Friday, October 3, 2014

Nutley Practice, October 1 2014

I’m too much of a chameleon. It’s a theme you find in this blog all the time (in fact, it’s in the description). I mention this because Duke Gregor brought it up at Nutley Practice Wednesday night. He said he reads my blog and he sees me writing about this style and that style, identifying them with the people I learned them from, and he asked “when am I going to hear about Val’s style?” I need, in his words, to fight my own fight. It’s a fair criticism. He also said that he is amazed that I can analyze a fight I had in Crown and know exactly what happened. He says he never really knows exactly what he just did, especially in the fights that he wins. He just does it. The implication is that I am thinking too much about what I am doing.
I know what he is talking about. Every fighter seeks to find that place where he is fighting without thought, where he or she is reacting without thinking, where muscle memory and reaction just take over and the lower brain functions are in control. I call this “fighting from within the void” borrowing terminology from translations of Musashi—mostly because it’s cool and makes me sound totally Zen when I say it. But it is true—the best fights I’ve had and the best days I’ve had have always been when I was fighting without thinking. I can still often say what I did, but it was like I had observed myself doing it, not like I had told myself to do it—if that makes any sense. I certainly felt that way in a few of my fights in the Queen’s Champions tourney this summer. I felt it in one or two fights Wednesday night at Nutley too.

But Greggo’s larger point was that I don’t have my own style, at least I don’t write about my own style in this blog.  The truth is that I had a style. It was a distinct style and it was mine. It was not truly unique—it was a Western flat-heater style, based on techniques developed by Radnor and Paul, but with a slightly larger shield than they used. It was identifiable as being similar to all the right handed Western Knights who used heater shields in the 80s and 90s—Duke Christian du Glaive, Count Obadiah,  Steven MacEnruig, William of Houghton, etc. I used combination blows, misdirection, and especially molinee’s (a lot of molinees). In that regard, if it was like anybody else, it was probably closest to Steven of Beckenham—except that Steve being student of Wulf Sagaen von Ostense he was a counter puncher and I am not (most of the people who won crown in the 80s or 90s were Sagan’s students—he occupies a place in the West and now Artemesia similar to the place occupied by Farrel von Halstern in the East and that Eichling von Arum once occupied in CAID, the trainer of kings).  The only person who really fights like me in the East is Duke Ronald, because we were squire brothers and were greatly influenced by Houghton—but he had altered his style radically by the time I moved out here. Regardless, I had a style, and my style was not anybody else’s. It was mine. I had blows and techniques that I had developed for myself. I did things with my sword that nobody else did. When I moved to the East I found that my offense could not get past the longer shields used by the Northern Region fighters and my defense could not cope with an off-side face shot that came from in front of the head (Thorsen in particular destroyed me with that). I tried all sorts of things to compensate—different shields, learning a sword forward style—before finally settling into the A Frame heater style I use now, and to which I am now committed. (Yes, I should have spent a year with Ronald learning how he had coped, but even though he was in South Jersey I didn’t see him much). The A Frame still doesn’t feel like *my* style. My style is the Bellatrix influenced heater style that I fought for 15 years in the West and 5 years here in the East, but which I’ve now mostly abandoned.   

Since last I wrote on Monday night, all I’ve done is fight and push ups.

At Nutley I just wanted helmet time. I wanted to jump into the deep end of the pool and trade stripes. I wasn’t working on anything and, in fact, was specifically trying *not* to have a plan in any of my fights.

I fought Breeder, Duke Kelson, Tseitchel, Duke Gregor, and a fighter I did not know. I’d brought my old leather vambraces because since I started using my splint arms with the 5 piece elbows my neck, back, shoulder, and elbows have bothered me, and I’m pretty sure it’s the vambraces. Unfortunately, I pulled the vambraces out and then forgot to put them on, so I fought without them most of the night. I only realized they were missing after I fought Gregor. I lost my arm twice, but thankfully nobody hit me on the elbow.

Beating someone at practice doesn’t matter, but how well you execute at practice does. It feels good to kill fighters who are good at practice, but it doesn’t mean a lot. Still, I had more success against the top fighters than I am used to. I rarely kill Breeder, I killed him twice. I never kill Kelson, I killed him twice. I rarely kill Gregor, I killed him twice as well. But the better thing is that kills on all of them were basically unplanned. They were shots that I threw in combinations or they were reaction shots. I was fighting from within the void.

Against Breeder, the difference was that I was much more active. I have morphed my A Frame style into a bit of a boxer style. I am moving more. I am switching between a right and left leg lead—even against good lefties. When I killed Breeder the first time it was with a face shot in the middle of an exchange, in which he clearly thought I would be farther to my right than I was, but in which I had stepped off line to my left and got in behind his block. The second time I killed him was just  a blind shot I threw to break up his combo that ended up hitting him.

Kelson beat me handily in our first tow bouts, and I only beat him because he got tired and sloppy. But I still felt good about both my kill shots. The first was a straight down the middle head shot that hit him as he moved off line to his left. The second was a thrust that went straight up the face of his shield and into his grill. Both of these were reactions to what he was doing and I was not conscious of a decision to throw them in either case.

Agaisnt Tseitchel I was getting fancy, but of course the fancier I get the sloppier I get. I had some good fights with her and won a bunch of them.

Against Gregor we started with a very long, intense fight that involved several exchanges and ended with me hitting him in the face as he was disengaging. I killed him once more, but he killed me three or four times. Nonetheless, he said later that I was fighting better than normal: he had been unable to control range with me, and that I had a very tight defense the whole time.

My shield strap broke in my last fight and I ended up borrowing Avran’s great sword and using that as a shield. I fought pretty well, and outlasted my opponent, killing him at least twice. That was mostly for fun, and while it allowed some offensive work it really was not serious practice.   

Another thing I discussed with Gregor is that Farrel taught him, as Bellatrix taught me, that you should train your offense to the point that it is automatic so you can use all your focus on your defense. This is worth thinking about.

There are 29 days until Crown Tournament. The next time I will be in armor will be this Sunday, most likely at Grant’s Tomb. 

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