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 www.mapmyfitness.com.. 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.