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.

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