Friday, October 31, 2008


Calibration has been on my mind recently, as you can understand. I don't think I calibrate higher than most of the folks in the southern region. I find when I go to Nutley or fight in Mudthaw that I have to hit at the top of my strength range to be assured of a kill, and on some days I don't have the strength to do it. This is a hard hitting region. I'm constantly landing blows on people that aren't good. I'm happy with this. This is a full contact, hard hitting sport and I like it that way.

But what is calibration really? Our standard is "hard enough to break mail." In my youth this is what I was trained to. We would lay shirts of butted mail over hay bales or pells and hit them with steel weapons and train ourselves saying "this is how hard you have to swing." It's really hard. It's almost impossible to break mail with the light swords we tend to use. Yet this is our standard.

Some places the standard is take any blow you feel. Some places the standard is take any blow you hear land on you, whether you feel it or not. Some places it practically has to dent your helmet to be good.

I agree with the poster who said that Calibration really has nothing to do with honor. Calibration is a completely objective standard that--whether we like it or not--is effected by mood, condition, fatigue, and body chemistry.

The best description (in that it is most humorous) I ever heard of calibration comes from Artos, who told me once that "a good blow is one that, while it doesn't necessarily hurt, should be so hard that you never want to get hit that way again."

In this formulation a blow is one that not only lands but forces you to notice it, stops you cold in your tracks and makes you go "wow." (if not "ouch"). But there is a problem here, I think. One, this leads to a very high standard that a lot of people would object to. Two, I suspect that it leads to a widly varying standard. If you have just finished a technique or are set and someone hits you with a blow you are certainly more likely to notice it than if you are in the middle of an attack. On the other hand, that's probably true no matter what your standard is.

What do you think?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crown tourney

I was told that my fifth round fight was ugly and that I had ignored a number of deep wraps. I clearly remember the blows, clearly remember that they landed, and clearly remember shaking them off. Whether or not I *should* have shaken them off is always a question you have to ask yourself. Darius came out to do the “elbow adjustment” (where he pretends to fix my elbow cop and whispers in my ear) and told me to take a lighter shot. I said “ok.” My opponent, an unbelted fighter named Marcus, took my shield arm. I fought him single sword and managed to stab him as he hit my other arm. Marcus seemed genuinely happy with the fight, but he could have been towing the party line by saying that. Darius wanted the fight re-fought, so we did. At that moment I was pissed and something switched inside of me. As soon as the lay on was called I jumped him. I was all over him. It was my best fight of the day. It should not have been. I’d have felt better if he’d one-shotted me.

I had two really good fights. Second round I fought Visivald. I’d watched his first round fight and noticed that he was doing something different, holding his polearm with a left hand lead. I though I could take advantage of that, but couldn’t. We stood at range for awhile. Traded a few blows. Finally after an exchange as he was gathering himself I stepped in with a thrust and got him. It’s always good to kill a Duke, and we both had fun.

My other good fight was fourth round against D. Sebastian, a good lefty with a big Lucan style kite shield. That was fun. Neither of us wanted to commit. We stared at each other, moved around, tried to get the advantage, threw at range. I had his main attack scoped out, but eventually I made a mistake and he took my leg. Figuring “this is it” I threw a leg shot, then took a half beat to kind of shrug my shoulder and hit him in the head. He blocked low and I killed him. I was shocked.

My other three fights were kind of pedestrian. I fought Theobald first round, Gabriel’s squire. I took his arm then killed him. I fought Thorsen in third round. I got fixiated on trying my hook thrust technique (probably because it’s the only thing I’ve ever killed him with, and that only once). He killed me on a blow I probably should have been read for, an offside head shot at the end of a pass. In the sixth round, after my ugly fight with Marcus, Barack one-shotted me.

All in all I am not pleased with my crown. I’m not pleased with my honor being questioned—not because I’m offended by the suggestion but because I worry that it might be correct. In the past when people have questioned my calibration my head has always gone south and I’ve lost. This time I got pissed, *then* my head went south and I got one-shotted. Darius says my calibration has gone up in the past few months. That really bothers me. I’ve been fighting really well the past two years, winning fights, doing better in lists, but I’ve got to ask myself: what if the only reason I’ve been fighting better is because I’ve been ignoring people’s blows?

For a brief moment on Saturday I considered dropping out of the SCA. Maybe 78 crowns (might be 77, I’m not sure about 1999) and one win is enough.

This much I can say: I approached this crown differently. I trained for it—not as much as I wanted to, thank to my surgery, but quite a bit. I went on a diet and went in at 210 pounds. Then the morning of crown I broke my diet by eating carbs and actually drinking coffee. I didn’t want to be asleep first round. None of this was good. I wanted to win my fights. I didn’t actually think I had a good shot at winning crown—I’m realistic about that, and I was nowhere near that top level. But my goal was final four and I thought I could get there. That was where I felt I was at Nutley a couple weeks ago. But my focus was all wrong. I was in the classic bad mindset: trying not to lose. If I am too relaxed I always get sloppy. If I am too intense I loose focus. There is a happy medium which is kind of hard to find, but I certainly wasn’t there on Saturday.

So I was not at all happy with my crown, both because of my fight with Marcus (which we continued to talk about and he continued, in a friendly way, to say he was fine with). and because of my performance. Back when I wanted to win but had set my goal at fifth round I’d have felt fine about being knocked out in sixth. Now I don’t. Now I’m frustrated and angry with myself, and that means that I am taking winning a lot more seriously than I was two years ago. I’m training. I going for it. I’m 44 years old and, while I think I’ve got a good shot into my fifties if I stay in this kind of shape, probably not with a bunny round and it will get harder as I go along. But that’s the big catch twenty two in this game, isn’t it: the only way to win is to want to win, but you’re not supposed to want to win.

I want to win. I’m proud of that. I owe it to my lady, my king and my opponenet to want to win. As Ephie Calvin LaRouche famously said “I like winning. It’s…uh…better than losing.” I look on the SCA as a quest. I want to be a Duke. I want to make Gracia a duchess. I want these two things more than anything else. I love to fight, it’s fun, but that desire to win is what keeps me going to practice and to the gym. I’ve never been embarrassed to say that. Some people say “oh, you shouldn’t want it.” Bull. If I don’t make Gracia a duchess I will have failed in my quest. It’s that simple. But I don’t want to be that Duke nobody respects. I had a reputation for not calling blows in my youth. I never thought it was deserved, but I didn’t like it. It stemmed from a fight in the finals of a tourney that I won in which many people thought I’d blown off several shots. TO this day I don’t think that’s true, but I have to admit I could be wrong. We should give our opponents the benefit of the doubt, not us. I’m always willing to say I cold be mistaken. Eventually my rep changed and I got knighted. I have enjoyed a good rep, a very good rep in fact, for the last twenty years, and I’ve worked hard at it. I want it to stay that way.

So crown was odd.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Warrior's Nadam

Went up to Warriors Nadam today. Had a blast. It was my last time in armor before Crown next week. There was an "iron man" tourney going on--kind of a Mongol inspired Ithrodhir. There was archery, equestrian, ax throwing, and heavy fighting. The heavy fighting part was a warlord tourney.

They had 13 fighters, not ideal for a warlord tourney, but they had three knights, so they gave us byes into second round, so that we had to fight a two on one, while the remaining two teams fought it out. The result was that by third round team had me, one had Conrad, one had Sir Geofrey, and one was a four-man team that had Oscad and Bill (Pretty formidable). My favorite part of the day was probably winning my two on one fight. Oscad's team beat the team Sir Geofrey was on and Conrad's team beat mine, then we beat Oscad's team, making Conrad the winner.

I had a good day of pickups. I fought Conrad, Sir Geofrey, his squire, and later Bill and Oscad.

Geofrey and I had some really good buckler fights. Every time I was able to take his leg I killed him. Our last fight after I'd taken his leg I flashed my sheild toward his face, intending to thrust low, and he blocked low quickly. Quick as a flash I did the same, he did the same, and I thrust him to the face. That felt good. He got a couple of good ones on me. When we fought sword and shield in our bye fight in the tourney I won pretty handily.

Conrad I dont' think I touched once in five fights. I may have gotten one wrap on him. They were good hard fights though, and I was working him hard.

Geofrey's squire was a good fight because I got to practice some thrusting techniques, but Darius says I was leading witht he thrust too often (He never leads with the thrust).

My fights with Oscad were special. My goal was to neutralize the effective stuff he's been doing against me lately and, while he won some of our fights, I succeeded and I won more. His strategy the last few weeks had been to pressure my corners with fakes, and if I pressed him back out and get right back in. I turned up my tension muscles about ten points and attacked quick and hard but not at a good place for him. If he started throwing fakes I would throw right int he middle of them. I knew he would most likely molinee at that point, so I was ready for him. When I pressed I didn't close all the way because I knew he'd back out, so I tried to pressure him at medium range, where neither of us really likes to play but where I figured if I was initiating it I'd be more comfortable, and i was right. I'd jump in one or two steps and stop. Often he wouldn't even back out. It confused him. If he did back out and come back in I'd step in to meet him, which confused him as well. I was able to keep him off his game that way. If i closed in tight I knew I'd likely loose my leg, which I did once, but that was my best fight because he crowds more than most eastern fihgters and more than any Western fighter I can think of. But I did a falling leg shot on him. That's where I launched myself back and to the side from my knees and hit him in the leg as i was falling off balance. It worked. Then I hook thust him to win the fight.

Because it had been working in my fights with Oscad, and I'd bee paying with it earlier int he day, I worked on explosiveness against Bill. As soon as he'd do anything I'd jump in hard and fast, but with my defense primed. It worked pretty well.

Ok, Crown in a week. no more fighting. Give my shoulders a rest.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

BAT practice

Was something of a bust. Or rather, it wasn't very good for me.

I started out fighting Oscad. Ok, I know better than to fight the best guy first. It always takes me a few fights to wake up. Sure enough, our first fight he takes me leg and then kills me, easy as pie. Second fight I get agressive, move to my left, and manage to take his leg, but he gets me with a belly thrust from his knees as I'm stepping in. Third fight I land a hook thrust to his arm. fourth fight,.... I'm not sure. Were there four or five fights? Anyway, he's figured out a good way to fight me. He pressures me with a lot of herky-jerky fakes to see what I'll do, looking for an opening, usually a leg (I'm using a half round, go figure). If *I* presuare *him* he backs out and then jumps right back in, always keeping me off guard. My last two fights, four and five, I went back to classic Beatrix style, hitting hard and pressuring him in a slower but steady attack, which throws him off. I get him with a paul-like back hand body shot.

My next fights were with Gil. He got me with a good thrust once, and once in the face. As usual he was fighting with his buckler, but his defense was great. I took his leg and then, for some reason, I turned it on full. I just went in and pressured him hard and fast. All I cared about was agression. I hit him in the leg an then the body and then in the head. Our last fight we took each others legs and I just started beating him like I was after his milk money It worked very well.

My last set of fights, with Bill, were really good. I got him on a cut to the head as I moved right and with an inside thrust. But then I started with a plan. I tapped his shield with an offside shot (remember, he's lefty). He kind of over blocked and I thrust to his chest. Then I did it again and he over blocked again, and I thrust him in the face. Then I did it again, he over blocked again, and I hit him in the body. Then I moved on to other techniques. They were good fights.

But that was it. I was kind of in a mood where I might have been too relaxed, trying to recreate the zone I was in last BAT. Didn't work. That's probably why I dialed up the agression.

I have learned on thing, though: I am not planning my fights out. The closest thing I do to plan is decide what ward I'm going to use. I'm mostly using basic attacks and reacting. That's a good thing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Well, I’ve been saying for weeks that I want to go to Nutley and get my ass kicked!

Nutley last night was great! I fought every knight who was in armor and two good unbelted fighters. I have bruises today to prove it. Let me tell you, if I went to Nutley more often I probably wouldn’t have stuck with the bunny round as long as I have. I got an ass whupping the likes of which I haven't experienced in a long time. Today I am your baby harp seal!

I jumbed right into the pool by fighting Sir Douglas first. He’s a good two sword fighter who hits like a ton of bricks. I normally have good success against him with my thrusts, so I started out concentrating on my edge work. That wasn’t working so good. When I switched to thrusts I got some good kills on him. I did manage to get one belly cut on him though.

Then I fought Heinrich Braur, an unbelted fighter whom I’ve fought in a lot of tournaments. I usually win, but not always. He is Kelson’s squire and fights that style: large heater, right side/left side guard (by this I mean that he guard his right side primarily with his shield and his left side primarily with his sword, kind of the opposite of a bunny round fighters, who will normally guard high with his sword and low with his shield). This is a pretty static fight. He uses quick sword work and counter punches. I killed him most of our fights, starting with a good hook/thrust. This was nice, because the hook thrust had abandoned me for awhile (I think the fighters at BAT had both gotten used to it and are backing away whenever I do anything, so they’re often out of range). I also got him on a great wrap when he closed with me too fast.

I fought Jan Janovich next. Jan, who trained with my squire brother Ronald, fights a lot like I did when I used a heater. 24”x32” heater, lots of lateral movement, hooks, presses, works hard to control range. We did a lot of movement and positioning trying to keep range control, and we both mostly fought right at the edge of our effective range, which always makes for a fun and exciting fight. We were pretty evenly matched. I won two, he won three, which would make him king ;-)

Next I fought Stephan von Dresden. I mean why not. He’s the best fighter in the SCA right now. Every time I fight Stephan I have one goal: just hit him once. He is so fast and moves so well that anything I do seems like a victory. He said our fights were great, but by the end it seemed like it was child’s play for him, like he was toying with me. It got to the point where he’d trigger off any movement I made (which he always had blocked) and just throw a cross shot. Like pounding nails, it was. So fast. He also brings the love better than anybody I fight regularly. He hit me so hard three of four times that I felt like a boxer who’d just been beat up by Larry Holmes. I did kill him once though, also with a hook thrust.

Next I fought Gregor. This was truly a lesson in humility. When I still fought with a heater I thought I’d like to learn Gregor’s style. His heater is strapped like my last one was, with the hand way up in the corner, so it sits pretty low when not engaged. His leg is well covered but he has to bring it up to cover his head. He is so SO fast. And he knows how to beat a bunny round fighter. The first thing I tried (which I’d been wanting to try more against top level guys) was Hauoc’s high closed form with the sword side leg forward. Except that lately I’ve been doing it in more of a crouch than Hauoc. Big mistake. He hit me in the cup. Twice. Ok, we go back to sword foot back. Gregor has a plan for the bunny round and he executes. He pasted my leg right off with a quick pump fake. It HURT! Right above the armor. He worked on my leg for awhile. Once he got me thinking about my leg it was all over. I wasn’t fast enough with my sword block to guard against the rising snap and he just went to town on me. I don’t think I’ve fought him more than once with the bunny round, so I’m used to doing much better against him than I did this time. Ow.

So I finished the trifecta by fighting Duke Kelson. Kelson, like Heinrich, fights a passive blocking, right side/left side fight without a lot of movement. He also took me to town, though I did slightly better than I did against Gregor or Stephen. I was moving out of his leg shots a bit better. I also killed him with a hook thrust. Then we double killed several times, me thrusting to his face and him cutting me. After awhile he started doing some of those Lucan leaning shots, and I got him on a deap lean hit him on the side of the head. Hammer blow. But I had no real answer for his speed.

Next I fought Bill. Bill usually fights me left handed because we usually fight in Brookyn. He switches. He fights lefty in Brooklyn, righty at Nutley. He is good lefty but much better righty. I still killed him a lot.

Last I fought Sir Christian. I was so tired by that time I am not really sure what all I did or what he did. I was fighting mostly on instinct. Fortunately for me he was tired too. We probably traded about even.

It was a great night, but I spent a lot of time on my knees. My left leg is tattooed with bruises. This is the curse of the bunny round fighters. It is normally a good shield from your knees, but Kellson is able to get my ribs quite handily when I’m down there. And I am limping a bit. :)

But it is what I needed. I wish I could get over there once more before crown. The rumor mill on this crown is better than it has been in years. It’s got Andreas, Brion, Gregor, and Lucan all gunning for it. And my primary goal was to reach the final four. Cool! This will be fun!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More on BAT

Here is me with Gui's old kite. I'm stil using the bunny round, but I've been contemplating the kite for two reasons. One, I want to be more competitive. Two, I want to do a more Norman looking kit (it will be a long time, however, before I can afford a rivited mail hauberk).

Here is a video of me using the kite while fighting Everet. It's fun, but I have huge gaping holes in my head defense (Gui's kite is heavier than most). Funny thing. That kite--I think it's a 38", seems small to me when I look at it, but it looks plenty big in the video.

This was purely for aesthetic purposes--as you can see, I am mostly concerned with the where the light is. :-)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Action shot

Here, from June Crown, is what is probably the best action fighting shot I've ever seen. It is located at, one of the best SCA picture sites I've found. Check it out and buy some prints off her.

some thoughts on Western Crown

First of all let me say that Obadiah the Obstreporous is a God! Ob defeated both Jade and Radnor in the same crown tournament. I think I can name everyone who's beaten Radnor in a crown (there are about eight). Fewer than ten people have beaten Jade in a crown. I'm pretty sure Fabian has beaten them both, but not in the same crown. Nobody has ever done what Ob did! Wow! All my life I've wanted to beat Radnor in a tourney, and Jade for a long time as well. I am impressed!

To business:

At western Crown, as I have heard, Titus attained the final round gainst Duke Jade, who is his grand-sire, Titus having been squired to King Uther (so this was all in the family). As the litany was announced, Titus reportedly doffed his helm, embraced Jade, and then spoke. He said that recently a number of people had been suggesting that people who use large shields do so only because they want to win, and that to prove that this wasn't his motivation he was yielding the crown. People were shocked and some were angry. They announced the "huzahs" for Jade and people went away. Jade, naturally, didn't want to win crown by concession, and he and Uther talked Titus into fighitng it out. Jade won, but by that time everyone had left. I just spoke to someone, who was there and who spoke to Jade in between the concession and when he and Titus actually fought the final round, who still did not know that they had actually fought it out.

First of all, having been part of the whole discussion regarding shield sizes, much of it originating on this blog, I'm very understanding or Titus' motivation. I also understand Jade's reaction. I would have tried to talk him out of it too. AOC has suggested that talking Titus out of his gesture was the wrong move, as it cheapens the gesture and elevates victory to a more important status than expressing one's honor through defeat. I'm not sure I agree.

Secondly, it is any one's right to yield a fight at any time for any reason.

Thirdly, Titus was defending his honor. Some people say that Crown finals was not the place to make the statement Titus made. I can see their point. But if you wanted to make a dramatic gesture, there is no better moment than crown finals.

There has been a lot of concession going on this year. Dag conceded Midrealm crown finals. Krysta conceded a tournament fight last week. Konrad conceded Pennsic, for crying out loud. All for different reasons (Konrad's might be the closest to Titus' gesture), but it is curious.

Titus does not seem to be somebody who uses a big kite because he wants to win more fights. He has one of the most perfect period kits I've seen. If you've never seen him fight, Titus wears a very accurate Crusader era kit, for which the big kite is the apropriate shield. He usually wears a lot of mail, which slows him down (I don't know if he was wearing mail on Saturday). He does not style his kit, as some people certainly do, to gain advantage win more fights: people like Radnor, who started the trend of just using a Gambeson for body armor in the West after saying "The best armor for SCA fighting is carpet armor because it protects you without weighing you down,": or Jade, who used to fight in a gambesson as well: or Guy of Castle Kirk, who always wears sneakers when he fights to give him speed and traction; or me, who uses as light a kit as possible (though people seem to think my bunny round is very heavy, which I don't get). So the suggestion that he might be trying to gain an advantage was particularly grating to Titus.

I do think a better gesture would have been to throw the sheild aside and fight with just a broadsword against Jade. It would have said the same thing, if somewhat less dramatically. But I won't gainsay his decision. He's a good knight, and although I would not have done what he did, he made his point.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

BAT practice

BAT practice was fun today. I was kind of tired and worn out. I’d lifted and ran on the treadmill on Friday and gone to spin class on Saturday, so I was pretty stiff and sore. But it was fun. Oscad, Roderick, Everet (I think that’s Rav’s name), Gil, Bill, and I were in armor.

At Bill’s request we started with some stick drills. We did the hanging guard drill and the double strike drill out of the Asgard school, the training system used by Dukes Gaston and balder in Trimaris. After Bellatrix, this is probably the most highly developed training system I’ve come across. Some of their videos are on You Tube:

I like them. I’d developed some of the same sword drills back in the 80s, but there’s are much more advanced.

After that I fought Gil. He was using Sword and Buckler, as usual, and presenting his tip, which was new. He really didn’t have an offence against me, and for some reason blows I normally don’t land on Gil, like a right cross, were landing.

Next I fought Oscad, who was using a bastard sword “Christian style” for his defense. He did it mostly to work on his lateral movement, but that movement opened him up to my face thrusts to the outside of his stick. He moved right into them twice. I also killed him with a hook thrust. But the one time he took my leg I was dog meat. He stands right on top of me. I thought using Houghton’s sitting shot would work since he only had a stick for a shield, but he punched all the way over with it as a guard. Deep raps didn’t work either. I was doomed.

Next I fought Bill. That was a good fight. He is tough as a lefty. I managed to kill him with a double strike off side and with a straight counter. My best kill against him was after he took my arm and he kept his shield. I got him with a downward thrust to his belly after a pump fake.

I fought Rav using Jarrod’s kite. What I have discovered about the kite it this: it is so EASY. Jarrod thinks the kite he’s using, which he got from Gui, is heavy. It is kind of, more than I like, but it’s not too bad. I think it’s 38” long. I can go goofy foot, square, or sword foot forward, all in a closed high form, and it is natural as can be. I dn’t have as much offense as usual (natch) but I get to use a lot more patience. I’m not sure it’s as much fun. But then Effie Calvin LaRouche wisely said: “I like winning. It’s, uh….better than loosing.” I found that when I hooked and cut I hit my wrist with the shield. Same problem with a centergrip round. Duh! But it was fun. Gil should have video of it.

Last I fought Jarrod. He was using the kite and I was using the bunny round. I got a great hook thrust on him.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Time to go

One month to Crown (there abouts) That's only a few practices.

Monday was a long bike ride and some slow form work, working mostly on engaging my abs and my hip fighting goofy foot.

Last night was McCaren park practice. Once agian there were four fighters: Me, Jarrod (now Roderick), TImur and Ervald.

Once again I had good patience. Warmed up with Timur then fought him full speed. He was blocking me well and backing out whenever I advanced. I Worked him mostly by taking his leg and then either hooking and cutting to his head or stepping left and hitting him in the body. Timur is considerably shorter than me but he's good at defending against my wrap.

I fought Ervald next. I won all but one of those fights. I finally got my hook thrust placement working again.

My fights with Jarrod were fun. He is much taller than I am. He has switched to a center-boss kite shield and was using it really well to control distance. Had a very hard time reaching him but once I did I hit him.

Then I fought Ervald using Jarrod's center grip kite. That was fun. I got some great shots in. It is a bit heavier then a lot of center-grip kites and a bit short for what it is supposed to be (I think it's 36"). I got a couple of great shots in with it. I managed to use Lucan's passing shot and hit Ervald in the arm. I never land that shot, but with the kit it kind of fell into place. I also managed to get my hook thrust in. I was pretty sure I could, since I can do it with the center grip round, but it was nice. My arm got tired pretty fast though, and I've no idea how I would fare against the dukes. Plas I really do love fighting the bunny round style. As close as it is to crown I doubt I'll be putting on together between now and then, but I think it would work well for next year.

But like Jade said, I switch things up too often. I guess I just get bored. Patience. That's the key.