone leg shots. So I think any victory I have is a pretty good one.

At war camp, fought two of the battle scenarios, the boat Landing Beach battle and the bridge. I was actually having a lot of fun, and while my wind was slightly affected by the helmet, I did pretty well. I also hit a lot of people. It was all shield wall work, and I ended up standing up the charge a few times. 

I did pick ups with Gunther, master Karl, sir William McCrimmin, sir Eric Hundeman -- the brand-new night -- and Duke Edward. Except for Edward, with whom I went one and two, I won more fights that I lost. 

At McCarren Park it was jus me, Ervald, and Seamus. I had my slot shot working, but felt really slow and weak. A new helmet might not help, but it couldn't hurt. 

There are 40 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Minday at McCarren Park. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Riverfest (plus a practice)

It's important to be able to put on a show. When a well known band from the 1970s--lets say, Orleans--is playing on a stage 40 feet away, you need to up your game. But if you only have a few fighters and no set schedule, what do you do? Oh: it's raining, and a monsoon is coming in. We just did a few passages of arms, one pair at a time, then talked.

Made the gym yesterday with a good workout: 20 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes weight lifting (dumbbells and kettlebells) and 20 minutes yoga. I've made my steps and pushup goals. I've been doing the "Walk To Pennsic" challenge, which consists of logging 537 miles between March 8 and July 28. I will complete it today, in about 600 more steps.

Ok. The demo was blled as a greatsword class and torunament, but that didn't really happen. Only one student showed up. My greatsword technique is an odd conglomeration of the teaching of Paul of Bellatrix, Elric Scapvarger, Gui Avec Cheval, Gregor von Heisler, Marc d'Arundel, a bit of German long sword and the bastard sword techniques of Rolf the Relentless. These are quite different, obviously. Mostly I either fight in long point, a la mark, or with the sword cocked in front of me a la Rolf and Greggor, or else with the quillions cross wise, often in a horse stance, edges out, a la Gui.

We only got one person to show up for the great-sword clinic, Dirk Krasner, and I did some passes with him, mostly fighting out of long point and working on the techniques of Duke Marc--thrust, hanging guard, pass and cut. I won many of those fights.

Later, for the show, he and I did a passage of arms to three blows with sword and shield, great sword, and arming sword. I won each round 3-1. I tried to do a little half-swording with the arming sword, but that got me killed. I also tried the Fiore sword in one hand technique (which comes off the left hip, point tailing). If I'd committed to the strike, it would have worked. but I followed that up with a classic--strike an on side blow, parry 6 (the window parry) pass on the left and cut to the head.

After the passage I tore all the padding out of my helmet. In doing so I discovered two cracked (but not broken through) welds. Not usable. Whatever was going on, although i didn't develop a concussion, I felt the helmet was not protective enough. Padding wasn't bottoming out, but it had always been a lighter helm than necessary. So I decided not to use it any more, and to make sure I wouldn't use it anymore, I took the padding out. Otherwise I'm like an adict. I what to fight! (!!) Cet is making me a new helm, and I will fight in that when it is done. I do have a backup, unattractive as it may be...

At McCarren Park the next night there were eight  fighters in armor--myself, Gui Auzer, Luthor, Ervald, Sable, and Seamus d'Arundel. That's a good practice. Unfortunately, I was using the great helm I got from Gui a few years ago. I haven't used a closed-face helmet in over a decade, and it wasn't pretty. I was losing sight of everything coming to the off-side.

None shall pass.

I warmed up against Seamus, but we didn't actually fight. I hit him in the shin and we stopped. That was a product of visibility.

I did some teaching with Sable. I was fighting with just a few blows and concentrating on seeing what she was doing. We mostly need to work on her power.

I fought Gui with greatswords, since we hadn't been able to fight on Sunday. I did shockingly well. I killed him with a shoulder cut the first fight, and got him once or twice later, plus several double kills.

Luthor reminded me why I started using the A-Frame. He is so fast he completely beats my closed high guard. I simply couldn't keep up with him. Once I switced to the A frame I think I won all of our fights. Getting past his first attack was all I needed. I took his leg  couple of times and killed him with deep wraps and butterflies.

Auzer also beat me up our first two fights, but, again, once I got a handle on what he was doing I started winning. He was throwing his usual punching off side then jumping in and throwing a deep wrap. I just guarded for the wrap and timed my blow to hit half a beat behind his. Killed him with a deep wrap and with an off-side head shot that way. Then, anticipating his move forward, I killed him with a hidden trust--hiding my thrusting tip behind my shield and then sliding it past his.

Against Ervald I mostly took his leg. He killed me once with a good, aggressive off side attack. I caught him moving his defense up and hit his leg two or three times. I helped it along with an upsilon once. Then I killed him with thrusts and body shots.

Ending where I began, with Seamus, was important. He was also able to beat my high-guard, but I had his leg pretty good. I killed him with butterflies and stutter wraps, with a hook wrap and a hook thrust. He beat me with speed and a really wicked off-side, much like Arne at Mudthaw. Only this time I was not seeing the off-side due to the helmet. Ouch. Bruises. Ow.

All in all I felt odd because of the helmet, but good because of the helmet time. My wrist was bothering me at first, but that got better, not worse, as the evening wore on, as it often does. Thing is, the next day it still felt better. I'd worn the brace on it on Monday and I think that hurt more than it helped. Luthor, Zack, Seamus, and Gui all pasted me at some point, but I felt much safer in this helmet than in my old one. It's much heavier and more protective. I did get a bit of a scratch on the nose, but that's just adjusting the chin strap. Those four are really really good, and they each overwhelmed me at some point.

It's 47 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be tomorrow at Southern Region War Camp.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

War of the Roses


I love War of the Roses. It's a nice, pleasant event. The first good camping event of the year, good fighting, fun tourneys.

This year, Hot.

I had planned to play around, work with my man at arms Patrick, and maybe fight in the Tournament of Roses on Sunday. Plans didn't work out due to a shot I took to the back of the head.

I was using my light sword without a thrusting tip. The big draw on Saturday was the great-weapon's tournament. I really only have two primary techniques with a  great weapon--thumbs aligned and thumbs opposed. I can play the oarsman style, but I don't think it works that often.

I've been getting between 70,000 and 85,000 steps every week, and 50 push ups a day. Nothing has changed.

I only fought in two of the battles because, in one of them, I took a pole arm to the back of the head. That was fun. I was engaged with Mathias and then BAM! I didn't even see who threw the shot. It hurt my neck and might have given me a concussion. I say "might have" because I didn't feel any of the symptoms I felt when I had what my doctor called a "mild concussion" three years ago--no nausea, no dizziness, I had had a slight headache before I fought, but that was probably a combination of the heat and the bus trip up to Albany. I was slightly stunned for a moment, and felt odd. Just odd enough to say "in 95 degree muggy heat I don't want to fight anymore."  I marshaled and hung out the rest of the day. I stayed off site and did not return on Sunday because it was even hotter.

My few sword and shield fights were fun, but nothing to really write about. They were warm up / pick up fights, and I was just getting my joints moving.

I did have lots of good pole arm fun. I fought three authorization bouts, then in the tournament. The auth bouts convinced me that I should fight thumbs aligned, which is what I usually do against other pole arms. My reactions were at least good, which is all you can test in against new fighters. I won my first bout against a great sword fighter. He took my leg with a thrust, then I took his arm and killed him. My second fight was against a shorter fighter who just nailed me with a thrust from below after a brief exchange. It was a great shot.

Nothing else to report, really.

There are 57 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Sunday at Sir Gui's Greatsword Dance Party.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ostgardr Heavy and Rapier Practice Tourney

Small tourneys, what do you do?

I am a big fan of practice tourneys. At BART practice, back in the early 80s, use them to help cure tourney choke. The Argent Angels host of the Crapaud, a monthly tourney. This week's will be the 242nd (and they've never missed a month). In Ostgardr we held a tournament called the Beau Geste tournament. We stopped doing them regularly a while ago, but we still try to hold them now and then. 

If the turn out is small--3-7--you need to find a way to increase the number of fights. 7-12 a round robin is fine, by the time you hit 16 you should run a double elimination.  

I hosted a practice tourney for both heavy and rapier on Sunday at Sword Class NYC, the combination Kendo dojo and HEMA school in Harlem. We had 5 heavy fighters and 3 rapier fighters (two of us were doing double duty). We held a sort of round robin for both lists. Everybody had to fight everybody three times, and we tallied total number of victories.

Just 50 push ups and 10,000 steps a day. I've done some odd workouts of squats and Dumbbells I'm designing a new workout program for the summer (4 days a week for a month I will have access to one of the best gyms in the city, plus I will have a 32 mile round trip bicycle commute. I will do one or the other. 

I fought all but one sword and shield fight in a high closed form, with my sword slightly forward of my shield, a la Prince Brian. I used the light sword without a thrusting tip. I need to be wary of exposing my arm in that form.  I was concentrating on fast counter punches and double strikes. 

As the only knight, I fought but not for the prize. In three of my rounds I used sword and shield and in the fourth I fought single sword. The other fighters were Sable, Ervald, Samale, and Ronan. 

The winner of the rapier prize was Ronan, and of the heavy prize, Ervald.

The prize for each was a jelly donut. 

It is 64 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Saturday at War of the Roses.   

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wantagh, Cinco de Mayo

Wantagh 5/5

There were four people in armor: me, Horic, Caitlyn, and Bob Fox. I fought one set each with Bob and Caitlyn and three sets against Horic. 

I used my lighter sword, which made it harder to strike a good blow, and I did not use the thrust once (and at one point I lost the thrusting tip anyway). I also fought in a high closed form, not the A frame, throughout. It taught me a few things. 

For instance, against Bob, I was trying to time a forehead cut with his blow, blocking as I threw. I hit him several times like that, but as I was throwing I was also backing out slightly, to aid my defense, and this was robbing my blow of power. I adjusted, taking a slight slide step forward as I threw the blow. I killed him. 

Caitlyn was teaching. She was not as sharp as the last time I fought her. I told her to work on her feet--move with purpose, complete the movement, don't square up--advise I should take as well. 

I fought Horic very well but had power issues. Probably two thirds of the blows I struck were no good. That's the super-light stick.  At first I was getting his leg but he adjusted to that.  When I used his technique for fighting someone on their knees he, natch, had a counter--a very wicked off side leg shot at a weird angle.  My goal was primarily to counterpunch with a straight snap. I did get one kill with a stutter wrap. The best thing I did was figure out the hole in his guard, and killhim through it--with three off-side body shots (I landed two more that weren't stout). One was a classic butterfly. 

This practice is exactly what I needed last night. I was upset about mundane tribulations and I got to hit people with a stick. Sometimes, you just need to bash somebody with a stick. 

There are 82 days until Pennsic. I likely won't be in armor till after Kalamazoo. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Crown Tournament #94, East Kingdom Spring Crown, Quebec

So this crown was not a success fighting wise, but I learned a lot about myself. It reinforced some things that I already knew, and it was a lot of fun.

First the negative: I was way under prepared. Due primarily to injuries I had not fought nearly enough between Birka and Crown. This is part of being 52 instead of 22, and you just have to manage it. Coming into this crown I felt unfinished--that's the only way I can describe it--like Edward Scissor Hands. That seems odd after 37 years of fighting, but I have been trying to put some things together in my style, and I've not quite done so. Alfred says that I'm making incremental changes and I need to start making wholesale changes (he's talking about taking a more zen approach). Maybe, but I really just need to do a few things right.

I tried a lot of other prep to get mentally ready. I worked out with weights and Indian clubs. I repaired all my armor, getting t those things (my shoulders, for instance) that I'd been putting off. I repaired my shield, made a new sword, and put the basket hilt on my old (slightly shorter and lighter) one. The drive up to Quebec flew by. I felt good. None of that helps with a lack of helmet time.

In my first loss (my third fight) my chin strap blew out. We were in pool play and had been admonished not to slow the pools down. I rushed around like a decapitated chicken trying to get it fixed. I couldn't get it riveted so gave that up after three tries and fixed it with p-cord (what Flieg calls "soft rivets").  I lost my first fight back in the pool and was out of sorts the rest of the day.

All day long I was tentative. I was trying not to lose. I had too much fear. I was not aggressive--except in my fight with Ryo (more on that later). I was told that there were two face thrusts that looked good on me in two different fights. Neither had felt like they had any positive force (my definition of that is that, while I'm not rocked by it, it has to push my helmet back into my gorget), and my opponents insisted they were satisfied with them. The one face thrust I did die to, in pool play, was just what I am looking for--stiff enough to bottom my helmet out, not "hard". I did start worrying, however, about whether or not my chin strap repair made thrusts somehow feel different. Regardless, after I was told that, I lost my next two fights and was out of the lists.

Randal and I had a long talk after the lists and he crystallized into words what I was feeling. My plan recently, not just for this list, but for my fighting in general, has been to simplify everything. Don't throw a lot of fakes or molinees, don't go for as much fancy foot work. Use that stuff when an opening presents itself, but concentrate on counter punching with snaps and off-side heads, and working the angles with wraps, off sides, and body shots. React more than you act. In the words of Duke Radnor, "let your opponent tell you how he wants to die." That is NOT what I was doing this crown. In this crown I was fighting like it was practice. I was trying everything. This is also why I lost to Arne at Mudthaw. I had something that I knew was going to work, but decided to try something else then go back to that. As Randy put it, I was cycling through techniques--"ok--that didn't work, lets try this; this almost worked, so come back to it." Randy said he heard me say at one point (and I did) "No, if I do that you'll just take my arm," meaning I was keeping up a running dialogue with myself about what I was doing, instead of just doing it. He saw that, saw a hole in one of my techniques, and simply waited for me to cycle back around to it, then took my leg. I was predictable--and my strength is usually that I am NEVER predictable. I need to do what I had planned to do all along--just stick to a couple of techniques until they work, and only add to them if an opening presents itself.

I was not fighting like myself.

One last thing. Readers of this blog will know that I have been struggling with the advantages and disadvantages of three wards--the High closed form, and the High open form and the A frame.The High Open Form is the classic Bellatrix style. It's how I was trained, and fought for 25 years, and won my crown and coronet. It is allows for the strongest and most creative offense, though slightly slower. The High closed form brings the sword forward to guard the head. It presents the fastest counter punches, but it's susceptible to wraps.  The A frame is a variation on the high closed form, and it's how I've been winning fights lately--it's very defensive. Instead of looking over the top of the shield you look past the front edge of my shield and use my sword to guard my right side--but it has almost no offense, and ti doesn't allow me to do the thing I want to do most right now--a counter punch snap or off-side body, and it's off-side head is just a touch slow. Most of the fights I've lost recently have been because I was either transitioning from one ward to the other, or because I was in the A frame and had drifted out of position, or because I was using the High open form. To be specific, nearly all my losses come on the right-side edge of my shield. I lost to off-side head shots in pool play. Ivan and Brion took my sword arm. So did Arne at Mudthaw. Tiberus knocked me out with a molinee saber cut. Randal took my *right leg with a back hand. I lost one fight to a fast inside thrust. At crown last fall, Simon beat me with thrusts to the inside of my shield (and almost got me with one on Saturday). The crown before that I was beaten by Ivan (leftie, right side of my shield) and Dimitri took my right leg when I did the foot stomp fake. Conclusion: I am squaring up way too much, exposing my right leg, drifting my shield to the left,  and not using my sword for defense as much as I need to be in the A Frame. Part of this is a natural resutl of using an A frame--the left side is cut off completely, but I'm obviously doing it wrong. Really, most of all, it's squaring up--one of the biggest sins in fighting. That cold just be me being sloppy, or it could be compensating for something physical like a bad back. Regardless, I need to work that out. Knowing that, and knowing how I felt mentally, and knowing what I was doing with technique, and that I was fighting like it was practice--all of which I figured out after the lists--actually makes me feel good about this Crown. And so does the fact that the winner--though certainly I'm no Duke Brion (only two or three were ever as good as he is)--is older than I am.

And the good: I beat two knights, Rhys and Simon, one of whom--Simon--was the only person I lost to in the round of sixteen last crown. I lost to Ivan, Brion, and Randal. Those, and my final loss to Tiberius, were all great fights. I was actually fighting very well. I had a lot of fun and I liked the outcome of the lists.

Oh, the site was at an incredible medieval village in Quebec. One of the best sites I've ever seen.

Here is some video from a French news crew showing me against Reynaud in pool play. 

Long live Prince Brion and Princess Anna!

It is 87 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will probably be this Thursday at Wantagh practice.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Training and teaching

Crown tournament is just over a week away, both my main and a back up transportation options have fallen apart. Thankfully, next week is spring break, and I know I can get up to Canada if I have a week to get there. I am also not at all where I want to be. My ribs have not fully healed from Mudthaw, The inflammation in my wrist has flared up, and I have about 6 pounds heavier than I would like to be. I feel very broken. Worst of all, I have not fought as much as I wanted to at this point. After MudThaw I took two weeks off to rest my ribs, fought in a great practice in Hawthorne, but my rib pain flared up, so I have not fought this week, and unless I fight at daffodils on Sunday, I won't have fought this week. But nothing I do at this point can make me any better. Training for crown has to happen eight weeks out, not one week out.

I did walk 88,000 steps last week and fight, and I've walked 75,000 steps so far this week, and lifted, and done yoga, and some kata with the Indian clubs, so I havenot been a complete slug.

Plus, Monday night was our first outdoor practice of the season. I ran the practice with two new fighters and one experienced fighter. It was a really good practice. 

Nobody was going to get a lot out of just fighting. And, as is well known, I like to train with slow work and drills and out of armor as much as I do fighting. So, that's what we did. 

Start with some fighting, because everybody wants to fight.

Three minutes of slow work for each pairing. Rest.

Several minutes of blocking and striking drills. Tripple taps blocked with the shield, combinations blocking shield side with shield and sword side with sword. 

Specific work on an A-frame Defense. 

More open fighting. 

Work out of armor on things that need to be corrected (in this case hip mechanics and footwork). 

That's how to run a practice. 

It's nine days (barely) to Crown. My next time in armor will be there.