Sunday, December 2, 2007


Here’s the point of view of a Western knight who grew up on all day resurrection battles. They were *not* my favorite type of war: my favorite battle is a set open field battle,a nd you can’t have that in an all day res war. But they are fun! So when Acre proposed to host a 4 hour res war with combat archery and killing from behind, well, it was like I’d come home!

It was set up just like Eilis would have set it up in the old days. There were six small forts that represented six cities: Navare, Grenada, Cadiz, Seville, and Salamanca. The crusaders started with Navare and the Moors started with the rest. You could resurrect in any city that you controlled and that was not under siege. You controlled a city when you had planted a banner (yellow for crusaders, green for moors) within the city. A marshal in each city would raise a red flag if a city was besieged, meaning all the gates were contested and you could not resurrect there. Also, you could not resurrect in a city in which you had just been killed. At pre-selected times a whistle would blow and they’d count up points, one per castle, plus two per castle at the end of the battle. There werealso royal banners that were worth three points, but nobody captured these.

The Northern Region Army’s first division was the Moors and everybody else was the crusaders. They had at lest six knights on their side, including Duke Lucan. We had four SCA knights: Prince Conrad, I, Stephan von Dresden, Sir Douglas, plus Bob Fox and King Pedro of Acre. I think the Prince of Acre, whom I don’t know, was shooting on our side. We had superiority of archers but they had unit and command cohesion. I had Timur and Elan with me, and we were nominally attached to Ostgardr, but it was a res war and none of that survives first contact anyway.

It was a blast! As these things will usually do, it broke down into a big skirmish battle between the two most hotly contested forts, but the most fun fighting was in the gates. They figured out really fast how to run a skirmish line. Any time you advanced on one of their guys he’d retreat and their other skirmishers would kill you from behind. Only D Sebastian, the Queen’s Champion, got the hang of the left-coast trick of turning invisible to get behind your opponents. The Moors won, 13 to 10, and kept most of Spain. I think the main reason is because they started out with four of the five cities. We captured one city and two others each changed hands at least onece, but we ahd a very tough row to hoe.

Me, I didn’t do any killing from behind, even though most of their knights were doing it. For someone who had made this his bread and butter for more than ten years it was real hard to resist, but I just figured I wouldn’t go there--and I support killing from behind as opposed to the Pennsic method of needing eye contact. I just didn’t want to. But *that* meant that I mostly ended up in polearm duels with either Lucan or Oskgar, all of which (I think) I lost. When I had my five footer it wasn’t as much fun, but when I switched to a seven footer and we were at the same range it was great! It’s fun to take on the best. After awhile my pinky got busted and I switched to a kite shield and sword, and my kill ration went way up even though the kite was strapped all wrong for me (when it guarded my leg it was too high up for me to see over. Weird). Turns out my pinky is fractured, but no biggie. I still had a blast. It was like the old Mysts/Cynagua wars back home. This Westerner gives it his seal of approval!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

McCaren Park

As the weather turns cold it becomes harder and harder to get people out to practice. Thankfully Global Warming has mediated this a bit. It's been warm a couple of Tuesday's recently. Not so much last night, but enough to have people still thinking of the joys of bruising their friends.

Last night was a typical McCaren Park practice. I was a little less tired because I'd taken a car service to get there (at my age, though not advanced, it's still important to invest in my health and well being from time to time). There were five of us: me, Timur, Ervald, Bill, and Gil. The tree we normally fight under had shed a few thousand acorns, which lay like marbles on a parade route all over our regular fighting surface. Fortunately, the cold had chased away the baseball players so we fought on the baseball diamond. It turned out to be a bit muddy from the rain but it's gritty and drains well, and we simply ended up with a bit of red mud caked on our boots.

At 100 minutes war I gave my bunny round to Timur, mostly as an incentive to make a new one. It needed some repair anyway. It turns out that might have been a mistake, for reasons discussed below. But the result was that I didn't have my shield. I'd brought my buckler and some extra weapons, but I was not there to train for anything.

I fought against Ervald (and his polearm) using Timur's 24" round shield. Then I fought the same way vs. Gil. This was particularly fun, because I just naturally fell into classic Bellatrix style and then decided that I would stay there. I kept reminding myself not to through any whippy one/two combinations or molinees and to stay in the Paul high guard form. It was a blast. It was especially fun against Gil, who was using his heater for some reason. I killed him with a straight up rising snap, a hook/thrust, and from my knees with a shield press followed by a slot shot as he over-recovered. Classic stuff. I fought a couple fights with bill but the strap broke on that shield, so I switched to sword and shortsword, which was fun. I borrowed Ervald's polearm so I could get some fights in with Timur. Then I fought a few fights with buckler against Gil and taught him about misdirection (after he took my leg I looked at his leg three times then hit him in the head).

Working the polearm stuff was pretty cool. Ervald is mostly using a bayonet technique, with the butt-spike forward and the head, like a rifle butt, in the rear, and taking huge painful swings with the head at people's armpits. It's not a style that I like very much. I don't think it's particularly effective. I taught the basic (my basic) techniques to Timur and, as always, he picked them up right away. He's a sponge. But he looked best when using the 24" round, once I got him to keep his elbow back. He's got a really good form for that style.

It was windy and a bit cold but fun. It might well be my last practice of the season--I think I'm busy the next two Tuesdays. Another result is that I decided not to go to the gym today since I fought last night. Probably not a great decision, but I'll live with it.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Sometimes the pain is the thing we love.....

100 Minutes war was this weekend and it was great, as always. It's a 100 minute resurrection battle. They hold a single-elim speed tourney among the unbelted fighters to start out with. The two finalists are tema captains and the winner of the finals gets to pick first. They pick by units, not individuals. Tzeitchel Gaida von Halstern won the tourney and we (Serpentius and others) with Von Halstern, (natch) and ICOD. Gunther was the other commander and had Blood guard, VDK, and the rest of the Norhter Region Army on his side. There were just over 150 fighters. It was a bean cunting war and there were over 3,000 kills total (which only averages 20 over a 100 minute period, which isn't much). We one by right around 300 kills.

I did not die 20 times. I died fewer than ten times. But the last time I died I really got my bell rung. They called "ten seconds left) and I charged, with my polearm, right into VDK and I got masacred.

I got a lot of kills with the whort polearm. Mostly, as usual, on breakthroughs. But I assisted on quite a few spear kills by pinning sweeping people spears down and letting Cian or Darius gack them. I had a couple of memmorable kills and two rather memorable deaths--both from polearm, one from Balfar and one from Lucan. The one from Lucan was great because I saw it coming and could do nothing to stop it. He came from my left, killed the shieldman next to me, which I caught out of the corner of my eye, and then killed me with the same shot. I couldnt' do anything to block it becuse I was too busy bloking the two spears in front of me. I got to look right into his eyse as he burried his partisan in my helm--actually, quite a scary sight. I'll remember that one for awhile. Balfar just schooled me when we ended up together on one end of the line. He looked at me, waited a beat, then cut me straight down the middle of my forehead. It was like being dissmissed. "Bang! I'm done with this guy."

But on the whole I had a really good day. Some great fighting and some good kills.

But to me the most amusing thing was when I was on the end of our line with ICOD. We had Gregor, Kelson, and Stephan with us. Having stephan is kind of like having a chain gun. He has no fear. Every once in awhile we just launch him at the opposing line and he kills four or five guys in rapid fire and then gets killed himself and goes to resurrect. He had better than a five to one kill ratio, which for a sword and shield guy is great in those battles. It's a good use of resources.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Requiem for "The Western Way"

The other day I made a joke to Ben that led to a long discussion about shield sizes. I was referencing something Ben had once said to me about Radnor, that when Radnor came home from from Pennsic last year after seeing all the big shields in use he was scandalized and asked "how can we preserve the Western Way of fighting." Now a bit of clarification is in order. Like most Western fighters of my generation Radnor is the fighter I always wanted to be. He's my idol. He is far and above the best fighter I've ever seen. He won every tournament he entered over a twenty year period. He is also the most elegant fighter I've ever seen and possibly the finest knight. Watching Radnor was like watching Joe Montana play football or Michael Jordan play basketball. The things he was able to do were so far above what everybody else was doing that it was beautiful to watch.

Anyway, Radnor is also the pope of the small shield church. When he says "the Western Way" he means in part fighting an offensive style of fighting with small shields. Small shields in this case mean nothing larger than a chin to crotch heater (which Radnor considers too big for himself, but ok for others). Radnor had taken the 24" round used by Duke Paul and andded corners to it so it looked more knightly and this was his shield. Later he cut it down to 22" and then to 18". Now, due to a bicep injury, he uses a "shattered lance" which is the bottom end of a heavy jousting lance about 40" long--basically a stick (not a madu).

In the beginning of the SCA, particularly after Pennsic 6, Western fighters had a rep for winning most of the interkingdom tourneys (and also for higher calibration). This was mostly because the West had started first and because the West had Duke Paul, who was not only the top fighter of his day but developed the most complete fighting system in the SCA (still to this date). At Pennsic 6 Paul, Lucky, Houghton, MacEnruig (I think that's the list) came out and trounced everybody. According to Gyrth Oldcastle, Paul lost only one bout that entire war, and the Westerners prompted most other kingdoms to change the way they fought and trained. First Pual, then Radnor, then Jade (all of whom used 24" shields) were considered the most dangerous fighters in the SCA. There might have been a year or two when Radnor wasn't fighting and Jade hadn't come on that Torgul from An tir was the best fighter in the SCA. But as Radnor said back in 1992 "Once upon a time you could take the top ten fighters from any kingdom, put them in a list, and the winner would always be a Westerner. That is probably still true. But if you took the top two fighters from every kingdom in a list and put them in a list the winner could be anybody."

Now the rest of the known world has caught up to and surpassed the West. And most of them have done so using (by Western standards) huge shields and fighting a defensive style that is anathema to old Westerners like Radnor (and me).

I have heard a number of different definitions of what a proper shield size is. Paul preferred a 24" round, Radnor and 24" rounded heater. The ideal measurements were based on your torso. A shield should be no longer than chin to crotch (or inseam, which on an ideally proportioned person should be the same thing). The standard for roundshields was kind of ridiculous. They should be no longer than twice the length of your forearm, or two cubits, giving roundshields a lot of advantages. One standard I saw was that the shield could be two cubits in the longest dimension, meaning that as the shield got narrower it could get longer but a roundshield was the bi9ggest shield you could have. I'm 6'3" with 16" long forearms. Twice that is 32". So I could have a kite shield 32" long but a heater that was 24" wide could only be 29.6" long. That standard never really caught hold. I think it's because it required knights to do complex math. In CAID when I lived there the standard was written into law. At armor inspection you held your shield up to your body to prove that it was smaller than shoulder to shoulder and chin to crotch in armor (so if you had wide shoulder armor you got a wider shield). They also weighed you weapons and shield with a fish scale to prove they met a minimum weight.

This is why on the West coast you hear people talk about a difference between tourney shields and war shields (you could use big shields in wars-that was ok). Anybody who used a shield bigger than these dimensions in a tournament was considered unchivalrous and cowardly. My shield actually fell into the shoulder to shoulder chin to crotch rule--it was 24" wide and 34" long (I stradled it to make sure it was correct) but I was told it was unchivalrous anyway. Only one knight--Duke Rolf, used a long kite shield back then (same size he uses now).

But now you have a number of Western knights using big kite or heater shields and Radnor is despairing the loss of the Western Way of fighting.

When I made the joke to Ben I was just trying to be funny. But I didn't realize how the issue effected him personally. When he came out to the West and squired to Uther he went from his Eastern style shield, 24" x 36" to a 24" square. Now, following his knight's example, he's gone back to it. He's winning a lot of fights and he's catching a lot of shit from Westerners who think he's being chickeshit. So when I made my joke he took it personally and I don't blame him. I'm also sorry. We got into a long discussion over the relative values of the big shield versus the little shield but there was a paradigm block in the way. He makes some really valid points about many people not being able to generate power if they are moving as much as you have to move to use a small shield. To Ben, who started fighting out here in the East, using a 24" shield is handicapping yourself, because big shields are his norm. To someone who started fighting in the West, particularly in the 70s or 80s just the opposite is true. You are not handicapping yourself with a small shield you are being unchivalrous with a big shield. *I* don't feel that way, especially since moving to the East and meeting many fine and chivalrous fighters who use big shields. I still don't like them or the style they come with, but I don't think they are unchivalrous. But that is the prevailing feeling among fighters on the West Coast. As we traded emails I realized that Ben was not taking it as a joke. He got very defensive and I realized later why.

Two years ago at Duke Jade's suggestion I went back to fighting with a half round and have stuck with it. I loose my leg more but I seem to be winning more fights. But I'm going one day to go to a long Norman kite. I just want to try it out (and maybe I'll finally win another crown).

I've said this before but I want to say it here: perhaps the Western Way doesn't deserve to be saved. *I* love it. It's the most beautiful, powerful, elegant form of fighting I've ever seen, and it is also the most fun fight. I also think it is a much higher form of the art. But my opinion doesn't matter for shit (unless I'm king). The worst thing you can do as a knight--other than cheat--is to whine about your opponent. That is especially true if you are whining about his equipment. I should be able to take my best game and beat him at his best game. If his best game uses a 36" or even 40" shield then so be it. It's me vs. him and let the best man win.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

McCaren Fighting Video

We shot a lot of video at the McCaren Park practice before last crown. I'm posting one of the longer vids of me fighting Gil here. I find it interesting. First off I can see that I look slow. I'm not trowing rapid fire combinations at all: I'm trying to pick my shots. Not a bad thing really, just an observation. I was purposely changing up my technique in this exchange. I start out using a counter-punching technique a-la Hauoc. I then go into an offensive style using a few of Radnor's shots. I employ a bit of Connor's squared up style but get away from it quickly, and I use a lot aggressive thrust and cut with very offensive shield work, stuff I learned from Jade. Against Gil it was pretty effective. But I can see where, going into Crown last weekend, I was still very unsettled as to what I was doing. Once again, like Jade says, I'm trying too many things and not getting good at one of them--even though I've been sticking with the half-round as he advised to get away from just that problem.

I can also see one reason why my fighting got better. It's not just that I'd lost weight or that I'm using better thrusts or that the half-round improves my visibility and movement: it's that it also improves my offensive shield work, which I need to help me deal with the preferred shield sizes on this coast.

Monday, November 5, 2007

More on Fall Crown

Liam St. Liam shot 417 photos of Fall Crown, including some great shots of the finals. They're located on his flikr page.

Here are a couple he took of me.

I never realized my eyes look so sleepy when I fight--or maybe I *was* asleep and that's why I was so off .

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Eastern Crown Results

Tracy called it the night before. She called Thorsen and Conrad in the finals with Conrad winning. After King’s champion I was pretty sure Conrad would be the guy to beat. After Crusades I was pretty sure Thorsen wanted it bad. Tracy didn’t think Throsen was that keyed up but she was very wrong. I’m also positive that if finals had been fought in the traditional East kingdom manner, with five fights with different weapons forms, that Thorsen would have won. But Ice doesn’t like that finals form much, and the last few crowns have mostly been fought with a best two out of three final with sword and shield. That’s the way he’d had Darius and I fight finals at King’s Championship. For mee it’s like home, but in the East it causes angst.

From my own perspective: not a bad crown really, but not what I had been looking forward to. Time was not to long ago I would have been happy with five rounds. It meant I’d won more fights then I lost. In this case I killed a couple of knights as well, which is the second benchmark I look for. But for all that I was disappointed.

I warmed up with Conrad and I was fighting him very well. I had pop to my blows and my defense was pretty good. I certainly wasn’t beating him. I killed him once and I took his arm once (which he was taking as a kill, so I guess that’s twice). I did slow work with Dietrich and felt pretty good. Had a couple more warm ups but definitely didn’t over do it. I felt good.

Damien von Drachenklaue challenged me first round. He was probably the one person I didn’t want to challenge me. He’s a really tough fight for me and I knew he was really disappointed when he lost to me at King’s Championship. He kind of had a hard-on for my hide and I knew it. And he’s tough. Our fight was a slug fest which eventually I lost. I’m told it was a bit ugly on my part. You might want to ask Damien about it if you get a chance. He told me he was happy and didn’t think I was blowing his shots off. He said it not just to me but to Artos as well, so I’m hoping he wasn’t just blowing smoke up my ass because I’m a knight. What he was doing was throwing a lot of high shots trying to get them over my shield that he was throwing with all arm and that were glancing off the top of my helm, and they didn’t hit hard at all. That was his interpretation too. The big problem from my perspective is that I let him take my leg because I got flustered when I thought I’d hit him and he called it low. I stopped to look at the target (he wears his knees under pants). I paused—much like the way I did against Max in the last crown. It was amental mistake that cost me. The other thing that bugged me is that I didn’t land the hook-thrust harder. I hit him square in the chest, but he wears lamellar and sometimes you have to hit that a bit harder than you do mail or leather. I should have cranked it up a bit. Anyway. He couldn’t get over my shield effectively so he started thrusting underneath it. Eventually he hit me in the cup. I asked Andreas what he thought and he said it looked rough. I asked him what he’d like me to do. He told me to just keep it in mind. Of course once that happens my fighting goes south in a hurry.

My second round fight was against William Raven Hair, who I later learned had had a family crisis that week. He was not into it at all. I took both his arms in very short order.

My third fight was against Sir Yoshi. That was probably the most fun I had all day. He was fighting greatsword, as usual. I did what I always do. Got inside after his first strike, took his leg, then worked him until I hit him (in this case in his gut). I think I may have thrust him in the arm at some point as well. It was a great fight.

My next fight was against Allexander de Hautville, the SUV of the East. He’s about six foot seven and lots of muscle. He was one of Randall’s squires and fights with a huge coffin shield and, like Randal, if he takes your leg he’ll be all over you. As to be expected he took my leg. I was pretty lucky. He knocked me over once. I stayed alive just long enough to hit him with a thrust as he was coming in on me, same as I did with William at King’s Champion.

My last fight was against Antonio. We had a good long fight. But eventually he took my leg and, after that, I was dog meat. I’m usually pretty good against lefties when I’m on my knees, at least at staying alive for a long time. Not this time though. He kept coming in on a low like attack but I couldn’t hit him as he did so.

Afterward I went and did some pickups and I felt I was fighting ok.

I wish I had video. I’ve been told alternately that I was backing out, that I was off, and that I was slow. I had intentionally gone into every fight without a plan, because I didn’t want to over-think my fights and I ended up over-thinking my fights anyway. I felt totally relaxed ahead of time but I was not relaxed once the flag dropped. I was tight, I was putting too much pressure on myself and I was fighting not to loose. I didn’t really decide in most cases when to fight with aright foot lead and when to fight with a left foot lead (except against Antonio, because he’s a lefty). My recent debate with Ben regarding shields sizes and the disadvantages of the Spanish half round agaisnt big Eastern style shields was in the back of my head the whole day. I had a bit of mundane stress going. And, of course, when I start worrying about my calibration I always choke. In other words, my mind was all over the place. No excuses. Just trying to analyze why I fought as I did.

With all that other stuff analyzing my technique would be a waste of time.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

McCaren Park practice

Normally I don't fight the week before crown, but since I hadn't fought the week before and was feeling antsy I strapped my gear on anyway. It was a good practice not just for me but as a whole. we had five fighters in armor and got to do a lot of fun stuff. I figured three or four fights with three or four opponents--no newbies--and I should be fine. I say no newbies because they can be dangerous. Gil was nice enough to strap on a heater, with which he's better than he thinks he is, to give me some practice. So I got heater shield (Gil), leftie (Bill) and small round shield (TImur) to work against. When I got there Gil asked me what he could do and I said "Got any dukes in your pocket?"

Turns out there are only three royal peers on the list for crown, and only one's a duke (Darius). That doesn't make it easier, but it is kind of cool to be second in precedence in the list (Of course, that just means I'm older than Thorsen).

Lest you you think I'm obsessing about crown, well, I am, in the way I always do. It's what I enjoy most in the SCA is fighting in crown tourney. I'm not all hog wild to win (if I were I would have trained a lot harder), and I could easilly go out in two rounds, but Crown is what the SCA is really all about, so I'm looking forward to it the way I always do (I'm told I pace like a caged tiger waiting for work to end so I can leave for crown). I'm in good shape and I want to win, but the odds suggest that I won't: I've fought in seventy four crown tourneys and I've only won one of them. That's the worst success rate of any count in the SCA. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Practice makes what?

I'm having trouble with fighter practice. My complaint is the same one I always make: I want to get to New Jersey but can't take the time off work. Last night I was kind of mean to the other fighters at practice. I'm trying to get ready for Crown and I didn't want to spend a lot of time training. I wanted to just work on my own stuff. There were four of us there: me, Timur, Bill and Mathias. None of those unbelteds are newbies. I just went out and fought. Especially early in the night, I was fighting as though I was in a tourney and winning nearly all my fights. As I do when I get bored, I started goofing around after awhile and got killed a couple more times. But there are two things that I left practice unsatisfied about and they're related:

1) I never got pressed.
2) I basically pounded everybody who was there.

I didn't learn much. My defense was tight enough for this crowd but who knows what it will be like with the dukes. My offense felt a little sluggish but I was winning all my fights. It didn't matter what guard I took. It's a bit frustrating. I'd have been happier if I'd gotten my ass kicked a few times.


Somebody asked today about Gambesons on the fighter practice list and there were a lot of good suggestions. I decided to put a few links here:

Historic Enterprises
Revival Clothing
Ice Falcon Armoury
Chivalry Bookshelf
Revival Clothing

There are others out there of course, and some of them are much cheapre than these, but these come reccomended by people I trust. I'm personally familliar with all of them except Historic Enterprises and know those to be of good quality.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Of course, I had planned to train for Crown this fall. A bit any way. I can't go to Nutley practice, so I don't get to fight people who are a lot better than me very often. But I'd hoped to get a bit of pell work in. Well I finally got my pell rebuilt but then as I was using it my shoulder tightened up, and I recalled that when my shoulder stiffened up last year it was because I was hitting the pell 1,000 times every other day. There was no practice last week, and none that I could make this weekend, so the last time I was in armor was at Crusades, which wasn't a good training opportunity. Fact is with the new semester and our expansion at Vox Pop, I am suddenly much busier and, when I'm not, much more exhausted. It sucks. My schedule is such that I cna't make Cardio Blast on Fridays any more. I did make spin class this past saturday, first time in over a month.

I was at least riding my bike till it got stolen a week ago.

So this is the extent of my training: a bit of practice swinging, treadmill and yoga on Mondays, fighting Tuesdays when it doesn't rain, and whatever else I can work in. But my weight's good, my wind's strong, and I've been fighting well every time I strap it on. So we'll see how deed I can go.


Congratulations to good friend and fellow tribesman Reinmar Wolfmeir. who won Artemesian Crown this weekend! Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Victory for the Tiny Shield Set

Word is out that Sir Gemini won Western Crown, fighting, of course, for Countess Mari. It's about time! He's been one of the better fighters in the West for a long time. Not only is he the first New King in a while out there, but he uses a relatively small wankle-shield.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Kingdom Crusades and a few other notes

Kingdom Crusades was this weekend. I've heard this event sucked, and in the nine years I've been here I had never attended it. But I went and had a pretty good time. As wars go these days it's not much. There's no terrain and fighting was done basically on a big tourney field. But the fighting was fun and intense none the less. A few observations:

Having heroic champions before the battles is cool, but ten fights can take a long time to go through and it was hot out there. I *love* the heroic champions. I've always wanted to fight in it. I miss ahving it at Pennsic. But I'd have rather been fighting.

There were two open field battles (we didn't need the third because the East won the first two), a bridge battle and a resurrection abbey battle with points for hold the "huts." Standard stuff. I think we could have fit in twice that many battles.

There was only archery in the town battle. We were originally told it would be face and armpit shots only. then right before the battle they said it was standard targeting. This confusion sucked.

Much worse was the color confusion. The tape requirements were white for the East, Blue for Atlantia. But most of the Easterners had blue tape on their helms because that's our color for Pennsic. And some of these are lions or crosses that fighters dont' want removed. Plus the white didn't show up very well and most of the blue being used was kind of a pale blue. I hit one guy from our side and may have killed another (I'm not sure). The guy I know I hit (in the leg) had put his tiny piece of whtie tape off to one side because he didn't want to cover up the nice blue tape cross he had on his helmet. Since Atlantia fought with the Midrealm this year at Pennsic and a lot of their guys still had red tape on their helms, wouldn't it have been better to have had the East be blue and Atlantia red?

I fought every battle with the short polearm and I got a few more kills with it than in the past. Where it worked best was in the tight confines of the abbey buildings and on breakthroughs. I got to assist on a few kills too and got one good singles kill on a greatswordsman after one of the open fields had broken up into scattered combats.

Of course it also got me killed because I had no protection from the archers and, since I was using a polearm and commanding I was a target. I kept a good eye on them and managed to dodge quite a few, but I got killed once in the res battle by a sword and four times by corssbow bolts (not at all by spears).

I got fallen on by a heavy guy from the other side, and felt and heard some crunching in my ribs/back/scapula. I ache.

I had really wanted to do some training for crown. Unfortunately I didn't get to fight any pickups till after the battles when I was tired. So I worked on my "long fight at the end of the lists reach down deep and figure something out fighting." I had wanted to play with Lucan and Darius but they were worn out. I did get some fights with Thorsen. He actually caught my hook thrust between his baskethilt and shield edge the first time I threw it. It was very kung fu. I killed him with it a second time though. I had a long set of fights with a Midrealm knight that were a lot of fun. My defense was pretty good and he died to a lot of stuff that is bread and butter for me but rarely works inthe East because of the big shield tight defense style that predominates out here: wavy/rising snap, a nice double fake slot shot, stutter wrap, etc. It was like old home week. I also killed him twice with the hook thrust. I also fought a couple of Florentine fighters and got my ribs caved in by one of them. Spasmed my diaphragm, knocked the wind out of me and made me nauseous. Ick! Pain is just weakness leaving the body. I got back out and fought some more after that.

I fought until exhaustion, but I noticed that Kenderick fought at least 45 minutes longer than i did, and was the last person out there.

I had wanted to work on whether or not I wanted to concentrate on the Hauoc style of sword foot forward limited shot selection that had worked for me in the upper rounds of Rattan Champions or do what I enjoy more, fighting the shield-foot forward Rarnor style. I didn't come up with an answer. My hook thrust, as always, was my most effective shot, and that works from the shield foot forward style best, but my defense is better with the sword foot forward style. I didn't' get any of those slot shot kills that are the hallmark of that style though. I think the best thing to do is to have no plan, which is how I approached most of my fights at Rattan Champions.

It was a great event. I will definitely go back.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I said awhile back there are about six techniques in the SCA. I actually know how to throw an onside head blow eight different ways: with a bellatrix snap, a gendy snap, a mollinee, a Peregrine snap, with brute force, passing on the right, and three false edge cuts: a snap/wrap, a wrist breaker (which is like a mollinee that hits with the back edge), and a shallow wrap (which is when you throw a wrap when you're in close with your hand behind your ear, so that it hits him on the side of the helm not the back). Wait: that's nine. But do we need so many shots? Bellatrix for years had one shot. He only started using wraps a year or two ago.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

McCaren Park Practice

Practice was pretty good last night. Count Steven from Lochac was there with his son. Kaz came out, plus our usual crowd. Having another knight there was great, because I don't get to Nutley any more and I'm at least trying to train up a bit for crown. I needed to fight some chiv. Of course, he fights nothing like anybody around here, and uses an even more manly shield than I do.

I started out fighting Kaz. He wasn't near as sharp as he had been at Hunter's Moon, I veat him with a simple cut from five, a deep wrap, and with the face thrust as he was closing whiel I was on my knees (same thing I killed Billwith at K&Q).

Then we did a bear pit that Sir Steven sat out. I went through the line twice before I started goofin off and Kaz killed me.

Fighting Sir Steven was a blast. He is very elegant. I managed to kill him with a hook thrust and a deep wrap. He got me with an offside headshot.

Best thing after that was fighting greatsword against Zorikh and Avram. Zorikh actually killed me a fewtimes when he was fighting florentine. I've been teaching Avram the Belatrix greatsword style (which the folks over in Jersey put down) and he's having a pretty hard time of it. (I have a hard time with it, so that's not surprising).

Did some sword and buckler too.

Sir Steven reccomended checking out "The Sword and the Mind" by Yagu Muenori (of the scrolls fame). He says there are some very practical techniues in it that work well in SCA fighting.

But we need more knights at McCaren Park!! There's even parking!

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Best Day in Years

Ok, let's be real here: I only made it to the finals of King's Championship because I had a lucky draw. It's the best I've done in a major list since I won crown 13 years ago (58 fighters, including two counts, two dukes, and the king is a major list). I finaled, coming out of the winner's list. But all the other royal peers ended up in the loser's list and took each other out. I didn't see a knight until semi-finals. Everyone I fought up until that point was an unbelted fighter I had fought at least once before. All of them had beaten me at some point before, if not in a list then at least in practice, and none of them were easy, but they still weren't knights. And once I got to finals Darius manhandled me.

But it was still my best day in a long time!!

I killed Roger Stocton, Darius' squire Dahr, and William Maccrimmon with thrusts. I killed Christian Knox, Edward Gray of Lochleven, and Damon von Drachenklaue with cuts from parry 5 (cut from a hanging guard). I lost once to Christian and twice to Darius.

Artos, one of my best trainers, said I was full of patience all day. Darius said he beat me because I was too impatient. Go figure. I think they are both right. Against Darius I was definitely not relaxed. I wanted to get the kill. All the fights I'd won my head was in a different place. I went into them without a plan. The most I planned was determining whether I would stand sword foot forward or goofy footed. Against the three better fighters I did best by using Hauoc's counter punching technique, so I guess goofy footed was the answer. Against Darius I was at a loss, and I pushed the issue a bit more. I also didn't want to get killed without having thrown a few shots. Take that attitude and you are bound to die. I was also more into the idea of being Queen's champion than King's (that honor went to D. Sebastian von Drachenklaue, and was well deserved), a very Western perspective.

I'm not an appreciably better fighter than I was when I arrived in the East but they think I am. What I am is a lot thinner. That has brought my fighting back up to a decent level. I weighed 250 when I got here. I got as high as 270 a few years ago. I weigh 210 now. It's a big difference in everything. But I've also become more classically western in my style. I went to a Spanish half round instead of my nice comfortable safe heater. It has made me much better, but also better able to deal with the Eastern style. I have a big insecurity about that. I sometimes feel that the some of the knights here, even after eight years, don't respect my fighting. I fight that Western style, which they all know can't be as good as the pure Eastern form they use. Paranoid? Maybe, but if I were back home I'd feel the same way. We all know deep in our hearts that our Dukes are the greatest dukes, and our way is THE WAY(TM). I long ago gave up trying to prove myself. Yes, I still have problems with huge shields, both practically and philosophically, but I just fight my fight. And this weekend my fight was good enough. Felt pretty good.

Now to the gym. I've got to make up for the eating I did this weekend! :)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Teaching problems

I'm the only active knight in Ostgardr and I've got a number of people who come to me for advice. Now, when I was the only active knight in Cloondara and people would come to me and say "I went to practice across the bay and was told to do X," I'd normally say "That's cool. Learn from everybody." But it was easy then, because although we all had different techniques we fought the same "school" if you will--some modification of Belatrix. Now, however, it's different. Now people come to me and say "I went to practice across the river an they told me to do X" and I have to say "Don't do that."

I've got one new fighter who is dedicated and eager, but who's got a slow learning curve. I teach him something and the next week he forgets it, or comes in doing it wrong. He only wants to fight greatsword, which is a problem yet again: I'm a decent greatswrod fighter, but not the best, and it's a form where you take a lot of beatings before you get good at it. I was showing him the basic Bellatrix greatsword techniques, which primarily uses the high right side guard. Well this guy went across the river to Nutley and fought Duke Kelson and got his ass kicked. From what he showed me, he wasn't using the techniques I taught him particularly well, but the basics were what I'd told him to do. And he was fighting the best fighter at that practice. Then a couple of guys over there took him aside and said "you're doing it all wrong--fight like this" and told him to only use the standard SCA middle guard. He came to me and said "everybody says I should do it this way instead."

Now what am I supposed to do? I'm trying to teach him a specific style of fighting, one that takes a long time to learn to do properly. I know it's not the only technique he can use. It's not the only technique I use. But if he's going to learn to do it he needs to concentrate on that style and not mix it up with a bunch of other things that undermine both his technique and his confidence. So what am I supposed to say when he says, in a nutshell, "the guys over at Nutley say you are teaching me wrong"?

Well, i told him, curtly, "don't do that."

"But I got my ass kicked." he retorts.

So what? Ignore them. do it the way I told you to."

He persisted "but I keep getting beaten."

"Of course you do. You were fighting a duke and you are a beginner, plus you are fighting a difficult weapon form to begin with, and you're learning a fighting style that takes a long time to master. Now, do you want to win fights now or do you want to really learn how to use the greatsword?" He really didn't understand what I was telling him.

Perhaps it goes back to that Western Zen attitude that Artos has: the idea that victory isn't as important as mastering both yourself and the weapon. I don't know. I do know I'm having a hard enough time teaching this kid as it is without the guys at Nutley undermining what I'm trying to do. But then again, I freely admit that some of those guys over there are much better greatsword fighters than I am. Kelson's a Duke after all, and I'm alway telling my guys the Dukes are the people to listen to.

Then to make matters worse Ed started teaching one of his impromptu broadsword classes. Now I love Ed. He's one of my best friends. He certainly got me through moving to New York. He's a great friend. Ed is great at moving the sword around but his basic technique is faulty in my opinion because (although he won't admit it) it requires more upper body strength than a lot of people have and even when done right unless you are Ed (a carpenter) or Kelson (an armorer) your blows don't land with any authority. he tells people "don't do what Val says: do what I say." which is the opposite of what I've told them (Ed uses no hips or body mechanics, my style is based on movement). So in other words Ed is using my lines on me. To top it off my own squire, who worships Ed, says to me today "Ed's style just doens't work for those guys. Ed is right, but his style takes too long to learn. People are good with your style right away."

NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!! That is exactly wrong! That is what I am saying about the greatsword style they're trying to teach my guy over at Nutley he shouldn't' be saying it about me.

Or maybe I'm just full of shit.

The bottom line is that (a) Ed's not a duke. I know only one duke who fights anything like Ed, and that's Kelson. Most of the Dukes I know fight like me. (b) There are maybe six actual techniques in the SCA, counting brute force and ignorance. If you are going to learn to do something properly you need to study that technique until it is second nature and not pollute yourself with other techniques. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way (I'm a chameleon. At various times I've used all six of those techniques and still do. But as Jade keeps telling me I've got to stick to one thing and master it if I'm really going to be a great fighter). So is it wrong of me to tell my students "Don't listen to those guys, do what I tell you"? I mean, that's essentially what those guys are saying about me.

I don't know. I don't want to be that guy in the samurai movies (Ed and Paul are both that guy) who says "My school is the only true school! All other schools of fighting are inferior!" But isn't that what I'm saying? In the end I want my students to be able to dig any technique out of their bag of tricks and use it when necessary. But they have to walk before they can run, and they have to have a foundation. Bellatrix is the foundation of everything I do and if they won't master that I'm not sure what I can teach them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

McCaren Park

McCaren Park practice keeps getting strong. There were eight fighters in armor last night. I spent most of my time training. It's a good variety too: two mostly polearm fighters, a greatsword fighter, a bastardsword fighter, a buckler fighter and only three regular old sword and shield fighters. And all of them were mixing up weapons a bit as well.

I was training Gil, the buckler fighter a bit. A number of issues come up with that that are worth contemplating. Is buckler a reasonable form for chivalric combat? (Hugh insists that it's not) You obviously can't do a lot of I-33 style buckler in SCA combat because you are armored. Are there *any* techniques from I-33, Liechtenaur, Silver, etc. that work in SCA combat?

Now, I won the I-33 buckler tournament at Pennsic this year, but I didn't do it using a lot of I-33 techniques. I used a classic western/bellatrix style and mostly hit people in the leg because it was a first blood tournament. My opening ward in every fight was the classic Paul stand (see Paul) with the shield presented a bit more forward, which I guess makes it an old style Jade stance. If I did the classic Ward 1 from I-33 at all it was for show and nothing more. I've lately come to think that the best ward with the buckler is Hauoc's normal stance, since his shield is about the same size as a buckler.

Anyway, I showed Gil the classic I-33 ward, the Hauc ward, the Lichtenaur ward (which also appears in I-33) and the classic open style, and what you could do from them. As boring as it actually is to watch and fight, the Hauc style is probably the most effective. I only have maybe two techniques from any of the manuals that actually work in SCA combat:

from the I-33 low guard (sword foot forward, sword on the left pointing back and down, buckler covering the hand), when someone strikes at your head pass forward with the left foot while deflecting the blade high with the sword and the buckler. End with your tip pointing toward his face. Thrust. This is actually a longsword/polearm technique found in Liechtenaur, Fiore, and Jeu de la Hache.

From the Liechtenaur high-guard (sword foot back, sword on shoulder, buckler covering hand) when your opponent strikes at your head block with the sword and buckler together, the sword making a deflecting parry, and strike out at the head.

there are others I'm sure. I may even have used them without really planning to or making note of it. But this is it. In reality, I find that buckler in the SCA is just SCA fighting witha buckler, not anything resembling real period combat anymore than our sword and shield combat does.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

McCaren Park practice

Last night we had a great practice. There were nine fighters including myself, which is about the best I've seen at an Ostgardr practice in five years. There was me, my squire Cian, Avram, Bill from Bay Ridge, Gil, Ervald (looking stunning in his new Gambesson from Chivalry Press), Sancha, Ann, and Robert, who's recently moved from Cinabar in the Midrealm to Brokenbridge. Lots of good stuff going on. It was kind of a relaxed Post Pennsic day, so I played around a lot. As it turned out I only fought four of the people there.

Cian and I fought with six foot polearms. I was doing pretty good, and beat him four times to one.

Before I left the field, I squared off against Robert, who's very tricky (more on that later). I was really happy to beat him two out of three fights, polearm against sword and shield.

I fought sword and shield against Gil, who is a really good buckler fighter. I won most of our fights. Most interesting thing was that I got him with houghton's old "Sit up/sit down" technique. Probably just because he had a bucker. (this is simple: start out on your knees. Rise up to a tall kneeling position, not sitting on your haunches. As your opponent steps in, sit down and throw a shot straight down, so that it hits him in the chest with the full length of the blade).

Next I fought Robert, who kicked my ass. It was good to get my ass kicked, which never happens at that practice. He's a very sneaky fighter. He's taller than me, he's patient, he fights at long range with very loopy shots (not like my loopy shots), he's got good thrusts, good power, and he ducks and weaves like a boxer. Best/worst of all, his shots come in at angles I rarely see. He doesn't fight like most midrealmers I've fought before, but he doesn't fight like many other people at all.

I've been working on using some of Hauoc's technique. I started doing this fighting with my buckler, and it worked, so I've been bringing it into my bunnyround fights. Here's Hauc in the finals of the most recent Western crown: It's not unlike what Duke Connor is doing here: but not as radical as Duke Jade's open form, also with sword leg forward, like here:

Anyway, it's worked a bit. It's not as comfortable as the classic Radnor form, and I find it a bit too linear, but it works sometimes. The best I did against Robert was our first fight, when I used this technique but, instead of doing what hauoc would and firing from long range I went for a Jade style off body shot and took Robart's arm. I did kill him once or twice, but it was tough.

I'd made a new shield at Pennsic and gotten the bolt placement a bit off. Then with all the rain the leather stretched. End result was that my straps are *really* loose. I had a bunch of very long fights with Robert and by the end I was totally beat. My arm was jello from gripping the shield so ight, and the back of my had was bruised both fromt he wood and from the bolt being driven into my nuckle. At some point I hurt my sword wrist too. I learned a lot fighting him but it cost a lot too.

After that I took it easy and trained a bit. I fought Gil again with ax and buckler. That didn't work as well as it had at Pennsic. he kicked my ass.

I took some time out to train Ann with greatsword, which always gets me thinking and set my mind ight.

I fought Robert a third time, this time Florentine. I killed him once, but that's not my best style. My defense was pretty good. Even though he's from Cinabar I used a Milwauki syle on him and at least it kept me alive.

Last out I fought Bill sword and shield and did really well, but he fights left handed at our practice even though he's right handed (he fights right handed at Nutley).

It was a rough practice, but coming off the year I had and considering how well I did at Pennsic, I got pretty roughed up for a McCaren Park practice.

Hi there

As if I actually needed another blog, here it is. I'm already writing Mediagrouch and The He Man Martha Haters Club (both here at Blogspot) a live journal (where I do most of my posting these days) a Myspace page and a Facebook page. What on earth would I want another blog for?

Well, this one is very focussed. I don't expect to write in it every day. It's just about SCA fighting--my experiences, my views. That's it. I already keep a paper journal of what I'm doing as a fighter, keeping track of who I fight at practice, how well I do, what works and what doesn't (try it sometime). Some of that I'll post here. I'll also talk about tournaments, wars, results, etc. I'm doing this because I'm training a lot more people than I have in the recent past and this is a good way to let them know how *I* go about it, share some info, etc. Who knows. In six months I may have abandoned this blog. Hopefully not.