Sunday, May 13, 2012
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).