Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blood Guard University

Saturday was a great practice. Gui and I went down to Ice Falcon’s for Blood Guard University. Ice lives in kind of an out of the way place. You can triangulate on it right in between Bum F*ck and Nowhere. It is in Jersey and—I’m not kidding here, and hour south of Philly. It’s maybe a half hour South East of Wilmington Delaware. It is so rurual we were off the freeway an hour without seeing a stoplight by the time we got to his house. Nothing but grain silos and tractors. He lives on one of those cul-de-sacs with new houses on them carved out of someone’s small farm. Their place is fantastic—a big colonial decorated in medieval, science fiction and Marine Corps chic. Unfortunately, most people bagged on it because of the weather. It ended up as Me, Gui, Ice, and two guys who had driven all the way down from Canada for the practice. However, that meant that we ended up doing lots of intense training. Bascially, Gui and I trained the guys from Canada and Ice trained all of us. The guys from Canada didn’t fight each other and neither did me and Gui.

Ice is an excellent trainer, and since I’ve gone to a 36” heater he was a good person for me to train with. Although it looks like he fights a fairly static, he is a very active fighter, punch blocking with his heater, striving to “win the place” as Fiore would say, and using strong technique—Elbow back, hip cocked, rotation, follow through.

Gui he was training out of that short off-side punch shot he uses. He was training him to cock and throw it with more travel and hiting on the end of the sword. It is a tough one, because Gui has always been successful with that shot but—as Bellatrix often points out, that shot comes in pretty soft and would *never* be effective in a real fight. He had Gui start his fights with his sword cocked to his left, ready to throw the shot. It worked pretty well, but it is taking away Gui’s main set-up.
My fights with him were more general. Our first set I didn’t win any fights. Our second set of fights I picked up late and won a couple toward the end. Our third set I was winning one out of every three fights. I had been trying to use some Gendy technique and Ice, bluntly, said the same thing to me that I tell everyone else—that that technique won’t fly anymore. He told me to move my elbow back and tighten up across the core, ala Bellatrix. One thing I worked through was that using goofy foot automatically forced me to pull my elbow back and tighten the shoulder, which is why I don’t have a lot of problems with power from that stance. Ice insists that my fighting picked up when I got off my heels and up on my toes. That’s interesting, because Bellatrix style digs the heels in and says you should keep them firmly on the ground when throwing a shot. But Ice was right. Gui says that I’ve been fighting my shield, and that fits. A big part of my fighting is always lateral movement, and that is what has been missing since I went to the heater. I’ve been sitting back too much.

Good fights!

Monday, April 18, 2011

More on polearms

BAT on Sunday! Yay!

The frantic rush to practice with great weapons continues. Once we got inside (Oscad had stayed up in CT after Balfar’s Challenge, and John was at work so nobody had a key. Drew managed to jimmy the lock just before John got there) it was mostly a shieldless day.

Diablo was there to give polearm and greatsword instruction. Dougal was there, and he’s a really good great weapon fighter. Lou, Jibril, and I were also in attendance.

I didn’t fight much but the amount I did fight was great. I used the short bastard sword once again and had fun with it. I fought Lou with it and did really well. He had started employing some of the things I had taught him on Thursday. I also fought Dougal with it. I lost a few more of these fights and in one he re-set my neck when I walked into a stiff thrust. On the whole I was working on concepts as opposed to techniques. I pulled my hands together on the bastardword, which gave me a bit more ranged and prompted me to use the really old-style techniques I’d learned from Rolf back in AS 13. I found my core to core work was lacking considerably, which is frustrating since that’s a big part of the bellatrix style.

I also fought polearm against Dougal. I won about half our fights. With polearm I was at first concentrating on technique. I did very well fighting the tip-forward fencing style. I did horribly trying to use Oscad’s oarsman style. Our last fight I used an opposed thumb style a la Visivald or David Civet. This was fun and I beat him by chopping him in the back when he tried a spin move on me.

I fought sword and shield with Jibril. He and I were both defending well. I don’t know who won the most fights. My best kill on him was a hook thrust, and I almost got him with a followup thrust off a cut to the off side head. After trying for several fights I finally managed to get him with a wrap. I was completely unable to take his leg.

Afterward we talked a lot about why he had been fighting me well. I pointed out that against me his footwork is very good. I then explained to him the concept of “gaining the place.” My offensive footwork is designed to get me into a position where I can attack my opponent at an angle, so that I am not facing his defense headon. This is what Silver calls “gaining the place” and Liberi refers to as “pissing down his leg.” In other words, if you can park on your opponent’s hip you will win the fight. I used the following examples, which are all worth learning:

• The Lucky Two step, in which you strike an onside blow, pass forward offline to your left, briefly exposing the back of your head to an offside shot as bait, then pass gain with your left foot and square up, throwing an off side head shot. If your opponent hasn’t moved you are now nest to him and inside his defense.
• Lucan’s passing shot, which is the same thing except since he starts with his shield foot forward he has eliminated the first step (though he does start with that foot a bit off line and sometimes moves it more so, like Liberi) and, as he doesn’t close as deep, the body is a better shot for him.
• Bellatrix’s theory that you imagine your opponent inside a circle in a box, and you move to the corner of the box to attack where you can hit him but he has trouble hitting you.
• Gyrth’s explanation that you imagine your opponent’s range as a series of concentric circles or ovoids, and that you should pass off line and intersect the ovoid on a tangent, so that you are in a better position to strike than is your opponent.

Jibril knows I move a lot so he was circling away from me or trying to cut me off—in both cases denying me the place and forcing me to fight him toe to toe, where he is most comfortable. This was instinctive on his part but it had the effect of denying me the offense I wanted to employ.

I made a cross hilted bastard sword, about the same size as Dougals, but without a counterweight. I did it in the old style, using Artos’ technique for attaching split-rattan quillons between two duct tape bushings. Hopefully it will hold up for the next four weeks!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Crown Entrants

Here is the list of combatants for Spring Crown as posted on the Armour Archive. There are 56 fighters, not 64.

Duke Ronald Wilmot
Duke Darius Aurelius Serpentius
Duke Gregor von Heisler
Duke Brion Anthony Uriel Tarragon
Duke Randal of the Dark
Duke Konrad Von Ulm
Duke Balfar Von Grunwald
Count Valgard Stonecleaver
Earl Edward Grey of Lochleven
Jarl Thorson
Sir Osgkar of the Wood
Sir Wilhelm von Ostenbrücke
Sir Antonio Patrasso
Sir Kenric of Warwick
Sir Sichelgaita von Halstern
Sir Culann mac Cianain
Pan Jan Janowicz Bogdanski
Don Ogedei Becinjab
THL Ávaldr Valbjarnarson
THL Oscad de Segovia
Baron Brennan mac Fearghus
Baron Wulfhere of Stonemarche
Baron Duncan Kerr
Baron Jean-Paul Ducasse
Baron Roger Stockton
Baron Jibril al-Dakhil
Baron Master Angus Pembridge
Baron Joseph Harcourt of Serpentius
Lady Roxalana Chaika
Lord Marcus Blackaert
Lord Armand de Crecy
Lord Tiberius Nautius
Lord Gunnvor Hausakljufr
Lord Theobald Hauoc
Lord Konner MacPherson
Lord William MacCrimmon
Lord n'Kante of Serpentius
Lord Bran ap Rees
Lord Lucas Beeskeart
Lord Gawyn O'Cleirigh
Lord Talan Gwyllt
Lord Tiberivs Ivlivs Rvfvs
Lord Erich Hundeman
Lord Eric the Nakinn
Lord Harold Hokonson
Lord William RavenHair
Lord Richard Leviathan
Lord Luis de Castilla
Lord Simon Gwyn

Thought on Crown and report on BAT

Crown is throwing lots of people for a loop. For those who don’t know, Lucan has declared that there will be a round-robin elimination round. There are sixty-four fighters in the list, and so there will either be four pools of 16 or eight pools of 8, and the top four (or two, in the case of the smaller pools) fighters will advance to the round of sixteen, which will be a double elimination list. It is just like last time EXCEPT that it will be fought with great-weapons only. Some people are complaining that this is messing with the lists, and others that it is unfair to announce it this late because if people don’t have their authorizations they won’t be able to fight, and others don’t have gauntlets.

Me, I don’t much care. Although I am against messing with the lists in general, I can’t complain since as Prince I did something similar in Coronet. I required that the first round be fought without shields. I did this because I think it’s more ok to experiment with Coronet list than with crown, but mostly because there had been a lot of complaints at the time about people getting their arms taken and not having off hand and arm protection readily available, so I set it up that they had to have it on hand in order to fight (clever me). What Lucan is doing is strictly for fun and I intend to have fun with it.

I don’t think it messes with the list at all, because, especially with a list this top heavy, the same six guys are going to be around at the end regardless. Most of the dukes will advance into the round of sixteen and with seven of them in the list, plus three more counts, it is pretty likely that the final four will be royal peers. All this does is add a challenge to people like me, who are significantly better with sword and shield than with pole arm or great sword, but then that is the point. I am pretty sure I would have made it out of the challenge round fighting sword and shield. I might make it out with great weapon, but my odds are slightly lower. But that is no big deal. I get to have seven, maybe 15, fights with great weapons that actually matter. What’s not to love about that! The biggest deal will be the endurance factor. Great weapon fights are a LOT more exhausting than sword and shield fights, and if we have to fight 15 of them to advance many of us will be in terrible shape moving on.

But to that end people are scrambling to get into great weapon shape. I have always considered myself to be competent with a polearm but I don’t fight it all that often. Over 30 years I have picked it up a bit. But I studied bastard sword for a long time, and have had some success with it. But you wouldn’t know it by my performance last night.

Our special Thursday BAT practice last night was awesome. Three of the Von Drachenklau fighters came over from Jersey. It was supposed to be a melee practice and we worked on triads for a bit, but then we broke up into singles. I did some warm-ups with Oscad. We fought three fights. I had broken my shield in the melee, so was using a 24x32 heater, by old style. It was classic. I won two out of three, and I did it with well executed techniques. The first and third fights I won by taking his leg, both times with an upsilon leg shot. The first time I killed him with Gemini’s technique (which he and I had discussed after Estrella), where I throw an offside head and pull through, punch the lower inside corner of his shield with the leading corner of mine, and thrust to the neck or face. The second time I hit him with Fast Eddy’s shot, which I’d leanred from Radnor, where I miss an offside headshot, curl my pinky in to change direction quickly, and turn it into an onside head. As I said to Oscad, that was a shot that was old when I joined the SCA 30 years ago. (glee!)

But of course what was really happening was we were getting ready for crown. We had good great weapon fighters visiting us so we took advantage. I fought bastard sword versus polearm with Brenan. Uusally I like that matchup, because the bastard sword can get inside the poleman’s defense. Not this time. It was lots of pain. Then we fought polearm and I did much better. I used a number of techniques that worked well. I did the David Civet swim move on him and won. I even got him with a belly thrust, and with Mordreth’s lead switch (!!!).

But I was humbled by Cullyn. Now Cullyn is one of the best great weapon fighters in the kingdom, and he’s been training on great sword with Lucan for years. But we fought with bastard swords and I didn’t win a single fight. Not one. Yes, he had range on me, and I didn’t have much in the way of quillians, but that shouldn’t have mattered as much as it did. He also had more patience than I. Twice we did the same technique, but he did it better than I (once we did and it was just a stalemate). Our first fight was telling. We both went into long point and waited. I was waiting for him to move so I could cut his head, like in Kendo. He was waiting for the same thing. I moved first, launching a shoulder strike, and he disengaged and cut my head the way he was supposed to. Point to him. For our next several fights I tried to get control of his blade using some WMA techniques. He always disengaged in the same way, over his right shoulder, and struck at me, usually on my right side head. After that I started getting serious and trying some regular SCA technique. This worked a bit better, but he still won all those fights. I was totally schooled in a weapon I am pretty good at. I may want to fight polearm in Crown.

After that I fought Lou. When I went berserk he killed me by getting inside my attack, but then I settled down and beat him handily.

Monday, April 4, 2011

BAT 9/3/2011

So BAT was a great practice today. It was mostly melee practice for the unbelted fighters. We put them through some drills. We did triad drills, attack and repulse, etc. As is common for melee drills we limited the targets for some of the fighters. Shieldmen were only allowed to attack heads while poles could attack any target. This is to simulate line combat, where shield don't normally get any other target and if they do attack legs or bodies often open themselves up too much. The goal of most of the exercises is not killing but gaining awareness and sticking together. I know Gui didn't like that aspect of it. His baskethilt got hit by a polearm driven into his thumb. It didn't appear to be a big deal, just sore, but Gui felt that it was because he wasn't allowed to attack the way he normally would. In lieu of that it's worth discussing whether or not these types of drills are a good idea.

I was there for singles so I worked with Sir Diablu to run the melee drills and then fought some single combats. I fought Jabril, Oscad and Roger. Gui and Lou got out of armor right after the melee drills and I didn't get a chance to fight them.

Gainst Jabril I did good. Testing my in fighting I found that I can't use an A-Frame defense very well. He (and Roger too) took my leg at will if I did so. I had some good fights against him. I am still figuring out how I want to fight with the heater, and I am finding that I don't do as well goofy foot with it as i did with the kite (makes sense, I don't do as well against lefties for the same reason--It doesn't move over as far because it's strapped to my forearm). I took the Brian Tarragon stand up tall and lean back stance with him and it worked fine. My best move against him was using my low-line hidden thrust when he was on his knees (this is where i hide my sword behind my rear leg, with the thrusting tip touching the back of my foot, then thrust inside his shield).

Against Oscad that stand tall and lean back theory was getting me killed. He came in with his typical aggression and our first fight ate my lunch. I went to a more mobile style, keeping him at range and working the corners and I started to kill him a lot more.

Roger was a fun fight for me. I did a lot of good stuff against him. I had his leg pretty well with double strikes and moving right to take it, even an upsilon. Twice I killed him with a top-edge hook while he was on his knees. About half-way through out set I set I lost my thrusting tip, but then the fights got even more fun as I went to strictly edge work.

Against both Roger and Oscad I was mixing up my aggression. I have been winning a lot lately by being patient, defending, and attacking mostly as a counterpuncher or using techniques that play into my opponent's attacks. (with the exception of my hook/thrust). Against Roger and Oscad I fought a couple of defensive fights and then attacked all out to change it up. I found that against Roger this was effective, against Oscad not so much. Oscad did say that I have the ability to totally disappear behind my shield sometimes, which is one of the things I try for. Something is obviously working.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nutley 3/30

For some really odd reason my retail job gave me a Wednesday night off. With Crown coming up I decided that I should go to Nutley.

I am not crown ready.

Oh, I fought well enough, and I had fun, and I had good endurance, but I am not there yet.

I fought Jabril, Jan, Darius, John the Breeder, and one of Gregor's fighters, (forget his name). Anybody else? I'm not sure.

Fighting with Jabril I did well. His A-Frame defense was tough to crack, but i took his leg a few times and killed him with both thrusts and fore edge.

Gregor's man creamed my leg once, but I had good fights with him and won most of them.

Fighting Darius was the main reason I showed up. We had a couple of decent fights in which, while I didn't kill him he had trouble killing me. Gave me a good workout for my defense. But in our second or third fight my shield strap broke. Not wanting to quit I went and grabbed another broadsword and fought him two-stick. I'm a bit out of practice, but my defense was solid and he was not able to kill me easily, but part of that is because he worries about the left-hand attack from a two-sword fighter. When I fight two-sword, because I don't practice it a lot, I am something of a chameleon. There are two main florentine styles in the SCA, Bellatrix and Milwauki, but within those there are variations, so against Darius I fought classic Bellatrix, Classic Milwauki, Alfred's style, Bodwahn's, Radnor's, Balin's, and my normal broadsword/short sword stance. I basically know one or two techniques out of each stance/style and after trying them out I'd move on to another to see what I could do with that. Not the most effective way to fight against the top Duke in the kingdom. Anyway, he took my leg twice, killed me thrusts while standing twice and with the edge two or three more times. The one time I killed him was when he took my left arm and decided to be nice to me by giving up his shield. That's a game in which I am much closer to being matched with Darius. After doing a similar thing, going through various techniques of single sword--Radnor's, Brian's, some silver and the Fiore technique, I finally killed him with a technique I more or less developed myself: from a high guard strike at his sword with an onside, step in with a parry six, block if he attacks (he did) pass left and cut to his shoulder. Worked like a charm.

My fights with Jan were great. I think I beat him more than he beat me. We might ahve traded evenly. My best kill on him was using the off-side cut/face thrust. I had noticed that he was moving to his right about 80% of the time, so I threw that little cut that just lands on the top of his shield and then thrust to where I knew he would be moving to, and hit him square in the face.

John the Breeder kicked my ass. There is no other way to put it. He is good--a lefty with a great big kite shield strapped like Lucan's (which, like a center grip, gives him a big blocking advantage for offside attacks). He's fast and strong and very aggressive, and eh practices three times a week. He killed me five or six times, I killed him twice--once with an edge cut, once with a body thrust. He had fixed the problem I'd identified on him at Iron Bog three weeks ago. My big problem was that I had no idea yet how to block lefies with that rather oddly strapped heater. It didn't swing all the way over like a center grip, if I just moved it around it was too close to my body. If I fought like Gui in the cross block stance it was too awkward.I finally had success cocking the point out to my open side and maintaining distance. We'll see how it plays if I fight Gui this weekend (he will be happy I've gone back to the heater, the center-grip was frustrating him).

So it was a good tough practice and I got really banged up. it was mostly my legs that got smashed and that was mostly from Darius when I was fighting two sword and from John, although Gregor's man hit my leg hardest of all. It was good to get more helmet time and recall what it feels like once again to get hit hard. :-)