Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mudthaw, March 2013

Mudthaw is the greatest non-crown tournament I have fought in. That includes Eigils Tourney, Ducal Prize, even Silver Dollar Tourney. Mudthaw is awesome. Part of it is the Chaucer Factor: when spring comes round, the ice melts and the mud begins to thaw men's thoughts turn to the clash of arms. Unless we've traveled to warmer climbs the only big tourney we've seen in three months has been Birka, which is inside. I did not get the count of the number of fighters in the lists but I figured to to be in the 90s. The fighting was great. There are a lot of videos of it here. (unfortunately none of me. I should have had a camera person there, ). 

My elbows are in good shape, my back not so much. I am working hard and feeling good.

It's only been four days since my last post, and I have been intentionally avoiding working out. I waled five miles on Friday--walking to the Brooklyn Public Library and back--but that's it.

I was not working on anything in particular this tourney other than tourney fighting. I was simply trying to fight my best. If anything, I was working on being patient, waiting for my shots, and being tight.

I went seven rounds. I killed every unbelted fighter that I faced. Most of my fights, until I got into the fifth round, were relatively short.

I warmed up with three sets and then rested most of the day. I laid down and closed my eyes in between fights and waiting for the pairings to be announced (as in common in the East, all fights for each field are announced at the beginning of each round). They were using a single tree double elimination, like they use in the West and CAID, instead of the two-tree system they usually use in the East. We started out with six fields then collapsed to four and then two. Their were long waits in the first three rounds.

I used to carry a Meade composition book and journal my fights right away, but since I started keeping this blog I wait a day or two before I am sitting at a computer with both time and energy to write stuff down. It makes remembering my fights a bit harder sometimes, especially when I am in a tourney, but I think I've got all of them.

I ended up with a bye in the first round because there was  a mistake at the lists table and they wrote out two cards for the same fighter, so they scheduled him two fights in the first round. I fought a short lady fighter and killed her quickly. I don't remember her name.

I know in the second round I fought Galfrid but I don't recall how I won.

I fought Stephanno, a knight from Acre in third round, and I know I killed him with a thrust. It was a tough fight. He is really good. (he likes to remind me that when he was sixteen I was the first SCA knight he ever fought, at an Acre War on Long Island).

In the fourth round I fought Mathias, who has given me tough fights before, and who beat me at King's Rattan Champions last summer. I was pretty tight. I fought mostly at range and we traded blows for a long time. I eventually took his arm and then killed him.

My next fight was against Jan Janovich, and that was a frustrating fight for me. I kind of knew what would happen going into it, but I did not stop myself. Jan and I fight fairly close to even. I think I have a slight edge on him most of the time, at least since I've lost weight. He totally kicked my ass in last crown, however. The main things is that fighting Jan can be like fighting a mirror for me. He prefers a sword back Western style, having trained with Ronald for so long, and that's my favorite game. Trouble is, it is not the game  I have been practicing. I decided that if he set up with his sword back, which he did, I was going to fight that way too. Often that is a good idea for me. I have some of my old fakes in that position, which won me a lot of fights back in the day. Sure enough, I opened with a wavy-rising snap and almost killed him. He ducked and I tracked my sword to where he was ducking. I hit him low on the helmet, toward the bottom of the cheek plate, and he did not take the blow which is not too surprising--it lost power when I changed direction and drew it down. I tried a few other things--an upsilon leg shot, a hidden leg shot, but Jan was too slick for that. Eventually I got him with a hook thrust but he hit me in the head at the same time and we double killed. Like I said, we are close to even. After that I tried to tighten it up a bit but he hit me in the leg then worked me till I chased him, coming out from behind my shield, and he killed me. Lesson: don't chase Jan while you are on your knees.

My next fight was against Wilhelm von Ulm, a big, fast, hard hitting knight from Blood Guard who is a perennial Crown contender. This time I fought the fight I had been trying to fight--a defensive counter punching style with a tight high closed-form defense. It was an awesome fight. We were in that chess match mode--move, stop, back to one, throw one blow, re set, block one blow, back out. It was a long fight that gained in intensity as it went on. Eventually I took his leg. I tried a couple of things on him and was working him good when his shield broke. He withdrew from the fight. That is frustrating, because I didn't actually beat him, but I did win the fight, and I was fighting well.

My last fight was against Tzeichel Gaita von Halstern. We practice a lot at Nutley and in tourneys I usually win our fights, but not always. I think I am better than she is, but I was not yesterday. She was on. That was an incredible fight--long, intense, heroic. It was fun. Both uf us were trying to be defensive and fighting at range. We both had thrusts that landed and died because they were too far away, and a few tip shots. I had re-affirmed, as I did last year in a few fights (Brion at 4 Tourneys, Jabril in Spring Crown) two of my best money shots are not working right now. I hit her with both the hook thrust and my stutter-wrap, and did not stick either one. I had failed with both of those earlier in the day as well. Eventually she killed me with an extremely awesome shot. I was moving forward and she popped me in the face with a thrust. It was similar to what Alden had done to me (exactly) a year before in March Crown--got me chasing him then thrusting into my face. This one was actually better. I saw her kill Evaldr with the same shot the next round, and she used it earlier in the list two. It is a lot like my fall away snap, which I learned from Duke Ronald when we were still squire brothers. You move either away or to the right, plant with the right foot, step back with your left but this allows you to rotate your shoulders so your right shoulder is moving forward. It looks as though you are still moving away, but in fact you are rotating into a shot and your sword shoots out forward. It is a very deceptive movement The difference is that where I throw a snap out of that, she has turned it into a thrust. It is an incredible shot, and it took her deep into the lists. She was on fire yesterday, and she kicked my ass.

That was my day. I went and fought some pick up fights. I fought a few more with Galfrid, and at least I know how I beat him then. He fights a center-grip heater really well, but I noticed that he was placing it way out in front and catching my snaps on the front quarter, so I throw a snap-wrap (very old school) and nailed him. I also fought a few fights against Wolfhir, who was using his big black great sword. he was not prepared for what I was doing to him. I like to present my tip, like I am fencing sabre against his greatsword, and let him thrust at me then come under his sword stepping forward, and try to control him,. It worked pretty well. Then I fought somebody who hit me hard in the back of the hand and I decided it was time to quite. Great great day.

Breeder killed Gregor in the finals with a very pretty body shot.

Other things worth noting: William McCrimmen was a killer yesterday. And I loved watching Joe fight with his little shield. I was hoping we would draw each other. I was looking around for a tiny shield to take out against him. He was fun to watch. Ever the perfectionist, he said "I wanted to be the last unbelted out." I pointed out that, since and unbelted fighter won, that would be a pretty good day.

So here is my post mortem: if you don't go to the semi finals of Mudthaw you are not ready to contend for crown tourney, and that is where I am at. I fought really really well. I went seven round in a very tough list. I killed the fighters I was supposed to kill, but I was trading even with the knights who are all on the edge. Jan has been to finals in Crown twice and Wilhelm has been to semis (if not finals). Tzeitchel has gone deep (this is the best I have ever seen her fight). However, they--and I--are not of the calibre of Breeder, Gregor, or Kenric, let alone Lucan, Ice, and Omega. So that is where I am today. But I have a month to get better.

Still it was a great day. The best moment may have been after the tourney when Breeder came up to talk to me. He said I fought great, which a lot of people had been saying, but he also said "you were more patient than I have ever seen you," which was really the point.

After the fight, Agrippa asked me what I could have done better. I had focused well, I was in shape (in spite of the fact that the fight with Tzeitchel was one of those "we are both exhausted" fights), I had slain mightily. My answer was I needed to fix a problem with how I was using my shield. Twice against Tzeitchel and at least once in an earlier fight, I threw a shield hook and threw a blow but hit my basket hilt against the top edge of my shield. I had planned to re hang the shield in January but I never did--I am not the world's best tool user. The way it hangs now is great for fighting left handed fighters and for defending against those quick off-side face shots that are so popular out here.  Trouble is, it gets in my way and it leaves my leg more exposed than it should be with a 36 inch shield. It also blocked at least one thrust yesterday. That is a stupid equipment thing that I know I should have done something about. Now, however, just a month out from crown, I am not about to go change my shield. I will have to practice with it and then consider changing it after crown. That is the main thing I got out of the list yesterday.

It is thirty five days until crown (I think, I keep getting this wrong somehow, and all I am doing is counting). The next time I will be in armor is at a demo on Tuesday for a Combat of the Thirty party.

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