Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nutley, September 25, 2013

I'm writing this today, soon after my last post, because Nutley is fresh in my mind, and the bruises Kelson provided me are fresh on my body.

I've only done one workout since Sunday. I went to the gym on Tuesday and did yoga, push ups, and an improvised kettlebell workout. Improvised because I used a plate with handles cut into it instead of a kettlebell. I did squats, rows, curls, presses, and snatches using the Tabata timer. Complete workout was about 50 minutes.

One result was that, for the second time in a row, I went to Nutley the day after an intense workout. Bad idea. It was, however, great training for those late rounds in Crown when it's hard to lift your arms.

Because of the way my shield is hung I have found that the A-Frame defense works better with it than any other. If I try a high closed form, my preferred style with a heater shield, the rest position is in a place that I don't like. I've always had a problem (Ron has it too) of adopting a high-corner guard with my shield so that the point of the heater sticks way out, exposing my leg. This comes from fighting with bunny rounds a lot. With this shield that's not possible, but I'm uncomfortable with where the shield sits. My arm doesn't like that position. In order to keep it at Sagan's check point (according to Sagan, you should hold your shield so that the forward corner is just at eye level in front of your sword-side eye and look over the top edge) I have to hold my arm fairly low, but not as low as I would with a center grip. It's kind of in between in an awkward place. However, it's in a great place if I'm fighting in an A-Frame (where you hold your shield above eye level on the left side and look past the forward edge, with your sword held to defend your sword side), so I did this more at Nutley. I still have trouble generating offense out of that style.

I only fought four sets this week, with Sam, Cullyn, Kelson, and Jan Janovitch.

My fights with Sam were basically warmup fights. I fought entirely out of the A-frame.

Against Cullyn I found myself adopting something close to his sword forward Lucan style but I fought agaisnt that. I wanted to stay either in the A-Frame or the closed high-form. He nailed me good on our first pass but after that I settled in. I even got him with a good wrap as he was passing forward--probably the best reaction shot I've gotten in awhile. Later I got him with a triple strike to the off-side head from my knees. I also got his shoulder using the technique Ron was teaching me at Iron Bog, that kind of punching shot from right in front of the shoulder designed to get in front of the leading edge of the shield.

I actually laid stick on Kelson, three times--though he was using a center grip not his usual heater, which helped me out a bit. After our first pass, which he won handily, I started attacking off the thrust. This is a great tactic against fighters using a center-grip heater, because  it knocks their shield around and sometimes they find it hard to recover. I often thrust at the leading corner and then turn that into a molinee as I move of line to the right. My best kill against Kelson came as we were in a heated exchange. I threw an on-side blow and started to come around to the off side but changed it up in the middle, so it turned into a cross shot. At the same time he was moving to his left. I caught him right on the forehead. I also got him with a hook-thrust and a lucky shot that had nothing to do with skill on my part it was just flailing.

Jan I love to fight because he has a very Western/Oldcastle style and, like me, relies a lot on lateral movement to keep him at range. At first he was totally kicking my ass. His blows were faster, stronger, and more precise than mine. If I advanced he'd retreat. If I stood my ground he'd move around me. Once or twice I got belly to belly with him, but that just meant neither of us had a shot. However, I took his leg in our last fight and then everything changed. He stuck his shield way out on defense and I was able to control it. I killed him with a top-edge hook.

After our fights, when were were getting out of armor, he said that he was worried about the coming time when his body started to fail him, and that he hoped it wasn't doing so already. I laughed and said my body had started to fail me twenty years ago. I've never been an athlete but I had good athletic genes. My dad played collage football and was a PE coach. I have a cousin who was a basketball player and another who was an international swimmer. One of her sons pitched in the minor leagues. I was never particularly strong but I had gifts--I am tall, lanky, I had great balance, good endurance, and good rhythm. I noted to Jan that I was thirty when I won my crown, probably at the top of my game physically, and that it's been down hill from there. When I moved to the East, at age 34, I was 35 pounds heavier than when I had won crown, and even heavier still than when I'd won coronet. I'd already started to go down hill even then. When my weight got up to 275 I was awful--no endurance, no speed, I had strength and some guile but nothing else. I went on the Atkins diet. I lost 75 pounds (right now I'm at about 215, so that's 60 pounds below my high). Still I'm not as fast, my endurance isn't what it used to be, I get occasional tendonitis, I have a bad back (four rear end collisions and one rollover--none of them my fault), and even my balance isn't quite the same (a result of my back injury). But I work out more than I did at 30. A lot more. I also adopted a low-profile thrusting tip and, after playing with a viking round, a bunny round, and a center-grip kite I went back to a heater, only this time a standard Atlantian sized one of 24" by 36".  I'm not the fighter I want to be right now (as I said, I feel I've plateaued due to lack of practice this year). I don't have the physical gifts I used to have. But we compensate, and this is a game where timing, position, and distance win a lot of fights, and where how you balance and swing your sword can increase stick speed a lot. If Rolf and Gregor can win crowns in their 50s and Thorin can win at 60 I've got a lot of fight left in me. That's a beautiful thing about our sport.

It is 38 days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will likely be Nutley next Wednesday.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Queen's Farm Demo

It is good to have standards, right? Unfortunately, you have to meet those standards at some point or they don’t’ do any good. It is ok to fail at meeting your standards, because that is how we eventually succeed. Right now, however, I don’t feel I meet the standards I set for myself, which is frustrating.  

I have been keeping in shape but I have not kept to the workout schedule I planned out for this fall. A few things—mostly a mild shoulder strain and a back injury—have gotten in my way. The only thing to do about that is re-hab and be careful. Since Iron Bog on the 15th I have had one good weight workout on the 16th; I was sick with the start of a cold (that is still hanging on) on the 17th and 18th, so just some walking around Manhattan; I did yoga plus pushups on the 18th; a 12 mile bike ride on the 19th, and a 3.5 mile walk on the 20th, plus Indian clubs to help my shoulder.

There was no technique. I was trying to win a tournament.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I was actively trying to be more aggressive, to press the fight and take control of the tempo rather than reacting, which is what I’ve been doing. It got me killed. I also tried to hold my sword in a position parallel to the ground instead of guarding my off side head, a-la Ronald, which almost got my arm taken in my first fight. I wanted to work on the off-side leg shot and the slot shot Ron was having me work on, and mix in his On-side head/Off-side leg combo, but never really got the opportunity. On occasion my big heater shield is still getting in my way. I find that my feet are in the wrong place (to close together, to square) if I’m attacked during a shot or if I don’t move with more determination. I was mostly avoiding using the hook/thrust, (I think I threw it once all day and did not land it).  Some or all of this probably got me killed in my two losses.   

There were two competitions, the Beau Geste and my squire Agrippa’s challenge.

There were seven fighters in Beau Geste, so we each got six fights in the round-robin. I won my fights against Tycho, Mathias, Ansel and Samale and lost to Gui and Agrippa, which I found very frustrating.

In my fight against Samale I almost lost my arm, but that woke me up a bit. I waited while he attacked, throwing one or two blows to his on side head or leg just to get him moving and to test his guard. Mostly I was fighting defensively. Then as he paused after an attack I changed gears and went old-school on him (which works against him). I threw three or four Bellatrix style blows with tear drop returns, very powerful. My last blow was straight Bellatrix snap as I stepped left that may (I really can’t recall) have involved a shield hook.   A number of people said that was the most impressive sequence all day (I beg to differ).

In my fight against Tycho, I noticed that Agrippa had taken his leg off a thrust fake to the face, something I never do against lefties because it leaves my arm too exposed. I tried it, failed, but caught him off guard so he didn’t get my arm. I did take his leg eventually by attacking the forward (on side to me) corner of this shield, side stepping to my left, then hitting his leg as he over-blocked. I worked him on his knees for awhile, side stepped to my left again, and thrust him behind his shield do his belly (he was exposing that the whole fight, and I had tried it once before).

Third round I had the bye.

Fourth round I fought Ansel, whom I beat with a high wrap.

Fifth round was my fight with Gui. He thought better of my performance in it than I did. Here’s the thing: I’m not sure exactly what happened in that fight, and that worries me. It was fun, hard hitting and action all the way. Gui says I was not exposing myself or coming out from behind my shield. My recollection is that I took his leg, he took mine, and then he killed me, but I could be totally off on that. I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I could not get enough juice on my thrust behind his shield (like Tycho this is one of his biggest holes) or on the one cut I landed to his off side head.   

My fight with Agrippa is similar, except that I don’t feel I was close to beating him at all. I was super aggressive, trying to press him hard. He took my leg and killed me.

My fight with Mathias, my last of the tourney, was a bit frustrating. I got his leg with Martin the Temperate’s leg shot, but then had trouble putting him away. I was trying too hard.

In Agrippa’s challenge, we each fought him three fights with weapons of our choosing. We had  the round shields there from Barleycorn, so I chose to fight him Bellatrix style with 24” round shield and no thrusting tip. I killed him the first fight by taking his leg than his arm then killing him. He won the second fight by hitting me where I was moving to—it lasted two blows. He took my leg in the third fight, but I used an old Houghton trick that I figured had a good chance: I stood up on my knees, as high as I could in a high guard, then when he attacked (to my shield side going for a back wrap-his favorite technique in that situation, I sat down, changing the angle of my shot, blocking his at the same time, and I nearly took his crest off. I was proud of that.

It was a good day fighting and a lot of fun. We had good crowds for the demo. Nevertheless, I feel I am on a plateau right now and I’m struggling to get off of it.

It is 41 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be this Wednesday at Nutley.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Iron Bog Practice, 9/15/2013

My training is not going as well as I would like. I’m not eating as well as I should (witness last night’s dinner after practice). I have been less motivated and more sore than usual. This is probably due to a lack of practice over all. I have probably fought less this year than at any time other than the year I broke my leg (and I still fought in two crowns with an air boot on that year).  But I’m a bit broken. I pulled something in my back when I was in California and it hasn’t completely healed. My shoulder hurt from some bruises obtained at Nutley (might need to switch from the curboli shoulders to the steel ones), and my knee is a bit wonky. I have not had the amount of time in the gym this summer that I wanted (I’ve been working out but not with weights, which is what is best for strengthening tendons and rehabbing injuries).  And I feel right now I am fighting like ass.

I was resting my shoulder, which had been injured at Nutley and then was stiff after Barleycorn. No weights, no pushups. Even Yoga was a bit of a stretch (no pun intended).  I did yoga on Monday and Wednesday.  Wednesday I did a 20 mile bike ride. I walked four miles on Friday and biked seven miles on Saturday. I also did shoulder PT with Indian clubs three days.

My reason for going down to Iron Bog was to work with Ronald, which I did a lot. Specific things I went down intending to work on was standing my ground or advancing. I feel that, in my effort to fight a defensive fight, I’ve been running away too much. I’m still having trouble generating offensive from a passive defensive/counter punching style, and trying to keep at long range wasn’t really helping.  Ron had me working on two specific techniques while I was down there: a slot shot that locks the elbow against the ribs to generate power (I had a lot of trouble with that one) and an old school leg shot that comes off of an on-side fake that cocks it. Both those shots have options that turn them into straight snaps. With my red and black sword, which I was using while Agrippa borrowed my regular sword, this was almost impossible. The basket hilt is too heavy and doesn’t balance right for that type of blow. With Ron’s or William’s slightly tip-heavy swords it’s much easier. I’m still not sure that the slot shot does not require more forearm strength than I possess.

I ended up doing two other things. I worked on Horic’s technique for fighting someone on their knees (placing your toes right in front of his knees and using back-edge strikes off of blocks, which limited my offense a lot but made the fight even easier to control) and changing up tempos from fast to slow to fast again.

I fought sets with Sterling, Mord, and William, two sets with Agrippa and three sets with Ronald. I felt like I was fighting very poorly, but some of that could have been an equipment issue: I did not have my shield. Gui still had it. He had brought it back from Barleycorn. I took my buckler an borrowed shields. I ended up fighting with a different shield in nearly all my sets.

Against Mord I used the buckler and he took my leg a couple of times and beat me a couple of times. I killed him a couple of times. Don’t ask me how.

I fought Ronald using William’s shield, which is pretty short or me. My leg was toast much of the time and Ron spanked me like a puppy.

I fought William sword and buckler. That’s a good fight because his technique is so precise and his targeting is so good. I had real trouble with him the first few fights. Then I started targeting his leg and did fine.  I did get him nicely with Jade’s lazy floating thrust.

I fought Agrippa using Ron’s shield. He won the first fight and then I did well against him. My main goal was to stand my ground and key off his big movements. He was practicing patience and not attacking, which worked well for him.

I fought Ron using Agrippa’s center grip oval and did great. That is a good form for me. I stayed a live had a better offense.  This is when I killed him a couple of times.

I fought Sterling using Ron’s shield. That was good. I switched to a more aggressive attack when I had him on his knees, but Ron stopped me and said I was flailing and hitting the center of his shield (which second part surprised me, since I felt I was targeting those blows well). That’s when he advised me to use that slot shot. I managed to get the angles on it a bit, but it was tough. After  a few tries that were unsuccessful I switched to Horic’s technique and fought a really good fight from there on in.

I Agrippa using Conery’s heater and had another great fight. It was hard and intense and a lot of fun. It lasted awhile but he got me.  In this set  I took more of an upright stance, a la Ron (“strive for height”). When he retreated I pressed him hard, following him all over the field but not throwing a lot of blows, just pushing him. It threw him off his game a bit. I limited myself to just a few simple blows and did not thrust much. It was effective.

I fought Ron one more time, using Sterling’s shield. These were good fights.

I think I’ve got the shields matched to the correct sets. It made fighting a bit more difficult. I lost my leg more than usual.

It is said that Ron and I fight a lot alike (squire brothers, BART trained, go figure). One thing I was noticing Ron doing that I was not was that he is using movement--jumping back, bending at the waist and throwing a shot--to guard his legs. The rest of the time he is simply picking his spots and firing.  He is standing up straight and conserving his energy a lot, which is my main goal right now.  Ron is good for forcing me back to the basics.

 I fought so hard I am not able to analyze what I was doing any more than this. This was a great practice.  

It is 47 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be Sunday at the Queen’s Farm Demo (which is also the Beau Geste). 

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Ok, I admit it. I'm a stinker, as Buggs would say. 

Barleycorn was great. I'd been asked as provincial marshal to drum up more fighting for The event. unfortunately there was a big conflict. Due to site problems, River Wars was on the same weekend. That's a very popular southern region event in New Jersey. We knew we weren't going to get a lot of fighters. Nonetheless I talked it up. I set up a multi weapons format that would prove a lot of fun.

Barleycorn is also the event where Sir Edward hosts is unbelted challenge. It includes two parts, sometimes three: a written test, a dance, and a heavy list. This year he cut the dance. The point is to emphasize those things that Edward thinks are lacking in the knightly education. The test includes questions on heraldry, SCA history, medieval history, East Kingdom custom, and law. In other words, all those things a peer of the realm is supposed to be up on. In Edward's point of view, fighting is the easiest thing to judge and the thing that too many people emphasize. He looks at prowess first, but then asks do they play chess? The thing is, a lot of unbelted fighters avoid Edwards tournament. You need a score of 60 to pass, and you need to pass the test to get into the list, and many fighters just don't think that's fair. I've heard some say that they don't want to travel all the way to Westchester just to be humiliated by Sir edward. I've even heard knights tell their squires to avoid the challenge because they think its stupid. I must say, that bothers me. Anybody who can't get an 80 on Ed's test probably shouldn't be a night, certainly not below 75. But other people don't want to take tests: they just want to hit people with sticks.

Since Wednesday? Bike ride, yoga, push-ups, oh yeah and I went fishing.

None in particular, except that we were fighting specific weapon forms.

There were four fighters: myself, Tyco, Ervald, and Violet from An Du Baghin. That's a good lefty unbelt, plus one fighter with more than 10 years experience, and one with more than 20.

We were scheduled for six forms: Mace and shield, bastard sword, open, two weapon, great ax, dagger, and 24 inch round shield and broadsword with no thrusting tip. That last one is why I'm a stinker. I put it in because it's old school, I love to fight it, and by making it a required form it meant that everybody had to play my game with me. When he saw what we were doing, Edward just sat there and chuckled the whole time.

Don't ask me about specific techniques that i used. I won all of my fights in all of the forms I competed in (I dropped out of both Great Ax and for dagger). The two things I remember doing were a double strike to Ervald with the bastard sword (which is his best weapon) while stepping off line for the second strike a la Gregor, a lot of taking legs followed by body thrusts with two weapon, and a wicked rising snap in the round shield fight. Bellatrix would have been proud.

Because I was the sponsor of the list and had provided the prize I passed it on to the fighter who had displayed the most courage, which was Violet, who got hurt twice but kept on fighting. 

Part of the point was to get a lot of fighting in. Mission accomplished. Part was to fight other weapon forms. Also mission accomplished. Promoting fighting at Barleycorn? Not so much, but that will progress. My goal is to make Barleycorn a destination fighting event like Birka or Mudthaw. A long way to go for that one. 

It is 56 days until Crown. The next time I will be in armor will likely be next Sunday. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nutley Practice 9/4/13

I am banged up. I over did it a bit. It was rough. But I killed Von Dresden, and that's worth all the pain. 

since my last post on the 21st outlining my training plan for crown I've been working hard but I have not really been following the plan. Mostly, it's been hard to get to the gym. 

8/21 I rode 23 miles on my bike
8/22 I did my AM workout--50 pushups and Rodney Yee's 20 minute "AM Yoga" program. It's a good 30 minute workout. 
8/23 I did a 50 minute dumbbell workout And rode 7.77 miles
8/24 I did he AM workout and walked 2.75 miles
8/25 I fought some sword and buckler fights in the Beau Geste and spent the rest of the day teaching
8/27 I rode 7.5 miles
8/28 I walked a mile
8/29 did the AM workout
8/30 AM workout plus 1.5 mile walk and 2.45 mile run around the reservoir
8/31 just a mile walk
9/1 a 1.33 mile walk
9/3 Farmers carries: 960 feet, two 45 pound plates, 960 feet, 25 pond db, alternate arms
Tonight: 5 mile bike ride, fight at Nutley

I went into Nutley wanting to work on my defenses. I was trying out high open form, a frame, and two variations on high closed form. This would be bad closer to the tourney but is far our it's ok. I am trying to find a defense that allows me to fight defensively but have more offense. I am still struggling with abandoning my old-school Western offensive style for a counter-punching style. I HATE the way it limits my offense. 

I jumped into the deep end of he pool and stayed there till the pool got shallow. 

Right off I fought Stephen Von Dresden. I actually killed him once. I drew my sword across like I had missed an off side leg then thrust him in the face. I also landed a hook thrust that he did not take. Mostly, my fights with him involved fighting down the panic. Thats the panic that come not with fear of pain but the adrenalin rush of trying to keep up with or neutralize his speed.  

Next I fought Kelson, who sad I was moving great but my shield was not. In other words, I'm coming out from behind it. The moving for the angles against him is a waste because it just means I die tired. I did not hit him once. I mostly used the Aframe against him, and was fine so long as I didn't do anything. 

Next I fought His Majesty Gregor. I did ok. I made a conscious decision to close instead of backing out, which led to my one victory, a top edge hook and snap. I almost landed it a second time ad the double killed with it a third. About half way through my fights with Gregor I realized that my arms were REALLY tired. They ached just holding my sword and shield up. Not only that, but I'd been that tired in my fights with Kelson too, I just hadn't thought about it. It really affected my offense, made it plainer. I was worried. I mean, I know I'm out of practice, but not that much. It wasn't till I was getting out of armor and was talking to Agrippa about workouts that it occurred to me that those waiters carries I'd done yesterday might have something to do with it! Duh! 

Next I fought Ionus (Breeder). I killed him with a cut across his Chet and we double killed. He was keying his defense off my footwork perfectly, so before I swung his block was in place. Awesome. Very Sagan like. I tried to use an off line ward with him, which was fine, but I was moving into his attacks from it. I found a stance that worked well: the ox, with feet in line. Will have to try that more. 

After that was Sir Cullyn. Up till that point I had killed breeder once, Gregor once, Stephan once, and Kelson not at all, plus I'd had two double kills (and maybe a third, against Stephen). Cullyn was fighting sord and shield, and I killed him four times and died three. I managed to get him with a stutter wrap and a hook thrust, plus a couple of off side cuts. The neat thing about that was that, about half way through, I realized that I could fight a high weak open form with him and it worked. By the end, however, all I could must was an old school Bellatrix offense. I was too tired for anything else. 

The last person left in armor was Larry. he was using sword and buckler. Not having a buckler I just used my gauntlet as one. I won more fights than I lost and and fun. We were the last two on he field. 

It is 59 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at Barleycorn this Saturday