Monday, June 22, 2009

Western Crown

Well, I suppose I might as well say it: the knights with the biggest shields were in finals. That's not to say they weren't both great fighters: they were, in fact, awesome. But it indicates once again that, contrary to that old saw they like to say in the West, a big shield *does* give you an advantage.

and there's nothing wrong with that.

Titus won Western Crown, fighting Sir Cyrus from Oertha. It was an awesome list. Wide open--no Dukes and only two counts, me and Titus. Cyrus was using a really light (three pounds or so) windrose aluminum heater with a center grip. He's about my height (6'3") and he had it built the distance from his chin to his knee. Titus was using the kite that Lucan had given him, but he'd re-strapped it. The interesting thing was seeing someone using that shield who fights like a Westerner, with a great offense instead of fighting defensively. He was all over the place. In the end he was too much for Cyrus. He beat him twice, finishing the list without a loss.

I went five rounds. I lost to a good unbelted fighter, Owen Fletcher, who hit me with the overhead thrust I like to use, and basically knocked my teeth threw the back of my head. It was awesome. I got knocked out by Cyrus after a long fight in which he took my leg, then hipped me two or three times, and eventually hit me in the head with an overhand offside. My best fight of the day was agaisnt Leon. It was totally old school. I eventually killed him with the hook thrust. My other two fights were against an unbelted fighter named Vlad and one of Uther's guys, Eigil. Eigil was fast, really fast, with a great attack. I eventually took his leg and then, as he was reaching to hit me in the hit, he kind of slid onto my swordtip, under his arm. Vlad, a good lefty, I hit with that lucky combo: hit his shield, step offline to the left with my right foot, step around with my left, hit him in the head.

Sunday, though I probably shouldn't have, I went out and trained people in the kingdom fight practice. It was worth the dead-arm and pain, because I got to fight Gemini. He runs De Gendelus, one of the schools I mentioned in my last post. He gave me a pretty good compliment. When Maythen said something about him schooling me (which he totally was) he said that he'd been watching video tape of me for eight years, and that he copied his molinee from me. This is important, because watching him and fighting him, I now believe that he has some of the best sword work I've ever seen. He is up there in the Torgul, Jade, Lucan category. Awesome! I learned a lot from him. The first thing is that he fights an interesting option attack. He moves his sword when it's int he ready position, and then he starts it forward, tip up, but his body hasn't really moved. His arm forms a perfect right angle, the upper arm parallel to the ground. From that position, much like from the behind the head position, he can go anywhere, but since he's started his attack he's watching for where you block before he commits. It's really nice. And boy! Does he commit! He is very patient, letting the fight come to him and not attacking right away. He also has great offensive shield work. He taught me his technique of attacking the pivot points on a shield, which of course makes sense but I hadn't really thought about it in those terms. He uses a very small wankle and a 30" sword, so even though his shield is small he's all about in fighting. Our third fight was amazing. He took my leg, then waited. The he literally exploded on me. He trough an offside headshot, hit my shield below my arm, so it rotated away from my head, stepped to his right, and threw a hard, fast thrust, in a straight line and parallel to the ground, which hit me right in the throat. Amazing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Two fighter practices, and a workout.

i haven't written for awhile, but I've had a lot to write. Go figure.


Oscad and I went to Nutley on Wednesday. Had a great time. Fought Vasili, William Vicenti, Heinrich, and... well, at least one other person. i was fighting very well with the strapped kite. I used it as a center-grip against Vasili and, surprising myself, did great.

But the most interesting things is kind of a discussion I was having with Bill (Villiam Vicenti, not Vasili). He has some of the best pure technique of any unbelted fighter out there. It's really a pleasure to watch him fight. He'd been watching Oscad all night, never having seen him before (Oscad had a great set of fights against Gregor). Bill kept saying that he wasn't ready to fight against Oscad, but when the time came he totally turned it on. His shots were crisp and precise and he was beautiful to watch. Afterward we talked technique, and some trouble he was having generating power (unusual for Bill). I told him about the technique stuff I've been working on for awhile. It kind of stemmed from a discussion I'd had with Alfred a few days before.

For a couple years now I've been adding to my technique power generation that begins not from the foot, as i was always taught (and which I still believe to be the most efficient, at least for me) but from the core muscles. This is not the Gendy technique of using the lats and forearms to generate power with a hilt-heavy sword. This is using the core muscles to pull the shoulder forward, like the would if you were driving the hip, only you aren't driving the hip. I got this partially from talking with Radnor and Paul, and partially from watching the fighters whose technique is based on Boxing or punching arts. So far what I'm doing is breathing out slightly and doing a "crunch" with my stomach to pull the sword down and forward from a high guard. My hip barely moves and it actually moves up and back as i tighten my stomach (this is not unlike tightening my diaphragm when singing). Boxers often exhale when they punch, which tightens the core muscles. The scream in martial arts does the same thing. I was doing this but adding almost a whipping action, beginning at the naval and ending with the sword blade. It is slightly related to Lucan's parallel feet technique, which is designed to stretch the core muscles tight so that when they are released they contract and provide power tot he whole body. I've been trying this for awhile now, but this might have been the first time I've ever taught the technique to anybody. It won't replace hip mechanics in my arsenal, but it will add a new wrinkle.

Had a great workout Saturday. I did spin class, did about twenty minutes of abs 9a full range of crunches plus some pilates stuff), and the circuit, two or three sets at each station. i was mostly concentrating on legs,because I'm working on strengthening my knees right now.

I had to leave BAT early today, so I only got to fight Teric, Rav, and Kaz. I did well against all of them, but my fights with Teric were the best and most important. I goofed around with a few things, like trying the Lucan passing technique, and Teric made me pay, but when I just locked down and fought him straight up I won. He said that witht he kite shielld I am fighting taller, which I guess is right. Agaisnt good fast fighters like Teric, even though striving for height is an important part of my style, I'd crouch a bit more with the bunny round. Even if I didn't, I would be thinking low because of my exposed leg. With the kite, even though there's a hole in the leg defense, and even though i crouch a bit at times, I still am able to stand tall through most of the fight. This is allowing me to use my height better against Teric, and it opened him up in lots of ways, both his legs and his head. I took his leg a few times with different shots, and killed him with a wrap as he charged, which I rarely do. it is an interesting revelation.

One of the problems, however, is that I hadn't really planned to learn the strapped kite. I wanted the center grip kite, but I'm getting good with the strapped kite, and may not want to change (I did fight center grip against Rav, till my arm went out. I can't do it seriously till I get a lighter shield).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Siege of Harlech

Over in PA, which isn't too far from here, some SCA members have built a castle. Lots of SCA members try to do this, a few succeed. I think what they did was start with an existing house and then build a crenellated section (with license from the King), which is what Frenchy did way back in the day. It's not as cool as Castle Kirk imho, but it has cleaner lines. Castle Kirk started out as a single-hall manor house, as is apropriate, and Duke Guy has been expanding on it ever since. These folks in PA were obviously going for the look of a concentric castle like Harlech (hence the name), or more accurately one of the smaller "four square" castles like Bodiam (what I wanted to design back in the days when I still wanted to live in a castle). Bodiam is an example of the type of castle a landed knight might had, like Stokesay or Maxstoke. Of course the best of them, and probably the most beautiful castle in the world, is Hever. That is a good castle from a countyr knight (or for a rich American industrialist).

Anyway, here are a couple of videos from events there:

and this one I really like:

Ron Darter, one of my favorite SCA photographers, has some nice black and whites of an event from last year, showing the front of the castle and the size of the great hall at his site.

It's pretty cool. Me, I'd still rather live in a loft in NYC or San Francisco, but this would make a decent country house!