Friday, October 28, 2011

Sacrifice and Inspiration

The SCA, as I point out in my book, is a middle-class activity, and has all the trappings and characteristics of a bourgeois capitalist hobby: it is bound by large numbers of rules, it is concerned with protocol and form, it is extremely hierarchical, and it seeks both permanence and legitimacy (by expanding the society through recruitment, by establishing its own history, and in the continuous push toward authenticity). It is also middle class in the most simplest of ways: people of the middle class make up its members. There are few truly rich people in the SCA. They tend not to need the emotional validation the SCA provides to its members because they get it through real-world as opposed to play-world success. There are poor people in the SCA, but the SCA is a luxury, and simply because of cost the poor have to limit their SCA activities. Although it began among college-students and “Berkeley hippies protesting the 20th century”, the SCA is structurally middle-class. It works best if you have a job that provides leisure time and disposable income, a car, a garage, and a 9-5 weekday job, because fighter practices, dance practices, and events take place on weekends.

I have long been frustrated that I do not train as often as I should or as I did when I was 25. Back then it was nothing for me to fight two practices a week plus an event nearly every weekend. One reason I quit my retail job (losing almost $1,000 in extra income a month), was because I didn’t have time to fight anymore. Living in New York City makes training hard: I don't have a garage or a car, for instance.

As I’ve documented here, I decided to train hard for this crown. I made an effort to be in armor twenty times between Pennsic and Crown tourney. Through Cloisters I had been in armor eleven times, which put me well on my way. But with my elbow hurting as it did I decided to take time off. I have run and done Yoga and rehabbed my elbow, but I have not been fighting (this week I added Indian clubs to my rehab workout, but I haven’t used the kettle bell all this month).

SACRIFICE
With the time off I decided to get ready for crown in other ways. I have been watching tape. I’ve been visualizing fights, and I’ve been working on gear. Last week I shaped and taped two new broadsword blades. Sunday I stripped my shield and painted it two coats of flat-black. I also took time to do some teaching at BAT and at Nutley.

I was making a bit of time for my other hobby: I went deer hunting on Saturday and planned to go tomorrow. Problem is, there is a snow storm forecast for the area I hunt tomorrow, up to ten inches, maybe even a foot (I’m betting on three inches myself). This means that Sunday is going to be great hunting, and I would have a real chance at bagging either the six or the eight pint bucks I saw last weekend. But Sunday is the last BAT before Crown. I need to put armor on, even if I only fight left-handed. I need to paint my device on my shield (a long and arduous task), and put the basket hilts on my new swords. I made the plan that fighting took precedence over hunting before Crown Tourney, and so I am going to sacrifice probably the best day of bow-hunting this year to go to a fighter practice where I probably won’t even be able to train, just get some helmet time and fight left handed. (Which reminds me: see the orthopedist this week).

INSPIRATION
Which brings me to inspiration. I am inspired by numerous things. My lady inspires me because I want more than anything else to make her queen. Sissule inspires me by her grace. Alethea inspires me by her joy. Mom Eilis inspires be with her nobility. I am inspired by Omega and Lucan and Andreas and Brion simply through their prowess. I was always inspired by Radnor to be that amazing heroic knight. Rolf and Thorin and Bedford have inspired me by proving that I am, in fact, not too old for this game.

But lately what’s been inspiring me has been the knights on the new Chivalry FaceBook group. There was a discussion of how people trained and how often. I noted that before I stepped it up for crown and then got injured, I would normally try to fight once a week and do aerobics 2-3 times a week, mixing in Yoga and kettle bells, but I would often rely on the simple fact that living in New York provides a good workout. This is true, but it means that I don’t keep a good workout schedule. (today I will go to the gym for the first time this week). The knights who posted are doing some amazing things. They are doing pell work every night. Some are lifting three times a week. Most are fighting 2-3 times a week and running or biking for endurance. One knight said he does yoga four times a week and fights twice a month (which I can totally understand, no matter how many people said he needs to reverse that). I am inspired to knuckle down over the winter and go back to doing a solid off-season workout after crown, concentrating on yoga and aerobics until my elbow heals, and then adding in pell work, Indian clubs and kettle bells in addition to fighting. What my brothers are doing is awesome, and although my fragmented urban life-style makes it hard, I intend to emulate them.

Crown is in 8 days!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mists Coronet

Ajax won Mists coronet last weekend. The video is below. It starts out slow, but the final blow is pretty incredible.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Injury update

The tendinitis in me elbow hasn't gotten much better. I am doing my rehab and stretching. I might go get a portion shot. Regardless, I haven't fought in two weeks and will likely get only one practice in before crown at this point. I might even have to fight left handed without a shield.

I also have not been doing my kettle bells or Indian clubs. Both will be important in my rehab, but later. Right now it's just rubber bands.

Haven't been to the gym much lately, but I did run today.2.5 miles in my 5 fingers. Not a lot, but it felt great.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Low Cost Armor, yet again

I recently updated my article on Low Cost Armor yet again (the last update was 2008, wow!). The cost for a period looking suit of armor has crept up, but it can still be had for right around $300, and less if you want to get creative. Here are the high lights:

The two armorers I use most often are both armoring laurels who make affordable mutions grade armor at good prices: Master Alail Horsefriend and Master Cett Donegal. (Among other things, Alail made the helm I wear using Rough from the Hammer parts made by Ronald Wilmot, and then Cet put the bar cage on it: so three armoring laurels worked on my helm, which in the end cost me less than $100).

Cet Donegal now owns Rough From The Hammer (http://roughfromthehammer.com). This is the place to go to REALLY keep the prices down. Cet’s stuff comes rough finished and un-strapped—he sells parts to other armorers who finish the products and resell them. Elbow cops from this shop are $12 a pair. Spaulders are $20 a pair. He makes very affordable helmets, but only as custom orders.

Alail’s website is located at http://www.horsefriendarmoury.com. Like Cet, he has some great prices on munition grade armor: a sugarloaf helm for $100 in 14ga mild, splint legs for $120, splint arms for $80 and stainless for only 150% of his base price. Here is a basic suit put together from his old price list:

Great Helm, $80
Elbows, $20
Knees, $25
Churburg Breast plate (w/ Kidney Protection)$120
Simple Gorget, $30
Spaulders, $20

That totals out to $295. We still need a few pieces. We have to make cuises and vambraces and we don’t have hand protection. Some scrap leather to make vambraces and cuisses out of, the basket hilt and shield basket from Ashcraft Baker, and you’ll have a suit of armor most of which came from an armoring laurel within our target price. Not too shabby. Then add a gambeson and a nice surcoat and you will look very knightly.

A few armorers have beginner’s kits for sale in the right price range. Ashcraft Baker (www.ashcraftbaker.com) has a beginner kit that includes helmet, gorget, basket hilt, shield basket, and articulated elbows and knees for $220--a great price! Add some kidney and lumbar protection and you’re SCA legal. If that’s what you can afford go for it. However, the helmet is a spun top and I’m looking for something a little more period in style.

To complete the project you have to pick and choose pieces. Some armorers have expensive helms but reasonable legs. One has the best price on bascinets but their gorgets are expensive. In every case to keep prices down avoid buying cuises and vambraces. Those are easy to make. I want to put together not just SCA armor, but a knightly kit that, if not historically accurate, is at least evocative of a single time period. Below are a few more kits which fit the bill.

Crusader Kit:
From True Hearth Armory (http://www.truehearth.com)
• Teardrop Helm $80
• Standard gorget $40

From Bokalo’s Armoury (www.bokalosarmoury.com)
• Demi Gauntlet $25

From Rough From The Hammer (http://roughfromthehammer.com)
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Spaulder A $12
• Kidney Plates $20

From Ashcraft Baker (www.ashcraftbaker.com)
• Basket Hilt
• Shield Basket $25 (set)

That’s $227. Now invest in Period Patterns #101, available from several SCA merchants (try http://camelot-treasures.com/patterns/index.htm) for $21. Make the long, short sleeved crusader gambeson, reinforced with some of the plates from Rough from the Hammer. Make the gamboized cuisses, also included in the pattern, and attach to those the kneecops using leather lacing or cord. Use an inexpensive canvass and cotton batting, and materials for this should be about $40. They are not required under SCA rules, but some kingdoms require vambraces, and they are really a good idea. You will need to make some out of scrap metal or heavy leather, but the elbow cop is the hard part and you bought that.

We are now SCA legal. Total for this project before shipping is $288, including the cost of the pattern, which really shouldn’t count towards our total since it will be used several times over. Note: I didn’t include materials for a shield, but my first several shields were free anyway—scrap plywood, discarded garden hose and an old belt for straps.

14th Century Suit #1
One variation is to turn this into a Wisby suit. Do everything as above, except don’t get the helm or the kidney. Instead, you need to get hold of a sheet of 18 gauge steel and a way to cut it (with GAA out of business I could no longer find a metal Visby kit. I hear Alchemy has a plastic one, but I’m trying to avoid plactic in this exercise—however, cutting your own keep the price down. I used to use a jig saw with a hack saw blade). Go to the armor archive wisby coat page and download the patterns. You can also buy Period Patterns #102 (see below), which has a Wisby coat pattern in it. Then add From Boldo’s Armory (http://www.boldo.com/armory/index.html) the “Classic Pembridge” greathelm for $100. This will take you a bit over our budget when all is said and done, but still very affordable and it will look sharp.

Now for the hard one:

14th century suit #2

From Illusion Armory (http://www.illusionarmoring.com/)
• 14 ga. Bascinet (don’t get the 16 ga). $110

From Bokalo’s Armoury
• Pinned dog collar gorget $35
• Demi Gauntlet $25

From Rough From The Hammer
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Globose Breastplate $60

From Ashcraft Baker
• Basket Hilt
• Shield Basket $25 (set)


That comes to $280. NOW: get both Period Patterns #101 and #102 ($21 each). Make the gamboized cuisses from pattern #101 and the jupon (short, long sleeved gambeson) from pattern #102. Materials for the jupon and cuisses, again, are about $40. Use some sole leather for vambraces. Note that this suit doesn’t have shoulder protection.

Really, the secret is to get a good looking helmet. The rest of your hard points can be armored fairly inexpensively. Then cover it up with a good surcotte and you won't look like a schlub.

Monday, October 3, 2011

West Kingdom Crown

Here is some video of West Kingdom Crown Finals, Duke Uther vs. Duke Connor, great fighters whom I love to fight against. Note three things: first is how Uther clearly does not wantto close with Connor (wise, since that's how he lost the second fight). The second is that Connor keeps looking for that shot I throw with the bunny round (and a bit with the heater and kite) where I block the on-side leg shot with shield low and a hanging guard, and as soon as the sword contacts with my defense shoot straight down with my sword (most people lean into their leg shots and this catches them--we both learned this from Hauoc, I'd bet). The third is something I always say: many times, it's much better to go for the shoulder than the head.







There's lots more from crown over on Youtube.

Colisters!

My favorite Ostgardr event is the Fort Tryon Medieval Fair demo. The fair is put on annually by the NYC parks department in the park where the Cloisters museum is located. It is a great New York type event. Incredibly crowded and full of energy, and just a little bit weird. I love it. We usually get a good audience for our shows and this time was no exception. We also have a very well organized demo team in Ostgardr. Under a big Marquis tent and a few pop ups we had pictures and fliers, arms and armor, and demonstrations of spinning, weaving, sewing, leather work, armoring, and stone carving. There was dancing, rapier, and chivalric combat. They put on a good show. On top of that, Gui and Johanna are turning out to be a GREAT Viceroy and Vicereign. They were a strong presence this weekend. Gui made new weapons, organized the fighting, oversaw the tourney, and played the crowd.

The tourney, by the way, was for the Champion of Ostgardr. It was limited to unbelted fighters living in the province. There were four combatants and the victor was Tormundr.



In progress weapons



The weapons rack at Cloisters


Of course, I was mostly there to fight.

INJURY
The bad news is that I've decided to abandon my training schedule to let my elbow heal. I took a week off to let it heal, went to the orthopedist (who confirmed that it is tendinitis and not something more serious) and even had two spa treatments (I was on vacation after all). I had had an opportunity to fight on Saturday at coronation, which I'd been looking forward to, but decided that I wanted to rest it a full week. It didn't' help. In fact, my elbow hurt worse on Sunday than it ever has.

FIGHTING
As I've said in the past, a demo is not someplace you work on technique. There is too much show going on for that. Even if you are fighting the way you always fight, the people you are fighting are often doing something crazy. However, it is a great place to get in helmet time and fight with odd weapons.

I was not fighting well at all. My elbow was effecting both my speed and power. But I was having fun none the less. All of the fights except in the tourney were to counted blows, usually three. Gui had made new maces using the awesome rubber mace heads Icefalcon is selling. Those got a lot of use! I fought one handed at the barrier against Tormundr with them. Then I fought with great sword and great ax. Later I did some fights with sword and shield. My last set of fights I was fighting sword and shield against Timur and my elbow just would no longer function. I won the first fight and then just gave up on my right arm. I switched to fighting left handed with no shield. I struck him twice more as he struck me, so I won that fight, but that was when I decided that I'm not fighting again for at least two weeks, possibly three.

Once again, I cannot stress how how useful a barrier is at a demo. It provides for some really dramatic fighting, it's showy, and it keeps the fights rooted into one place so they don't get too close to the audience. For the finale of the day I ran a single-sword melee at the barrier the way they do it in the West, where you have two guys on each side and as they are struck they cycle out and are replaced by new fighters, so the action is fast paced and non-stop. We disallowed arm shots to make it more dramatic. They destroyed the barrier in the process. It was a lot of fun!

This was my eleventh time in armor since Pennsic. Unfortunately, I will not be in armor again for at least two weeks, probably not until Nutley on Wednesday the 26th.