Monday, September 29, 2014

Cloisters Demo

Sometimes you don't know why you are doing a thing. Demos are great fun but they are odd. You are often fighting for a different purpose--to please an audience and put on a good show--than you would normally fight for. I have tried recently to treat demos a bit more like a small tournament, one in which I may goof around with odd weapons or techniques I would not normally use, but in which I am still trying to best my opponents and not playing so much to the crowd, but that with varying results. Cloisters demo is one of my favorites. It takes place at the Ft. Tryon Medieval Festival every year in Manhattan. It's a one day ren-fair that, like every public festival in Manhattan, draws an unbelievable crowd of people--theofficial number has been 60,000 people the last five years, that's in a park that has only one main road coming and going, is served by only two subways stops and those on the same line, one of which requires walking down a steep stairs for several hundred feet and the other to take a big freight elevator down to the platform, and for which there is like all things in New York almost no parking. The whole  fair is laid out on either side of a road about 1 mile long that runs north from the park entrance and then loops around the Cloisters Museum (probably the Best Medieval museum outside of Europe). For most people (those who don't want to brave the stairs down to Dyckman Street) There is only one entrance to the park, so what you've got is 60,000 people milling about up and down one short stretch of road. But, like a midtown sidewalk at lunch time, it is kind of thrilling--the greatest sight in nature being man in all his infinite variety.

It also means we get a great audience. For years the SCA has shared a tourney space ont eh south lawn with other sword play groups while the big choreographed shows and mounted jousting go on at an arena. Fort he second year in a row that included our friends from the Armored Combat League. This is both frustrating (because, let's face it, they draw a bigger crowd than the SCA does) and relaxing (because, let's face it, it takes some of the pressure off of the SCA). There is, of course, a lot of cross over between the two groups, and a couple of our regulars were unavailable because they were fighting in the ACL tourney and were committed to that. Their show was excellent, by the way, and they had a team come down from Quebec and a few people come in from Russia for the event. I continue to believe that ACL represents an existential threat to the SCA because they put on a more violent and athletic competition than we do and are siphoning off many of our best fighters into their game while, at the same time, presenting an option more attractive to many who are interested in the sport combat activity that has long lain at the heart of the SCA structure. The thing is, I'm content with that. While I would like to fight ACL my main focus continues to be training for crown, and I only have so much time and so many knee ligaments to give to any one art. I don't believe in fighting progress and that is what the ACL is--the next logical step in medieval style combat. The ACL has the opportunity to grow the SCA a bit as well since they have nothing to offer but the fighting, and they currently have nothing like Pennsic. Many of the dukes who have been doing ACL have kept up their SCA participation. Lucan in particular is doing great things for the SCA with The Knight's Hall. On the whole I love the ACL,

In addition to the ACL and the Knights of Avalon (a kid show) we also shared the space with Sword Class NYC, a HEMA group. I was actually as impressed with their fighters as I was with ACLs.

Anyway, it was a really good day.

It's only bee two days since my last post. I've done one Yoga class and my push ups.

I went to Cloisters planning to work on my Long Sword and my pole arm technique. I wanted to use two of the German Longsword  seen in Ken Mondschein's video below in my longsword this weekend. Did not work one bit.

I fought mace and shield, long sword and pole ax. I never use the rubber headed mace or ax heads in serious competition because, although they look good, I ahve trouble striking a telling blow with them. The just bounce off. But in Demo's i'm happy to use them. I hit a few people blows with the mace that they did not take, but I got a few kills with it. My mace technique comes from Rolf the Relentless, the best Mace fighter I know, and involves no only wraps but rising snaps, dropping face shots, and--especially--figure eights.

I also fought a few fights with the pole axe. When I do that I normally use a thumbs opposed grip (like a kayak paddle of a movie quarterstaff) and fight the technique employed by Duke Visivald of fighting in close and mostly chopping at the head with short almost punching strokes. It's pretty effective, and I even got one person to count that ax head with it. I also was victorious with my disengage thrust discussed in the last post. Mostly, however, it was an exercise in futility.

I was very unhappy with my longsword. Although I've worked the stuff I was doing on the pell I was not doing it properly in armor. I was also very indecisive. I was kind of in between using Vom Tag or Alber and using the high center version of Vom Tag common in the East (mostly thanks to Gregor). This is a totally bogus SCA technique, since it relies on the invulnerability of our hands. In it you hold the sword cocked with the hands basically in front of your face and use short chops mostly at the head and shoulders. I did not use any Bellatrix technique at all.

My two best kills were my first longsword fight, against Avran, and my last fight of the day, against Auzur. In the fight against Auzur I used a Zornhau Ort, probably the most common technique seen in  HEMA competition. In it you strike a diagonal downward strike and then thrust quickly at the face. It's the most basic technique in longsword because it works, but I don't think Azur had ever seen it. Of course, this being the SCA, there was really no footwork involved.

The other fight I was very happy with was against Avran. It's up as a video on Facebook here:

As I note in the comments, this fight started out terribly for me. I start out in long pint but leave that quickly. You can see that I want to fight in Alber or in Vom Tag and in both cases I wont commit to either, though mostly becasue they aren't drawing Avran in. Avran, meanwhile, is doing what I told him to do six years ago and using the classic Bellatrix technique. (Paul's stuff, although he developed it himself, is all found in the German manuals and it all begins either in the plow with a right foot lead or in Vom Tag). I end up in a stupid ward, fighting with the SCA version of Vom Tag but without my sword cocked the way it should be. I win this fight by going back to where I started in long point and just beating him on timing. The whole time I should have been taking a right foot lead and I didn't. The technique I won the fight with is probably my favorite cut, though, a simple downward timing strike.

It is 33 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at Nutley practice on Wednesday.

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