Monday, October 28, 2013

Day of Champions and the run-up to Crown.

It is the week before Crown. I fought yesterday at Settemore Swamp Day of Champions. I worked out lightly last week. This week I will train down (Yoga today, cardio on Wednesday, that’s it). Time to take stock. On August 21 there were ten weeks to go until crown, and I laid out my training goals for that time:  

  • ·         15 times in armor. That is a tough haul (I am counting last Sunday).
  • ·         200 miles on my bicycle. That's only 20 miles a week, but by November that might be tough. 
  • ·         Run eight times
  • ·         Total of 50 logged workouts (that should be easy).
  • ·         My general plan is warmups every morning. Yoga on Monday, cardio Tuesday and Thursday, fight or weights on Wednesday, rest Friday if I'm fighting Saturday, weights on Friday and rest Saturday if I'm fighting Sunday. We will see how that works out. 
  • ·         New twist: try to fight Ron, Omega, Ice, Gregor, Stephan, and Lucan in that time frame. 
  • ·         Other twist, diet: I think I am sticking with eating meat only at night. Maybe dairy at night, maybe none at all.

 Here is how I did:

  • ·         Counting yesterday at Settemore Swamp Champions Tourney, I was in armor twelve times.  
  • ·         I logged 126.34 miles, but that includes walking and running as well as riding my bike. I think I ran twice.
  • ·         I logged 106 workouts according to A better way to look at it might be to say that I worked out 55 days. That’s great! I also burned about 50,000 calories working out by their total.
  • ·         I did not stick to my plan at all. I did not warmup every day. I made one actual yoga class (today).
  • ·         I also did not stick to any kind of diet. Quite the contrary: I have been cheating. I weigh just under 220, which is about six or seven pounds less than I weight when I got back from California, but it’s 5 pounds over my goal and 10 pounds over my ideal weight. I know how to eat, but lately I just have not been doing it (I’ve been eating more carbs lately than usual). 
  • ·         I did do a lot of cardio.
  • ·         I fought Omega, Ron, Stephan, Kelson, Roger, Gregor, and Conrad. I also fought Breeder and Douglas a few times, who, like Stephan, are Ducal without yet being Dukes.

A realistic evaluation of my fighting is that I’m doing pretty well. Injury and my work schedule presented obstacles that had to be overcome in y training and, for the most part, I did so. While I did not meet all my goals I met two of them handily (Replace Ice with Conrad and Lucan with Kelson, and that’s still five dukes plus Stephan).

This is a tough looking crown. There are five dukes in the list, a lot of kngiths and a couple of unbelted fighters who give me trouble. Very top-heavy. The whole list is here.

However, my fighting (see below, re: Day of Champions) is not where I need it to be. I will have to have more than a little luck in order to be a real contender for this crown.

Day of champions was billed as a nice little tune up for Crown, and a few of us took it as such. There were 11 fighters in the list, including myself, Sir Mord, Sterling, Ionis (Breeder), Rory McClellan, and Erick von Hundeman (Larry). It was a standard double elimination tourney.

TECHNIQUE: fight an A frame defense and just try to win.

I had a great tourney until the end. Then it all fell apart.

I made a new sword on Saturday. I planed the first to thirds of the blade and left the last third round, the way Ice taught me, in order to concentrate more weight at the tip. It worked really really well.

I warmed up with Mord, in which I got him with a nice parry/cut counter.

The first round both Breeder and I had byes, so we fought each other. He tried to throw me off my game by mirroring everything I did, and it worked. I had planned to use the hanging guard, but when he did the same I started thinking too much. I faked high and shifted left to draw his point over and expose the leg. That part worked, but as I struck he threw a high wrap that hit me in the shoulder and killed me.

Next I fought Rory. That was fun. He fights in an a-frame and has a great defense. It gave me a chance to do the thing I wanted most, which was fight out of my own a-frame. That was great, and I felt I was in control of the fight, except that I was eager. I was throwing five blows to his one. I tried a hook thrust and a stutter wrap a few times but he had those blocked. He said I was telegraphing my hook thrust, which is bad news. After a very long fight I got him with a body cut off the parry five when he threw a leg shot (Hauoc’s main blow).

My third fight was against Erick/Larry. He was fighting his regular style, sword and dagger with the dagger held point down. I’ve had good success with him in the past against that. His defense was tighter than in the past, and I was unable to kill him with a thrust. I stayed mostly at range so I could avoid his dagger. At one point I slid to the left while his sword foot was forward and I hit him on the inside of the thigh. Once I had his leg taken it was easily my fight. I  did a nice wavy fake and hit him on the offside of his helmet.

That left me and Breeder in the winners bracket. They did the standard East Kingdom method of finishing the loser’s bracket till there were only two fighters left and pairing them against the two fighters from the winners bracket, so that the fighter from the losers bracket has to beat the fighter from the winners bracket twice. Since the two fighters coming out of the losers bracket turned out to be Rory and Erick I felt pretty good about my chances. I ended up fighting Erick again. 

I am not quite sure what happened. I mean, I know what happened--I lost--but I don’t know why. I don’t think I should have lost; or rather, I suspect I killed myself. I don’t think I was looking past Erick to the finals, but I could have been. I had thought until they worked it out that I had Breeder next, and that’s who I’d been gearing up for in my mind. Then I thought we’d be fighting second, and they called us first. I was probably overconfident. I remember saying to myself, "ok, you beat him already: you've got this," but also saying right before the lay on “don’t get ahead of yourself. Take care of the business at hand.” The fact that I was thinking that means I’d probably already lost the fight. We came on guard, at which point I said to myself “no—don’t use the a-frame against a Florentine fighter.” I took a step forward, and he buried his thrusting tip (the broadsword) right into my chin. It went past the inside of my shield, which means my shield was WAY out of position. It was as hard as a pike shot (Erick is two inches taller than me, and strong).  Now we were even up and he had to kill me again. I came on guard a little stronger this time. This is how I remember it (though it was our third fight in a row, so I could be wrong about the first combo, but not the last part: that is indelibly stuck in my mind). He charged me and I fought him off. He backed out. I tried a right to left fake trying to open him up for a thrust. No dice. I threw a blow at his head which he cross blocked, then an off side which he jam blocked. We reset. I threw another head shot, he blocked that with his dagger. He threw a head shot that I blocked with my shield as I passed forward. As I passed forward he took my head off with a dagger thrust. I stepped right into it, and I never saw it at all. I only assumed it hit my face because that’s how it felt, but it could have hit the side of my helm. I truly don’t know. Regardless, it was another thrust as hard as a pike shot. I laughed and screamed “excellent!” and fell down. It was excellent, and I was clearly bested.

I’m still not sure why I lost those last two fights, though. I certainly should have won one of them. Yes, I’d just beaten him so he was pumped up and ready for me. Yes, I probably didn’t care at that point, since I’d already beaten him and Rory, fought Breeder, and made it through the winners bracket. I may have been looking forward to fighting Breeder. I may have been trying to figure out my defense too much. Maybe I had suddenly switched into practice mode—normally at practice after I beat somebody I usually switch right away to a different technique, so that I am always working on different stuff, and by the third or fourth set I am losing regularly because I’m trying stuff that is unusual and low percentage. Maybe I’m just too predictable if you’ve fought me once already that day.  There are a few things that are certain: (1) I died both times moving forward against I fighter whom I know I should never close with (that’s what he wants, to munch you with that dagger in his left hand). (2) I died in the second fight to a straight up 1-2 Florentine combo, and I should certainly know better than that. (3) This ended exactly the way the last time I came out of the winners list did, when I fought Brion at Four Tourneys last year. I was clean. The first fight I lost to a one shot kill. The second fight was longer but I still lost. That is probably the most troubling part of all.

After that I went and fought some pickups, and had fun. I managed to kill Sterling with my hand ax—no small feat. Then somebody hit me on the shoulder where my shoulder pauldrons weren’t. I figured at that point that if I didn’t want to get hurt right before crown it was time to stop. All in all it was a great day. I had a lot of fun and I think I learned a thing or two. 

I'm feeling really good for Crown. 

It is five days until Crown Tourney, which will be my next time in armor. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beau Geste -- October 20, 2013

I decided to compete in the Beau Geste this weekend because I still need to knock the rust off. I hadn't fought in a week and a half, taking time off for injury. Unfortunately my back was still bothering me. I was the only knight in the list and I considered fighting something like sword and buckler, but I was eager to work on the new stance I had developed for my A-Frame. The big problem with that was that two of the four other fighters in the lists were left handed (and they were the best of the four as well). It ended up being a frustrating day even though I won.

Since I wasn't fighting last week I upped my workouts to make them a bit more intense. I worked out six times in between fighter practices (after two days off to recover from back pain after Nutley). On Saturday the twelfth I did yoga for 25 minutes, a very intense 20 minute spin session using the Tabata timer, and a cable workout. Monday 10/14 all I did was bicycle five miles and walk a lot. On the 15th I  did a leg workout: leg curls, extensions, calf raises, and squats. I took a four mile walk on Wednesday, then on Thursday did 20 minutes of yoga and a chest workout. Friday the 18th was great. I did the workout where I rdie my bike down to Coney Island (about 14 miles round trip) and while there I work out on the par course for half an hour. I also walked 2.5 miles. Then Saturday was a rest day.

I was concentrating on my A-Frame technique using the boxer's stance. I found that I was not seeing the fight very well again. Some of this was me blinding myself with my shield being out of position, but a lot was just focus. It got better as I went along. I tried a bit of the ox stance against the two lefties, Zacha nd Tycho, but that was not really working.

The format for the list was a round-robin bear pit. Each fighter held the field and fought the other four in succession. It mean that everybody got eight fights, which isn't too bad a warmup. When I held the field the only person I lost to was Zach, then I beat him when he held the field. We both advanced to finals with one loss each (to each other). In the finals he won the first fight, I won the second, and then I won the third.

I felt I should have done a bit better both because I'm in practice and Zach is out of practice. He took six months off for a shoulder injury. But he is a natural--strong, fast and left handed, a deadly combination. Our first fight he took my arm with a wrap when I was throwing a snap at his head, and then wrapped my helmet with his followup shot. In our second fight I managed to take his leg and then move toward his shield side, getting him to lift it too high, then wrapped to his body. In our third fight he finally got me with a quick off-side head shot, my Achilles heel. In our fourth fight I took his leg and then wrapped him in the head, and if our fifth fight I finally got the shot I had been looking for. Two things which were good about these fights were that I adjusted to what he was doing well enough to neutralize it, and I saw an opening several fights earlier that I was able to take advantage of. In the first case, he was throwing a lot of deep on side shots, mostly to the leg and hip but also to the body and head. I noticed in our second fight that he was telegraphing the shot with a windup. I was able to key on his shield-side shoulder and know that, when he shrugged it, it meant he was going to a deep off-side shot. After that I had those defended and he never really threatened that side again (except once when he used it as a counter to my on-side head shot, but I pulled my sword down into a hip-block with my baskethilt). In the second instance, I noticed that, when he went for nearly any on-side shot against Sam, he was dropping his shield and was vulnerable to an off-side head shot. This was pretty consistent in those fights. In our last two fights that was what I was looking for. When hever he went for an on-side shot I would defend and fire at his head with an off-side. Eventually it worked and I won the tournament.

Almost immediately thereafter, in a pickup with Samale, my back started hurting. It still hasn't completely healed from when I was in California lifting Jerry. I woke up in a lot of pain on Monday, but the heating pad plus some yoga fixed it and I've felt fine since.

Duke William of Houghton died last week, one of the heroes of my youth. He was primarily a tactician, an old, slow guy who could fake you out of your socks. Within the last month I've used one of the two most useful shots he taught me to win a fight--the one where, when on my knees, I lift up to my full height and then, as my opponent steps in, I sit down onto my heels and throw a shot, changing the angle the blow as I throw it without changing the arc of the sword. It's one of my most useful shot. Like his friend, the late Steven Macenruig, he was a master of the one-shot kill mostly because he was so out of shape that he didn't want the fight to go on very long. He was never the swordsman that MacEnruig was, never as fast as Radnor or as strong as Paul, but he was sneaky. He was also a really really nice guy, and I spent a lot of time at his house learning about tactics, melee, and--by example--how a peer should act.

It is eleven days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will be Sunday at Settemore Swamp championships.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nutley, 10/9/13

For a light practice where I didn’t do much I learned an awful lot last night. In fact, I probably learned more at last night’s practice that I have at any other practice in several years.

Again, it’s been light. I’ve only logged four workouts since Nutley last week: a four mile hike, a very intense weight workout (I did my off-season arm and shoulder workout, just for fun), and yoga and pushups on Tuesday. Not a lot—way behind what I wanted to be doing.

My shoulder injury seems to have subsided. I am still doing stretches for it but I haven’t picked up the Indian clubs all week. However, my back is bothering me still. Yoga helps.

Again, I was concentrating on the A-Frame defense and building an offense out of that.

Like I said, I learned a lot last night. I fought Vasili, Kelson, Ansel, Douglas, and Jan Janovich.

One of the things I learned was against Kelson: I am letting my focus wander when I start to think “what next.” They take arms at Nutley. They’re happy to do it. Kelson had hit my arm at some point two weeks ago when we fought. I had corrected for that, and was fighting with my elbow in, but after a few exchanges (all of which he won), I was trying to come up with another attack. (waiting him out had already failed). While I was thinking about it, according to him, I squared up a bit and my elbow floated out, so he popped it. That was my mind wandering off my defense.  He also said that I was able to totally cut him off, which is a good thing. It mostly came from me not wanting to back out as much. He closed hard and I stood my ground. He says that I cocked my shield up it blinded him and stopped him cold. He said it was a bunny round technique that he hadn’t expected with the heater.

I learned a couple of things against Douglas. The first is that I need to thro more off-side body shots at him. I might have thrown one. I also learned that the A-Frame, for me at least, is useless against Florentine fighters. He destroyed my right arm and hip. I already knew that he would no longer fall for that blow where I throw an out of range wrap at his left hand sword and then thrust. He’s wise to that trick. But I also learned that he doe not like a low-line attack. I did something I’ve never done against him and rarely do against Florentine fighters: I dropped into a low-line thrusting ward, essentially the plow with the left-foot forward. He backed right out and refused to come in. I backed him up. He would not close. It threw him off completely. This bears a lot of though. 

It was, however, against Jan that I learned the most important lesson. He had my leg once early on, then I changed what I was doing. I was reminded that he hunts arms when people thrust at him. But the biggie was stance: I’ve had a “boxer” stance for awhile, but only as a set up to one blow, an onside head/onside leg combo from a sword foot forward boxer stance/a-frame. Learned it from Beckenham long time ago. Kelson said at one point that his stance was essentially a boxer stance. This is the way the Atlantians use the A-Frame. I decided to give that a try. When we try something new we basically look at what someone else is doing, copy that, and then change it to fit ourselves. I had mostly copied Kelson’s A-frame (not Stephan’s). It’s a very relaxed, erect stance with the shield and sword presented forward, close together and a little bit away from the body. Against Jan I pulled it back in again and, basically, took a true boxer’s stance—fists held close at face level, weight slightly forward, head down. Jan said it cut off his leg blow naturally. By pulling in my shield a bit I was able to open my view up and I found, instead of looking at Jan’s shoulders or his hips I was now focusing directly on his baskethilt. We fought several more passes like this, a couple of which I won. It improved my offense by about 30% and my defense for about 5%. Good find. My best fight of the night was my last one with Jan. I went back to a high closed form and this time it was working. I was blocking everything he was throwing at me. After a few minutes it got very fun—very intense. I had him backing up. My defense was tight. I had a lot of offense.  I just pursued him doggedly around the floor, cutting it of when he tried to circle me. Our exchanges were hard and fast and all over the place. Eventually we took each others legs then I took his hip. We fought like that for a long time. He couldn’t move, so I slid a bit right and hooked his shield, and threw a wrap that killed him. I was the hardest fought bout of the night.

It is 23 days until crown. I don’t know when my next time in armor will be, because I will probably take next week off. My back needs more healing, I think.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013


A knight is his reputation.

There have been times when I have been called an “ass.” There are times when I have been praised as a gentleman. There are times when I have been accused of ignoring blows. There have been times I have been complimented on my calibration and the choices I made. I have been called both a “dumb stick jock” and “an exemplary knight.” I have even been called both a sexist and a feminist. Here is the thing: I know that every negative thing that has ever been said about me is true. It’s true of all of us. I’ve not called blows I should have, I’ve been an ass (a pompous pedantic one to be precise). I’ve been sexist and a stick jock. It’s true. I can only hope that the positive things that have been said about me are true as well.  I only want one thing in life: for people to say “he’s not a dick.” That’s what I struggle with every day. That’s what we do: we endeavor to persevere.

I also worry about my prowess—but all knights should. What I cannot do is worry (as I seemed to in my last post) that my prowess is “slipping.” You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you can win every fight. If you think you’ve lost going in then you already have. You can’t worry about anything in the past nor in the future. All you can worry about is now. Synthesized down to its purest essence,  a knight’s job—a knights entire being—is to cut his opponent. There is truly nothing else. And once you have in your mind that you can no longer cut then you no longer can.

Since last Nutley I have gone on a hike in the hills near Lake George (cut short at 4.2 miles), done some city walking, 50 pushups and a 15 mile bike ride on Monday. I’ve not been working out as much as I had planned.

I am concentrating on the A-Frame defense to good effect and not trying to develop any more offense.

It was a light practice but it was the practice I needed. There were three other knights besides me and they were a different group than last week. Not only that they were all three extremely tough.

First off I fought a VDK fighter. I think he might be Cullyn’s squire—I did not ask. I had found a comfortable place for a high closed form (shield held normally, corner in front of my right eye, sword guard forward) but two things were wrong with it. First my back injury, which I barely notice otherwise, was prompting me to lay back. It was difficult to move quickly from that position, both because of weight distribution and because when I did my back tightened up. Also it was exposing my arm too much. Instead I fought out of an A-Frame, both regular and goofy foot, and that worked. I tried two other things as well. The first was closing behind my shield. I would move my shield to a place and then step in behind it. Sometimes I did this off a block but at other times I did not. The other was standing my ground. Because of this, I seemed to be killing with wraps a lot (that was consistent all night), much more than I am used to..

My next fight was with Roger. (Count Roger Stockton). He’s in from the West for work. We’ve been friends for years and fought a lot. Immediately I had to adjust for his speed, which was much faster than I remembered (and faster than me). I mostly used the A-Frame. He took my arm once and killed me once. I killed him once with a thrust and once with a wrap to the back. Second one of the night. I also patterned myself on his last kill. I kept trying to hit Roger with a butterfly (off-side rib shot) and eventually he keyed to the fact that I was over focusing on it, and when I threw it again he rotated to his left and killed me with an off-side head shot.

Next I fought Stephan. I did not kill him. I got a thrust that just missed and a head blow that was not hard enough. But it was really good. I used the A-Frame throughout and it was very effective.

Last I fought Duke Conrad. Good hard fights. I killed him three times, with a thrust to the eyes, a hook-thrust, and a high wrap. This last was the best, as I reacted to what he was doing, changed what I was doing, and killed him all in the space of a second. I set him up for it by throwing the dropping leg wrap twice. Then I started a stutter wrap, but I was unable to close with him. I threw the blow out there like I was going to throw another dropping leg wrap but kept it high and hit him low on the back of the helmet as he was blocking his leg. That was pretty awesome.  All night I had been saying (for ten years, actually) that I d not have that short off-side that Stephan uses as 80% of his offense. I threw it, landed it clean, but not hard enough. He killed me about a dozen times. More. 

 It was good to have Roger around because he was critiquing my fights and I could see that his analysis was right.  According to Roger, against Stephan I was letting his movement open me up. He would slip to his right, my shield would track him, and he’d come inside of it and hit me in the head.  Against Conrad I was so concerned with range control—I was trying to work at extreme range so I could pick up his fakes sooner—I was starting my blows too far away. I was throwing mid range blows from long range. This jibes very well with the wrap I killed him with.  I should have been at close range but I was at long range when I threw it.

My endurance was great.

It is 30 days until Crown. I have filed my letter of intent. The next time I will be in armor will be this Sunday at Grant’s Tomb.