Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back in armor!

Ah! The soft sting of rattan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel awesome!

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