Thursday, May 31, 2012

War of the Roses, plus extras

REHAB My rehab was going well. Elbow feels great, but it has been stiffening up at inopportune times. Indian clubs are doing very positive things, but I think I’m going to have to go see the doctor this week. I want to get an referral to a sports medicine specialist. WORKOUTS Workouts were great last week. Counting cycling, the gym, hunting and fighting (both of which have entries on my workout ap), I worked out six days last week, logged 22 miles (admittedly that was all in one day on the bicycle), and burned about 4,700 calories. That feels good. FIGHTING Speaking of fighting, I went to War of the Roses this weekend. I had a lot of fun, but I did not live up to the standards that I have set for myself. Every time I go on the field I ask for the strength to fight honorably and well. I am confident in my honor over the weekend, it’s the fighting well part I fell down on. I have lots of excuses why I didn’t do well, but to whine doth seem most unknightly. I’ll just go over the day. My elbow was tight all weekend long, and I was worried about it a bit, so I wore my splint arms with the steel elbows, which I rarely do. I was glad for it when I had my arms taken on Sunday. Nonetheless, my elbow was bothering me and affected how I was fighting in numerous ways. I decided to fight in the great-weapon tourney. I’m glad I did, because Master Feral was razzing me about how bad my polearm fighting is, and I certainly need the work. I used both glaive and nodachi. I’m much more comfortable with the nodachi. I warmed up against Avran, a few fights with each, and won most of those. My first round fight I drew an inexperienced glaive fighter. I took his leg and then used technique I usually use with great sword—attack the off-side (his right), wind, and hit him in the face. Worked like a charm. My second fight was against Cullyn, the best glaive fighter in the lists. We went round and round for awhile. We’ve got some experience fighting one another. Most of it was posing. Every time I tried something—switched my grip, changed my stance, just prepared for an attack—he stepped back, adopted a counter, and waited. It was one of those Yoda like fights, and it felt good. We had two good exchanges, then he got inside my guard and hit me. My third fight I took out the nodachi. That was fun. After a couple of passes shortened my grip (brought my hands together to increase my range) and took my opponent’s arm. Then I killed him with a blow to the head. I usually like two handed sword versus glaive, but I tried that in my fourth fight and it was a disaster. I never swung a blow. My blocks were not strong enough and on his second cut he powered through my block and killed me. That was just rust, but it sucked. I fought in the open field battles for Lancaster. I had a great time, even though we were on the losing side each time. I got a couple of good kills in. We tried an envelopment the first battle and two refuses after that. We stayed alive a long time in the third battle but got hit from behind by another unit. After that I marshaled the rest of the day, dropping out because I was concerned about my elbow. Sunday I fought in the double elimination prize tournament. I warmed up with Evalder and felt ok. My first round fight was against Terion (sp) the brand new OTC. This was the fight where I really let myself down. I felt stupid, worse than I had in my last polearm fight the day before. All he had, really, was a fast off-side face shot, the same thing Thorsen throws at me. He missed with it once. I attacked, he hit me with it twice really fast, and I fell down feeling like an idiot. I have the counter for that, but my mind was not in the right place and my arms felt slow and I was just not focused. It was embarrassing. My second round fight I one-shotted my opponent with a butterfly, wrist locked a la Radnor. My third round fight I fought a great-sword fighter. That was no-nonsense. I jumped in, took his leg, kept my position, and just pummeled him till I got a shot into his body. My fourth round fight was against Teron (sp), a big tall OTC from VDK whom I have fought in tourneys a few times. I was being too cautious. He was hunting my arm. We went a long time with several good passes. I missed him with the one hook-thrust I threw. Finally he got my sword arm as I was throwing a slot-shot. With my off hand I had two good passes against him but he hit me in that arm too and I fell over. That fight was not as embarrassing as the first round. I also fought Evalder in a bye fight. He won that after taking my leg. I did some pickups. Some days your mind is just not in the right place. I am particularly susceptible to this. I will either be too tense or too relaxed. I will start worrying about my calibration. I will start to get frustrated. When I do this I start doing silly things, either trying weird shots, showboating, or just thinking too much about one aspect of the fight, and I get hit. That is kind of what was happening on Sunday. Mostly, I was thinking about my elbow, but I was also just not in the moment the way I should have been. Annoying. I didn’t learn anything new, but I was reminded of how I need to warm up with at least three guys before a tournament, how vital focus is, and to keep my shield in line with my opponent’s sword. Grrr. NEWS Mari Alexander was victorious in Cynagua Coronet, becoming one of the few princesses in her own right. Good news. I miss Cynagua. VIDEO! I found the video of the end of my 13 minute fight with Jabril from Crown. It shows the Lucky spin I threw to take his arm, then how he beat me with one hand behind his back. It was a great fight. You can see a lot of things. I'm getting tired. I telegraphed the spin but he didn't catch it. You can see me psyche myself out after I take his arm. Best (or worst) of all you can see how, when we come on guard, I relax and he triggers off it and throws an off-side head which, looking at the video, I probably should have taken. I thought it hit a bit farther back. It did not have much power on it, but it looks like it’s in the eyes. Thinking about that shot—either being scared by it, or worrying that I should have taken it—is what got me killed two blows later. I went berserk for a split second, jumped in and let Jabril cut my head off (he hit me in the side of the neck). Hind sight is a bad thing in fighting, so I won't say good or bad about the ending, but I will say it was one of the more fun and awesome fights I've been in in a while.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kicking it up a notch

I'm feeling pretty good. This blog now has over 20,000 page views. REHAB The hardest part of rehab is remembering to do the exercises every day. I manage about five days out of seven, which is pretty good. There was a slight set-back this weekend due to a blow to my elbow (see below). Adding my shoulder rehab in has helped my elbow as well. I need to get back to using the flex bar. WORKOUTS I am kicking it up a notch for the summer. Last holiday season I decided for the first time since I went on a low-carb diet to go ahead and, not pig out, but eat what I wanted to eat. Christmas cookies. Cakes. Ice cream. A spoon full of rice with the Chinese dinner Hanna's family does on Boxing Day. I gained ten pounds and have been struggling with it ever sense. I'm staying in between 217 and 224, and I want to be around 210 (I really want to be back down to 205, but I haven't been there for awhile). Physical activity helps--the last big weight drop I had was when I started working at Paragon and they gave me five shifts a week. So, while Crown is past and war season is upon us, I am actually ramping my training up. The training for the mud run is going well. I worked out six days in a row last week. I don't know when the last time I did that was. Because of my Achilles, I am not doing the training program published on the website, but then we are not quite five-weeks out yet. I am working on endurance with my bicycle as opposed to running. Last week I did 30 miles, most of that on the bike. But at least once a week I intend to get out and run 5k with some tough calisthenics and/or obstacles thrown in, and that was Friday. The prospect Park Loop is just about 5k and has a long hill right at the end of the first half. In the second half I ran up tot he top of Lookout Hill (which from that side is not as long a climb as when I normally do it). I sought out stairs, benches, stumps to climb over, etc. I also did calisthenics along the way. There is the remnants of a par course near the end, so I did sit ups and bar dips there (I can't do a pull-up to save my life). I walked a few short parts, resting after doing push ups or jumping benches. I finished in about 42 minutes. To take care of my Achiles, I left the 5 fingers at home and ran in my Asics. It helped, but my achiles still started stiffening up half-way through and hurt when I was done with Lookout Hill. But it was a great workout! I also commuted to BMCC one day and did the Coney Island-Sheepshead Bay-home loop. The other days were extended PT sessions. FIGHTING I am still not doing pell work, but I'm considering adding it back in. I am in a good window to start a century drill. Thinking about it. But what I need to do is fight. Not too much. One to two times a week. The only fighting this past week was at the Viking Fest demo in Owl's Head Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday. That was fun and good helmet time, but it wasn't' really good training. Since it was only me and Gui in armor, and since I had just seen Steve Muhlberger/Duke Finvaar give a talk on the Angry Champion, I decided to play it up as a period challenge. I had a herald announce that I ahd taken an oath that I would not quit the field until I had been satisfied with four passes of three counted blows (struck) with three different weapons: the mace and buckler, the great sword, the danish ax, and the sword and shield. One handed weapons were fought to be fought to three blows with the normal SCA targeting, but great weapons were restricted to blows between the quarters. This is great for a demo. It gives it structure and provides for a good show for the audience, and the learn a thing or two about period knightly challenges. We fought with the danish ax first, and I won--which is weird, since that's Gui's best weapon. The great-sword fight we were not thrusting. I decided to use Vom Tag (or really the Posta di Falcone) since I didn't have to worry about a thrust. Gui pretty much masacred me. I scored two blows on him, but it was totally his fight. He also hit me in my bad elbow, which immediately swelled up and got stiff.At that point I just wanted to finish out the challenge. We fought mace and buckler. Gui has these great cavalry maces made with those neat rubber heads Ice sells. When we'd warmed up I was beating him with it. It's a form I used to use a lot, but that was taking his leg. When we were no longer kneeling my advantage went away, and he went in and just creamed my leg. Unfortunately, I was wearing my new gamboised cuises and had forgotten to take my keys out of my pocket. Ouch! The sword and shield fight was pretty much hopeless. I think I tagged him once. But, since it was the viking demo, I was using my viking round shield, and Gui pretty much had my number. It was a lot of fun, but I was glad when it was over and I could ice my elbow. It is feeling all right now, but not 100%. I don't know how much I'm going to fight at Roses. I'm skipping Thursday practice this week. All told it was a great half-hour or so in armor, and it's always good to do a true Knightly challenge. My next time in armor will be at War of the Roses this weekend. It is 66 days till Pennsic. (18 hours, 27 minutes, 39 seconds).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Videos from Eastern Crown

CORRECTION! I found some Videos on YouTube from Eastern Crown. Here are two. The first one is my fight with Edward in the second round. I really thought I'd thrown a hook/thrust at him, but the video shows that I did not. You can see the slot I threw (it's right as he takes my leg, which is where the opening came from). Note how as soon as I change the position of my shield he takes advantage of it and hits me in the hip. The second one is of Edward and Marcus int he final fight. On the far field in this video you can see me in a really tough fight. I was so tired I could barely stand. I think you see the place where we double kill. Eventually I take his leg and step in but he gets me with his but spike in the face (yes, I just typed that....) This one is very instructional. It was long--5 minutes 44 seconds. I never felt threatened in it. This is the fight where I used my old sword and I now recall that it was because my opponent was left handed. The end is interesting. I had almost killed him with a thrust that he was going to take but I asked him not to because it was too high on his helm. However, that gave me the idea to try Duke Edric's foot stomp/thrust (which is just a variation of Rolf's foot-stomp/snap, once my bread-and-butter shot), which worked. What I had been working on over the past year was patience. I was training myself to be more of a counter-puncher and to wait for an opening instead of going on the offensive all the time in my Belatrix-influenced way. However, this fight might indicate that I was being too passive. The blow I killed him on was one of the very few "tricks" I tried to use, and one of the few times I initiated the action. Here is my sword and shield fight with Evalder. Counting double kills, he and I have fought seven fights in the last two crown tourneys. That's a lot. He is very intense. And finally, here is *part* of my fight with Jabril. It was obviously longer than ten minutes, because it this video is ten minutes long, starts in the middle, and ends before I have taken his arm. You can see a lot of stuff in it. There were some shots on both sides that looked good on video. At 2:39 he hits me in the head and seems to think it's good. The shot where I back handed him across the grill looks better on video than it felt at the time. It just shows that video is untrustworthy, because I was happy with the fight and I think he was too. It sure was long and hard, though! You can also see me going through my bag of tricks trying to find one that works, failing, going back to the hook/thrust, failing at that too. I am initiating a lot more action in this one than I was in the earlier fight (which is good). It is pretty cool.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Crown #85

Two inches. Maybe less. That’s the difference between Marcus Blackheart being king and Edward Grey. I’m sorry this blog is a week late. It has been a crazy busy week between finals coming up, contract work, and the 47th Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo (my paper on Franchise went really well). I swore I wouldn't post on Crown till I'd done some more work for Jay Hoffman. The 85th Crown tournament I have fought in was a whole lot of fun. I love Hallifax. I love Ruantallen. I have visited twice (both times for crown) and they treat us really well up there. I got great sea food. They are happy to get anybody from out of the area to visit. It was especially good fighting all the local fighters who came out to fight in crown. And the fighting was wicked fun! Workouts: Prior to Crown I had wound my workouts down. This is often a good idea the week before a tourney. I would have practiced that Sunday a bit but it didn’t work out. I did my PT sessions but the only other workout I had was on Monday, when I ran on the treadmill and then (in a moment of either inspiration or insanity) I did five clean-and-jerks with 115 pounds. Not a lot of weight but about all I can handle right now. The clean and jerk is one of my favorite exercises but I haven’t used it in a couple of years. Like the kettle bell snatch, it is one of the best exercises for total body fitness and for explosive speed. Unfortunately, with my back, I have to be very careful so I don’t do it often enough to get any kind of advantage. This week it was just enough exercise to tone me up. After Monday I did stretches and some shadow fighting (very light) but nothing more. Fighting Obviously didn’t fight before the tourney. Crown Tourney Was awesome! I did not reach my goal overall goal (winning) or even my primary goal (semi-finals), and that because of some stupidity on my part. But I did reach my first goal, getting out of the round-robin. Barely. In the end the lack of practice and the angsting I was doing over my sword got to me, but that’s ok. I learned a lot. What felt good was that, after fighting only three times in the previous six months, I was fighting like a mad man. Well, not entirely true. In polearm round I was next to awful. I actually did not know the format before I went up. I figured we’d likely have a round-robin, since that has been popular of late, but I didn’t know for sure. I didn’t hear until I got there that we would be doing great-weapons only in the round robin. Last time we had done that I had gone 6 and 7 and had not made it out of the lists. When I talked to His Majesty Friday night, he said with the small number of fighters that he would be running two pools (we ended up with 11 fighters in each). I thought, ok, eight people advance. I should be able to place in the top eight in a pool that size. Right! Last time we did this I had matched weapons. I had taken a pole I was used to and my own two-handed sword and fought both about as much. I found that, even though two-handed sword was my best weapon I won more fights with the polearm. This time I decided to stick strictly with polearm I had borrowed a nice boar-spear from our hosts, a bit heavy but not too much. I put a butt spike on it and, while I was at it, put a thrusting tip on my light sword. I had been struggling with which sword to use at Western Crown, my light one that puts less stress on my elbow or my longer, heavier one that I win more fights with but aggravates my tennis elbow a lot more. With the thrusting tip on the short light sword I now had all of my offense and my best shot, my hook/thrust, with the lighter sword. I fought a few warm up fights with it and it felt fine. I have a method of fighting in the round robins. I fight the best fighters first when I am freshest and get them out of the way. The three best fighters in my pool were going to be Sir Jan, Marcus, and Evalder. The drawback of this method is that I am likely to get some long difficult fights that wear me out and I won’t have any gas for the hot, young turks I have to fight later. Yep. I challenged Jan first and that was my best fight of the round. He was using great-sword. I managed to take his leg half-way through the fight. I didn’t want to stand out on him and poke, so I stepped in. I tried to get behind his sword to hit him in the head, like I would with a great-sword, but it wasn’t working. Eventually I changed my grip and did a downward chop that got him. (it’s kind of hard to describe). I fought Marcus next and lost. It was a good fight but not a long one. I fought Evalder next. We double killed in the first fight and I lost the second. I don’t recall how. Next (I think it was next) I fought a Loch Leven guy. They are good polearm fighters so he was the fourth guy on my list. He killed me so fast with a thrust to the neck that I can’t even call it a fight. Now I was in trouble. I had beaten the only other knight in my pool but had three losses. I needed some luck and some wins. Worse yet, I was fighting guys I didn’t know, all amped up to fight the knight they’d never met, some of whom fight great-weapon as their primary form, and some of whom were using short bastard swords or katana—the method I always preferred when *I* was a young unbelted fighter going up against knights with glaives. Oops. Plus the polearm fights are *so* much harder than sword and shield. I had the dry heaves after a couple of them (and I was spacing them out well). In the end I won three more fights. I thought I had failed to advance but it turned out to be just enough. Here was the other twist. The round of 16 was being seeded by how you did in the round robin. I came out of the round robin as the 15 seed. The number one seed was Marcus, which meant that I had to fight Edward. Edward is a lot like Hauoc but for one big (very big) difference. He is as tall as King Hauoc, but where Hauoc uses that extremely tiny heater about a foot or so long, Edward uses a kite shield that covers him completely from brow to his knee, and it’s wide too. I had things to try against it, but it’s a tough order (the time I beat him in a tournament, however, I was fighting sword and buckler and used one of Hauoc’s signature moves). Our fight was long and intense. I acquitted myself well. I hit him with a wrap and landed a hook thrust on him, neither of which were hard enough. Eventually he took my leg and then killed me. Kenric described it as “intense”, which is how it felt. He was fighting better than I had ever seen him fight. He was throwing thunder with every blow. He had been training hard since losing in the finals to King Kenrick. It was an awesome fight. I lost. Putting me in the losers bracket, which isn’t such a bad thing. It means that to advance you need to fight two more fights, but that’s not so bad. I fought both the lock-leaven guy and Evalder again, this time sword and shield, and I won both those fights. I fought a couple more guys too. However, I was noticing something. Nobody was taking my hook-thrust. I beat Evalder with a body thrust, I had landed a couple more on him before the one he took. I won with cuts, and maybe one face-thrust, but not the hook/thrust to the body. This was not a problem of a fighter blowing off my shot, it was me not being able to execute it properly. That sword is about 2.5 or three inches shorter than my regular sword, and significantly lighter, and had a brand new thrusting tip on which I had put two disks of foam, thought “that’s not quite legal” and added a third, so it was soft and cushy. All in all it added up to a problem. I had already decided that if I fought Edward again it would be with the loner sword, but I wanted to avoid it otherwise (I did use it in one fight, which I won, and my elbow felt the difference immediately). In the round of six I fought Jabril. We had an epic fight, close to ten minutes long in which neither of us could gain an advantage. I fight Jabril a lot and he knows me well. He also knows my thrust well. I knew how to kill him, but it wasn’t working. I hit him once with a wrap, once with a slot shot to the body, and four times with a hook/thrust. He took none of them. He later said it felt nothing like it usually does, and I could only agree. I never got my face-thrust on target. I should have tried a hook/face-thrust but didn’t. I did try almost everything else. Rising snaps, wavy snaps, butterflies, upsilons, dropping wraps, on and on. He was tight. Finally, as I sometimes do, I reverted to AS 13 and threw a Lucky spin, which took his arm. This is where I should have won the fight. Like a good Easterner I kept my shield but, like a good Westerner, I said to myself “don’t take his leg. It’s too Monty Python and then you’ll have to decide if you want to be two points up on him.” As I was thinking this he skimmed a shot off the bottom part of my helmet—maybe the bar grill, maybe the cheek plate, not very hard anyway, but now I was thinking about my calibration. I decided to try and end it then and there. I pressed him hard. Unfortunately, he’s a two sword fighter and good with his left hand. Much like my fight with Kenrick in the round of six a few years before, I swung, he ducked to his left, I missed, he countered, and I died. He got me right in the neck. A huge round of applause went up. And that was my crown. I was very close to my goal of semi-finals, but once again didn’t get over that hump. That is ok, because I had a great day, a fun day, and I fought really well. It convinced me that I really am good enough to be in the mix for Crown again. It’s l frustrating, but it’s like Dimitri said: when you get into those upper rounds of Crown Tourney you always feel that you lost by just a hair, that if you had done this or that just a little bit better that you would have won that fight. That’s because it’s true. You just barely lost that fight. But it’s also true that the guy who beat you just barely won. At that level everybody is so on and so sharp that the margin of victory is really, really small. I felt the same way when I lost the last two times I went that deep. In the end this tourney proved to me that I’m fighting well and, after a long layoff, I have come back strong. That narrow margin of victory thing was borne out in the final round. Back to that two inches: Marcus was almost the first unbelted king the East has had since Balfar, and that is fitting because he is a lot like Balfar. He is built the same: he looks fat but all that butt gives him strength, and for a big guy he has incredibly fast hands. Jabril says he moves like Yoda: he is slow and creaky when he’s off the field but turns into this Waring blender at the lay on. All day he was awesome. He did to Jabril what I should have done (took his leg after he took his arm). But his fights with Edward were the most amazing. The first fight was sword and shield which was long. He took Edward’s leg, the only person to do so, but then Edward killed him. Their second fight was two sword and that was Edward all over. He was throwing shots from way back—really hard shots, and just overpowered him, which with Marcus is hard to do. The third fight was Greatsword, which I thought Edward would win, but Marcus killed him so fast it was scary. Just a quick double chop to the head, moving a bit to his right on the second shot to open it up (same thing I saw Lucan doing at Battle of the Nations). At that point it looked bad for Edward. Marcus was going t be the favorite in the polearm fight and, indeed, he killed Edward just as quickly with just the same double shot. That left user’s choice. They both took sword and shield. Marcus jumped in hard, swinging fast and pushing Edward back toward the wall of the gym. Edward responded and for a while they were really rocking and rolling. They paused then went right back at it. It was turning into another long fight. Eventually, Marcus took Edward’s leg again. At one point Marcus stepped out, took a breath, and stepped in with a thrust toward Edward’s face. The thrust snaked inside Edward’s shield and struck him on the bottom of the bar grill, rattling his helm a bit and bottoming it out against his gorget. Edward looked confused for a second, the pointed toward his gorget and said “light”. That shot could have gone either way. It had clearly not moved Edward’s head at all, and probably would not have done anything to him had it been a real sword and an open faced helm. It might have nicked that long chin of his, or died on his gorget. But if Marcus had had just a bit more behind it. If he had stepped in two inches deeper with his left foot, if he had rotated his hips just a fraction more, if he had just followed through another inch or so, he would have knocked Edward back and Marcus would be Prince of Tir Mara right now. That is how close the finals were. It was awesome. Both those guys fought so well and so beautifully that it was one of my favorite finals ever in all the crowns I’ve seen. After Crown Since it’ been a week since this actually happened, I should say that I haven’t fought this week but I have worked out. I signed up for a 5K mud run in Brooklyn as a way to focus my training for the next month. On Wednesday I did clubs and bells, on Thursday I did a tabata workout, where I ran for 30 second, did calisthenics for 20 seconds, rested for ten, then repeated. I did this for ten minutes. Friday I did the Workout of the Day (which is a slightly lighter Cross-fit workout). It was 150 squats and 50 knee-to-elbows. Yesterday I went to the dance. Plus I’ve been hiking all over Western Michigan University for the past four days. Travel day today and gym tomorrow. My fighting will pick up too. I’m planning to hit War of the Roses, Royal Armored Championships, and SWRC before Pennsic. My next fighting will be at the Vikingfest demo in Brooklyn this Saturday. (Unfortunately Glen Lynn is the weekend of the mud run).