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.


Korwyn said...

My list was like yours, except that I was seeded higher in the list. I was 13-3 at the end, which did not suck.

I kind of liked the pace, our rounds were 15 min or so each so we were not really resting so much, I had a couple of fights where I have no memory, but still fun.

Hamish said...

I'd say our field ran closer to 15-20 minutes on average between fights. For most of the round robin, I had a consistent 8 fights between each of mine.

I'll agree that I would have preferred a slightly different seeding, with unbelts mixed with the belts. I was fighting up hill all day, at least until the 11th round or so when they mixed things up and I drew connor.

I also experienced the mental failure when I ran out of carbs in the 7th/8th rounds. I remember William hitting me in the head but had no recollection of what had happened in the period before the blow was delivered. I ate food, but it didn't help until the 9th round after I'd had time for it to sink in. I wouldn't mind having those two fights over, but I was pretty pleased ending up 10-7 for the day.

p.s. I got killed by Michael, but kept him honest I think.

Anonymous said...

The knight from An Tir that tied with Freewind was Octamasades.

(wife to that An Tir knight guy)

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MAC said...

Hamish, you certainly kept me honest. You had a stronger thrusting attack than anybody else I faced, which made me change up my game a lot.

Liam St. Liam said...

I am glad you got to fight Ajax, and your technique on his doesn't surprise me.

What's "Lucky's Snap?"

MAC said...

It's actually not a "snap." that's a misnomer on my part. It's a combination with two passing steps. It works kind of like Lucan's passing shot in that it puts you in the same position relative to your oponent, but you normally strike at the head and there's an extra blow and an extra step.

You start in a normal shield foot forward lead. Throw an onside headshot. Pass forward offline to the shield side (which means you step forward on a left diagonal if you are right handed, so your right foot passes between your left foot and your opponent). pass forward on the left, rotating your hips, and strike an offisde head-blow as you do so. You end up squared to your oponenet and, if he hasn't moved, you are to his right in the position Fiore describes as "pissing down his leg." This is a three beat maneuver: strike--step--step&strke. The extra beat often involves a dip (as a fake) and a moment of recognition wherein your oponenet sees an openine and wants to hit it. this distracts him for an instant, but you close the opening with your followup step before he can strike. This is one of the few techniques i know that works well on both right and left handed oponents.

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