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.