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.

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