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.