Monday, October 5, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

Low Cost Armor Version 3.0

IT'S BEEN SEVERAL YEARS sine I updated my post on low cost armor. a lot has changed since then, the biggest thing being that Ashcaft Baker has gone out of business. This is a HUGE blow to the SCA and to getting new fighters started in the SCA. Not only did they have the most affordable basket hilts, they produced "starter kits" that were the best way to get people into armo on a budget. They are going to be sorely missed.  

I try to keep up with trends in armor, who the new armorers are and where to go for deals, but it is not an easy task. The rise of Eastern European armorers, most of whom cater to the ACL crowd, had been particularly difficult to keep track of. However, one thing can be said: ten to fifteen years ago, the emerging armorers from the old Eastern block provided an influx of cheap armor that may or may not have been sturdy enough for SCA combat. Theey are now the primary source of high-quality reproduction armor that is built for steel fighting, and the prices show it. 

I've decided to reorganize this new version a bit to start with appearance and then how to achieve it, but the basic premise is still the same. I am not only interested in how to get on the field cheaply but whether or not you can create a reasonably period kit for less than $300. That's a heady task fifteen years later, due to inflation, so I won't hold to that number quite as rigidly any more. 

I am also not saying "be cheap." As a commentor on an early version of this post noted, the SCA is notoriously cheap. It's true. It is in our genes. It comes from our hippie aesthetic and our college dorm roots. The founders of the SCA not only didn't have the resources we take for granted (like an internet that not only promotes commerce in low cost reproductions but the exchange of information and techniques in how to build stuff), they didn't have money. There was NOBODY in the US making and selling authentic garb in 1966. NOBODY who even knew HOW to make armor. The SCA spurred a great rise in creativity and research into these areas, but they did so, at first anyway, as kids living on a budget in college dorm rooms. Very few of the early SCA members were gainfully empoyed. They were also doing it in Berkeley and New York and Chicago in the late sixties and early seventies, an era of plucky do-it-yourself experimentation, when a social movement was rejecting store-bought and corporate-produced items in favor of those you made yoruself (an exception could be made for a used VW microbus to haul you and your gear to tourneys or Greatful Dead concerts, or for an old Norton Comando motorcycle to double as your trusty steed). It was even better if you were learning how to make stuff as you were doing it. Hippies and college students had no money but they had lots of enthusiasm.  

When I first joined the SCA in 1979 I was a 15 year old high school freshman without a job. My first suit of armor was arms and box gauntlets that I made myself with the help of my future knight, 20ga articulated plate legs with 16ga knees and a set of 20ga Laurica that I bought from the guy who had made it, for $20, and a freon can helmet that my best friend's dad had welded for me as a birthday gift. My knight was great at getting people on the field for next to nothing, which was necessary when we were all in high school or college or working minimum wage jobs as 20 somethings. Now people come into the SCA with solid well paying jobs and disposable income and can drop $1,000 at Mandrake or Icefalcon and not worry about it. 

This  article is not for either of those two sets of people. You can still get on the field for next to nothing with some simple tools and some sewing skills. For a brief time I had a set of armor, worn under a t-tunic and harem pants-that came entirely out of garage sales: two catcher's chest protectors worn as boy armor (one front, one back), a flotation belt for kidney protection, a gorget made out of a cervicly collar, catcher's shin guards as knee protection, lacross shoulders, hockey gloves, and a pair of youth motocross grieves on my arms because they worked as rigid vambraces with elbow cops. I taped a shin guard to the inside of my forearm. Only the helmet (still a freon can) was a speciality item The helmet always is. These days you can get cast off plastc pickle barrels and make ugly body armor out of it. If you cut the plates and sew them to canvass or leather you can even make a decent looking visby coat out of it. You can still find hocky vambraces and motocross armor at garage sales. You can get on the field cheap. Please, just cover it up if you do. You can even, fairly easilly, make a barrel helmet out of a plate of steel with no welding--just rivets--that will get you on the field. Patterns for this are all over the internet. Check out the pattern archive section at the Armour Archive for this and lots of other helpful tips. This site should be your first stop after reading this blog post. 

You can also still go to IceFalcon or Windrose or any number of armorers and buy $1,000 suits. You can go to Jeff Wasson  or Ugo Serrano and pay $10,000 for a custom, museum quality 16th Century garniture. But can you, without special tools, metal working knowledge, or artistic sill, get a munitions grade, resonably period suit of armor for around $300, either off the rack or with just a bit of sewing or assembly? 

Yes, and that is what this article is about. 

The first thing to remember is that your look is determined by your silhouette as much as anything else. The most important elements are a helmet and a surcoat, and these are where your efforts should be. The SCA's Known World Handbook has patterns for surcoats and gambessons, and you can find those things on line as well. The main expense is always your helmet. It should be at least 14ga, 12ga is better. It should be made from a well known armorer who makes a lot of gear for the SCA. It can easily cost more than our budget. In fact, it often will. However, there are still a few places where you can still get a period looking (we will make some allowances for a bar cage) helmet at less than $150, which is absolutely essential for this project. 

So decide what you want. In this post I imagine a couple of 14th Century impressions, and a 13th Century one, all munitions grade. Note, that for ANY time in the SCA period, if you are trying to put together a knightly kit, it will cost you. Knights were at the top of the social order, they were at all times part of a complex and expensive weapons system. They way to think of a knight is not as some bozo with a sword, it's as the medieval equivalent of an F-15 fighter jet. Now think about how expensive an F-15 is, and then ad individuality and vanity to the mix, take the technology back 600 years, and you get knightly armor.  When you are starting out in the SCA you are a soldier, a levy, not peasant but not a knight either. You should dress accordingly.

As with all things the prices listed in this post are subject to change without warning, and some of the armorers may have gone out of business by the time you read this. 

The two armorers I use most often are both armoring laurels who make affordable mutions grade armor at good prices: Master Alail Horsefriend and Master Cet Donegal.  (Among other things, Alail made the helm I wear using Rough from the Hammer parts made by Ronald Wilmot, and then Cet put the bar cage on it: so three armoring laurels worked on my helm, which in the end cost me less than $100). Cet purchased Rough From The Hammer from Duke Ronald and makes rough unfinished parts as well as custom pieces. As I write this his web site is undergoing a reconstruction and he doesn't have his catalog up, but you can contact him there. This is the place to go to REALLY keep the prices down. Cet’s stuff comes rough finished and un-strapped—he sells parts to other armorers who finish the products and resell them. On his most recent price list, elbow cops from this shop were $15 a pair. Shoulders are $20 a pair. He makes very affordable helmets, but only as custom orders. Alail also has some great prices on munition grade armor: a sugarloaf helm for $100 in 14ga mild, splint legs for $120, splint arms for $80 and stainless for only 150% of his base price. Here is a basic suit put together from his catalog:

Great Helm, $80
Elbows, $20
Knees, $25
Churburg Breast plate (w/ Kidney Protection) $120
Simple Gorget, $40
Spaulders, $20

That totals out to $305. We still need a few pieces. We have to make cuises and vambraces and we don’t have hand protection. Some scrap leather to make vambraces and cuisses out of, a basket hilt and shield basket, and you’ll have a suit of armor most of which came from an armoring laurel within our target price. Not too shabby. Then add a gambeson and a nice surcoat and you will look very knightly.

To complete the project you have to pick and choose pieces. Some armorers have expensive helms but reasonable legs. One has the best price on bascinets but their gorgets are expensive. In every case to keep prices down avoid buying cuises and vambraces. Those are easy to make. I want to put together not just SCA armor, but a kit that, if not historically accurate, is at least evocative of a single time period. Below are a few more kits which fit the bill.

Crusader Kit:
From True Hearth Armory
• Teardrop Helm $100
• Standard gorget $50

From Bokalo’s Armoury
• Demi Gauntlet $30

From Rough From The Hammer
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Spaulder A $13
• Kidney Plates $20

That’s $238. Now invest in Period Patterns #101, available from several SCA merchants, sewing sites, and amazon for $20. Try 
Bonnie's pattern Shop. Or Google it. 

Make the long, short sleeved crusader gambeson, reinforced with some of the plates from Rough from the Hammer. Make the gamboized cuisses, also included in the pattern, and attach to those the kneecops using leather lacing or cord. Use an inexpensive canvass and cotton batting, and materials for this should be about $40. They are not required under SCA rules, but some kingdoms require vambraces, and they are really a good idea. You will need to make some out of scrap metal or heavy leather, but the elbow cop is the hard part and you bought that.

We are now SCA legal. Total for this project before shipping is $298, including the cost of the pattern, which really shouldn’t count towards our total since it will be used several times over. Note: I didn’t include materials for a shield, but my first several shields were free anyway—scrap plywood, discarded garden hose and an old belt for straps.  Edge it in alluminum chanelling.

Regarding hands: Ashcraft Baker is gone, but the Ren Store still sells basket hilts for $20. (shield baskets same price). Bless their hearts. Still a good spot for beginners. Gauntlets would be at least $120 a pair. Good gauntlets would more than double the cost. Go with the $20 baskets.  You will want a cup, and some elbow pads (you don't need knee pads with the gamboised cuises). This  raises our cost by about $50. Guess what, we are just around $350. 

14th Century Kit #1
One variation is to turn this into a Wisby suit. Do everything as above, except don’t get the helm or the or make the gambesson. Instead, invest in the Wisby #7 kit from Mad Matt's Armory
. For backing you can use leather or the pattern that came with Period Pattern 101. Period Patterns #102 even has a pattern for the coat itself.  Now top it off with the $80 great helm from Horsefriend Armory. If you back the coat of plates in canvass, cost will be about the same as the gambesson, probably less. You've added $45 to the total cost (since you used a less expensive helmet), $65 if you invest in that second pattern.  

14th century suit #2

From Illusion Armory
• 14 ga. Bascinet (the 16 ga is only $85, but please get the 14ga). $110

From Bokalo’s Armoury
• Pinned dog collar gorget $38
• Demi Gauntlet $30

From Rough From The Hammer
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Globose Breastplate $65

From Ren Store.
• Basket Hilt  $20
• Shield Basket $20

That comes to $308. NOW: get both Period Patterns #101 and #102. Make the gamboized cuisses from pattern #101 and the jupon (short, long sleeved gambeson) from pattern #102. Materials for the jupon and cuisses, again, are about $40. Use some sole leather for vambraces. Note that this suit doesn’t have shoulder protection. That's another $13 from Rough From The Hammer.

Really, the secret is to get a good looking helmet. The rest of your hard points can be armored fairly inexpensively. Then cover it up with a good surcotte and you won't look like a schlub.

With the exception of Mad Matt's, all of the armorers listed above are ones that I have done business with personally. I included Mad Matt's because GAA went out of business and I needed somebody who makes a Wisby coat kit. That piece is the only one that I cannot say I have personally inspected. All the others-- Rough From The Hammer, Horsefriend Armory, Bokolo's Armory, Truehearth, The Ren Store, Mandrake, and IceFalcon, are all places that have purchased stuff from and have been satisfied with. Jeff Wasson and Ugo Serrano are people who's work I cannot afford but which I've inspected, and who, lets face it, have sterling reputations. Although I haven't used each and every piece listed in this post, I've bought stuff from all these armorers and don't hesitate to recommend them as businesses.

That being said, here is the standard caveat: SCA combat is a rough sport. You can get hurt. You do this at your own risk. I don't endorse directly any of the specific products mentioned here, and am not responsible nor liable for anything that happens to you while you are using them. 

A word about my own kit, pictured on this blog in a number of places. I'm not big into persona. I'm an SCA Knight, and my persona is SCA Knight. My inspiration for the knight I want to be comes not from history but from my youth: Sir William The Lucky, Duke Paul of Bellatrix, Duke Radnor of Guildemar, Duke James Greyhelm, Duke Rolf the Relentless and my knight Sir Alfrik Favnesbane chief among them. I'm not trying to be Marshal or Charney or Bayard. My own aesthetic for the past several years has been to present an impression of a 13th Century knight fighting in a brouhard--that is to say a rebated tournament in which swords made of whale bone or even, soetimes, cane were used. In other words, when they fought in period the way we fight in the SCA. I've recently (finally) gone back to gamboised cuises with soup-can knees and away fro the plastic legs I'd been wearing (which were supposed to be a temporary fix three years ago). Most of my armor--kidney belt, pauldron's vambraces including elbows, and even my gauntlets, are courboli leather. I get most of it from Torvaldr's Leather Works As soon as I can save enough for his leather Globose I'm getting that too for when I fight without a shield (I'm currently using a Kendo kit for that, worn under my surcotte, of course). Then I'll replace my current courboli shoulders with his cops, and eventually my knees as well. That is how I stay relatively period--by fighting in the type of stuff a medieval knihgt would wear if he were fighting with rattan. (I do have a bar cage--which would be much later) 

It is 62 days until crown. I am nursing a wrist injury, and will not be in armor till after Barleycorn at least. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

BBQ Practice with 100% more pool

BBQ Fighter practice (with 100% more pool) 

So I took a couple weeks off to rest my wrist. In fact, I was not even going to fight this weekend. But then Horic got into armor, and Cullyn showed up, and my wrist wasn't hurting at all. 

But it is now. 

It's one of my favorite non events. Horic's has a big house with a pool and a hot tub and a gas grill. There's a school with a big athletic field a block away. It's become our version of Labor Day- the end of the summer barbecue. It's awesome. 

Oh yeah, but first I should probably write about Pennsic. 


Pennsic was practically an afterthought for me. I was only there for two nights. I fought in two battles. I did a few pickups on Wednesday and a couple on a Sunday. I was there for William McCrimmon's knighting, to give him my Spurs and to fight him as a knight. I did those things. I was also there to fulfill my duty to my good friend Thorvaldr, and meet his 50 knight challenge. I did that too. There is some video, but I couldn't find it.  

Some few thoughts: 

Hauoc's next goal seems to be to win crown with a bastard sword. He's using Duke Mark's cross guard, which I'm not sure even Mark knows he uses, and he is as good with that as he is with everything else. 

The king of Lochac Ducks, and has a wicked off side, but fight him with a pure Bellatrix style and he is lost. 

When you've got a spear, and you trap the Tuchux in the Jaws of the Vosk, it makes the eleven hour bus trip to the war completely worth while. No, really.

The woods battle will henceforth be known as the EMT fest. 

I can counterpunch pretty well right now.

I've gained 7 pounds since Arsenic and old lace ended, working in a call center between five and 10 hours a day. I've also gotten repetitive stress from mousing. Bad thing. Still doing 50 push-ups a day but my steps are down. I've had a couple of long bike rides it only one day at the gym. Depending on my wrist, my last day at MTC (September 9 or 11), marks the start of my new regimen. That's when I will free up enough time to workout the way I want to prep for Crown. 

I am still varying my defense a bit and concentrating on the rule of three. I was using A frame for two or three fights, a more standard high closed form for two or three, and then a high open Western style. I fought Mord, Baldwin, Horic, and Cullyn sword and shield. I also fought Antonio Giancarlo with two sword and got my ass kicked by Zack / Auzer with great sword. 

My wrist felt fine on Saturday but ached horribly Sunday and still hurts. I  wore the gamboised cuisses so walking is a bit hard today. Somebody, I think Zack, popped me in the elbow. 

From this vantage (post hot tub), I'm not sure I have a clear recollection of all my fights. I know I fought Mord and Balfwin pretty well. I did best against both of them using a high form. 

I only fought three fights against Horic. The first one he won quickly with a counter punch. The third he won when I threw a much too slow spinning back fist. The second fight I'm proud of. I threw a stutter wrap and he blocked it. I threw it again and he blocked it again, but that was to set up my third blow--I threw the stutter but struck his leg as he, naturally, blocked the wrap that wasn't there. Rule of three. Then I closed with him and blinded him with my shield, opened it just wide enough, and thrust him in the face. 

Cullyn has knocked me out of two recent crowns with the same shot--an off side that comes at a down ward angle and triggers of the shoulder. At the crown Darius won he did it as I stupidly threw a molinee to his off side leg.  He fights the Lucan style, goofy foot with a long sword and a long kite  shield. In our first fight I threw a blow at his head and then threw Kelson's rebound leg shot while side stepping to the left off line. This blow is one where you strike the face of your shield and, as it rebounds, drive the stick into his leg. A totally bogus only in SCA fighting shot, but it worked. I killed him once I'd taken his leg. I noticed that Horic had been killing him, naturally, by counter punching with a straight snap from a high guard. A couple of times he nearly got him with what was essentially the shot Hauoc throws from the high closed goofy foot guard--as he strikes your leg, block with the shield and the sword in a hanging guard, then in contact shoot straight down. I tried to do that to him in crown but my shield is too big to big to make that work. It's a small shield technique. It worked once I think for Horic. As a result after our first bout I concentrated on a regular high closed form, looking over the top of my shield instead of past the front edge. It worked well. I hit him I the arm, head, or shoulder in several quick fights.

It's often good to look at somebody from behind to analyze their footwork and stance. Here I am fighting Cullyn. Im using an A-frame. My shield may be cocked a touch too high, exposing my leg, and my sword should be out a bit more to intercept his off side head shot, but I managed to cover when he sturck at me.

I borrowed a short sword to fight Antonio with. My two sword style is inspired by George Silver. I use two wards-- high open ward with the short sword held like a buckler, and a center ward where I stand left foot forward, both points presented and even. Pointing at the face. It's kind of like this famous picture of Sliver--only not:

As befits a system inspired by silver, it is painfully simple--lazy even. I just ward any cuts with blocks to the outside and then take the inside line with my thrust. The dagger exists mostly to bind and to parry, and I only attack with it when I'm pressed or if I've taken my opponent's leg. If I'm in the high open form, I'm probably planing to cut to the leg--which I did to Antonio once. Then I did a completely un-sliver thing. I turned the shortsword to a dagger grip to protect my leg. blocked his blow, cut with my sword to bind his and then stepped in and thrust to the body with the short sword.

Here's the one good pic of our fights. I was fighting out of the high open guardI've blocked hone of his shots and stepped forward (VERY un-Silver thing to do). Note that I've got him back peddling while I am going forward, my short sword (a bit longer than I like, actually) is positioned to parry/bind any cut he makes, and I'm about to pulverize his leg.

Against Zack, as I said, I just got my ass kicked. I was trying techniques that I was not making work. I had a heavy sword with a thrusting pommel. I tried to go core to core then hit him in the face--no dice. He just murdered me with shot chops to the head that I should have been able to block. The cut to the blade and thrust, which usually works well, didn't at all. I finally did a little better when I switched to a high guard with my right foot forward--keeping myself at distance. I managed to cut to his leg then, feeling a bit desperate, I used a technique I've never used before, turning my lead/right hand thumb down on the grip and using an oarsman shot but with both hands. I hit him in the belly. Only fight I won from him. 

I was the hit of the bbq with the back-strap I prepared. Rub with salt then grill to 135 degrees interior temp, turning it once or twice. 

Every fight practice should have a hot tub. No, really. 

It is as far as I know 66 days until crown--unless it is 73 days. I am nursing this wrist injury and don't plan to be in armor -- until at least Barleycorn. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

RiverFest demo 2015

RiverFest was hot. The car I was driving got backed into. My calf injury flared up as soon as I started fighting. Putting no my boot I noticed the top of my foot was swollen and  thought I might have a stress fracture. A band called "Blood Sweat and Tears" was headlining, but it included none of the original members. Bo Bice from American Idol was the vocalist.

Still, all in all, it was a great day, and that horn section truly rocked!

I'm still doing the #fighterchallenge. One more day to go. Today was a cable core workout. Saturday I'd had a 10 mile bike ride. Friday was Pell work, mirror work. Every day my usual 50 push ups.

The only technique I was specifically working on was the great sword technique I've been working on all year, cutting into a thrust: where you make a short chop with the blade at your opponent's blade then break your wrists, straighten your arms, and the followthrough becomes a thrust to the face. I killed Gui with it once, but nobody else. I mostly fought sword and whiled and, since the people I was fighting were fighting either bastard sword or two weapon, I had an advantage. This was in the first session of the demo.

In the second session we held the Beau Geste tournament (back after a long hiatus). There were three unbelted fighters plus myself and Gui. Gui and I were not competing. Each of the unbelts had to fight each other in a round robin, and they had to fight myself and Gui once each. Weapons were matched and the unbelted fighter got to choose. That ended up with me having one great sword fight and two sword and shield fights.

In the great sword fight against Auzer I managed to take his leg. I tried a couple of techniques, including Gendy's Oarsman style (fail), and I killed him with a simple chop to the neck/shoulder in an exchange.

My fight with Samale was sword and shield. He is fighting a classic Bellatrix style, so this was a fun fight for me. I took his leg and killed him with Radnor's butterfly technique, though it was poorly done because I hit him in the head when I was supposed to hit him in the ribs (I was out of position).

The third fight was against Tycho. After a couple of exchanges he cupped me--the common problem fighting a lefty.

Tycho and Auzer ended up in the finals. They fought greatsword, two weapon, and sword and shield. Auzer won all three fights.

It is 38 days until Pennsic. I will not be in armor until then due to the play my lady and I are producing.

IF YOU ARE IN THE NYC AREA tickets for our play are now available!!

IF YOU ARE NOT IN THE NYC AREA our Hatchfund campaign still needs you!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Southern Army Sunday

Last Sunday was the Southern Army practice in Iron Bog, and Gui, Tycho and I went down. A good time was had by all. This post will mostly be about how to run a war practice. Due to injury, the end of the semester, starting the play, and just plain fatigue, I hadn't been in armor since crown. I came out of crown with elbow pain in both elbows and shoulder pain at the back of my shoulders that was worse on my shield shoulder. I rested that, but the pain really didn't go away until I fought again. Fighting made everything better.

As I write this (Saturday 6/13/15) I am on day 27 of the #fighterchallenge, wherein you have to train every day for 30 days in a row, post your training to FB and challenge other fighters to do the same. If you miss a day you start over. This is kind of a cheat for me, since I already do at least one thing--50 push ups, every day and haven't missed a day in almost 18 months. But I have to do at least one other thing. You can see what I've been doing by following me at or on FaceBook under the #. Wednesday for instance, I did 50 push ups, a dumbbell workout (hammer curls, shoulder presses, triceps presses, and bench rows), 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer and then that thing with the two ropes using a tabata timer.

None to speak of.

Manfred, who has been Warlord more times than Charleton Heston, and Harold Haakonson, who is the unbelt captain, ran the practice. There were three knights in armor for most of the day--me, Mord, and Cullyn. Manfred was in and out. Gui did not fight.  For the first few fights, Manfred put most of the experienced fighters on one side and gave numbers to the other side. Teams started out 8 vs 12 or 15 (not sure which). Since there were five shields and three pole arms on our side, I made two triads of two shields and a pole each, with me and Sir Cullyn in reserve for the orange team. We beat the green team for the first few fights, but after each time we discussed it, and soon they were beating us every time. That was rewarding.

We ran four or five fields, then some bridges, then some gate battles. after each set we stopped and de-briefed. We also ran two ressurection battles, where we worked on pulse charges. 

There was some dispute among the Chiv as to how best to charge and what constitutes a pulse charge. One way, which I learned as a new fighter, is to get low, hip/shoulder check your opposite aside, and penetrate as far into the back field as you can, not bothering to swing your weapon but just trying to push into the backfield. This is great in a gate scenario, but hard to execute due to the massed troops. It's also useful at the end of a bridge or to break up a unit in the open field. The other method is to go in hard and higher, push people back while attacking with your weapon, then retreat. A big difference is that in this is that shield men who are charging are trying to kill, and to push back but not to penetrate. This is what is commonly called a pulse charge because who do it, fall back, and do it again. It is the prefered method nowadays, mostly due to the tactic of having spears fight in the front ranks on a bridge, and because of how the Pennsic bridges are normally fought and scored. 

I did not fight in every scenario due to a helmet malfunction. I got that fixed and did s few one-on-ones. I fought Mord and Hassan, but I was not working on anything specific.  

It is 42 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be tomorrow at Riverfest in Ostgardr. Due to the play, this will be my last time in armor before Pennsic. 

And speaking of the play, it runs July 9-12. We are still fundraising via Hatchfund, and have a few more characters to be sponsored. Help us out! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Crown Tourney #91, East Kingdom, Spring, AS 50

Crown tourney #91

I’ve fought in 91 of these, and this was one of the best. It was certainly one of the toughest. It was also very symmetrical: counting a first round bye, I fought six fights, against three unbelted fighters and three knights, I won three and I lost three. The three unbelted fighters I fought were three of our top unbelted fighters. The three knights I fought were all contenders. I killed two of the knights—Sir Sicehlgaita von Halstern and Thomas of Ravenhill, the two fighters who had knocked me out of the last crown in the Southern Region. I also lost to one of the fighters I beat in that crown.

My first round bye was against Sterling De La Rosa. One of my big problems going in was that I had been moving my sword guard up in my A-Frame defense (instead of more of a boxer stance) to give me more offensive options, but that was hanging it out a bit. I’d lost it to Sterling at practice last Sunday.  He hit it again in our bye fight and I called that a loss for me. This was a good thing, as it served to remind me that my arm was vulnerable, and while a couple of my opponents targeted it later, nobody took it. Sterling went to quarter-finals, and knocked Gui out of the round of eight. This was a good warm up fight.

My second fight was against Sichel, who had knocked me out of two of the last four crown lists. We had a good long fight. Both she and Tommy have a great inside thrust, which was tough to guard against, so I was keeping my distance—if you see that thrust coming you can usually back out of it, which is what I did. I took her leg with the Martin the Temperate leg shot. I’ve got about eight or nine techniques specifically to use against people on their knees. The fifth one I tried worked—a top-edge hook.

My next fight was against the new knight Sir Ivan Ivanov (one of two left handed Sir Ivans in the kingdom).  Ivan was having an amazing day. He was running on that “new knight bump” and it was really paying off. He took my leg and then hit me in the ribs after a great fight. He went to semi-finals out of the winner’s bracket before losing to Brennan in two fights. (in the East, normally, a fighter out of the losers bracket must beat a fighter out of the winners bracket twice to advance to finals—in other words, the fighter out of the winner’s bracket come in clean while the fighter out of the losers bracket comes in with a loss).

(one of the most amusing things about fighting in both the East and the West is how lists are normally organized: one kingdom uses a single-bracket double elimination system taken from Judo competitions, the other uses a two bracket double elimination system common in sports like Volleyball. Both kingdoms sometimes combine this with round-robin pool play taken from soccer. Fighters, marshals, and especially lists-ministers in each kingdom HATE the system used by the other kingdom, and describe it in terms that range from “silly” to “dishonorable.” The best wine is from home…..)

My next fight was against Sir Thomas. Thomas has finaled in two of the previous four crowns. He is a tough, tough fight. After a hard long fight I killed him with an on-side but I can’t remember if it was wrap or a snap. I had hit him with one earlier that I had called flat, to it was probably a wrap. This was one of the most intense fights I’ve been in in a long time. It was as tough as any fight in a final round.

My next fight was against Ketil. I had beaten him in a crown not long ago. He’s a good unbelted fighter. I tried to take his leg and he was fighting sword-foot forward. I cupped him, which I was sorry for. But I felt lucky to get out of the fight. This was his second loss.

My last fight was against Dimitri, who had beaten me in Mudthaw. Once again—big, tall, with a long sword and a HUGE  kite shield. This is a really interesting fight. I thought that, until he took my leg, I was fighting really well, basically controlling the fight, my defense was strong, and my combinations were moving him around. Thomas said I looked tired and slow, certainly slower than in my fight with him.  My lady said I looked anxious and desperate, that I was not in control at all, that I was trying to use tricks to finish it. She has a point—I did use a back spin. It didn’t work. But the technique where I lost my leg was the foot-stomp. Thirty years of using that technique I think this is the first time I’ve lost my leg doing it. I might have done it a bit slowly, but he looked at that and just plowed my leg. Once that happened the fight was basically over. He stood at range and sniped at me till he could kill me.

Tally was good enough to post videos of the two fights that I lost. They are great. In both these videos I see things that I am doing well, things I am doing wrong. I see things that make me want to question my calibration, and things that make me think "damn! I should have seen that during the fight! I might have won!! 

The first one starts after Ivan has already taken my leg, so there’s not a lot to see. At 56 seconds and at 1:09 he throws the same combination, both of which I get a basket/sword block on. The second time it is so fast I can’t see it. I had to look at it frame-by-frame and at one point the sword just disappears. I don’t know how I got that sword block back there, because on video I can’t see the sword coming at all. He kills me using Radnor’s rule of three. He throws that same combination again, and I get the sword block up there again, but the third time he hits me in my ribs. Break that pattern the third time. Note how he steps a bit to the left each time before closing—he’s not circling, but he’s moving so he can get a better angle past my shield. I did not move with him and I probably should have.

The second video, my fight with Dimitri, shows more of the fight. I like it because I can see my thought process in all of it, and make out what I think is his. I still feel I was in good command of the fight until he takes me leg.  My back spin looks slow but it is well timed. He hits my shield as I do it, so I should be able to get him, but he recovers too quickly.  There’s a good angle on my throwing the foot-stomp, and you can see that he just triggers on it, disappears behind his shield (I had no chance of hitting him) and plows me. He is totally hunting my arm, especially after he takes my leg. The fist shot he throws looks pretty good, and I don’t know why I don’t take it (I hope it was light). The rest I pick up. He also triggers on me when I peek past the leading edge of my shield. He is precise and really on with his targeting. You can see what both of us are doing. He is staying back, sniping, controlling range and not letting me have any opportunity to hit him. I am trying to draw the arm shot again. At least once I almost get him with the snap when he sets up a bit too close, and once I draw the arm shot and I block it, but my counter is too slow and he gets out of the way. It is beat – beat – beat, when it should be beat-beat/BEAT—using Radnor’s dictum that all fights are won in between beats (or on the up-beat). If I time that better and throw the shot as I block instead of after the block, I probably win the fight. Thomas was right—I was tired. All the time he is giving me one and only one possible target—his off side leg. It’s the only thing that’s really in range. This is the Lucan style of fighting goofy foot with a long sword so you are always out of your opponent’s range while still being able to attack. I avoid going for the leg, knowing it’s a fool’s errand, but finally I give in and take the bait, and he thrusts me in the face quite beautifully.  He had very good reactions in this fight, and totally worked for this win.

This was an good list for me. It was great to have my lady there to watch me fight. I had lots of fun. I fought really really well. All of my opponents seemed to have fun fighting me. EVERYONE I fought was a really good fighter—there were no walk-overs. I had a blast.

I was SO tired afterward. I hit that “I just fought in Crown” wall later that night at the cheesecake factory. My shoulders are stiff and my legs are rubber. I slept all day yesterday. All of this means I had a great list!

It is 81 days until the Pennsic war. I will not be in armor this week.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bonus Post! October Crown, 1992!


With Crown coming up in two days, and me winding down my training, I decided to post on some other things.

I have done 15,000 steps a day for the last three days. That includes a run I took part in at school. It was supposed to be the BMCC 5K, but there was construction in Hudson Park where the run takes place, so it became the BMCC 3.8 K. I ran it in 22:20, which is a pace of 9:22, better than my usual. I also have done 50 push ups every day, and some yoga and indian clubs.


So I wanted to put these on YouTube so I cold embed them, but I couldn't' get them to convert properly. Michael Doyle, AKA Eirik Ulfson, has lately been posting some photos and even a couple of videos of the West Kingdom in the late 1980s and early 90s to FaceBook. Among them are these two gems.

This first:

Is one of the most memorable fights I've ever had. This is me versus Vsc, Sir Kylson Skyefire at October Crown in 1991.

One of the things I remember most about this crown was in the line up before the lists. I was standing in the knight's line with Kylson, Radnor, and (I think it was) Michael Hugh Stuarts. At 6'3" I was the shortest one of us four. An unbelted fighter walked up to us, looked at the line, and said "man! You guys are huge! I wouldn't want to fight any of you!" I said to him "Oh, you don't need to worry about us. If I were you I'd worry about him," and I stepped aside to reveal Viscount Sir Edward of South Haven. Edward was fairly short--a full head shorter than any of us. He was also a knight before any of us. He had great big Popeye arms and one of the fastest off-side head shots I'd ever seen.  He sort of looked up at us, his hands folded in front of him, and smiled as if to say "who, me?" Radnor, who hadn't noticed that he was there, looked down to his right and said "What? Oh wow! Yeah!" then he leaned forward and said quietly with a little smile "he'll do stuff to you none of us even remember how to do." The poor unbelted fighter went away very confused.

Kylson was one of the fighters who truly intimidated me. He was huge--I'm 6'3" and he towered over me. He fought with two big heavy swords and I absolutely did NOT want to be hit by him.

Watching this video is mind bending for so many reasons. I remember a lot of things about this fight. I remember that I lost my leg. I remember him asking about the shot that hit me in the hip. I remember dying. I DON'T remember switching to a thrusting ax after we were both legged. I didn't even own a thrusting ax at that time. I hate thrusting axes. I know why I did it: impact weapons are often good against florentine fighters because they get indie their blocks. This is how I won crown a few years later. But against Kylson it was just plain stupid.  I was doing much better with the sword. The hip shot that I took, which he asked me about, looks from this angle like it hit me in the ribs, but in fact he was rolling it up and it hit my hip first. I do not at all remember that head shot that I don't take right at the end. In fact, I don't remember dying in this fight, though I remember that I lost. The head shot from Kylson's left hand hits me on the outside of the head. It looks like it could have been good. It was clean. If it was in the face I definitely should ahve taken it. It might be, I can't tell. We talk about it. It looks like it glanced. Regardless, 23 years later, I am looking at that and saying "should I have taken that?" The blow I die to doesn't look as good, but it definitely hits better, and it stops instead of glancing down.

This second video, however, it the prize.

This is the final round from that tournament. It is probably the most memorable SCA finals and series of fights hat I have seen in 36 years. It shows two of my favorite fighters--two of the best ever--at the absolute hight of their abilities. Kylson died about ten or eleven years ago. He was one of the best fighters I've ever known who never won crown. He lived up in Alaska and did not make it down to Crown tourneys in California more than three or four times. The first time he came down he ran into Jade in the finals. The second time (this one) he ran into Radnor in the finals. To travel all that way to fight the two best fighters in the kingdom, and arguably the SCA at that time, was probably pretty frustrating. That crown against Jade was the first tourney Kylson had ever fought in that he had not won. That's how good he was.  This fight is one that I think about and describe all the time. I've written about it in this blog. Although the video doesn't show the end (Radnor won) it shows the two biggest moments.

The first is that first fight where Radnor one-shots Kylson. Kylson had this habit of posing with his blades wide going into a fight. You can see it in his fight against me. It was dramatic and intimidating and it gets him killed. We all thought we could take advantage of it, but nobody could until Radnor drew him. He did not count on Radnor's timing or his reach. My memory of this fight has always been that Radnor passed on his right, took a lunging step forward, and hit Kylson in the face, but that's not what the video shows. It shows Radnor closing range, first with a passing step (radnor believes in Musashi's dictum of "attitude without attitude"), and a gathering step, and then throwing a shot as Kylson's swords get wide, right at theier widest point and right at end of Radnor's range, but the kicker is that he leans forward a bit by coming off his back foot as he throws the blow. This is why it lands. Radnor used to talk about transition windows, striking at that moment when a fighter's mine had shuffled off of defense and onto either movement or offense, and this is an example. He catches Kylson at that moment where is mind is on his swords and not Radnor's. It's also an example how perfect Radnor's range perception is. I feel like kow-towing and saying "We're not worthy!"

The second moment is when Kylson beats Radnor in the second fight. Radnor has a great record--he won every tournament he entered for a period of 20 years. He rarely ever lost a fight, so to see him go down was shocking. Jade turned to me and said that was the first time he'd seen it.  I can recall Radnor in that 20 year period losing once to Paul, once to Philip Harlech, once to Thomas the Incomplete, and this time to Kylson.

Watching these two videos is an interesting look at what Western fighting used to be in the 80s and 90s before big shields, sword-forward guards, and low-profile thrusting tips. I liked this style of fighting a lot. It was prettier, more fluid, and more fun in some ways than how we tend to fight now.

BIG TIME ENTREATY! We are producing a production of Arsenic and Old Lace this summer in NYC, and we are crowd funding it on Hatchfund. Please visit our site, watch the video, and donate. It's tax exempt, and you'll be supporting independent theatre in New York City!

It is two days until Crown Tourney. The next time I will be in armor will be at Crown.