Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Subject of Debate

As I predicted it would, the big shield issue has popped up in the West with a backlash against the people who are using them and winning tournaments (some of whom read this blog). Predictably, the most complete comments came from Duke Paul. He gave me permission to reprint them here.


Just a couple of comments --

I have never said that small shields, or more specifically round(ish)
shields are better than other shields. My feeling is that using a small
shield (round, square, bunny, etc.) when learning how to fight aids in
producing a superior fighter. I further believe that this fighter will
fight in a more aesthetically-pleasing style than might be obtained from
learning with a larger shield. I think that in-kingdom tournaments -
specifically Crown and Coronet tourneys - are the pinnacle of this

So when I see top fighters switching to larger shields for use in our
crown tourneys, I do not feel that they are being unchivalrous, but rather
that they are abandoning a custom that has produced superior fighters and
a highly-aesthetic fighting style. By recommending such shields to their
students, and by serving as an example to newer fighters, they are
actively opposing something that has defined the Western fighter and, to
my mind, the highest level of the art.

I further believe that given an equal level of skill and prowess, the
fighter with the larger (to a point) shield will win the fight. So, if I
were to move to another kingdom, or attend an event like Pennsic, I would
modify my shield size to move towards the size prevalent in my new
kingdom, or at the event. In such a situation, I see no reason (unless
one has a "Western" chip on his shoulder) for using a shield that requires
me to actively block my legs, when it is not the local custom for my
opponents to do so.

I still believe that it is easier to move to a larger shield than to a
smaller shield. If roughly-equivalent fighters should meet with similar
shields (having become comfortable with the use of that size shield), then
the one trained with a smaller shield will have a more complete style, and
the advantage in the fight.

A small shield is a means to produce superior training, or to demonstrate
prowess. For a long while, Western fighters could use their small shields
successfully against larger shields. However, the world has, to some
extent, caught up with us. Perhaps we should move to larger shields for
inter-kingdom events. However, I think that if we continue the trend
towards larger shields in-kingdom, then we truly will pay the cost of


I'm panning to go to McCaren Park tonight, but I'm not sure it will be worth it. I don't like to get into armor unless there are at lest three other people in armor, and it sounds like some of the guys are going to skip tonight's practice and go to Nutley instead. As I mentioned earlier, I got another Wednesday Night class, so Nutley is unlikely for me this semester. Not out of the question, since I don't have the late class this semester, just the one ending at 720. If I drive out with Gui I could still make it there once in awhile.

Gui and I have decided that we both want to push ourselves this fall, so we will try to train together.

I have been doing good so far. The show I was in has closed and the semester is about to start. I skipped spin class this Saturday but have been going on long bike rides and doing yoga. My new workout schedule is shaping up pretty well. Monday and Wednesday afternoons I have a long break between classes when I hit the gym (had this last fall and it worked well), Saturday I either figtht or spin. Sundays I will fight either at BAT or else in Jersey. Tuesdays I wil fight at McCaren Park. I'll start working pell work in next week (pell work is the tricky part. Last time I was doing pell work every night, hitting the pell 1,000 times, I messed my shoulder up bad and it took me months to recover).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCaren Park August 19

As usual McCaren Park was small. There was me, Ervald, Timur, and Jarrod, the new guy from Trimaris. They all killed me a few times. However, I really need to fight some knights.

Timur is looking better and better all the time. He is back to using a modified Belatrix style, but he’s doing it with that leather-strapped center grip Mongolian shield, and it’s working well for him. The way that shield shakes and absorbs energy is quite interesting. He killed me a couple of times, mostly with offsides to the head and once to the inner shoulder.

Ervald is getting better, but he is coming out from behind his shield on his onside shots. When we started the bear-pit, he went to sword and dagger with the sword in his left hand. I found that he didn’t have a good attack outside of trying to stab his opponents in the gut around their shields.

Jarrod is taller than me (always a problem) with a big heater (another problem). He was able to get angles on my legs that were weird. Those long arms worked in strange ways. He is also a product of the Asgaard system. He even has the training videos downloaded to his Iphone. That is pretty cool. He is also very into drills. It is good to have a willing student who like to train not just fight. Timur is this way too. After practice they went off to do some of the Asgaard sword drills together.

Me, I was having too good a night. I got killed a few times, but nearly always it was because I was tired, was bored, or was messing around. Messing around often gets me killed. But I was also messing around and killing people to:

I got two (maybe all three) of them with tight wavy-rising snaps, almost just a double pump.

I got every body’s leg with a super hard double strike.

I killed everyone with a stutter-wrap.

I wasn’t killing as much with my thrusts. I got a couple of good hidden thrusts in on opponents on their knees, but I don’t think I got a single hook/thrust in, which is my bread and butter.

At different times I used a butterfly, an upsilon, a cut from five, the foot stomp, and even the fast Eddy/Radnor direction change (on someone who was standing no less) to win fights. I was even using old MacEnruig style figure eights and molinees as misdirection, and they were working. While most of the time I used my classic high open form bunny round, a la Fabian, I also at various time channeled Jade, Artos, Connor, and Radnor, all to good effect.

In other words, I felt like a God. And that is definitely going to get me killed if I go into crown feeling this way.

Also: the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. My third class at BMCC is, once again, a Monday/Wednesday evening class. It gets out at 720, which makes Nutley very unlikely till January. Grrrrrrrr.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weight Training

Ok, only a bit. There is no BAT practice today. Yesterday I did my Saturday spin class for the first time in months. After spin I lifted. My lifitng is pretty simple:

Military press, 50 lbs, two sets of fifteen
Curls, 50 lbs, two sets of fifteen
Overhed extensions, 40 lbs, one set of fifteen, one set of ten

That was it. I just forgot to do upright rows. I ended up with some pushups.

A word about weight lifting. There are two ways to lift weights. You can isolate muscles or you can do toal body lifts. The best way to isolate is using a weight machine that doesn't allow you to move anything other than the body part/muscle you are working out. You can also do it with free weights, like dumbells or barbells if you, say, sit on a chair and do curls on a bench. But with free weights you have to keep the weight steady, not move it from side to side, so you use more muscles. The other way to lift is by using as little support as possible, so your whole body has to keep you steady.

My regular lift these days is a simple barbell workout. I actually do an old fashioned standing military press with a straight bar. I stand throughout my whole workout. This not only works out my shoulders and my arms but also my core. The core muscles are far and above the most important muscles used in fighting (and fighting is a good core workout). That's why a lot of dukes do Pilates. If you do a standing barbell workout you can't help but exercise your core, and this, more than my arms, is what I'm going for. I am not trying to gain weight or build bulk. All I want to do is tone without losing flexibility.

I didn't do a leg workout because I had done spin so my legs were dead tired. I didn't do abs, which I normally do before spin. I did do a bit of yoga, because the spin instructor always ahs me lead the stretching after spin, so I usually throw in a few yoga poses. But I didn't do a lot.

There are great exercises that isolate the muscles used in fighting, and I'll cover those later. But right for now I'm sticking with my usual spin, abs, and barbell workout, with Yoga most days. This week I work in a bit of pell work.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Georgia on my mind

Is John McCain crazy? Does he want to completely undermine the President? Can he really be shooting craps with foreign policy by meddling in Georgia? He is dictating policy. He is sending his advisors, almost like a shadow cabinet, to Georgia. In other words, he is doing exactly what he accused Barak Obama of: being presumptuous and assuming the mantle of the presidency. But where Barak was only delivering a speech in Berlin (and not, by the way, at the Brandenburg Gate), John McCain is doing it in a war zone, a war zone where Russia is operating. Not presumptious: reckless, dangerous.

Or is he just a genius? Let's face it: the average American doesn't care about citizenship and she doesn't care about meddling. The average American doesn't think it's improper if a presidential candidate starts meddling in foreign policy. I think people want their candidates to insert themselves into the world. I think they like it. And in middle America, where Ronald Regan is still a God, I think John McCain standing up and saying "we are all Georgians" elicits memories of Ronald Regan at the Brandenburg gate and at Reykjavik. This is Russia after all. Mr. McCain will be seen as standing up to Russia, the evil empire (nobody knows or cares about the difference between the Russian Federation and the CCCP). Foreign policy is beyond most Americans. We don't care that much. Nor do we care that McCain's talk foreign policy adviser is in the pay of the Georgians. We don't care about surrogates. We care about tough guys talkking tough to bullies. That's John McCain.

He is being presidential. And it will play well in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Colorado. And it could make him president.

And, by the way, do you get the impression watching the real secretary of state, Condi Rice, is jumping up and down inside screaming at her own imaginary Putin "Finally! It's about F#$king time! Seven years I've been waiting for you guys to start shooting at something! What took you so long?"

Maybe Putin wants McCain to win and dialed

Thursday, August 14, 2008


McCaren Park practice had exactly four fighters: me, Ervald, Timur, and Lou. We mostly fought bear-pits and two and outs all night long, which was actually good practice.

Lou always gives me fits. I fancy myself a swordsman, but I can't get past that weird defense of his. I beat him good a few times, but he's a tough cookie. My body thrusts seem to be the only thing that reliably works on him. Two good ones were a belt level outside thrust I hit him with becuase he was guarding the shoulder level thrust well; and one that started out as a molinee/thust but which, before completing the molinee hit his blocking ax, and so I simply lunged nad thrust and it worked like a charm. Nice change on the fly. I'll have to remember it.

Ervald was a bit tougher than usual but I beat him most of the time. He was trying sword and dagger with the sword in his weak hand and it acutally worked a bit. He killed me witha good body thrust our last fight.

Timur is fighting excellently. I'm sure if he goes to Nutley they will tell him he's doing everything wrong, but what he's doing is he's figured out classic Belatrix style for that leather strapped center grip Mongolian round shiled he fights with. He looks awesome and his power and speed are good. and his leg defense is spot on. I had real toruble taking his leg, which a few weeks ago was a piece of cake. I had a couple of good kills on him, but I was very impressed.

I have a reprieve. I was beginning to think I might have fractured my leg looking at the incrfedible pooling bruise that developed on my right leg from the two low hits I took (one of which knocked me out for the rest of the day, and which damaged both my shin and my calf). Well got xrays today and nothing is broken. So Nutley next week, hopefully.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

11 Weeks till Crown

Joe pointed out that there are eleven weeks until Crown tourney. I've decided to train a little harder for this one. In the past my goals for Crown, whether Western or Eastern, have always been the same: win more fights than I lose (which means five rounds). My secondary goal is to kill a knight. My tertiary goal is to kill Rolf if he's in the list. I met my main two goals at Western Crown (I once again lost to Rolf), and found that I was frustrated, as you've probably read. So it's time for new goals. I may not meet them for awhile, but I've been meeting my 5th round goal consistently for awhile now, and goals are useless if they are met all the time.

So my new goal is to make the final four in crown, hopefully this next one.

To that end I'm going to train more. I will begin by going to McCarren Park practice tonight. I will document my progress here on this blog. My training will include pell work, some resistance training, yoga, aerobics (mostly bicycling and spin class, though I plan to run up Lookout Hill at least once a week) and of course fighting. I will set some training goals regarding weight, reps, miles, etc., but my first goal is to get in armor and fight fifteen times between now and Crown, five of those at Nutley. Since my last back injury and my nagging shoulder problems, I've been sticking to spin and yoga for my workouts, and it's worked well. But I'm feelign a bit stuck and need to shake things up a bit. I might find that running with my back just isn't going to work, or that lifting or pell work, which have damaged my shoulder in the past, might be too much. I don't like to lift during fightign season becuse my arms are usually too tired to fight for days afterward (and I do a light weight/high rep workout, not a high weight bulk building workout). I expect a few setbacks, but I will persevere.

Anyway, I'll let you all know how it goes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pennsic Wrap Up

The simple thing to say is that I fought every battle with spear and every pickup with bunny round and a new sword (right length, right balance). I am resisting the two big temptations right now, which are (a) to switch to a kite and (b) to switch back to my center-grip round, both of which would cover my leg a bit better.

In the battles I was mostly using a rattan spear because they are lighter, the tip is smaller, and I could put one together for $25 instead of $50. It was not a good experiment. I used a piece of shaved rattan that wasn't overly wigly but was a bit. By the end of the war it was drooping a bit. I got some good kills with it, but I was almost completely unable to kill anybody in the body with it. It flexed too much. Waste of time. Those days when Cian wasn't fighting and I fought with his fiberglass spear I did much better. Ironically, in both the town battle and the mountain pass battle (same day) I was killed multiple times by an outlands spearman using a rattan spear.

We were badlly outnumbered. So much so that, to prove the point that the battles should be one on the field and not by politicking for six months ahead of time, Konrad conceded the war at opening ceremonies. Lutr tried to talk him out of it but it was no go. Konrad was right: the wwar is too importnat to some people and it is way too political. I'm glad he stuck to his guns. IMHO Lutr didn't handle it as gracefully as he could have. He should have met Konrad on the field Monday morning, evened up the sides and went at it. He didn't For the first day he kept all his allies, and later when he started to send us some troops the Mid still had numbers. We did win a few of the battles anyway, which felt glorious:

The Gates of Rome was a tie. We had the upper gate and we held it most of the day, but at the very end the Midrealm charged, a hold was called, and their momentum carried them forward (we all stopped, they didn't for a sec). We were pushed all the way off the gate and then, two seconds later, it was over. That ended up deciding the battle as a draw. Had we held that gate we would have won.

The Woods: we lost (i heard we won, but apparently not). It was a long res battle with abig push at the end.

Town battle: we lost, but our group held the two gates we were assigned to. They never got into our courtyard to take the point, so we were happy. Great spear duels with a bunch of guys from Calontir and Outlands, and some good charges by CAID.

Mountain Pass: we lost. The took all the points. Since we were lined up against mostly the same buys, it seemed like a continuation of the town battle.

Bridge battle. This was probably our great moment of glory. There were five bridges, three battles of half an hour each. The first battle was a draw. I think our bridge was officially "contested," meaning that neither side controlled enough of it to witn the point. According to Lutr, we killed nearly three times our number, as they were comitting all their reserves to our bridge as the battle went on. The second battle we lined up on the second bridge from the south, facing the tuchux and a few others. They charged, we held, we fought and repulsed their charges. Once again, they sent their reserves onto our bridge. But this time we blew through them, wrapped around, and hit Dark Moon in the rear on the middle bridge. As our bridge crumbled the first bridge began to give way, and Atlantia broke through and headed up the hill. We swept all three bridges and won the battle. Then we lined up and did exactly the same thing again.

We fought five field battles. I had a blast in all five. we won the two that mattered.

We won the belted champions but lost the unbelted champions. Heroics was interesting. We won even though Darius, Lucan, and Andreas all lost (to Ranvaldr, Edmund, and Uther, respectively). Gregor was the only Eastern duke who won his fight, one shoting Morgan Sheridan in one of the most beautiful shots I've ever seen. Our allies and our unbelteds really saved our asses, particularly Ulf, who was awesome.

I was also assisting Manfred in commanding the SRA. That was fun, and I think I did what I was called upon to do. Most of my command duties came in the woods, wherein I was coordinating our left flank and keeping it in line with An Tir. I fought with Serpentius the whole time, and Joseph and Horace were doing great jobs commanding. Just like the rest of my war, my spear fighting got better and better, and I was having more and more fun, each progressive day. By Friday I was having a blast and slaying mightily. The field battles are always my favorites, and we had some great ones this year.

In pickups I did great but I didn't get a lot of work. Had some good fights with Thorsen on Sunday. He said that I was fighting better than he had ever seen me fight. I pointed out that he still beat me. The ony other top level fighter I fought all week was Sir Ian from CAID, who beat me two of three, though I did figure out the counters to his Dirk-like offense pretty quickly. My other fights were against a lot of unbelteds because there weren't that many knights doing pickups, or at least I didn't see them. I did see Flieg, beck and Reinmar out there, but I wanted to fight guys I didn't know like the back of my hand whom I'd been fighting for more than twenty years (in Beck's case since before I authorized). I learned three things worth noting:

1) the way I have my bunny round strapped, just a bit on the low side with a lot of shield above my hand, I can't hold it in my normal closed form position because the corner is too high (I knew that pare) by it is great for a medium-crouch open form a la Paul or early Jade, and I am now fast enough once more to make that work.

2) because I can't hold it in my normal closed from I can't quite take the goofy foot stance that I've been working on, using Hauoc's technique. But it all works out if I move push the shield just a bit to the right, which also covers my right leg a bit more (one of the thigns about the center grip was that it covered my leg fighting goofy foot better than the bunny round).

3) once again, my thrusts are arcing and micing instead of going straight out. This is a bad habit I fall into when I get out of practice even for a week. I struggled with it the whole war.

I killed lots of guys in pickups. Only two of the unbelteds I fought made me sweat, and I still won more than I lost off of them. I felt ok. But I didn't get my ten fights with Darius and I didn't get to really work with any big guns, so I feel unsatisfied.

Great war.