Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday 9/25 at Conrad's

For practice on Sunday we skipped out on BAT and went to Conrad’s house in Jersey. The knights resent were me, Oscad, Conrad and Roger. Unbelts included Shandar, Deklin, Wulfgar, Gunther and Johnathan. It was an excellent practice.

My elbow needs to be xrayed and it needs rest. I am still convinced that this is tendinitis, but it flares up regularly and it is really painful. It is effecting my technique, my speed, my power, and I ended up getting out of armor much too early because of it. As a result this practice started out great and ended up being frustrating.

Very oddly, I fell into a technique I can’t recall ever using before. I think it was to rest my elbow. I wasn’t doing it constantly, but that I was going it at all surprised me because it was unplanned. I am not sure it was at all effective, but it was interesting. I was essentially fighting like Kelson but goofy footed, which I suppose made it more like Omega. I went into a slight crouch, raised the front corner of my shield, looked past the front edge instead of over the top, and kept my sword low, in a true saber parry 3 position. Like Kelson, I was guarding left side with the shield, right side with the sword. It was an interesting defense, so long as I moved my feet a lot.

I fought Wulfgar, (not Master Wulfgar) first. He usually hits very hard but he was being tentative and not committing to his shots. He was also over swinging. I began experimenting, which is how I fell into the odd guard I was playing with.

Next I fought Conrad which was awesome. I killed him a number of times, the best one being a simple old-school trick of throwing a flat snap, slide-stepping to the right, and throwing the same snap. It is a trick employed by both Bellatrix and Von Dresden. I also got him a few times with the hook, particularly the top-edge hook, but he says I am using it too much and I hooked too deep and caught his bicep at one point. E also said he expected me to hook and then throw a leg as he recovered, which is odd because that is something that I do and I don’t know why I didn’t attempt it against him. We took each others legs several times and once he got me with a shot that never should have worked, what looked like a wavy-rising snap that turned into a straight down body shot to my right pec. Nice bruise too.

I fought Roger next and that was interesting. He is pumped up with that “I just got knighted!!!” extra 20%. He’s more aggressive and more precise and he is not over thinking or worrying about his fights. I killed him with a few thrusts, but it was mostly an exercise in defense for me. He was tight and on. He got me with an interesting stop thrust right in the face.

My fights with Oscad were awesome as usual. In the past we have fought a lot alike, mostly to my advantage. He would work mostly at long range, use sword blocks and foot work, use kind of a saber attack off his blocks with a good straight line thrust. He doesn’t’ realize it (we talked later) but around Birka his fighting took a big change, and he now is more aggressive, he closes right away, he mobs me with offense and he presses his attacks. It is the main reason why he got knighted, but he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. Our fights were a blast. He won more than I did and my best kill on him was when I was on my knees and he was crowding me, I got him with a sit-down dropping shot, like I killed Doug with two weeks ago. Conrad said that it looked like I owned his leg early on but then went away from it to work on other things (true) but by the time I went back to it I was too gassed to take it (also true).

After that I stopped fighting. I wanted to fight everybody there, but I took my legs off to use the bathroom, cooled down, and when I next moved my elbow it didn’t want to move any more.

Two interesting things from this practice: I am definitely game planning around my elbow. I don’t ave much of a wrap. I’m not using some shots because of the strain they’d put on me, I am using more Bellatrix technique to rest that tendon, I’m slower and have a very weak off side, so I may be thrusting a bit more. Second, roger says he fights and does better against me if I am using the heater, while Conrad (and earlier Ice) say I am much more effective with the heater and am a much more serious threat. In both cases it is for the same reason: I am intentionally trying to fight like an Easterner, not only in shield shape but also in technique, style, and shot selection. I use fewer molinees, fewer fakes, fewer tear-drop returns, I keep my hand forward in a sword-side guard and, most importantly, I am trying to be a defensive fighter and counter punch rather than an offensive fighter and create openings. To Roger this makes me less of a threat because I’m not doing anything that freaks him out. He is comfortable in that fight. To Duke Conrad, who was never freaked out by me (even when he was an unbelted fighter) it makes me much more effective, because now I am fighting a smart fight. Both of them see the same thing—that I am fighting more like them—but it means different things to each of them. I find that to be pretty cool.

I asked Conrad what one thing he would have me work on. He said I should add an offside shot of a rising snap—not quite the one he hit me with, as he demonstrated. He wants me to cock like it’s a wavy rising snap but pull my elbow in as I throw the rising part then drive it up into a straight off-side head or off-side body. It should be distinct from a butterfly because it doesn’t take that sweeping upward arc. It is kind of like the blow Radnor gave to Leon when he fixed his elbow cop during coronet finals, when Leon beat Uther.

This was my tenth time in armor since Pennsic (!!). Commitments in October will make it hard to get ten more practices in. My nest time in armor will likely be at the pas d'armes at Gregor's coronation. This will give me five days of rest on my elbow. If not then it will be at Cloisters on Sunday. However, I'm planning on seeing the doctor today, and I might end up taking more time off as a result. Such is life.

Friday, September 23, 2011

BAT practice, 9/22/11

So I dragged myself off the couch, forced myself out the door, and—elbow more or less the same—called a livery cab, heading to Brooklyn Army Terminal. The Thursday practice is mostly a training practice for our new guys. The three who are most dedicated were there—Deklin (Eddie), Duncan (Richard), and Shandar the Barbarian (Andrew: the barbarian part isn’t accurate, but we feel obligated to tease him about his name). We have at least four more new guys who show up from time to time, but these three are the regulars and they made it to Pennsic. Much of the evening involves Oscad and I giving instruction. I spent a lot of time describing to Duncan how to close with an opponent on his knees. But it does allow me to work on some things. I get to fight Oscad. As I said before, Deklin is a natural and Shandar is becoming a good polearm fighter. Duncan fights crisply and is a learning sponge. It is always good to train people like this, and all of them have reached the point where they surprise me from time to time. I ended up training Shandar and Duncan but not fighting them. I fought Deklin and Oscad (twice). Forcing myself out of my comfort zone, and having had a great sword and shield practice last night at Nutley, I just fought greatsword and polearm.

When first learning two-handed sword I learned from Rolf (currently King Rolf) using a true hand and a half bastard sword witout a thrusting tip. This has always been my favorite vaiation, but with Rolf that mostly meant playing baseball with someone's helmet (in his case, with my helmet). I then studied under Elrik using his nodachi (which wasn’t really a nodachi but a blade with a tsuba that was about the length of a large Shinai). He employed a lot of kenjitsu in his technique. This is where I began employing the regular kendo stance. Then I began to study with Paul of Bellatrix. I’ve always found his technique difficult to master, but seeing what he’s done with it, it’s amazing. I then started taking WMA workshops and trying to employ some of that technique into my SCA fighting, which does not work well for me. Recently I’ve been looking at Marc d’Arundel’s work, since he’s the only person to win Western Crown with a two handed sword, and trying to learn his style.

I normally try to use Bellatrix’s high guard or his thrusting guard, which Lichtenaur would call “plfug” (plow). These are demonstrated at the Bellatrix Fighting School website. However, that works best with a true great-sword or a nodachi. My old way of doing things, if the handle of the sword was short enough, was to use a kendo stance, with the left leg forward. I try to incorporate Gregor’s high guard technique, he being the best great-sword fighter in these parts, but to little success. The various guards in Lichtenaur I will play with but I don’t find that they work all that well in the SCA game. Marc’s style, listed on his website, involves an A-fram guard, a central stance (mostly) a lot of thrusting, and striking only to the side you pass forward on (so if you are striking at the right side you pass on the right).

For this practice, I was mostly trying to stay alive.

I only fought three sets of fights.

My first set was with Deklin. He is left handed but uses his greatsword sword with a right hand grip. I found that the kendo stance was working best for me, but nearly every fight we ended up core to core. I tried the same shot on him that got me killed against Ronald in Crown, knocking the sword up and sweeping the leg. It got me killed again. That used to work so well. I think I forgot to pass off line to the right. The one time I did take his leg I used the technique I learned in the great-sword list at Estrella awhile back, Half swording, passing on the left, getting between his sword and helmet, pulling his sword away, and clubbing him.

My first set of fights with Oscad were also with greatsword. I guess you could call it bastard sword, since that's what Mark calls it, becasue it's too small to be a zweihander, but it's really not a bastard sword either. Again, we ended up core to core all the time. I think we traded pretty evenly. I decided about half-way through that I was not moving enough. I was closing but then mostly going toe-to-toe with both him and Deklin. Attacking on offline steps became my main focus for the rest of our fights, which kept me at range and made our fights really dramatic, and certainly was better defensively. I did once take his leg and kill him with a one-handed shot.

In my polearm fights with Oscad I not only had fun I redeemed myself a bit from last crown. He got me with a sweeping thrust, but after that I was fighting really well. I won most of our bouts. I used a number of specific techniques against him and they all worked:

I have a thrust fake I use mostly against shieldmen. I fake a thrust to the face, draw a circle toward the leg and up again, and thrust to the face. It worked. He almost killed me with a thrust to the armpit at the same time, but it caught my gambeson and he pulled it because his head was being knocked back like a cue ball.

I used Tadgh O’Doin’s bayonet drill, where, with a right hand lead, I cut to the on side, pass on the left and cut to the off side, then choke up by un-crossing my arms and thrust and cut inside. Killed him with the cut to head.

I dashed his pole aside a la Ajax, hooking it away with my back edge, then gather stepped, and cut to his face.

Because he uses that odd reverse-grip guard, with the head held low, the pole high, and a left foot lead, I tried David Civet’s swim move on him, where I reverse so that my thumbs are opposed and just swim my way into him, trying to gain control of his blade by dashing it down. It worked really well. I closed in and cut him.

Oscad said my main quality was persistence. I kept coming, kept repeating the same few blows till they worked. That's about right, I don't have a deep bag of shots with polearm like I do with broadsword.

Those were all good fights, but I used just about every trick I know.

This was my ninth day in armor since Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Sunday, ether at BAT or in Iron Bog (we might get the whole crowd to go down).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nutley 9/21/11

Nutley last night. I traveled over with Oscad. Neither Gregor nor Omega were there, nor even John the Breeder, but it was a top heavy practice nonetheless. I only fought four sets, but they were all against knights, and I worked hard for everything I got.

My elbow had stopped hurting by Wednesday, but started again before I even got in the car. I need to take a month off, but it absolutely cannot be the next month. I will go in and have it x-rayed, though. I’m sure it is tendinitis, but just in case there is a bone chip in there I’d like to know. It affected everything I did. I wore the brace this time (and it didn’t hurt as badly a it did Saturday night), but the combination of the brace and the stiffness slowed me down. I had real problems generating power (though my sword was starting to broom as well, which could be part of it).

I took Omega’s advice and worked on my stance by switching my lead foot only between opponents. I concentrated on my shield alignment, setting up with my shield between my opponent’s sword and my head at all times. Because of the stiffness in my elbow I was mixing in some Bellatrix technique, which doesn’t require as much arm in your shots, but I was trying to minimize that. It’s not going to win me a lot of fights by itself.

I fought four opponents: Jan Janovitch, Max, Stephen, and Tzeitchel. I fought Jan and Stephen with a shield foot lead, Max and Tzeitchel with a sword foot lead.

Against Jan I was effective in my defense and many of my blows were landing on target but with very little power. This was when I started using the Bellatrix technique and my power went up. Jan fights an almost western style, and the Bellatrix technique worked well enough against him. I killed him a few times. He was hard to track down. Both of us are trying to play at extreme range, and a lot of the time we were just not close enough.

Against Max I felt more comfortable. When I fight goofy foot I bring my sword farther forward in defense but keep my elbow back to generate power through my core. I worked fine. I didn’t have many power issues against Max (except with an off-side leg blow I really didn’t expect to land). I think we fought three fights. The first one he blew right through my block. The second one I think I hit him with an on-side head shot. In the third fight I took his leg and he became a turtle. I used every technique I have for someone on his knees but couldn’t hit him. I used a standard butterfly and Ed’s butterfly. I used a hook/thrust. I used a top-edge hook. I used Rolf’s Head/body/head combo, and Gemini’s “magic button” press with the face thrust. I even went behind the back (which was flat anyway). I didn’t lay sword on him. Like Stephan and Jabril, he looks past the front corner of his shield intead of over the top, and when he does that on his knees it makes him really hard to hit. The hook thrust he twisted out of. The top edge hook couldn’t push his shield down far enough. Same with the press and face thrust. His shield was too high for the press to be effective. When he took my leg I went all rock and roll on him, trying to change up the tempo, and we had a good exchange but he hit me.

When I fight Stephen I count it as a success if I hit him once. I use those fights to find the most glaring holes in my defense. He is so fast and strong and precise that it is all you can do. I did kill him once, with the hook/thrust, which is much better than I usually do. But fighting Stephen is as much fun as fighting gets. Once again, I was fighting strong side (shield leg forward). Next time I will fight him weak side. The first thing I learned, or that he reinforced, is that the heater leaves me open for a quick off-side face blow. This is how Thorsen used to kill me all the time. As soon as I threw a leg shot, or started an off-side, or a fake, or (bad form) telegraphed a blow by cocking, Stephen would fire at my off-side face and usually kill me. The second thing I learned is that I can’t go to my right against Stephen. Every time I did he tent-pegged me—by far the hardest I was hit all night. He did it three times. Once I bit my tongue. It is a blow I use a lot in the same situation, but he had me timed perfectly. When we talked afterward, he said that straight on my defense was tight and he didn’t have many openings, but that when I moved to my right I opened up every time.

Fighting Tzeitchel I switched back to goofy foot and I was winning a lot of my fights. We were both tired. It was the end of the night. I found that I had a good gap on her on-side head when she was throwing a blow. The best kill she got on me was when I was aggressive and pushed her. She backpeddled and got me with a very high, over the shield off-side head blow.

All in all it was a good night. I was probably more comfortable fighting goofy foot, but my offense wasn’t as good. I had a pretty tight defense however. After my early fights with Jan my power problems went away. I had a lot of fun.

This was my eighth time in armor since Pennsic. I may fight tonight at BAT. If not I will fight this weekend.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Queen's Farm

It is really not easy to train at a demo. The fighting is often not the same as tournament fighting. It can be, but there is a long tradition of putting on a show for the audience, and while some knights insist that fighting your best game and seriously trying to beat your opponent puts on the best show possible, others point out that often the subtleties of serious tourney fighting are lost on audiences not used to our combat. I tend to agree with the latter position. For instance, look at the way finals often go between our top fighters. They can stare at each other for five minutes before launching a blow, then back out and wait again, trying to entice their opponents to make mistakes. Lucan vs. Brian went on for an hour like that. On the other hand, it does little if there is one duke and four relatively new unbelted fighters, and the duke ends up killing the others with one or two shots over and over again. It is worse when there are only two or three fighters in armor. But if it looks too much like we are playacting we lose credibility with the audience. For this reason it is a bad place to work on your technique.
However, there are also some advantages to demo fighting. For one thing, it is easier to get in fights with two-handed weapons or Florentine, because this adds variety that the audience likes, and those weapons forms are often more dramatic than sword and shield (depending on who is fighting, of course). Plus the value of just time in the helmet can’t be stressed enough.

In Ostgardr, our two biggest demos are at this time of year. The first is the Queen’s Farm demo at the Queen’s County Fair (yes, Queen’s County has a fair. Really. Live stock and every thing). The second is the Fort Tryon Medieval Fair at the park that houses the Cloisters museum. Queen’s Farm was last weekend and Ft. Tryon is two Sundays from now. I fought Saturday at Queen’s Farm and, not only was it fun, but I did some good training. Unfortunately, I also ran up against my elbow injury again. Before the day I thought it had subsided, but by the end of the last show it was really bothering me and I had to sit down.

At Ft. Tryon there will be a tourney, but I probably won’t enter.
I also got in a little archery and thrown weapons practice for fun.

Because of the nature of demo fighting, I wasn’t working on technique much. I was either fighting full out or taking it easy to put on a show. I wasn’t picking specific techniques to concentrate on. The one exception to that is that I did work specifically on some Bellatrix technique. See below.

For two of the four shows there were only two fighters in armor, myself and Gui. Because of this, neither of us was fighting as hard as we normally would. We didn’t want to break each other, especially with more shows later in the afternoon. However, every third or fourth fight we would “fight one for real” and these were good practice. Gui is an excellent left handed fighter. When I use the center-grip I normally get the better of him, but when I use the heater he normally clobbers me. This time I was concentrating on attacking the back side of his shield and it was working well, at first. He Is using a narrow heater hung for punch blocking, with his arm almost parallel to the top edge of the shield almost in the middle. This gives him lots of sword side defense, kind of like the center grip does, but it opens him up for shield side shots because he ends up cheating too far over. I took his leg from that side, which I almost never do with a lefty, stabbed him in the body and later in the shoulder. My lefty defense was very strong as well, but with Gui I found that if I cheat as much as I had been I have no offense.
Alexander joined in for the second and fourth shows. I mostly worked on old-school belatrix technique against him (and a little against Gui) because it is more dramatic. This allowed me to do some slow-developing timing patterns and some old-style misdirection fakes. The fakes only worked once, but the timing and hooks was worked twice. In the fourth show he and I fought some great sword, practice of crown.

In the third show we got the best possible combination of drama for the audience and fighting for ourselves. I challenged Gui to a passage of arms with five weapons forms: glaive, great sword, short pole (he had brought his maul and his Danish ax, which are about the same size), Florentine (sword and poniard, my favorite) and sword and shield. It ended up a tie, with me winning the Florentine and the glaive fights, him winning the ax and the sword and shield fights, and us double killing in the bastard sword fight. In all of the fights what I was looking for was just getting used to switching rapidly from one form to another, a skill we rarely teach ourselves. I am competent with all of those weapons forms, good with two of them and expert with one, but moving from one to another quickly forces me to focus on fundamentals. In a way that is bad because it means I’m focusing less on the fight than I should be. It is good practice switching forms every fight. This was great practice!

I enjoyed the pig races. Yes, pig races. It was a county fair after all. :)

This was my seventh time in armor since Pennsic. Next up will be BAT on Thursday and hopefully Nutley on Wednesday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The SCA of my youth!!

Hal Ravn, who used to take movies of crown tourney back in the 70s, posted a 13 minute video of West Kingdom June Crown, 1978. It was the summer before I joined. There, in mostly black and white, are nearly all my heroes! It also displays how ugly fighting can look when its in slow motion. Man! That hit looked nasty. At the very end there is a real rockem-sockem fight between two of the knights most responsible for who I grew up to be: my knight, Alfrik, and Sir William the Lucky (who knighted Alfrik and gave him his chain, which I presented to Oscad at Pennsic). Ah! The good old days!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have been good lately in my cardio workouts, not so good on my strength and flexibility workouts. Since I'm not fighting at Nutley this week I was supposed to do a strength workout on Monday with the kettle bells (or more likely a plate with a handle in it, because I would have been at the gym at BMCC). However, yesterday I rode my bike to CCNY (15 miles or so, depending on the route). I rode back in three stages because I had a doctor's appointment and wanted to hit paragon for the warehouse sale. The last eight miles of the ride I was struggling to carry a big Marmot parka in a shopping bag. Today I plan to hit the gym for my 20/20/20 workout (20 minutes on the either the elliptical or the treadmill, 20 minutes for a quick kettle bell workout, 20 minutes of yoga).

However, it might just be a better idea to adopt Gunnvor's workout. My niece (she is squired to Omega) Gunnvor on her blog posts her current workout, and it is a pretty good one. Check it out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Feast of John Barleycorn

The feast of John Barleycorn was this weekend and my boy Gui was being invested as the new Viceroy. It was a great time!! Oscad organized a tournament for the Ladies of the Rose, which I fought in. It was both fun and productive.

This week all of my work has been directed toward my feet. It has involved stance and footwork as I continue reacquaint myself with the heater: do I stand sword foot forward or shield foot forward? What is the proper stance for fighting a left-handed fighter? How do I move to keep the shield in the right place. I fought with a heater for 20 years and won my crown and my coronet with one, but I’ve used it very little in the past ten years. I found when I moved here (and I weighed forty pounds more than I do now) that I wasn’t doing well enough against the Easterners. I went first to a small shield to improve my offense, then to the kite because I found fighting so many really good fighters who used long kites to be a losing proposition with the 24” shield. With the heater I am not only re-learning what I knew but learning how to adapt to changes in fighting that have occurred over the last decade, and also how to integrate the stuff I’ve learned while concentrating on the bunny round and the center-grip kite, which in some ways are easier to use. Incidentally this week, particularly at Nutely, I also ended up working on my hooks and cuts a lot (as opposed to my bread-and-butter hook/thrust). This proved crucial.

I really loved the format of the Rose tournament. It was a blast. The tournament was contested not by the fighters but by the ladies of the rose. Each lady of the rose fielded a team of three heavy weapons fighters and two rapier fighters, with only one knight and one don allowed on each team. Then the fighters were paired in individual combat, with the knight fighting the other knight, the don fighting the don, etc. Winning three fights out of the five gained the Rose victory for the round. It was a very fun format. With seven teams we broke into two pools. I fought for Alethea and she was in the pool of four, against Brenwyn, Roxanne, and Svava. For me it meant fighting Antonio (for Svava), Gregor (for Brenwyn) and Omega (for Roxanne).

My fight against Antonio allowed me to use what I’d been discussing regarding lefty defense against a very good lefty. I lost the fight but was satisfied with my defense over all. I kept my feet parallel and my shield centered on his sword. As he moved to gain advantage I shifted my feet to always maintain that alignment. It worked very well as long as I was patient. We had several exchanges that were hard fought. I was practicing defense, patience, and counter-punching: the opposite of my old offence fist style. Eventually I decided to be more aggressive in my offense, and he took my leg. By biggest problem against Antonio was commitment to my shots. I hit him once or twice on the head and once with a body thrust, but because I was being overly defensive they all lacked power. The body thrust in particular showed me my problem: as I threw it I was stepping back to avoid his sword, and thus had no power behind it. Shortly thereafter he took my leg. The fight lasted a couple more exchanges but eventually he struck home. Omega said that my problem was that I had let him bait me into a slug fest, and that had cost me my leg. This is how I read it too.

Against Gregor I found myself to be very comfortable using the right-leg lead, but I switched a couple of times. We had several good exchanges as I worked hard to keep my distance and fight at extreme range where I could pick up his fakes (which are superlative) more easily. I tried my hook/thrust (which is a front-edge hook) but he was ready for that and backed out of range as I threw. Luckilly I had his counter covered. When we did close my Nutley experience from this week kicked in. I used a top-edge hook to take his shield down and stepped back with my left foot, cutting as I did so. He ducked (he’s so good at that) but I hit him in the shield shoulder, taking his arm as he took my leg. Now on the ground with him standing and with one arm, it was a fight in my favor. I eventually took his leg and killed him with my next combination.

Against Omega I was also using the sword foot lead primarily, switching to a shield foot lead only in transition. We had three or four good exchanges before he took my arm. Fighting him left handed with him still using his shield I acquitted myself well. I made several passes before he took my leg. He gave up his own leg, saying two points up was too many, but this just made it easy for him to throw his belly thrust, which killed me. Afterward he said that I had been fighting very well. He said that I had not left my arm hanging out but that we had both started blows at about the same time, but that mine carried my arm into the path of his sword. I had actually thought I’d left it out in the middle of a combination, but that was not how he saw it. He said my one-handed defense was excellent.

This was a great day. It was my fourth time in armor this week and my sixth time in armor since Pennsic, which feels good. Likely I will miss Nutley this week but should make it to BAT on Thursday. Queen’s Farm Demo is this week, so I will have the opportunity to fight twice this weekend, though I might head over to Jersey for a Sunday practice.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Helmet Time and BAT

There is one point where I differ with the teachings of Duke Paul, and that is in the value of helmet time, of actually fighting as part of your training. Duke Paul has long held that training should be done out of armor, and that for both the novice and the expert (I will have to ask him about the journeyman, however) fighting has little value. The novice will better learn technique if he is out of armor, and only when his technique is sound should he put on armor (why he prefers his students to train for a year before they put armor on). The Expert knows what combat is like, and doesn't need the experience of fighting as much as he needs to be constantly perfecting his technique through slow work and pell work (it is from Duke Paul that I learned the saying that the sport most like SCA fighting is golf, because it is all about the perfection of your swing).

My opinion is that unarmored training must supplement armored training. There is no replacement for actually fighting. I was a good fighter when I moved to the Mists. But moving to the mists meant two things. One, I could train with Duke Paul once in awhile--especially when we were working the Renaisance Faire demos together--and two I could fight more often. A lot more often. There was a fighter practice every night. There was a period between when I was 27 and when I was 32 when I was going to two practices a week and an event every weekend, and a brief time, after I got knighted, when I was going to four practices a week plus events: Monday night in Santa Cruz, Tuesday at Mission College, Wednesday in San Francisco and Thursday at BART, three crowns and two cornets a year, six wars plus local tourneys. Those were the days! That is also why I won crown.

My mighty and great descendant, Prince Miles of the Mists (who worked those faire demos with us as a page when he was ten years old or so) posted a list of every event he's fought in since he started on the Armour Archive this week. The thing to note is that he started fighting in 2008.

>>> (from the Armour Archive)

* Beltane, Prize Tourney, 08
* June Western Crown, made man at arms to Duke Uther 08
* First Sword of Esfenn, 08
* October Western Crown, 08
* Mists Coronet, 08
* Harbinger of the Mists 08
* White Shield 09
* March Western Crown 09
* Investiture Prince Alfar's Prize Tourney 09
* Newcomer’s Tourney, Open list, 09,
* Queens Champion Tourney, 09
* Western Crown, June 09, (D. Titus), Made Squire to Duke Uther
* Western Crown, October 09, (D. Uther)
* Canale Games Tourney 09,
* Warlord of Southern Shores, (Won) 09 got thrusting tip
* First Sword of Esfenn, (Won) vs. Viscount Leotulph 09
* Westermark Maddness, 09 (Won) Shepard Of Westermark
* Mist Coronet 09, (V. Leohtulf)
* Banner Bearer’s Tourney 09 (Finaled) vs. Egil Utherson
* White Shield 10
* Estrella, Outlands Prize Tourney, 10, (D. Uther)
* Estrella Knights Of Saint Michael Tourney, 10
* Estrella Cancer Tourney, 10
* Crapaud 164, 10,
* Crapaud 166, 10,
* Crapaud 167, (Won) Vs. Loy 10,
* Western Crown, March 10, (V.Alfar)
* Crapaud 168, 10,
* Mist Spring Coronet, 10 (Finaled) vs. Vis. Sir Marc
* Newcomers Tourney, Open list,10 (Finaled) vs. Duke Radnor of Guildemar
* Treasure Chest Prize Tourney, 10
* Beltane, Prize Tourney, (Won) vs. Vis. Sir Sigifrith Haukneff 10
* Live Chess tourney at Beltane, 10
* Princess' champion tourney, 10
* June Crown, 10
* West Antir War, Caid Prize Tournament 10 (Bjarnheddin Winner)
* West Antir 2010 Bellatrix 3 Generations Challenge
* Westermark Maddness, 10 (Sheppard and Troll) (current champion)
* Southern Shores Warlord, 10 (Won) (current champion)
* Final Sword of Esfenn
* Queens Treasure Tourney Purg 10, Finaled Vs. Viscount Gunther
* October Crown
* Great Western 2010 Rose Tourney
* Great Western War, Caid Principality Tournament (Won) Vs. Count Edward (east)
* October Mists Coronet
* Cynaguan Fall Coronet (Bye-Fights/Rose Fights)
* Crapaud 177, 2010, Semi Finals?
* Crapaud 178, 2011, Quarter Finals?
* War Collegium Western Unbelted tournament 2011 (Winner)
* Estrella 2011 Outlands Prize
* Estrella 2011 5th Annual Rose Tournament
* White Shield 2011 (Winner Vs. Duke Lycurges Outlands)
* March Crown 2011
* Crapaud #180
* Fettburg Baronial ChampionShip (Finaled) victor Count Alfar Utherson
* Fettburg Baronial Prize Tourney (won) vs. Count Alfar Utherson
* Mists April Coronet 2011 (winner) vs. Sir Loy (Sigurgata)
* Treasure Chest Tourney Nordwache
* La Prova Dura 2011 Finaled
* Beltane Queens Treasure Tournament (Knighted)
* Newcomers Tournament Open Tournament (Winner) Vs. Viscount SIr Jeffrey Scott
* Potrero 2011 (CAID) Halfdan's Invitational prize tourney
* June Crown (By-Fights Maybe) Pick-Up Fights Definitly.
* Pennsic XL - Second Generation Tourney (Finaled) Vs. Prince Quillium (Ealdermore)
* Caid Crown - (By-Fights)
* Purgatorio - Queen's Treasure Tournament (winner)


* Rivenoak Baronial Championship
* Westermark Maddness
* October Crown
* Great Western War Rose Tournament


* Mist/Cynagua 08
* Duchess' War 08
* West/ An Tir, 08
* Great Western War 08 (Caid)
* Cynagua/Mist 08
* Boars hunt, 08
* Estrella 09
* Mist/Cynagua 09 Prince’s Lance
* Potrero War 09, (Caid)
* West/An Tir War 09,
* War of the Heart, Jeffries War 09,
* Great Western War 09, (Caid)
* Cynagua/Mists 09,
* Baronies War 09,
* Western war Collegium 10,
* Estrella 10, (Atenveldt)
* Treasure Chest War 10,
* Mist/Cynagua War 10,
* Potrero War 10 (Caid)
* Duchess' War 10
* Kingdom War Practice (Spartan skirmish with Ermine Company)
* West An tir, 10
* Great Western War 10
* Cynagua/Mist War 10
* Boars Hunt, 10
* War Collegium, 2/5/2011
* Estrella 2011
* Treasure Chest War 2011
* Cynagua Mists War '11
* May Potrero War (CAID) '11
* Duchess' War '11
* West Antir War '11
* Baronial Manuevers '11
* Spartans And Ravens Skirmish '11
* Pennsic War XL '11

* Great Western War
* Mists Cynagua War (Prince Miles Vs. Prince Achilles)


Yes, he grew up around this game and yes he has a lot of natural ability, but look at the amount he fights. this is just tourneys and wars, and some of those things listed are tourneys he fought in *at* wars, so they double up. But he also practices two to three times most weeks. The results are clear. In his second year of fighting he won three tourneys in a row. He won coronet in less than three years and then was knighted exactly three years after the first tournament he fought in. Now, I'm not saying you will be knighted in three years if you fight that much. I won't even say it couldn't hurt (fighting can hurt. fighting a lot increases the chances of being hurt). But that kind of aggression in training helped Miles a lot and, similarly, it helped me.

Locally I look at John the Breeder, an unbelted fighter in Duke Omega's unit who has been fighting less than two years and who, as I said, totally tattooed my legs two days ago at Nutley. John fights three times a week, and it shows. Not only did he final in the novice tourney at Pennsic, he finaled in the Atlantian Speed Tourney as well. His physical prowess is of knight caliber already. He is a legitimate threat even to the best dukes in the kingdom right now. All he lacks is depth, and he is getting that at a rate much faster than most people get.

If you practice once a week and average 1 fighting event a month (that's 12 fighting events in a year, which is actually hi when you look at all fighters), in a year you will have been in armor 60 times. Let's say that one of those events was Pennsic, and that you were in armor for all the battles. That would be another five times. Let's say 70 to be generous. But if you are practicing three days a week and averaging two events a month, then you would be in armor 168 times in a year. Assuming two of those events are major wars, let's make that an even 175. You are getting almost 130% more helmet time--more experience--in the same year. So when Miles had been fighting for three years, it was the same amount of helmet time that most fighters get in six years and four months (give or take).

My plan to be in armor twenty times before crown (which will be difficult) seems puny by comparison. But I do want helmet time.

For that reason I let myself get trapped last night. I was hauling my gear over to BAT last night so that Oscad could put it in the trailer and take it to Barleycorn. But when I got there Oscad, Richard, Eddie, Andrew and Mark were all in armor. I had my armor with me. I was not planning on fighting but how could I not at that point? By the time I got into armor Richard and Oscad were out, but I still got some helmet time.

This night should have been more of a teaching night for me. I didn't fight any of the guys like I would if it were crown, and I spent time teaching each one of them, but they each also presented a challenge. Andrew fights exclusively polearm, and he's getting competent. Competent is how my polearm is best described. Since weapons depth is important in crown I fought him with a partisan. He made the same mistake four times (letting me get on top of his glaive), and I won each of those four fights . When he knuckled down and was more careful we were trading even.

Eddie is left handed, fast and strong. I practiced doing what I didn't do against John. I kept my feet in a line, almost like a fencing stance, so my shield was positioned more to my sword side. This limits my offense but increases my defense. As Eddie tried to move around me I circled always keeping his sword right in front of my shield, a la Gemini. It worked. It would not have been as effective against John with his deep steps and his speed, but it was significantly better. Eddie asked why I was holding my sword behind my head so much. I said it was because it was how I was most comfortable in that stance. If I brought my sword forward I would be squaring my shoulder and hip more than I wanted to. I didn't tell him that I was channeling Phil.

Against Mark I was fighting sword and short sword. He was sword and shield. Half the fights I was using the short sword tip up, like I was fighting Silver. He gave me the opening I wanted once: he threw an off-side head shot. I blocked it with my broadsword and, at the same time, took the short sword and pushed against his swordarm, turning him around and exposing the back of his head, which I then hit. The other half of the time I fought like Larry does at Nutley, with the tip down, dagger style. This was great fun, and very effective. It made the short sword both more defensive (better leg defense) and more offensive, in that I killed him with it three times. Of course, the times he took my leg it was a totally different story. I don't think I won any of those.

It's my fifth time in armor since Pennsic, so I am back on track. Barley corn is tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mutley, 9/7/2011


What I am trying to do right now is reacquaint myself with the heater. I went back to it at the beginning of this year, and have been practicing with it since (except for last BAT, when I used a smaller one, and Western Crown where I use a Bunny Round). Aside from a couple years using a 24” round, two stints with a bunny round, and my two year experiment with the center grip kite, I have fought with a heater most of my career. It’s safe to say I have more than 20 years experience with a heater. However, most of that was using an open Western style, which no longer works in this land of huge kites and expert face-thrusting. I am trying to re-train myself.

The first big thing is do I fight sword leg back, the way I learned and fought for 25 years, or sword leg forward, the way I have fought for the last five years with the bunny round and the kite?

My sword leg back technique was originally a Bellatrix school technique, designed to drive the hip forward and generate power. It places the shield in front in the best position to cover the whole body. After moving too the East I went to a more closed form with the sword forward. There are two main variations of this. One is with the sword guarding the head area and the shield guarding everything else, not unlike Jade’s high/low technique, but with a bigger shield. The other is the way Duke Kelson fights, with the shield guarding the left side and the sword guarding the right.

Von Dresden uses an A Frame defense, which is similar, but I have never really pursued it. I mostly use the sword to guard my head.

Sword leg forward puts your sword in between you and your opponent. It allows you to strike at him while keeping your torso father away, out of range if he is your height or smaller. My sword leg forward style is a weird amalgamation of things I’ve learned from Lucan and form Havoc. Lucan points his lead foot way off to the left and pulls his shoulder back, tensing through his core and loading up his arm to generate power. Havoc is a little more square and his feet are closer together. With both the bunny round and the kite this style worked really well for me. The heater is tougher. It doesn’t move over as well as the bunny round or the kite, so with the sword leg forward the leg is harder to guard. This is what I’m working out right now.

Last night was Nutley practice. I rented a ZipCar and drove over, arriving pretty late because of traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel. I fought John the Breeder, a new (4 month) fighter whose name might have been Eigil, Vasilli, Brenan, and Sir Douglas. Because I need to practice my weapons depth, I fought Douglas two sword.

I found that the three right handed fighters were all pressing me and offering me their shields. I was doing a hook/snap, but passing back on the left as I did it, which I just fell into and which was very effective and against Brenan and the new guy.

Against Vasilli I found, for some reason, that a top-edge hook was working better. Vasilli, by the way, has taken a big leap in his fighting. He is not only better but more elegant. He is no longer clubbing people (he is super strong). I think he’s found that with his strength he will not tire as fast and will have better targeting if he throws with more control and less OOMPH. He was using a lot of wrist shots, but with him they are plenty powerful. They are also faster, crisper, and better targeted.

My fights with John the Breeder were fun and painful. He is totally brining the love. He hits as hard as Vasilli ever did, maybe harder, and faster too. I don’t think he knows how hard he swings, but that’s the joy of fighting three to four times a week. I may have won twice. I won the first fight by taking his arm, and I won another fight by closing and hitting an off-side head shot. He dominated the rest of our fights. I have six very colorful bruises on my right leg and hip, and one on the inside of my left leg, most of them from John.

Brenan fights the Lucan style and does it well, so that was good practice. I did very well against him. At one point he hit my elbow with a glancing shot that was also flat. He told me not to take it but, that is the shot that hurts most today. The main thing he needs is to control range a bit better.

Against Douglas I took two broadswords. I started out trying to use Alfred’s style, left sword on my shoulder right one on my hip. Doug said that that made him uncomfortable, so he simply waited me out, not wanting to close. When I closed and tried to sweep his swords he backed out., so I abandoned that Later, when I tried to close aggressively and attack with cuts from both swords, he jam blocked both my shots then threw a short blow down the center and killed me. I was probably best using the same sort of style he does, with both points presented, but I think the only kill I got was using an old Houghton trick. He took my leg, closed in real tight, and I sat down, aiming my basket hilt between his knees and hitting him in the chest.

On the whole I fought better than I did last week.

I asked Omega/Darius to watch my fights with Brenan because I was going to go back and forth between my sword foot forward style and my shield foot forward style, and I wanted him to critique me. He said I just looked uncomfortable. I hadn’t fought with the heater much lately and rarely ever with the sword foot forward. He said I looked most comfortable with my shield foot forward, but nothing was really clicking. He suggested nest practice I alternate, do one passage one way, the next the other, and figure out which is most comfortable. He said something interesting. He fought with a heater for 20 years before going to the big Lucan style kite and a sword foot forward style. He said that sword foot back is his most efficient and comfortable style, and that he can win 90% of his fights with it. But against Gregor and Lucan he has a better percentage with the sword foot forward, and that’s why he uses it all the time now. Watching Gemini on YouTube this morning and thinking about his mantra (keep your shield between you and your opponent’s sword) I think I have a new way to stand. I’ll try it out on Saturday. I also need to re-strap that heater so my hand isn’t so far up into the lead corner. Against John the Breeder and other left handers I need to do what I did back in the day: stand with my feet parallel so my shield is cheated all the way over, a la Phil Harlech. I knew this once upon a time, but I didn’t do it against John.

It was my fourth day in armor since Pennsic. I feel good, especially the bruises (bruises, like road rash, let you know you are alive). Next up, Barleycorn!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Messing with crown.

People often object to the king messing with criwn. In most kingdoms there are no restrictions on crown. Everybody brings their best fight. In the east there is a tradition of multiple weapon formats in finals, which I have heard people object to. But sometimes it goes even farther. Two crowns ago the East used a pool play format for the first round, with four round Robinson and four people advancing from each. Last crown the round robin was limited to great weapon. This time the round robin will be any weapon, but the double elimination section will be best two out of three, a different set of matched weapons each round. Once upon a tome in An Tir Barek declared only center grip round shields for his crown. Cowryn fought with a five inch roundel. Michael in Atlantia declared no thrusting tips. Now Rolf has declared all swords in Western Crown must have a cross hilt. They can have a basket hilt, but must have a cross hilt too.

Ok. Rolf is my boy as well as being king. I think it is a bit silly, and since I'm not fighting I have no skin in it. I think it is the king's list, and however he wants to play it we play it that way. Cross halted swords will shake a lot of people up. Could be fun.

Monday, September 5, 2011

BAT 9/4/2011


I spent some time training with Paul of Bellatrix. His training method revolves around unarmored work: classes, slow work, drills, pell work.  He encouraged new fighters to train for a year before they ever put in armor.

I employ some of that. I try to lead unarmored classes at BAT and I do a lot of pell work and slow work. Along with Ronald, also a Bellatrix product, I am trying to hold unarmored classes every time I go to practice. We have instituted a policy at BAT that the new fighters need to do drills before they get into armor. Myself, GUI, and Cian will lead the classes (at least one of us is always there).

The form of our class is simple. First we do a set of blocking and striking drills. Then we review some of the stuff we learned before. Then there is a lesson, usually a new drill or a new concept. After that is slow work and perhaps some pell work.

Today we used the blocking striking drills. They are essentially the same as thaw in the Asgard system. We reviewed the salute, the various engarde positions, and the sabre parrys that are uses in sword blocks. The lessons was striking and walking. Then I did some slow work with each of them.

All of the fighters seemed to get something out of it, depending on their skill level. With myself, Gui, and Sir Edward there to teach, they got some quality instruction. The format of the class works well. If it were an armored class I would run it differently.

An interesting point: I was talking with a historian of fencing recently, wwho teaches both modern fencing and HEMA. He told me that the "class in a line, where the students are taught together in a group, comes out of 18th Century military training, and that before that all instruction was private. Students would take individual lessons with the master of a salon and then would spar with one another. I found this fascinating. It is, in a way, the way most SCA teaching is done, though it is even less formal.


Oscad had my armor in his truck, and he was in Philly celebrating his aniversary. Oops. Luckilly we had a lot of loaner gear. I wore my old gambesson, a weight-lifter's kidney belt, some black plastic legs, Eddie's helm, gui's right arm harness, a Torvaldr bauzband (he's left handed), a demi of John's, a loaner gorget and what ever pads were lying around. We have a 32" loaner heater and some spare swords. I actually felt great. I lost my leg more than normal, but I also was pretty light on my feet. It would not have flowan at nutley, but it was fun. I fought, in order, Lou, Gui, Alexander, and Tormundr, which is a broad range of fighters and pretty good for a practice on Labor Day Weekend.

Used a larger variety of techniques than I usually do. It's kind of like I forget them while I'm fighting, but not yesterday

I worked on some old-school techniques, including a lot of Western high open form. With the shield I was using it made sense. Lost my leg a lot.

I tried the hook/thrust against Alexander and he killed me. He is the first person I've found who has a truly good counter to it. It comes from his fencing skills. He saw it as a thust to his torso. He passed forward offline, twisting out of the way of the thrust while cutting at the same time. Killed me good. There goes my money shot!

Still working on the punching head shot from a closed form (a la Ice). Found that against the kite, if I time it right to throw as he is thorwing, it cuts through where that corner on a heater would be very nicely. That's likely why Ice throws it. Have to try it against Rolf or Omega.

On my legs against Alexander I swithced from looking over the top of my shield to looking past the leading edge of my shiled. I looked twice at hie leg then threw a wavy rising snap. He was going for a body thrust, which missed, and I killed him. That trick is set up as soon as you change the shield position. It gets him thinking about the leg shot.

I did not use a thrusting tip against Lou and still managed to kill him, he was fighting sword and long madu, so the thrust was missed.

Jade's standard opening combo; sword foot forward, shield held low inviting the head shot, sword held high. When he throws the head shot bring your feet together and your shield up. Your left arm and your sword should form a line. As he recovers, your sword follows his back and you hit him in the arm pit.

Rolf's figure 8 attack. Strike on-side head, folw through so your sword is in front of your shield, strike off side body, follow through with a tear-drop return, strike onside head. Works with opponents on their knees or standing (look at the video of the last Western Crown finals).

Gemini's variation of that, when the opponent is on his knees, which ends by punching the corner of your shield into the lower-leading edge of your opponent's and thrusting to the neck or face.

Radnor's butterfly and upsilon leg shot, which are both locked-wrist techniques. In the first you start an onside leg shot, bring the basket hilt toward your face so the sword passes upwards in front of his shhield, then turn that into an off-side body shot. The second is just a wavy-rising snap that turns back into a leg shot.

A couple of those techniques were used on Lou and Alexander, a couple on Tormundr, who is newer. I just kept going to the well to see what might feel good at full speed and what wouldn't.

My shortcoming stemed mainly from getting lazy with my shield arm, and squaring up too much, which I was doing on purpose but it wasn't working. Gui pasted me a couple of times.


Did a great 13 mile bike ride on Saturday. Haven't lifted since Monday last. On weeks when I fight at Nutley, like this week, my regimen will be recovery on Monday, bike or gym for aerobics on Tuesday, fight on Wednesday, recover Thursday, bike Friday, fight on the weekend. On weeks when I don't got to Nutley (unless I'm going to a thursday practice) I will lift on Tuesday and Thursday, bike Wednesday and friday, recover Saturday and Monday. Or that is the plan.

This weekend is the Feast of John Barleycorn, which will be Gui's investiture as Viceroy of Ostgardr and a rose tournament. I'm hoping to get some fighting done on Sunday as well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NUTLEY!! 8/31/011

Ow. My elbow hurts.

It got hit awhile back. Maybe at BAT ten days before, maybe at Pennsic, I can't recall, but it got hit. I thought it was healed but it ached all last night. Since I'm currently not allowed anti-inflamatories, and since I didn't put the ice packs back in the freezer last time I used them, it is still achy.

Also, I did not fight that well. But I did fight.

I only fought four opponents, but I had a plan for the evening. I would warm up with a good fighter, I would make sure I fought Omega and Gregor, then I owed Luther (or is it Uther) Crown Prince of Acre a fight. After that if I had anything left I would fight Douglas. Never made it to Douglas, mostly because I chose to wait and make sure I got my fights with Omega and Gregor.

My warmup fight went well. I fought that really good guy in 14th century blue and grey rig, Azure, a Lion Rampant within a tressure fleury or. (at least I think that's it--might be a double tressure). I think he's from Acre as well. It was a great set of fights. He won the first two, then I started wining. He one shotted me with a rising snap on our last fight, which means I was in deep suckage for the evening. My best kill on him was probably my double-pump wrap.

I was working on two things all night. The first was I was trying to maneuver myself into position so that my shield was always between me and his weapon. That meant, instead of going nose to nose like typical SCA fighters I would cheat to shield side and set up toward his weapon. THe other part of that, using my feet to move my shield instead of my arm, went out with the first engagement. Part of that plan was concentrating on defense. I've always been an offensive minded, Bellatrix trained fighter: grab the initiative, attack, and kill him before he can kill you. In a kingdom of counter punchers that has long spelled my doom. So I have been concentrating on patience and defense and it worked well against this guy. I blocked most of his stuff and waited till I could set up shots. It meant my fights were longer, but I felt good about them.

Against Omega I was toast. I did not touch him once. He took my arm, my off leg, and my onside leg at will. He picked up every shot I was aboout to throw well outside of commitment range. When I just defended and kept at range I could stay alive, but that is about all I could do. After awhile I was looking too much for the thrust, which John pointed out. Then I went away from it entirely.

Against Gregor that's what I tried to do, and it mostly worked. I stayed at range and picked up his shots early for the first few bouts. He was killing me when I started to attack, or when I was recovering. Then he started throwing that over the shield flip that Thorsen gets me with whenever I use a heater. The first time he threw it is didn't work. Then he opened up his stance by moving his right foot forward, squaring his shoulders a bit, that improved the angle and he killed me with it. I went exclusively to a sword forward guard and he started timing my shots, to throw it whenever my sword was moving. It was not good. Lateral movement to my right is probably the best defense. The only time I killed Gregor was with a hook/thrust. Troulbe with a money shot is that you can only use it once.

Against Luther I did great. He is an awesome quick fighter but he has some windows. I got him twice with Omega's deep off-side leg shot. I also hit either him or the first guy (at this point I can't remember) with it in the body. I took his leg and got him with Ed's version of the butterfly. Then I took his leg again. I threw a shot at his head and noticed that he was using an a-frame stance that left his body open, so I stepped in and smashed his sword and shield with my shield. As he recovered I stabbed him in the chest. That was a great kill, because I had seen the flaw in his style and immediately capitalized on it.

Both Gregor and Omega said I was not fighting as well as I usually do. For my fights with Gregor I had even taken off my breast plate, because it was restricting my movement and because it was so freaking hot. The heat, by the way, got to me. Plus I only ate 1,000 calories yesterday, *and* I had lifted on Monday and done some intense yoga on Tuesday, so I hadn't recovered. But my timing was way off, so was my targeting, and my elbow ached.

I've been working on a short-stick onside, a good shot to throw from a sword forward guard. It is a good hard shhot and I've killed with it a couple of times now. It is one of those shots that is more like a punch than a swing.