Wednesday, December 19, 2012

So, who *is* buried in Grant's Tomb?

We have been planning to start up a practice at Grants Tomb in Riverside Park, Manhattan for a while now. It is across the street from the former Viceroy's apartment and close to most of our people who live in Manhattan (north of 96 street is much more affordable). Gui decided that we should do a trial run on Sunday. He went up and scouted the location, and then we advertised it and pushed it hard. The result was the best practice we've had since BAT closed, and maybe for a while before that. It was well attended, there was parking, and both Alail, who came from Jersey, and Tycho, who came from Suffolk County, said it was easy to get to.

There may be a problem with how I approach practice. Normally, I will start with a technique I have a lot of faith in and try to win the fight as though it were in a tourney. As soon as I get one technique to work I try something else, both because I don't want to pattern myself and because I want to try several things. But if you look at the great fighters--Jade, Torgul, Lucan, Paul--they tend to have one technique that they practice over and over again and, particularly Jade and Paul, they repeat it constantly in armored practice as well as at the pell. My best techniques are the hook-thrust and the downward slot out of a weak high closed form (described below). Id practicing other techniques a waste of time? Does it make it harder for me to succeed in tourneys? Maybe I should just do one or two things -but then people will always know what I am going to do. That doesn't seem to hurt Jade much--though I have seen it work to Paul's disadvantage against Radnor.(Radnor has the deepest bag of tricks in the world, and he is the fighter I always wanted to grow up to be).

My elbow feels great. My Achilles feels great. My left elbow hurts a bit, which is odd, but that is not my sword arm and it doesn't affect my fighting.

I had some troubles last week getting everything in. The week of the second I was able to get all three of my weight workouts in (Arms and Shoulders on Sunday, Chest and Back on Tuesday, and legs and abs on Saturday), plus Yoga, a three mile walk, and Nutley Practice. Last week Christmas started to get  in the way in a couple of different ways. I managed my arm workout on Sunday but did a simple aerobics and yoga workout on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday I skipped because one day I had a party to go to and the second I was recovering from said party. Plus something was making me queasy most of the week. I got in an amazing 1 hour 45 minute class on Thursday--weights, kickboxing, abs and stretching, but nothing on Friday and just a two mile walk on Saturday. This week is starting out pretty good, though.


There were nine fighters total at practice and I was in armor from 12:30 to 3:30. I fought sword and buckler and fought sets with everybody else who armored up. I used all my sword and buckler techniques. By the time I got to fighters 7 and 8 I was a step slow and making some mistakes. I also did some unarmored training (more on that in a sec).

As mentioned last time, I fight three primary wards when using sword and buckler. I use a high-open form, a la Bellatrix, a weak high closed form, a la Hauoc, and the first ward from I:33. My primary style is the weak high closed form: "high" because the shield is held high, right in front of my right cheek bone; "closed" because my sword is forward to close off the off side; "weak" because I stand with my sword foot forward. This opens up pretty much everything from my elbow down on the on-side. The idea is to invite a shot to the on-side leg which, because you are goofy footed, your opponent has to reach for. The block is a rotation block with the buckler and the sword coming over to protect against a rising snap. Most people when reaching for that leg come out from behind their shields. As soon as anything is struck, you throw a shot at the space just to the inside of your opponent's shield. This blow comes in half time--extremely fast--(Radnor said all fights are won in between beats, or on the up beat), and when done right it is almost a continuous motion. It is not block/strike. The blow is a molinee that, if it happens to end up blocking a blow, merely deflects it incidentally. The timing, though not the technique, is like the deflection block in Fiore's long sword  Usually you will either his shoulder, helm, or bar-grill as they lean into their shot.

Occasionally I have trouble with this shot. As I detailed after the Spring Crown in 2010 Artos found a problem in my delivery of this shot, my hand traveling straight down instead of punching toward the belt-line. Lately I think I have been bailing out while I throw it, afraid of a second shot (which makes no sense, as there is very little chance of one). I need to stand in and move forward as I throw it. This is what Hauoc does.

I probably lost more of my fights with Landon, Lou, and Alail than I won. The newer fighters I was mostly training instead of fighting. Because he is up in An Tir where they fight that Torgul inspired weak low closed form (which is supposed to be Viking but is really a renaissance Spanish style) he is now a sucker for a rising snap.  I managed to get Lou out of the Iron Gate. I like to knock the tip of his blocking ax away and thrust his belly. That didn't work, but as he parried my thrust I cut out and took his sword arm. We fought single sword with me using the Fiore sword in one hand technique until I took his other arm. Best moment, however, was when I killed him with a lazy over-hand thrust from the hip, shield down, as I closed--a technique I learned from Jade. Stabbed him right in the throat.

It is 37 days until Birka. I don't know when my next time in armor will be.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back in armor!

Ah! The soft sting of rattan!

Last night was my first time in armor since crown.  It was painful, fun, and even a bit exciting and new. Every once in awhile you have to make it new. I decided after crown that I was breaking up the time between now and next Spring crown (which I may not even be able to fight in, which would suck!) into clear blocks with clear moments and goals. I tell my students that the life of an athlete, from the time they start playing pop-warner or little league till they finally retire, even if they retire as a professional, never really changes. It revolves around the seasons: off-season, pre-season, season, post-season, and the end of the year banquet (this is all my lead in for discussing professional speakers on tour). This is one way to look at fighting. Right now we are in the off season. Birka (Or Estrella) begins the pre-season. Mudthaw or White Shield begins the regular season. We don’t really have a post season in the SCA. Meanwhile I have great things to report.

Rehab is going great. As detailed below, my Achilles has improved greatly. It is better than I had thought it would be by now.  I need to concentrate more on shoulders at this point.

First order of business is my workouts. In the off season, also known as the fat season, I decided to radically change up my workout regimen and do something I have avoided for a long time in fighting, go on an actual body building spree. I don’t expect to gain a lot of muscle, and I actually don’t want to gain any weight, but I do want to get stronger.  It is a big change in philosophy for me.

The cornerstone of the Bellatrix style is that it should require no upper body strength. Paul is one of the strongest human beings I have ever met, but he intentionally de-emphasized his strength. Every one of his techniques I designed to be just as effective when used by someone who weighs 120 pounds as by someone who weighs 250 pounds.  William the Lucky, another of my Avatars, used to say people who are extremely strong will have poor technique because they never had to learn it. I am still not someone who believes in being super-big and strong like Omega or Wolfhier of Stonemarch, but the simple fact of the matter is that all of the dukes around here are stronger than I am, and if I want to join their ranks I probably need to beef up a bit. Plus I had people blowing off some shots at crown, so there is obviously something wrong with how I am throwing them, and maybe it’s that I just need to be stronger. There has been some variation: at thanks giving I didn’t have a gym, so I ran, did Yoga, and improvised a WOD with a cinder block.

As a result, for the off-season, I have gone to a good old-fashioned weight workout and pushed myself in several areas. I break it down to three days in the gym: one for arms and shoulders, one for chest and back, one for legs and abs. I break each of those down into groups of exercises: warm-ups, tone, and strength. Usually (I play around with the first two) I will warm up with dumbbells, tone with machines, and then build strength with barbells. For instance, Monday’s workout included hammer curls, triceps extensions, and dumbbell presses, graduated weight on the spider curl machine, the triceps machine and the shoulder press machine. Then I went for bulk, and built up weight on the straight bar with curls and military press, and a straight-bar cable push. I ended with the fighter dumbbell combos, but sometimes I will do a feat of strength, like dead lifts or a Turkish lift or a clean and jerk.

The results have been pretty good. My max weight on presses and curls is up to 80 pounds. My deadlift weight is now 235. I still haven’t made 135 on the clean and jerk, but that is coming.

Last night was Nutley Practice. It was the first time since Crown in October that I have put on armor. For the off season I have decided not to worry about my primary form, sword and shield, and, when I get into armor, fight with other stuff. I may pick up the heater between now and Birka, and I will very likely fight with the bunny round at 12th Night, but mostly I ma just having fun right now. Last night I fought sword and buckler.  I used the Hauc style, pure Bellatrix, Squared up a la Connor or Gemeni, and a little I:33. I had a good time. I don’t know if I was hitting any harder, but I felt stronger. I fought four opponents—Alail (visiting from An Tir), Douglas, Vasilli, and John the Breeder. I killed each of them a couple of times, each of them killed me more. Alail I killed with old-school Westie stuff like a wavy-rising snap. Against Doulas, a two stick fighter, I just tried to stay alive. I did keep him at bay using the iron gate, but it didn’t rally set me up to kill him. My best shot on him was a simple off-side body shot. On Vasili I got a good cut when we were both on our knees and he squared up too much. I did a falling shot to his ribs, which kind of shocked him. Against B reeder I slipped in a face thrust, a body thrust, and I got him with a really old-school technique, what used to be my bread-and-butter shot, Radnor’s wavy-low molinee-slot shot. He over blocked and I hit him in the face. That will never happen again!

I have a great bruise Breeder gave me on the shoulder from a shot he swore was not good

I feel awesome!

It is 50 days until Birka. I don’t know when my next day in armor will be. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crown #86

I must admit to feeling a bit discouraged. I fought well, but I did not accomplish three of my five bench mark goals. I did advance from my pool, and I did go five rounds, winning more fights than I lost. In total, with the smaller pools, I won seven fights and lost five. In the end, I was frustrated by four things I thought I was prepared for. The format did hurt me. I only lost two sword and shield fights, but i lost both my pole arm fights and my one two weapon fight. My endurance was good, but a long fight in the 4th round is part of why I lost in the 5th. (that is counting the pool as round one) I was having trouble getting people to take my blows throughout the day, both cuts and thrusts. And I still had trouble with the northern region fighters with their huge shields. These are all things I should do better at.


There were five people in our pool, myself, Jabril, Julien de la Point, Wolfir, and a two sword fighter named Asa.

I challenged Jabril first, knowing he was the toughest in my pool. I managed to take his leg and hit him. Against Wolfir I hooked the top of his blocking spear and hit him in he face. Julien killed me with a face thrust. Itook Asa's leg then finished her off with a body thrust. the pool ended in a three way tie between me, Julien, and Jabril. After Jabril killed Julien I hit him with a simple saber cut. Jabril and I advanced.

My first fight was against William McCrimmon. After a couple of tries I took his leg and then I hit him with a butterfly in he arm pit. I threw it with kind of a half step of. Wrap fake, kind of like Ed's version, but with a shield hook and without stepping all the way around.

Next I drew Gregor. Our first fight was with pole arm. I fought with a left hand lead, so our poles were in line instead of crossed. I tried to strike along his pole but did not commit enough. It was a good long fight and I felt good about it. It was my choice for the next fight and I chose two weapon. It is not a form he uses a lot, and I felt it gave me my best shot. We both used two swords, but I had thrusting tips. It was a good fight. I tried a couple different techniques.

I tried a high-low strike but he stepped out of it. I was defending his attacks very well.

I tried the Bellatrix attack I learned from Radnor 30 years ago. The Bellatrix two sword style is based on cross blocking. Right hand will block right hand strikes, etc. so you are cocked for a strong strike with the left. Radnor taught a patterning technique, where you strike right-left-right-left-right-left setting up a pattern where you are crossing sticks kind of like Morris dancers. On the 6th and 7th strike you block with the left hand twice, then strike down the middle with your right hand. Unfortunately, Gregor was jam blocking instead of cross blocking, so it didn't work.

Then I started using my Milwaukee technique, jam blocking, cross blocking to guard my head and double striking. At one point i struck left hand, right hand, cros blocked his shot at my head, then double struck right hand toward his head left hand toward his body. I was very proud of that exchange, but he baled out.

Later he stepped in and wrapped taking my left arm. My one sword was no match for his two and I dropped into the losers list.

I fought Damien Von Drachenklau in a long fight. He always fights me hard and this time he was all over me. He launched an extensive flurry and I defended it well. It was intense but a bit wild, and eventually he opened his head up and I hit him.

Then I got mugged by Edward MacGuyver. I always have trouble with him, but this time I was embarrassed. Our first fight was with pole arm and that was where I made a fool of myself. He has one technique, no matter what weapon he is using. He bull rushes you and pushes you around with his body. With the pole arm he just jumped on me and tried to butt spike me in the face. He had be backed into a corner. I tried to bale out but did it terribly, spin away, ran away like a frightened little girl, and got hit from behind in the ribs. It was awful. In our second fight he chose sword and shield. His sword and shield style is about the same. He charges forward and shoves his shield into your shoulder and rains blows upon you. I noticed the he cocked his shield tip out as he closed, so I hit him with a belly thrust. We both chose sword and shield for the third fight. He adjusted by moving his tip inside cutting off that thrust. After a couple of passes he took my leg. That's when it really got hard. He walked in and just shoved me around with his shield. He pushed me over. I tried to take his leg but in doing so I fell over several times. Finally I gave that up and he hit me.

The list itself was fun. It was clean and exciting. Gregor won on the day after his 50th birthday, which is encouraging. With the way it was set up, with neither semi finals nor finals going past three fights, we did not see a shield in either round. I had a really good time, and loved most of my fights. It was a long and expensive drive, and well worth it. It was also great to see Tux, hang out with Bill and his squire brothers, see Alethea, and to fight.

Tux said I was looking tired from the middle of my fight with Damien onward. I certainly felt it before my first sword and shield fight with Edward. She said by the time I got to my first sword and shield fight with Edward my hip mechanics had left me. Alethea said I looked like I was in pain, and although I didn't feel hurt while fighting, my shoulder was sore after the round robin. I think in a standard list, without weapons requirements, I might have gone one more round.

In spite of these problems, this was a great list for me and for everyone. I loved fighting in it.

This was the 86th crown tournament that I've fought in. My next time in armor is likely to be next Wednesday at Nutley. If next eastern crown is the first Saturday in May as usual, I will miss it for a wedding in Cali (so I am hoping it will be early like this crown was). I may fight in West Kingdom crown in March if Obidiah allows me to.

It is 88 days until Birka.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So here we are...

Once again I accidentally posted a post to the wrong blog. Gotta keep that straight. Taped it into this one, since it is kind of important.

I wanted to fight one more time last week. I fought on Wednesday and Thursday and I wanted to fight once more on Saturday. I tried to get people together but everyone was busy. I did not want to rent a Zipcar to go to Carillon because renting and driving to Crown is going to be expensive. I ended up not fighting at all. As the last full week of training for Crown, however, it was pretty good. I worked out every day. I fought twice. I am finally down below 215 pounds. THis week I slowed down. I did Yoga on Monday, pell work and mace exercises on Tusday. I should get in some yoga today (Thursday). I feel good, but I am not at all satisfied with the results or where I am in my fighting.

The only things I have been doing is soup-can exercises for my elbow and stretching for my Achilles. The Achilles has been a bit sore with workouts every day.

This was a great week according to my workout tracker on I biked 49.5 miles (actually more because I didn't track my whole ride on Tuesday). I did yoga on Monday, I fought Wednesday and Thursday, I did the WODs plus some yoga on Friday and Saturday. The biggest result of all of this is that, while today is supposed to be a rest day, I really want to bike down to Coney and workout on the par course!

The last fighting before the tourney should be about focus and endurance, but I was working on greatsword technique, with varying success. I am moving away from the Bellatrix techniques I used to use and employing a long-point technique that comes from Count Marc, but is related to the Japanese based bastard sword techniques I learned from Elrik. But I am also employing the standard high-center technique favored in the East Kingdom these days, and Gui's horse stance technique.

I fought at Nutley on Wednesday. I fought like ass. I started out with a greatsword set against Lou. I was doing pretty good. I used mostly the high center technique and won four or five of our fights. Wavy fakes were
Working best, however.

Next I fought Stephan. I did not lay stick on him once. Tim said I looked really good, and Stephan is the best fighter in the kingdom, but I did want to hit him once. I am certainly not where I need to be to win crown if my offense can't break the best fighters at least a few times. As Sagan says, you measure yourself against the best and by that measure I am still lacking.

After that I fought Vasilli, and that was where I thought I was not doing well at all. He took my leg and then pounded me in our first fight. He uses a short heavy stick and bull rushes, and he is really strong, but he is wild with a sloppy defense. He was taking my leg and hitting me with short stick slot shots. I should be able to defend that. In our last three fights I made some adjustments, I killed him with a hook thrust once, with a cut, and then by standing his rush up and attacking him on the of side helm, which beat him.

Then I fought John the Breeder, a true recipe for pain. I fought him really well. John is the new kingdom phenom, probably the best natural we have had since Stephan: fast, strong, great instincts, but also with a huge kite shield and fighting left handed. He has won ten tournaments in the last year. I fought him really well. I think we only actually had three fights but they were all long. I beat him once, by triggering off his leg shot. I took his arm, which was not my plan but it worked. Three times i had him dead to rights but could not execute. Twice i missed open thrusts and once a cut. In our last fight it cost me. My thrust was off line, my follow through opened up my right side and he creamed my ribs, which is why i rarely thrust against lefties. The amusing thing about John, not only has he started to break down and analyze fights like a knight, but I learned
This week that his footwork, which is excellent, is based on a cha-cha step. I love dance based footwork. That warmed my heart.

I discovered, as I had before, that I probably need to rehang my shield again. The problem with this theory is that one reason it is hung as it is none is specifically for John and Gui, to give me a defense against lefties that approaches that of my old center grip kite, which was the best shield for lefties I have had. But I do need to raise my arm a bit. I am also squaring up too much. These combined make it harder to defend my leg. I should not be losing my leg so much with a 36 inch shield. But the other reason I was dissatisfied is that I am just not seeing he fights well right now. It is a mater of focus and reaction. I literally do not know what to do from one pass to the next. I am not targeting openings as fast as I should be, and I am not reacting to what I see. Hopefully, that is a product of seeing more stuff than I was six months ago, but if so then my computer needs to pick it up and process it.

Thursday night was all about the greatsword. I left my shield at home. I fought against Landon first, him using sword and shield. I won our first fight then lost the others. I found that if I closed with him a la Bellatrix I was doomed. Later I fought Damion, our new guy. That was probably not a good idea just because I was not in a training other people mood. I was in a training me for Crown mood. However, he is a beast, in the best shape of any of us there, and gets off on the contact, so they were still pretty good fights and he enjoyed them. I fought Landon again, this time with greatsword, then Gui, then Tormundr. In between Gui was teaching Tormundr greatsword techniques, mostly using long point in he way Marc uses it, thrusting, controlling strong to weak, winding, cutting along the blade. Then he went out and fought me and did all those incredible Yoda shots he does and wiped me out. In those fights, when I closed with him and he could use his superior blade control, I was doomed. When I fought at the edge I was winning our fights. Gui says I need to put a pommel on my sword to weight it better. Funny, because I used to love counter weighted bastard swords, but I am really proud of my old school stick o rattan these days. Anyway, if you want to train for greatsword, Gui, is probably the best person after Gregor to train against. It was a great night.


So, here we are. It is two days until Crown Tourney. I have not been training as hard this week as I had been. Training for Crown is like training for a boxing match, not like football. In the normal course of things, like fighting in an active tourney season, you treat it like a football season or even tennis. You practice once or twice a week, condition yourself, and fight on the weekends, either in wars or tourneys. This is the way I used to approach the SCA, back when I was basically just a stick bum and my body was less battered. I would fight at practices, sometimes four a week, always at least two, and then go to a tourney or war on most weekends. The spring/summer that I was knighted I fought in four champions tourneys (and won two of them), two crowns, a coronet, one prize tourney, whatever fighting there was at Bletane that year, (and Purgatorio after I was knighted) and two foreign wars. I am pretty sure there was a principality war in there as well, and a couple of other small things, like love and honor tourney or a baronial war, that I am missing. And, of course, I was knighted at an inter-kingdom war that July. It amounted to about fifteen fighting events in six months. which is almost three events out of every four weekends. All of this led up to my winning Mists Coronet that September, the best day I have ever had on the field (won every fight, did not even lose my leg, in a royal tournament). That is the fighting constantly model.

Now, mostly because of the kingdom I live in (it is much more spread out) and the fact that I don't drive anymore (living in Brooklyn it is an overall waste of money) I get to maybe ten fighhting events a year, less than one a month (of course, this includes Pennsic, and there is nothing like Pennsic on the West Coast, for fighting or for anything else). That includes, normally, three Crown tourneys a year, two in the East and one in the West. As a result, I not only fight differently but I train differently. Instead of looking on fighting as a continuous season of events punctuated, like Golf, by a few majors (once again we come back to Paul's dictum that the sport most like SCA fighting is Golf), I concentrate on training just for those three crown tourneys, with everything else being just a fun tuneup. It has taken me years to realize that both my living in the East and my age required a change in how I do things. I train like a boxer trains. A few weeks out I will decide what my training regimen will be, focus on the event, and train for that. And, as with training for a boxing match, you train down the last week in order to recover a bit, heal, avoid injuries.

In August, nine weeks out, I said I wanted to work out three times a week and ride at least two more times, plus fight at least once--that is six workouts total per week. In those 10 weeks (let's call it ten, to be fair) I have had 97 workouts. That is almost ten a week. It does include a lot of combined workouts, though, where I counted aerobics at the gym and weights on the same day as two seperate things.

I wanted to do 450 miles before crown. I totaled 386. That is good, but I failed.

I had ten Yoga sessions, most of those actual classes, some on my own, plus combining it with other workouts. This was an accomplishment.

I was supposed to do 18 resistance workouts. I only did 12. That was a failure.

As I suspected, pell work was the hardest thing to actually do. I did it two or three times. Complete fail.

Counting the tourney, I was in armor ten times, an average of once a week. This was a failure, mainly because of the concussion, which kept me out for two weeks. My bench mark had been slightly more that once a week. I'm going to call this a qualified success.

I have probably trained harder for this crown than for any specific event. If i go back to Pennsic and to the obstacle race in June, which was kind of a pre-training training, I have done good. I am not where I want to be nor even where I could be. I feel great and I'm proud of how hard I have worked.

I am not one of the favorites for this event. With Gregor going for it, and with Kenrik and Marcus, who are much better than I with glaive or great sword, I am in trouble. This format does not favor me. With eight pools instead of four, especially if they are truly randomly seeded, pools could be really tough. I might not even advance. But I love crown, I love great fighting, and I love fighting in tourneys with the top guys like Gregor. And I have beaten Gregor in a tourney, and Jan, and Marcus, and Kenrik, (never Ivan, interestingly). I can do this. And if I don't it has been a lot of fun training for it and it will be even more fun to fight.

It is two days until Crown, which will be my next time in armor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The punishment you can take

I haven’t seen the last Rocky movie, but I have heard the big quote from the movie: “boxing’s not about how much punishment you can dish out, it’s about how much punishment you can take.”

When you cycle the way I do, on an old piece of shit mountain bike, with a frame that is too heavy and too small for you, you are not training for the tour de France. Yes, you can get some nice speed on the down-hills. You can do some gnarly climbs, especially up on the North end of Manhattan. But you are not training for speed. You would not ride this bike in a triathlon, even one you were just trying to complete. I use my bike to commute as much as anything, keep myself healthy and build up some lower-body strength. Training through cycling, the way I do it, is about endurance, about how much pain you can endure by the end of the day and still keep going. It is about whether or not at mile 28 you can find a burst of speech to get you through the park quickly. But on a day like today, clear and cold with those wicked Hudson winds blowing, it is about more than that. It is about just finishing. A bad thing about riding the bike to City College: it is a sixteen mile trip (a bit longer today because of where I started and ended). The first half, or nearly, is my  commute to BMCC. I go through the park, down Vanderbilt to Carroll to Smith. I make my way to the Brooklyn Bridge, cross that, and cross Manhattan to Chambers and West. There are two good, tough climbs, counting the bridge. But after that it is an easy shot up the West Side Highway.  It is flat for eight or nine miles and then you hit the hill at the end that CCNY is perched atop. There are also few stop lights and none once you are above 59th street. But that flat runs right along the Hudson. Funny thing about those cold Hudson Hawks, they blow off shore in the mornings and onshore in the evenings. This means I have to fight a biting cold (and today fierce) headwind both directions. Today was the worst though. The winds were gusting as I rode through the park. They were in my face as I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. A couple of times the gusts stopped me in my tracks. On days like this it is all about enduring the fatigue and pain, about pushing yourself to the limit, and as I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, trudging up hill into a headwind, I kept saying to myself “this is for Crown. This is for Gregor. This is for Marcus. This is for Kenrick,” and on and on, and I felt like Lou Ferigno in Pumping Iron, doing his hammer curls and screaming “Arnold! Arnold! Arnold!” 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Coming down to the wire

With Gregor definitely fighting in crown, my chances of winning have dropped significantly but, at the same time, I am even more likely to rent a car and drive up there, because if you do win a list with a super-duke in it, there is far more glory. Plus I get to see and maybe even take part in some great fighting.

Rehab goes well. My Achilles has been aching a bit, especially after spending all day on those marble floors at the Cathedral of All Saints, in Albany, for Coronation. And my shoulder was really acting up this week. Got to keep those rehab exercises going.

While I did not do a lot of cycling last week, I did get to work out. I went hunting on Monday, which involves a lot of walking, much of it up hill. I did a killer WOD on Wednesday: eight sets (I did nine) of push-presses. On Friday I did one of the no equipment WODs, with jailhouse sets (that's the countdown--ten reps, then nine, then eight, etc) of box jumps and squat thrusts.

There were only three fighters in armor on Thrusday night, and I only got in a few sets with Landon, but I fought to exhaustion and did some great stuff. He is good for me because he fights with a center-grip oval, like Marcus, and because he brings the fear. He hits harder than anybody in the Southern Region, and so I really don't want him to strike me. I noticed he was tabling his shield and I took his leg and then wrapped his head. After that he knuckled down and got tough. He also backs out a lot. The best thing that happened to me was when my thrusting tip got knocked off at the end of our first set. I had re-taped it back on that it had made my sword even tip-heavier than normal. Without the tip my edge work was flying. The best thing I did was in our second set of fights. I took his leg using the old Martin the Temperate hidden leg shot, but flashing my shield before throwing it to get him to flinch. Then I threw a wavy fake, a hesitation, stepped tot he right and hit him on the head.

The thought did occur to me that I should fight without a thrusting tip in two weeks, but that way lies madness. I need to make new swords and balance them well, but taking my tip off now is foolish. I always get in trouble when I change something right before a tournament. By the same token, I have come tot he conclusion that I need to re-hang my shield because, as I discussed last week, my hand is a little bit too low. I am losing my leg more than I should be with a 36" shield, and it is hard to keep in the most comfortable position for my arm because if I do I blind myself with it (again, why it works well in an A-frame defense), and it get in my way if I am thrusting over the top or sometimes when throwing a backhand. I find I have to set up with the shield closer to my body than I normally like, which exposes my leg more. But I am trained to this shield, it is really well strapped for fighting against left handers or with a sword-forward stance, and I am winning fights with it. Changing now would be stupid.

It is ten days till Crown. My next time in armor will be Wednesday at Nutley. After that I will fight Thursday at McCarren Park and possibly somewhere on Sunday. After that I rest for a week.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Slipping a bit

What with being sick, getting a concussion, and going to Bermuda, my training has slacked off a bit. This week so far I have only small workouts to go with my bike rides, and I did not take the long ride up to City College. I'm on track for 50 miles. I did calisthenics today. Best of all I fought. I needed to fight desperately so I rented a zip car and drove to Nutley. (this turned out to be a comedy of errors: first I got off late, then I found out it was at a different location than I thought, then I got locked in the wrong parking lot. I finally got over there by about 8:30 very frustrated, but it didn't matter, because I had time to get in all that I could handle!

I have been a slug. I have barely done my rehab at all this week, but since I'm now at one year since my injury, it doesn't seem to make too much difference. My Achilles I am still rehabbing, but mostly through stretching.

On Monday i skipped my yoga class because I was bushed, but I had already gone to the gym and done 25 minutes of yoga on my own. I also biked 16 miles that day. Today, I biked to work and did 50 push ups and 50 sit ups, which isn't too bad. If the weather holds I will make my 50 miles this week and maybe go to the gym tomorrow. I have not hit the pell at all. I knew that goal was ambitious.

I was not trying any particular technique. I did mix u my defenses and use two offenses, a Bellatrix offense and a sword-forward Eastern style offense, but that was to try and gain an advantage not to practice anything in particular.

This has been the best practice week so far, because I went to Nutley and got my ass kicked. I mean seriously. I fought every knight who was there. That included two dukes, Timothy and Gregor--both of whom are training for crowns (Tim for Aethelmarc's tomorrow)--plus Douglas and Stephan von Dresden, which makes it four dukes in terms of skill. (Von Dresden is still the best fighter in the kingdom if not the SCA, and Douglas is pretty close, but neither of them will fight in crown). The other knight there was Tzeitchel, who fought me a lot better than last time.

I jumped into the deep end of the pool by fighting Gregor first. Gregor is great for breaking down my fights. I started out fighting in a standard closed form, mostly with my shield foot forward, and my defense was pretty tight. He managed to trigger off my shots and hit me with a snap a couple of times. Afterward he said that this was my best fighting. I discovered a couple of things. One was that, when fighting sword back a la Bellatrix, I am rocking forward slightly as I begin to move. Gregor triggers off of this and just hits me in the face. I need to analyze my swing and see what exactly I am doing here. As sometimes happens, my current shield strapping got in my way. I had him dead to rights at one point, with his defense off to his left and his sword engaged and really close in, but my thrust hit the back of my shield, which is taller than it used to be (because I moved my hand down). I also fought him a bit of classic A frame, a la Stephan, looking past the side of my shield instead of over the top of it, but I have very little offense from there. We double killed once. That was the best I did.

Fighting Stephan was. of course, humbling. I did not lay stick on him at all. With him what I discovered, or had reaffirmed, was that my reflexes just do not pick up his snap. From the shoulder to my head, even if I am looking right at it when he throws it, is too fast for me to get my shield in the way, which is why I have to zone block with people like him and Gregor. He said "you always fight me well" which is quite a compliment. I used every type of defense I had, and closed form was probably the best, though the A frame prevented that fast snap from killing me.

Next I fought Douglas. He is a two sword fighter and one of the best. He got me a couple of times with thrusts and with back wraps from either hand. He has a bad habit, in close, of blocking his head with his arm while doing a window parry. I managed to kill him three times. The first time was a fluke. I was throwing a just out of range wrap to engage his sword, planning to thrust off of his block, but instead of blocking he stepped in and I hit him in the neck.  The second time I killed him  was my favorite, because I just turned it on and mugged him, which is hard to do with Doug. I threw my shield flat against his swords, ducked behind it, pounded on his legs till he went down, kept the pressure up, threw a few chops toward his body then, unable to connect that way, thrust him in the gut. The third time I killed him we got in close and I threw for his head, taking his arm with the first shot and then killing him with the second.

Then I fought Tzeitchel. I started out fighting Bellatrix, threw a snap, a teardrop into a second snap, and she timed it right and killed me as I advanced. I tried to use Paul's single hip, never landed it, but didn't get killed in the process. Then I tightened up my defense and started winning more. I killed her by taking her leg and landing a hook/thrust, the later with a wrap. 

I was totally exhausted, a bit wobbly, and dehydrated, but Tim and I had wanted to fight one another so, exhausted like it was the end of crown, we went at it. I took his leg and then killed him with a thrust. He got me with a great flat snap at a weird angle, then we just started to rock and roll. Honestly, I don't know who won what. We each killed the other a couple of times. I tried to use my old range control techniques, moving back and forth at the edge of range, circling, and attacking on tangents. After a few more fights I was so exhausted I started backing down into old school Bellatrix stuff because that takes the least arm strength and it was all I could throw. It was tiring, but it was the best fighting I did all night. It was good prep for that last, long fight in finals.

A good week. The next time I will be in armor is next Thursday, unless I can wrangle a ride to Nutley next week. It is 22 days until Crown. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ok, So, I'm an Idiot...

Let’s talk about stupidity for a moment. I am an idiot. I do stupid things—like hit myself in the head with a broadsword while not wearing a helmet. Not that I intended to do this, no, but it was stupid nonetheless. At practice last week Gui and I were showing some combinations to a new fighter. We ahd no pell, so Gui came up with the idea of having Anton, while in armor, hold a plearm next to himself, braced against his knee. The idea was that you could target Anton but not hit him. So I am showing this guy an on-side head, onside leg shot. I do it with a teardrop return (easy) and then I try it with an overhead return. The bounce off the polearm plus me pulling the sword back bounced it right into my forehead with a  loud “CLOCK!” I knew right away that I had a concussion. I can’t ever remember having a concussion before—at least not like this: maybe when the log got dropped on my head. I was a bit queasy in the stomach, a bit woozy. I couldn’t focus my thoughts. My head felt big. Nothing was severe—no headaches, I wasn’t really nauseous, I just felt odd. The next day I definitely had symptoms—queasiness, headache, etc. That was Friday. On Saturday I was leaving for Bermuda. I had some symptoms on Saturday as well but by Sunday (our beach day) everything felt fine. No symptoms—no headaches, no nausea, no dizziness--Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. Went to my doctor today and she gave me a clean bill of health  (today I do have a slight headache, but that is from the weather change and the fact that I am on a liquid diet to lose the weight I gained in Bermuda).

Anyway, what it means is a crimp in my training schedule.

Everything feels great with my elbow. My Achilles is still thick but it will be for months. Lots of walking or biking puts a strain on it, but nothing big. I am doing my exercises and they appear to be working.

I rode 55.55 miles (though that included 6.4 miles on a stationary bike at the gym). I did an excellent barbell workout on Monday and a 40 minute yoga class on Tuesday, but took it easy after my concussion. I did walk a lot on Saturday in Bermuda. This week’s workouts (it’s now Wednesday) have been good. I worked out at the hotel gym on Sunday then went snorkeling. I biked fifteen miles yesterday and worked out on the par course at Coney Island for half an hour. I will certainly make my gym and probably my cycling goals for the week.    

Was almost non-existent. I did not make it to Nutley on Wednesday. I got some helmet time in on Thursday but all I did was fight Zorikh a few times and Anton once or twice before my tragic pell accident. Still, it counts as fighting. However, although my doctor gave me the go ahead to start practicing again, I will not be practicing this week or fighting at Cloisters this weekend (too bad—I love the Cloisters demo) just to be safe.   

It is 32 days until Crown Tourney. The next time I will be in armor will be either next Wednesday at Nutley or next Thursday at McCarren Park. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Four Tourneys, and investiture, and a practice

A beautiful Sunday morning here in Brooklyn, and yesterday was an awesome day for a tournament. It was a bit of a drive--we spent more time in the car than we did at the tourney, which is a violation of somebody's rule. But it was pretty awesome on top of a difficult week. I was sick, and struggled just to get to work let alone to work out.

Fell mostly by the wayside as I spent most of time at home asleep in bed. I did not miss any work but that is because I only work for 1 hour and 15 minutes on Thursdays (officially--it is my one class and I can and did put off grading). I should not have tried to fight on Thursday, but I am an idiot.

I did not work out at the gym all week, but I did log 49.62 miles on my bike, which I am calling 50 just because.

Because I was sick, I wasn't practicing anything in particular at practice. I was just having fun. I fought a couple of polearm fights, a few sword and shield fights and some ax and broadsword (yes, I said that). At the tournament I was just fighting. At the tourney I was just fighting, and trying to do so without a plan. When I had a plan I got killed.


Practice, while small, was the best practice we have had at McCarren Park this year. There was me, Landon, Ervald, Anton, and the new guy Damiem in armor. I also had four other guys, including Sandro and Adrenalin Rob, for the unarmored class. I almost didn't go. Then I almost didn't get into armor. I felt miserable. But when the adrenaline kicked in from fighting I felt great, so I'm glad I fought.

Class went well. I discussed mace exercises with them, showing how you can do them with a basket-hilted broadsword. Then we reviewed our distance exercises. I taught them the first part of my kata. Finally, I showed them the Asgard school sword-blocks, and we did the drills for those.

Landon and Anton were in armor by then. I got dressed and went out to fight them. I did several passes with Landon with sword and shield. As before, he was fast, had a squirrelly defense, and hit hard, but I was used to his tells by this time. I think the only time he beat me was when I took his arm and we fought single-sword. I showed him the old Martin the Temperate leg shot, which, coming from CAID, amazed him. I had to stop to fix my shield edging.

I went and got a pole-arm and fought with that for awhile. I fought a few fights against Landon and one against Anton and I lost them all. I was trying to stay very basic against Anton, who was using a pole as well, but it got me thrust in the face with a beautiful thrust, one that ran along the shaft of my glaive just above the gauntlet.

After that I let the new kid use my shield and I went and got the ax, which I had thrown into my kit as an after thought. I had a LOT of fun. I started out using it as a florentine style, trying to set up a leg-head combo, but that didn't really work. after that, and losing my leg, I choked up on the shaft and just used it as a blocking stick. I had a mind that if an opportunity came I would punch somebody in the face with the blade, but it never did. We were running a bear pit at that point and Landon kept beating everybody, including me. But late in the game I got him with the same thing I had been winning with all night, a cut from 5. Then I killed Damien with a wrap. My best fight of the night was probably my fight against Ervald. He had his glaive, so I expected some sort of attack at my leg. Instead he attacked my head. I blocked it with my sword, transfered the ax to the shaft to pin it, then stepped right and short-sticked him. That was a great moment.

Four Tourneys and an Investiture was a tournament in Bergantal (Western Mass.) on Saturday. They were scheduled to have the Crestfallen tournament (knocking the crests of of people's helms), Gryfith's Ducal challenge, Gregor's Ducal challenge, Kelson's Ducal Challenge, and the Bergental championship--which is actually five tournaments, but apparently nobody counted ahead of time. However, the Crestfallen Tourney did not happen due to a lack of entries, so it was four after all.

I fought in the three tourneys I was eligible for, which might have been a mistake. See, I was still sick, and because I was fighting I missed the day-board. All I had to eat prior to the tourneys was a McDonald's smoothie and a sausage burrito. I was a bit lacking on calories and by the end of the day I was feeling kind of faint. No--I was feeling faint. I spent four hours in armor, nearly all of that fighting. Once the adrenaline wore off I crashed completely. We went to a near by sports bar for bar food (lots of calories) and I could not believe how wasted I felt before eating and how good I felt afterward. I know better: always eat before you fight!

The tourneys were pretty awesome and apparently my training has been doing some good. Gryfith's tourney was fairly close to a crown but without this crown's weapon restrictions. There were about 32, four pools with two people advancing out of each pool to a double-elim list of eight. I swept my pool, which surprised me. My best fight was with Brennan, the current King's champion. He took my leg and then kept trying an off-side molinee to my shoulder, but he was over extending each time. I blocked it a few times with my sword and then realized that if I blocked it with my shield I could kill him with a simple off-side head shot, which worked.

In the double-elim list I fought Wolfhir, Brennan again, and then Duke Brion in the semi-finals. Wolfhir was fighting sword and spear and I caught him with a face thrust after much posing. Brennan again took my leg and I defended well. I finally got his leg then killed him right away with a hook-thrust. I had two chances to beat Brion and could not do it, but I fought him very well in our second fight. In our first fight I had a plan (bad idea). I tried an off-side leg fake-on-side head shot that I stole from his former squire Duke Sean. I nailed me with a counter off-side as soon as I threw it. Later I asked him if he knew what I was throwing or if he triggered off my hand crossing my face. He said it was the latter, that that is one of the things he always looks for and triggers off of. In our second fight I played a strong range game and threw a lot of interesting stuff. We had some good exchanges. He gave me an opportunity to talk him to death when I hit him with my hesitation wrap, but I refused to take it. It was a beautiful shot: I had seen the opening and thrown the blow (a double-pump dropping wraparound). It hit but needed to be about two more inches down on the stick. He killed me with sich a beautiful blow I am still trying to figure it out. It was like he rotated his sword at the forte off the top of my shield.

Duke Kelson's challenge was Sword and buckler, a game I love to play. Once again it was pool play, but this time leading to a single elimination knock-out round. I have three setups for sword and buckler. I either set up in a weak high closed form, a la Duke Hauoc (sword ffoot forward), or I fight a straight Bellatrix  style. The other thing I sometimes do is use the first guard from I.33, but that rarely works. In the first setup I am trying to draw a leg shot and then countering with a straight-down off side to the shoulder or head (very effective with a small shield). With the Bellatrix setup I am just trying to use classic Bellatrix technique. Both were effective. As usual, the I.33 setup got me killed.

Gregor's challenge was a Robin Hood at the bridge game. We had a tarp representing water, a board representing a log, and two pieces of rattan which represented quarter staffs. We could not thrust and we had to hold the stick in the middle. Victory was attained by crossing the bridge. You could defeat your opponent by striking him three times, pushing him into the water, pushing him backward off the bridge or just leaping past and gaining the other side (which I almost did one, but my hell caught the tarp). I mostly got the snot beat out of me. I won one fight by pushing someone into the water. I won another by using the staff like a long sword and hitting my opponent in the head three quick blows. The third fight I won was a total accident. I was being pushed, lost my balance, and I spun around on my back (right) foot 360 degrees. My opponent went flying off the bridge and into the water. Everybody was all "Wow! Valgard! great spin move!" and I was like "total fluke!"  I did not advance to the finals in that one.

However, I ended up in a 3 way tie for second in my buckler pool with the two people who beat me. After we finished our Robin Hood pool we had to fight it out to see who advanced to the buckler finals. At that point I stopped trying to channel Hauoc or Paul and started to channel Radnor. I won both those fights. In the knock -out round (which was eight people single elimination) I fought Sir Cedric and killed him with Radnor's high off side fake/leg fake/tear-drop return/snap, which was once my money shot in the land of small shields and few sword blocks. It worked like a charm. Then I got to fight Steffan Von Dresden, the best fighter in the SCA. I usually do ok against him sword and buckler because I practice it more than he does, but not so much yesterday. My focus was gone. His energy won the fight before we even started. He had me back on my heels at the lay on, before we were even in range. I tried a molinee leg shot that sometimes works on him and the best I can say is that it didn't get me killed. He nailed me a few blows later with a shot so hard it felt like he'd hit me with the basket hilt.

It was on the whole a great day. If I hadn't had a cold I might have lasted a bit longer against Von Dresden. If I had stuck that wrap on Brion I would have gone to the finals (incidentally, he won both the buckler and the regular tourneys--Cullyn won the Robin Hood tourney). I am not ready for Crown, but I was surprised how well I fought. I was watching Sagan's lecture on training versus practice Friday night, and his axiom that you judge yourself always against the people you want to compete with was strong in my head. By that rubric I am almost where I need to be. I advanced to the semi-finals in two of the three torunaments and I very nearly killed Duke Brion. But close is not there, and I would have really liked to have gotten into the finals against Marcus (who was terribly disappointed at coming in second in a tournament again--though Crown is kind of set up for him to win)  

It is 42 days until Crown. The next time I will be in armor will most likely be at Nutley practice this Wednesday. If not there then in McCarren Park on Thursday.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Barleycorn and other issues

I love the Feast of John Barleycorn. I always have fun there. It was the first Easterne vent I attended. The feast is good and the parties great. There was not enough fighting this weekend, partially due to numbers (there was another unbelted event against it in the southern region), and partially due to weather. Apparently, the sky was falling. I think next year we should try to hold the Roses tournament again. That was a blast. We would just need to schedule it better. As for me and my week, well, it almost killed me.

The intensity of the week caused a slight relapse in my tennis elbow. Not anything major, but enough so that it worried me on Saturday--so much so that I fought very little and only witha  great sword (though it did occur to me that it was from a blow while fighting great sword that I developed Tennis elbow in the first place). I have also gone back to using the soup can exercises for my elbow. They are basically the same exercises as done with the Indian club, but there is something about the position of the hand--ipen instead of closed--that makes them feel a little stronger and effective (NOTHING beats Indian Clubs for shoulders, however). The flex bar is still the most important.

I kind of failed on my workouts, but that was because I couldn't' fit all of them in. I only did one gym workout, but that was because I fought twice and went hunting on Monday (and believe me, traipsing around the woods for four hours with a shotgun is exhausting!). I got 52.7 miles, but all in two days. That wrecked me! What wrecked me even more was the intense WOD I did on Tuesday. It was 100 thrusters (squat down with the barbell on you chest, stand up into a shoulder press). The suggested weight was 95 pounds. That is close to my max, so I went with 65 pounds. I did a set of 25 then sets of 10. I stopped at 62 and then lowered the weight to 45 pounds. For the rest of the week my thighs were on fire and my shoulders didn't recover till today. I did no pell work at all, so I am 500 strikes behind my goal.

I fought twice, at Nutley and at Barleycorn. At Nutley I was trying to use distance and, when closing, use Paul's single-hip or tear-drop return techniques--getting back to basics. I fought with long sword at Barleycorn and, instead of techniques, was working on four different styles--Duke Gregor's high-center form, Gui's horse-stance form, Paul's high guard and closing technique, and Marc d'Arundel's Fiore based technique. Most of this was against sword and shield fighters, but I did fight a few passes agaisnt a great swrod and two against a pole arm.

Gregor's style is very basic. It is kind of a standard SCA great sword but held higher. The ricasso is right in front of your vision. It uses a push-pull technique for power and basically just attacks the upper quarters--straight down for the head, fendente toward the shoulders (which isn't really a fendente, but bear with me). It uses lateral movement to open up angles.

Gui's horse stance is a tricky maneuver against other greatswords. You stand in a horse stance with the sword held low around your groin and pointing straight up, trying not to feel ironic about it. The cross hilt is held across, that is, the edges of the blade are toward your right and left, not toward you and your opponent. This style employs downward cuts with either edge, so you are essentially the false edge for on-side cuts and the true edge for off-side cuts. It is the safest way to take someone's leg with a great sword. You block with the true edge and rotate the false edge down to the leg, basically staying covered the whole time.

Paul's style uses two stances--A high open guard, left leg forward, and a long-point guard with the right leg forward. Most of Paul's blocks are hanging guards off of strikes (if someone strikes at him before he has struck he just steps out of the way). He closes with shield men, which is how I learned to do it, putting his shoulder against their shield and striking around it with the false edge. Mostly it gets me killed.

Marc's style is developed out of Paul's but also out of Fiore di Liberi. He has several stances but whenever I fight him he always starts in long-point. It involves lateral movement, striking only when passing (and usually to the side you passed on). As with my own single handed-sword style, and Paul's great sword, the best possible set up is to be able to block with the window parry (or the Queen's guard in some systems) pass on the left and strike on the left.

I fought only four opponents at Nutley: Steffanos, Gregor, Seichel, and Vasilly (a very eastern flavor to my opponents). I used Paul's techniques only intermittently and the rest of the time used an A frame defense. I was pretty tight.

There were three thigns of note. I was winning most of my fights except against Gregor. He said I had fought him better but I had definitely fought him worse. Like Ice he said that when I got aggressive my fighting improved. That is understandable, since offense and agression have always been my game, but disappointing since I have been trying to go to a more defensive, counter-punching style. As he put it, however, "when you were being passive I just stood there and waited for you to essentially put your face on my sword." Like Paul I need to fire into his sword to tie it up and close. That brings up Vasilli's comment. He said I was fighting him inside and more aggressively than he was used to. This was after I had talked with Gregor, so that is also understandable. He has developed a nasty little slot shot, much like Houghton or Edward Ian Anderson back in the day, and got me right on the nipple with it once.

Barleycorn, as I said, was about the great sword. This was both to rest my shoulders and elbow, and to give me a little practice for crown. Also, I was possibly going to take the train back to the city, and the greatsword is easier to carry than sword and shield. I fought six opponents, four sword and shield fighters, a great-sword fighter and a pole arm. I got the better of the great sword fighter (Ervald) and the polearm. I killed each of the sword and shield fighters at least once. I found that Paul's inside techniques were getting me slaughtered but I got one person with a wavy-rising snap from his high-guard. I did a lot of running backwards when I was using Marc's technique, but I killed Everet with a thrust to the elbow as he advanced after I had missed a shot (every technique ends in long point: Liechtenaur). I tried to use Vitus' back edge technique, where you take Paul's high guard and, instead of throwing a snap, pass forward and strike with the false-edge over the shield, giving you a better angle. I couldn't get it to work. I only used Gregor's and Gui's techniques against Ervald, but both were effective. I was also sneaky on Ervald--I put my hands together at the pommel to increase my range and took his arm when he thought he was safe. Against the pole arm fighter I executed a beautiful pass off a window parry and reverso fendente. That made my day.

All in all I got the crap beaten out of me.

There are 26 (correction: 48) days until Crown Tournament. My next time in armor will be McCarren Park on Thursday. I plan to fight this weekend at Four Tourneys and an Investiture in Bergantal.

Ooops. Blog form 9/1/12

So believe it or not, I accidentally posted last week's post to another blog. Oops.  Here is my blog from 9/1

It has been an intense week. First week of the semester. The weather has been great and I got 50 miles in by Wednesday (Gui pointed out the he used to do 50 miles before work. Bastard). But it was hard to get my workouts in especially with the gym at school not open yet.

I was lax in my elbow rehab. I only got it in twice. I felt it. I felt my Achilles to. For weeks it had been feeling good but after two weeks of 50 miles on the bike it was aching a bit.

I ended up riding in the first part of the week and working out the second. I had great rides and great workouts. I had a great yoga class on Monday. Friday I did an awesome WOD, maxing out on back squats, shoulder presses, and dead lifts. (235, 115, and 245 lbs.) today I did an hour long, very intense Indian clubs and kettle bells workout. In order to get in my 500 strikes on the pell I had to do 250 twice.

The only thing I wanted to work on this week was single hip techniques. Never got the chance.

Thursday night practice we had four new guys in class. I gave them some distance drills. We did the advancing and retreating drill where they tried to keep out of range. Then we did some closing drills and slow work.

There were only three fighters in armor: me, Gui, and Landon, the new guy from Lochac via CAID. He is awesome. He fights like an Orkney, or as he was quick to point out like the old Orkneys who are now Myrmidons. He is Corvis and fights with a center grip oval, he is squirrelly and hits hard. I won most of our fights but was forced out of my game to do it. I did not get a chance to fight Gui because he hurt his wrist.

Good practice.

My next time in armor will be Wednesday at Nutley. I will be fighting at Barleycorn. It is 56 days until crown.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Arrows and Ales and Helmet Time--More thoughts on how to run a class

Having established my training goals, which I was supposed to begin enxt week, I kind of got a jump on them, which feels pretty good. I am still missing Pennsic a lot, but my body has recovered and is now ready for the increased workload I’m going to put on it. I still need to drag my pell out, however.

My rehab is going fine. I have kind of reached an equilibrium. I do it regularly but I miss days now and then. My elbow feels good at rest. My Achiles has been very good recently, but I am feeling the increased workload from cycling (see below). My shoulder is the same as always—use it for awhile and it will hurt, but a lot more if I skip my rehab.

I was resting my body. All I did this past week was ride my bicycle and go on a couple of walks. I shot sporting clays on Thursday, which is a pretty good workout. The walk is long, it was hot, it takes 2 hours to go 2.5 miles, you are carrying a shotgun the whole time and your shoulder takes a pounding. Counting that walk, with the rest of it on my bicycle, I logged just over 50 miles last week, which I did not think I would do.

The technique I am working on right now is Duke Paul’s Single Hip Return. ( I am still working on a few things. In the videos on this page he does not do the pulling down motion of the start of the return that he has been teaching. I need to talk to him about this. I was teaching this technique this weekend (see below) and, while what I was doing will work and was how Paul had been demonstrating the technique recently, I want to make sure I am teaching it correctly (I know what I am teaching will work for me). Basically, it is a variation of the standard second blow off an onside blow which, instead of driving the sword-side hip forward gets its power form pulling the sword side hip back. Paul’s variation is in increasing the velocity of the sword by shortening the arc that it describes. 

An Dubaghin was holding their “arrows and ales ” event at the Unitarian Church in Huntington on Saturday. Gui has been going out there recently to establish a rapport with both the barony and with the two large fighting units out there, Three Skulls and Sutr’s Brood, neither of which have knights in them. Saturday I went with him. We hung out most of the day and then got into armor around 2:30 or 3:00. I was running the class. I did not get a whole lot of fighting in, but this was not about me it was about the unbelted fighters out there, so the little bit of helmet time was welcome.

The post-Pennsic gremlins were in full force. I had unpacked, washed, and then re-packed my armor into a different bag. Not only did I forget my belt but I forgot my shield. I borrowed a belt. 

We started with free-sparing. I used to fight with just a five-inch rondel as a shield—not even really a buckler— and I had my greatsword with me, so the lack of shield didn’t bother me, but I was supposed to be teaching sword and shield. I went out and warmed up with Stick, a big strong leftie from Three Skulls, just using my Torvaldr gauntlet for a shield. That was fun! Later I borrowed a shield and had a set of fights with Antonius.

After that I lined them up in two ranks, both the armored and the unarmored students, and we did some technique instruction. I taught them three foundational Bellatrix techniques—the snap (which none of them had ever had explained to them) the tear-drop return and the single hip return. I went over them in detail, watched each of them closely as they performed the techniques, and gave them some pointers. Then I paired them off so they could do them in slow-work with an opponent.

After that they put helmets on and did armored drills. There were four fighters in armor at that point. I had each of them fight each of the others as though it were a crown final. Then two more fighters joined us. I had each fighter hold the field as a defender using Paul’s offense/defense drill, in which the patient agent (defender) is given three blows to throw (in this case on-side head, off-side head, and on-side leg) while the agent (attacker) is told to keep up a hard continuous attack. The encounter is over when the patient agent has thrown his three blows. They really liked this drill.

After that they broke up for some free sparing. Because there were so many lefties, and they were not that experienced, they were having real trouble finding areas to attack and they were getting sloppy. I put on my helmet and a left handed shield to teach them about hooks and magic buttons.

The baroness was so happy that two knights  had come out to the island to train her fighters that she called us into court to thank us and gave us some bruise balm. (Long Island is one of the most isolated parts of the kingdom, believe it or not, because NOBODY wants to have to drive through New York City to get there).

So all in all a good week. I actually got some helmet time and I logged 50 miles. I am already ahead of the game.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ok, back on the horse!!

I have recovered from Pennsic and a really hard (too hard) clubs and bells workout last week. All I’m doing right now is biking and stretching. I skipped Yoga on Monday but, like Woody Allen in “Love and Death” I practice a lot when I’m alone. It is now, however, time to get back on that horse. My achiles has healed to the point where I can fight. My elbow has healed to the point that it really didn’t bother me at Pennsic. Yes I need to rebuild confidence in my body as well as rebuilding my body. But it is time to train.

Crown is on October 27th (early) which doesn’t leave much time. I will say up front that I am considering skipping it, something I rarely do. It is in Maine, near Bangor, which is either a long drive or another expensive flight. Plus I’m not so keen on the format. There will be eight pools instead of four, with only two people advancing from each pool. That doesn’t bode well for me, because I usually have at least two brain farts in the early rounds of tourneys and loose fights I should win, hence the reason I like pool play. On the other hand, the pools have no weapons restrictions on them. The later rounds have some pretty complicated ones, and I am only a barely adequate great weapons fighter, so it doesn’t favor me. On the other hand, I live to fight in Crown, and if it wasn’t so far into Maine I wouldn’t think twice.

All that being said I am training as though I plan to win the thing. My training goals are:
  • ·         There are just over nine weeks until crown tourney. In that time I want to be in armor twelve times. That works out to a minimum of seven Thursday night practices, three Nutley practices, the Cloisters demo, and Barleycorn. Ideally I will be in armor more than that.

  • ·         Counting Yoga on Mondays, I need to get at least three resistance/endurance workouts per week. That equals 27. Of those at least 9 should be WODs, 9 yoga classes, and 9 other workouts (these can be weights, cables, bells and clubs, triple threats, or more WODs).

  • ·         There is a long unused pell in the courtyard downstairs. One of my neighbors always complained when I used it. I should be on the pell five days a week, which would equal 45 days. That means I should strike the pell at least 4,500 times between now and then, but lets set the goal at an even 5,000 strikes (not more—when I was hitting the pell 1,000 times a day was when I developed bursitis).

  • ·         This one is actually the toughest: if I make 50 miles a week on my bike (which is not easy for me) that will be 450 miles between now and Crown. That is a lot. I will include miles in the gym on stationary equipment (the weather is going to change after all).

This is a tough schedule. Remember, the last week I will be training down, and not doing as much in the way of workouts or riding, so I will need to pack a bit extra into the earlier weeks. The other part of this is that I need to have a couple of fights each week with long sword, with glaive, with two-weapon, and with dane ax. Since Gui is great with the dane ax and the long sword, those will be easy to come by. I’m hoping to get a a couple of workouts with Ron and a couple with Andre (probably down in Philly) as part of my totals. I would love to get up to the Knights Hall, but that is probably out of the question unless it is on  a weekend, and some of my weekends will be taken up with hunting.  Oh yeah, there is one more thing: I’m going to Bermuda for four days. I can do my weight workouts while I am there but not much else. Pell work is probably right out.

Speaking of training, Sir Alexander de Hautville holds fighter practices after which he leads a power lifting session for an hour. That is very hard core. I’m a spindly little weakling next to him, so this is a bit intimidating. Being out of the Belatrix school, I don’t actually believe lifting is necessary to make someone a good fighter. I do it mostly for the endurance not for strength or speed, but I admit that it helps me if my technique is poor or I want to do something unorthodox. But what  do you think? Paul is very clear on this: if you are using proper technique, a 120 pound 5’ tall fighter should be able to kill anybody. Technique renders strength moot. Do you agree?

There are sixty-six days until Crown Tourney.   

Sunday, August 12, 2012


So I had a great Pennsic. I was there for two weeks. There is a lot to talk about, so the format for this post will be a bit different. So much happened that I don't know where to start or what order to put things on, so I guess it will be stream of consciousness.


Ajax's knighting was the highlight of the event for a lot of people. He is one of the most popular of the regular cast of SCA characters. His story, of how he was offered the belt, did something stupid, had the offer rescinded, and then hd to wait 19 years and live in three other kingdoms before the offer was made again, is well known. It was a magnificent ceremony, with a neat Greek oath and lots of emotion. He had several spokespeople. It was the first polyamorous knighting ceremony I can recall, as both his wife and his girlfriend escorted him in and put his belt on him. I loved It because I have been advocating for him since he started
doing well in the West. But it meant something more to me: it was the first time that all of my peeps, my Western peers and my Eastern peers, got together for something like a knighting. I love both my kingdoms, my old home and my new one. Thanks to Ajax, Sig, Gui, myself, Andre, Titus, Lucan, Jade, Uther, Roger, and Omega, there is a very strong friendship right now between the Western and Eastern knights. I like that.

I don't know that mixing the sides up did anything, really. I found that we and the Midrealm would shake hands and line up next to each other, but we didn't really bond the way we always seem to with the Atlantians or the Aethelmarcans. That intense rivalry leads to intense fighting, and I missed that. I heard people complaining after the belted and unbelted champions battles that it just wasn't as much fun or nearly so intense. That was my impression as well. The Midrealm and East live and breath for Pennsic. I always find the comradery before the champions battles to be one of he most fulfilling feelings of the war. The mid feels the same. But for the rest, it is just a vacation. It is not the same. Rivalries are a good thing. I miss it.

Was kind of nasty. I heard complaints on our side about the Tuchux and from the other side about VDK. I am not sure it was tougher than in previous years, in fact I think it was less so. But I did get wrapped from behind in one battle and I did get blindsided and cross-checked over the hay bales once. It was shield on body but it didn't occur to me that it was illegal till about a day later. I didn't really care. My experience was unique because...

The marshals were being weenies. Not all of them, but a lot. They were extremely zealous. I know somebody who was dragged to marshals court for pushing a Tuchuk off the bridge in a completely legal move. It took about 15 seconds to clear him. The marshal who dragged him in was not even a heavy marshal. It was crazy.

I got to present a banner to Duke Finnvar to commemorate his retirement from fighting. He is the only person to have been king of both the Midrealm and the East at Pennsic (he was king of the East at Pennsic 2 and of the mid at Pennsic 6). More impressively, until Monday, he had fought in every battle at every Pennsic. He received a huge ovation, and the kings cried.

Was so long ago I barely remember it. I hear we won. I thought it was a silly scenario. The few Ostgardr fighters teamed up with Silverlance, which got us a lot of action. I fought it with sword a shield and had a blast. It was awesome. I was slaying mightily.

I fought with spear for all but one of the five. I liked the way we did it, with five battles with 15 minute time limits. We switched bridges every fight and so we got to fight different units each time. At first my spear work sucked but it picked up by the end. One fight I took out Richard Blackmore's 5 foot pole arm thinking to direct traffic, but I did get a kill with it.

I got picked for the combined champions battle, the scenario they usually use for the allied battle, a one hour game of capture the flag with resurrections every three minutes. I used sword and shield. This was the battle I got blindsided in. I fought the whole battle and didn't sub out once. We lost, but I killed a bunch.

I skipped it. Injury control was my main goal this Pennsic, and I didn't want to stress my Archie's that much.

I live for the Pennsic field battle. It is my favorite SCA war activity. I took my poleax out. It was awesome. I did have some trouble getting people to take shots from the rubber ax head.

I assisted Paul in his basics class and learned a lot of stuff I was doing wrong. I don't really use his single hip technique, but I learned more about it and have been playing with it. It also sets up Paul's version of the off side body. Check it out at

The Mooselodge allowed their tourney to be used as a fund raiser for Wanda and Ashley. We raised $396. I was a wreck for the rest of the war.

Are you kidding me? What happens at Pennsic stays at Pennsic.:)

It was the best Pennsic ever!