Monday, April 28, 2008

BAT Practice

We've got two new fighters at BAT practice and both of them are sponges. They listen carefully, they learn, and they execute. It is a joy to behold. In addition to them we had myself, Avram, Oscad, Timur, and Alexandre in armor yesterday. It was pretty relaxed. I didn't get to fight everybody but that was ok. I was mostly getting some helmet time, having missed Crown. Timur is coming along nicely. I showed him a thrust/molinee cut technique and he immediatley killed me with it. Good stuff.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What to do on A Saturday when you should be at Crown

Search YouTube, of course! A hundred or more videos of Prova have been uploaded to Youtube in the past few days. Just type in “Prova Dura” and search for things added recently. I only found one of me:
(me and Christopher of Winterbourne)

But there are a lot from Sigurfirth’s field. A tribesman sent me a page where some of the azure field fights are indexed by round:
(index of Azure field by round).

I also found me and Sir Gabriel from Mudthaw, where I look like I’m moving through molasses. Embarrassing. It felt like a great fight at the time:

Friday, April 25, 2008


I share an attitude common in the West Kingdom that Crown Tourney is what the SCA is really all about. Everything else is just window dressing. As a result I hardly ever miss a crown. Well, that and I know that the best chance I have to win strawberry leaves is to maximize every opportunity I have to win, because I've never been that guy who can win most anytime he wants. I've fought in more crowns than anybody else save William the Lucky (and I might have passed him). I believe my count is 75. One year I fought in five crown tourneys, all three in the West and both in the East. So to me missing crown is about the biggest disaster I ever face. I feel like an eight year old who has been sent to his room while his siblings get to go to the circus. I act like it too (ask my girlfriend).

Today is one of those days. I am in practice. I have been fighting very well. This is probably my best opportunity to win Crown since I moved to the East. I've fought in three tourney recently and done well. Prova was a great tuneup for Crown. I am not injured. And I'm sitting at home.

I'm at home because of mundane concerns--we had a tenant vacate our rental in Jersey City suddenly and we have to rent it by Wednesday. Also, I don't want to do the trip by myself, both for money (I can afford it by myself but it's a stretch) and for the fact that it's a 12 hour drive and on Sunday I'm likely to be very beat up.

But that's just whining.

This crown looks tough because all crowns look tough. There are two dukes who really want to win it, whom I've never beaten in a list, plus three knights who are going for it who give me fits. But I still wish I were there. There's nothing like a crown.

There are a number of reasons why I think crown should be the center of the SCA universe. One is because of the old Western reality that, int eh beginning, all events (save 12th Night) were crown tourneys. That and having three a year (plus in most parts of the kingdom two coronets) meant that you were always fighting in royal tourneys. There was a tradition early in the West that all fighters except dukes were expected to fight in crown (it's even in the ceremony that created the first dukes). And, of course, there's the simple fact that until I become one of those myself (A Duke that is) I will feel incomplete as a fighter. That old joke "once a fluke, twice a duke" rings in my ear from time to time.

So that's why I fight in every crown except this one. In 30 years of doing this it's easy to count the number of crowns I was eligible for but skipped: one I was banned from, two while I was prince of the mists, one while I was king, one when I was injured, and three because of distance: the Western crown that was held in An Tir and two of the crown that have been held in Canada, counting this one. I don't count the crown that was re-fought at Purgatorio when Radnor abdicated. That's eight in 30 years that I've missed, and most of those years I lived in the kingdom that holds three a year.

So forgive me if I'm grumpy today.

But what about you guys? What do you feel?

Monday, April 21, 2008

La Prova Dura

La Prova Dura in the West was a lot of fun. I am definitely glad I went. It was good to be home.

La Prova Dura means "the proof ofendurance." There were 106 fighters. They ran six fields as round robins, with the winners of the six fields advancing to a final round robin. It was full of pomp and circumstance and lots of ceremony. The parade of fighters at the beginning took an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Some fighters walked in with groups and some individually, and most of them had a herald announce them. I walked in with “house Relentless” which was kind of the tribe and kind of not. It was a TOGUH list. There were Dukes all over the place, three reigning kings (Atenveldt, West and CAID), and knights from An Tir, East (me), CAID, Outands, Trimaris, and probably some kingdoms I’m forgetting. The fighters from CAID included Sir Freewind Bahadur, one of my all time favorite fighters.

Interstingly, unike a Western crown where there are 800 to 1,000 people in attendance but only 50-80 fighters (these days, there used to be 100 in the lists regularly). This time there were only around 350 in attendance including the fighters. That meant nearly everyone there was involved in the list in one way or another (there were some non-fighting activities going on, but those are for livejournal).

There were a couple of things that made it odd from my perspective. First off they seeded the fields like a normal list, but not quite. In a normal double elimination list in the West you seed the duke or top fighter at #1 on at field, the count in the middle of the pack (assuming one of each), viscounts above and below the count the knights in between. They are given odd numbers, with the duke being number 1. Then as they are challenged by unbelted fighters those fighters are given even numbers. At Prova, since everybody in the list has to fight everybody else that doesn’t make sense. They just seeded them with the duke at #1,the count at #2, viscount at #3, etc. So you can see here this is going. My first fight was against Duke Connor, the reigning prova champion. We had a great fight which he won. Talk about a wakeup call. My second fight was the #4 fighter, Magnus. He was having a great day and I did something stupid and handed him the fight on a silver platter. So after two fights I was pretty much out of the running and it was hard to keep my head in the serious place it needs to be to win. I had to fight the urge to say “oh, to hell with it” and start experimenting and playing around. I won my third fight, against Brion, the viscount on our field. After that I settled down. My first five fights were all knights and out of those I won all but those first two. Late in the list I fought Alvar, the remaining knight, and I won that too. Ferghis beat me with a good strike-thrust technique for my only other loss.

In looking at my own fighting it’s hard to analyze. For one thing I can’t remember each fight clearly. I know how I lost my three losses, but not how I won all my fourteen wins. I do remember few things:

Connor just beat me. He took my leg (I think I took his-that’s shaky) then got me with a back wrap after a good fight.

On Magnus I was tying a step/thrust and let my shield drift out as he was starting a blow (give him credit, he probably triggered off my movement) and he creamed me. I juked right into his blow and it hit so hard I bit my tongue. As Chis Farley would say, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!

Brion was fighting two sword. I took his leg and then hid my tip behind my back foot. As he threw at my leg I blocked with my shield and brought y sword up between his swords and hit him in the chin, a move hat has worked on Sir Douglas before.

Hmmm. Let’s see….

Ajax was a good tough fight but I got him walking into slow face thrust, one of my favorites. Firewalker was using a big center grip kite and he’s taller than me. I used Lucky’s Snap, pass to shield side, step around, strike combo, chaning the angle a bit to get his face.

Ummm. Robert of Woodesend and I fought with bucklers and I one-shotted him with the step/thrust.

I got one or two people with the hook thrust, but it wasn’t working until late in the day.
The fighting was strange because, as Connor pointed out, you never got a chance to get warm. It was like fighting the first two rounds of crown over and over again, where you wait forty minutes between fights. It’s supposed to be a proof of endurance, but the only endurance problems I had were due to jet lag. It’s only seventeen fights, after all. I fought 69 fights at Birka (they were proud of the fact that they had 856 fights in the tourney, as well they should be since the did it with all the pomp and circumstance of a crown tournament, but at Birka this year there were, ahem, 3691 fights). The only time I felt tired was going into my fight with Alvar. I was like “where am I? What is this stick doing in my hand? Oh! I’m supposed to hit him with it! Ok….” And I did. After that I started eating carbs and my focus came back. After Connor pointed out that bit about never getting warm, I realized that I was pacing myself more than was necessary. You are resting half an hour to 45 minutes between each fight. You may not get warm, but you have plenty of time to recover. I get much more exhausted late in crown after only seven or eight fights. After I realized this I tried to put myself in that mind space I’d bee in in the late rounds at Mudtaw, where win loose I was determined to dominate my opponent. That gave me the spring to finish strong. The other thing, of course, was that with the exception of Alvar, I had no knights in the last half of my day. That was so unlike a crown, where the fighting gets harder as the day goes on.

In the end, after seven hours of fighting, each of us fighting seventeen fights, our field played right to the seeding. Connor won with one loss, I was second with three losses, Brion and Magnus were tied for third with four losses, and so on. (Magnus, by the way, was a f*cking beast all day. When is Outland’s crown?). Finals came around and somebody asked me “who’s left?” I said “the king, the duke, the duke, the duke, the duke, and the duke.” Respectively they were King Gemini of the West, Duke Connor, Duke John of Skye, Duke Hauoc, Duke Fabian Arnet, and Duke Mathias from Atenveldt (who might live in the West now, I’m not sure). Mathias won the round robin final with four wins and one loss. He adds a little bit of fire to the shield debate: Fabian was fighting two sword, Gemini used his wankle and a small mace, Mathias used a normal sized heater (that is to say roughly chin to crotch), John a 24” square, Connor his bunny round, Hauoc his tiny little heater. The thing that stood out for me was that Mahias was able to take most of his opponents’ legs but his was almost impossible because of good heater shield work. He stood with a fairly wide, fairy square stance once he took someone’s legs, and blows to his leg either struck shield of hit low and he eventually struck home. In this case, his superior leg defense probably won him the tournament. Conclusion: given fighters of equal skills the fighter with the bigger shield will probably win. But we already knew that. 

Those finals were, as you would expect, incredible. Total deep end of the pool stuff: five dukes and reigning king all at the top of their game. That was worth the price of admission right there. It was amazing to watch them work.

The next day was "La Prova di Amore," the proof of love. The ladies of the gallery voted on twelve fighters to be invited to fight in a second round robin. There was tie in which a kight from An Tir finished tied with Freewind. It was a lot of fun to watch.

I had great time and am really glad I went. The next one is in three years and might be held as the first weekend of a week long Beltane. That’d be fun. I decided that, as fun as this was, I like Crowns more. They are more intense and more exciting. You get into a flow in the late rounds that I didn’t experience here. This was a blast, but I’m looking forward to crown.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Wow. There was a nice little tourney at Coronation. It was on asphalt and a slope, which made for some difficult footing issues. It was, at his Majesty's whim, a bear-pit with value assigned to each fighter--1 point for a fighter without an award or rank or anything, two points for (squires maybe? not sure about two points), three points for members of the Order of the Tigers Combatant, four for a knight and five for a Ryoal Peer. Since I was the only knight or royal peer in the tourney, every body wanted to kill me bad.

I finished tied for first with Federach, an OTC whom I had double killed with in the first fight. Appropriately, his majesty gave him the prize (which annoyed my sweetie, who thought I deserved a prize too, not knowing that she's the only prize I really need--an no, she does not read this blog as far as I know).

It was a lot of fun. I was still out of sorts with the switch back to the bunny round, trying to figure it out. My leg is so much more vulnerable with the bunny round than with the center grip and my offence is so much better.

I killed with the edge and with the point. Probably my best fight was my second fight with Federach. He fights with a small scuta and normally his defense is incrdibly tight. I took his leg somehow and noticed that on his knees he points the bottom of his shield a bit forward. I scooped it up with the front corner of my bunny round and stabbed him in the armpit. If he'd had a heater I couldn't have done that, but the wide bottom of his scuta gave me something to hook.

My defense was a bit sloppy. Lucas at one point touched me with something that he later said was a ranging shot that he hadn't expected to land so he hadn't put power into it. A knight would have known better and taken my head off. Sloppy defense.

But I had a good time. It was fun.

But next week is la Prova Dura out in the West, which will be a real test of fortitude (fighting in Prova the week before crown is either going to be a terrible idea or a great idea, depending on how fast I recover: I suspect the former, if my recovery from Mudthaw and Birka are any indication).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Coronet Results


Ben, aka Sigirfirth, a loyal reader and commentor on this blog, just won Mists Coronet (I assume fighting for Kahmille)! He had been in finals twice, and it is no big surprise that he won this time. Ben is a great friend and member of Ost-Thorpe from his days in the East, and I've been looking forward to this happening for a long time.

So now both my mom and one of my best friends will be royalty at Pennsic. How cool is that?

But not only that, Ajax went to finals. Two former Ostgardr unbelted fighters duking it out for the coronet of the Mists. Pretty cool.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sword weights

In a comment to my second Mudthaw post, Time Meyer asked a question that was important--so much so that I'm going to repeat it here:

Tim wrote, "Do you find it's easy to grow attached to a particular sword? I was having a lot of difficulty this evening with my heavy field battle stick this evening at the local practice because I don't use it a lot in tournament-style fighting. My regular sword is lighter, but was down for repairs this evening."

First let me say that I have always been a "use whatever is in my hand" kind of guy. A stick is a stick is a stick to me. Sometimes, though, that has gotten me into trouble. I do best with a lighter sword. I've fought with a lot of heavy swords in my time, and a lot of light swords, and switching back and forth can cause a lot of problems. There would actually be a point when I switched. I would go to a heavier sword so my blows woudl hit harder, and for awhile I would, but then my whole body would start to slow down, match the time of my sword and I start to get killed. Then I'd switch toa lighter sword. My hand would spped up, my body would speed up, I'd do really well, but then I'd start to get sloppy in my technique (heavy swords require better technique, or so I thought in the old days) and my power generation would suffer. Then I'd repeat the whole process all over again. I now know how to generate power with both heavy and light swords, which require different techniques as I explain below.

Bellatrix always said that you should only have one style sword: never go back and forth from a light sword to a heavy sword. He was speaking of people who use a heavy sword in training and then a lighter sword in tourneys, but the same applies in your situation. In tourney fighting you move your sword much more than in mellee, and in a greater variety of ways. You may not through a lot of molinees, but if you throw them in wars you are wasting motion. A heavy sword is very hard to throw a molinee with. As my example shows, your technique suffers. But Paul is only teaching one technique.

Most of the time, however, it's not really about weight, and therein lies the real issue. I find that when people talk about a heavy vs. a light sword what they are talking about more often than not is balance. A heavier sword with the same style basket hilt will balance more toward the tip, a lighter sword more toward the hand. This effects the mechanics of a blow more than anything else can. A long, tip weighted sword is best for the Bellatrix style, because the weight of the tip adds impact to the blow and, if technique is proper, also increases tip speed. The sword is thrown forward using the hips and the arm guides it. A sword that is balanced more toward the hand uses rotation to create momentum. It's good for molinees or the Gendy style snap. Speed is the imperative. It doesn't really matter how heavy the sword is. Gendy himself uses a relatively heavy sword, but because of the way the sword is balanced it rotates almost on top of the hand. This allows him to build power by moving his elbow and closing his hand, creating a very fast rotation of the sword. Remember: impact = mass x momentum. A sword balanced near the hand allows for a quick rotation and fast tip speed even in a heavier sword. But I have always found that the gendy style doesn't allow me to create as much pwoer as I want, and it messes up my timing to the point where my footwork and defense disapear. Plus I can't use it for the varried offense I like.

My own preference is for a sword balanced a hand's breadth from the top of the quilions/basket hilt, in the formula developed by Kevin Peregrin back in AS single digits. This allows me to to some of the molinees and rotation snaps and the Bellatrix technique but not much of the Gendy technique. But I still on occasion have trouble generating power for some shots, like the offside body which, paradoxically, I land better if I'm using a lighter, hand balanced sword, because I can generate more tip speed, ala Gendy.

My point is this: don't think of it as heavier vs. lighter. Think in terms of balance and that should help you with your problem. Know how the balance of each sword can dictate technique. All things being equal, I would advise you use the same swords in wars that you do in tourneys, whichever design that is.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More on Mudthaw

Boy! I can tell i did well because my body still aches three days later! :)

The other thing that bgged me at Mudthaw was a bit of indecision I was having, yet again, regarding my bunnyround work. I *want* to fight like Radnor or Jade, in a classic high form (Radnor's is a bit more closed than Jade's), and that's the best form for my thrusts, which are my most effective weapon these days. But my best defensive style, as well as the one I counter punch best out of, is a high closed form with my sword foot forward, ala Hauoc. I've been messing with this most of the last eight months and it really works. But it's harder to win fights and it's not as much fun. I've written this before.

So at Mudthaw, like at Birka, I was having trouble deciding how to enter a fight. Should I be offensive and lead with my left foot, sword back for optimum power and variet of attack, or should I close up, sword foot forward, and just be patient? It was hard.

The fights I won were no real help. Most of them I won with a hook thrust, which I throw from a high open form. And that wa a really decisive attack. My fight with Gabriel doens't count because he's a left hander, my fights with doug and barack don't count becuse they are two weapon fighters. None of those are typical.

Dimitri once said it doens't matter, that switching your lead is called "walking" which makes sense, but they have completely different sword guards and attacks that go with them as well.

Oh well. I should argue too much with eight rounds. It was a really good day. I just need to practice more witht he bunny round and it will all come together.