Thursday, December 17, 2015

Iron Bog 12-14

On small shields and the rule of three.

I went to practice Sunday. I'm having surgery and will be out for six weeks, so I wanted to fight. 

I'm pretty good with a small shield. By small shield I mean one that is 24 inches long or less. There used to be a western conceit that a smaller shield would beat a bigger shield even in the hands of a less experienced fighter. It's not really surprising that they believed this, since small shields were really all they knew. And besides, there was some evidence of the best fighters used the smaller shields. Between AS 5 and around AS 30 or so, The most dominant fighters in the SCA, judging at least by international reputation as well as by the success at the big inter kingdom wars, we're all coming out of the West or their former principalities of Atenveldt and An Tir: Paul of Bellatrix, Radnor, Torgul, Jade, and Brion. With the exception of Brion, they all used either 24 inch round shields, 22 inch bunny rounds, or relatively small center grips. The belief was that the smaller shield give you better visibility and a better offense, while you could use a big shield against the wielder.

There was a lot of social pressure do use a smaller shield as well. Some people did not maintain the smaller shield was superior, but there was a strong belief that using a bigger shield was unchivalrous. I won both my royal tourneys with a 32 inch long heater shield. By both the bio metric measures that were in use at the time, inseam length or length of your torso chin to pubis (if you know anything about ideal proportion's you know that that should be the same measurement) this was the proper shield length for me at 6' 3". And yet I was often told that my shield was way too big and unchivalrous. 

However, I also spent a lot of time using a 24 inch round shield, a 24 inch bunny round, and occasional smaller shields as well. It was the aesthetic with which I grew up.

WORKOUTS
I made my 10,000 steps per day, and my 50 push-ups per day, during the last weeks. In fact I haven't missed my push-ups in almost 2 years, though that will change beginning tomorrow. I've also been doing some work with the Indian clubs.

A BRIEF DIGRESSION
last Monday we did hold a practice and McCarren Park. I did not fight but I did do some training. I did all of my work with unarmored fighters. There were two fighters and armor, and three new people without armor. I got all five of them to work with me doing warm-ups. I taught them my wrist stretches, how to warm up swinging the broadsword holding the blade, I showed them hammer exercises, Zach showed them the pipe exercise. We did some striking and walking drills, and that I taught them about the time of the hand body and foot, and the medieval strikes: fendente, mezanno, and sottano, from both sides, and a thrust. The key was not actually the strikes, it was stepping properly for each strike (passing forward on the side you are striking, but always following the hand). Afterward we did slow work. 

TECHNIQUE
Two of my most useful techniques are the rule of three and striking out of tempo. I vary my tempo in a couple different ways--through breathing (striking between breaths or out of time with my breathing), moving my body in a different tempo to my sword, or setting up a rhythm and then breaking it. The best way I've found, at least for me, is to switch between and old school Bellatrix style and a more modern sword forward style, which strikes faster. Sometimes, when you switch from the faster to the slower style, you can  strike behind someone's block.   

The rule of three I've explained before. Do something twice then break the pattern on the third time. These are what I was working on. 

FIGHTING
There were three knights in armor besides me--Ron, Mord, and William. I fought all three of them, plus three unbelted fighters. My defense in the A frame was very solid. I transitioned out of it to a standard high closed form against Ron, and that got me killed, as my shield lagged out of position. Still, Ron rated my defense as excellent. My best moments against Ron involved high wraps, which he normally defends very well.  I killed him once with a stutter wrap and once when he pushed his defense to his right  I countered with the high wrap. That was one of the best kills I've landed on him. 

The rest of my fights I worked on triggering attacks to the off side--that's where you throw the off side head in time with and over your opponent's attack. It's the most effective counter. I also worked in some changes in tempo. Against one fighter I switched to a Belatrix style, became super aggressive, used his counter hip technique without success, then used the rule of three--fake high/throw low, fake high/throw low, fake high/rising snap. That worded. 

Harold's squire is using a small center grip peaked heater, probably 22 or 24" long. One of the unbelt's was razzing him about how small his shield was (he's not tall, so it's not that small on him). I said "I'll fight you with that shield." His reply was that he'd tear my leg off if I used that shield, so I picked it up and said "let's go."  I one shorted him. I used Hauoc's high closed weak form, baiting with the left leg open but back, and when he threw for it blocking low with the shield, a high hanging guard with the sword, and firing straight down  on contact. Since he's reaching for the leg his head and left shoulder are always open. Then I fought him in the standard Western high open form. In our last fight he thought he had me after we were both legged, but u killed him by sitting down to change the angle of my shot. 

I'm about to go in for hernia surgery (really, in writing this in pre op). I don't know my next time in armor. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Iron Bog 11/14/15

Ok: so I'm actually writing this post before starting my post on last week's Crown Tourney. I was pretty busy last week and there was a lot to write about. But I'm going to write this first because it's fresh in my mind. And it was a good practice. I'll publish it second.

WORKOUTS
I'm only getting to the gym once a week now. They've cancelled classes at my neighborhood gym and, after seventeen years and three locations, I'm thinking of dropping my membership. Have not missed a day of push-ups (50), and still getting 10,000 steps most days. 

TECHNIQUE
I ended up working a couple of things: controlling range, especially in the A Frame, and trying to develop my trigger fighting better. I used a variety of shots and defenses, but I think I only threw one thrust and that did not land. It is all about edge work right now. 

FIGHTS
It was Southern Region Sunday, so while it was a big practice most people were out there working on melee fighting. I was interested in training for singles. Ron had wanted to just do some singles training off to the side so I hung out there. We worked with a new trainee of Bill's and a few unbelteds. I fought one set each with Sir Mord, Jonathan, and .... (I'm not sure--I think there was another set...), two sets with Ron and three sets with Critter. I used three--actually four--different defenses: an A frame, a high open Western guard, a high closed guard (looking over the top of my shield), and a sword foot forward guard. I was flowing between them easily. 

Critiques: when in the high closed guard I am still vulnerable to a slot shot. Ron noted that my lateral movement is too broad and is opening me up too much, especially to off side leg shots. I pulled a couple of off side hip shots, a common problem for me. I thought I was getting tunnel vision, especially against Mord. 

Positive take  aways: Ron said I'm fighting as well as he's seen me fight in the past few years. I killed him a couple of times. The best one was when I took his leg with a dropping leg wrap, a la Collin de Bray, and then killed him with a top edge hook. 

Against Critter my counters were working. I found a great one that worked every time I threw it (he was using a center grip kite, which helped). I used to employ a small shield technique from Hauoc. Fighting in a weak (sword foot forward) high closed form, leaving the on-side leg open, when the leg is attacked, defend the leg with a rotation block while defending the arm, shoulder, and head with a hanging sword guard. On contact, you throw a shot straight down at the shoulder. Sometimes you will hit the head. I've killed dukes with big kite shields while I was using sword and buckler with this technique. I've used it with a bunny round and with a center grip kite, but it's never worked with heater shield. I hit Critter with it five times by starting in a standard strong (shield side foot forward) high guard and, as he threw at the leg, passing back on the left and doing the block/counter as above. 

I found, no surprise, that my defense was best in the A frame, but Ron had little trouble taking it apart. I won most of my fights but was indecisive. 

On the whole I felt slow. 

There are 70 days until Birka. I don't know when my next time in armor will be (I will be missing 100 minutes this weekend for opening day of deer season). 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Crown Tourney #92, East Kingdom, Fall, A.S. L.

Ok—Crown.

This blog is late. Sorry. I’ve been very busy.

Crown was awesome.

There were lots of complaints about the marshaling. People were saying the marshals were interfering too much with the fighting. The marshals wanted to make sure everything was pristine and all the fighters understood that if they walked off the field the fight was over, and that if they weren’t satisfied they had to say so now.  Marshals were also policing all conduct—not just calibration—heavily.  Of course, last fall they were told they needed to get involved more, so they are in a no win situation.

But Crown was awesome.

I didn’t mean to take as many arms as I did (I don’t know the number). Several years ago I made a conscious decision to fight like an Easterner. One result of this was I stopped giving up my arm in fights. This was a big deal for me because in the West it is expected, and I like and am good at the single-sword fight. The Easterners have one of two reactions to that—they either ridicule you or (more common) they feel insulted. I’ve never in the East , in seventeen years living here, had someone, not even a duke, give up his shield for me after taking my arm. I did not target arms, but I took a lot of them, and I won all those fights because I kept my shield.

Crown was awesome.

I can easily count the number of times/days I’ve been in armor since the last crown: At Riverfest Demo, three days at Pennsic, Horic’s barbecue, Southern Region, once at Cloisters Demo, and once at McCarren Park. Since August, I’ve only fought with my short polearm. Not a good training regimen.

Still, Crown was awesome.

I was in a really tough pool. Of the six fighters who made it to quarter finals, three were out of our pool. Ouch. There were twelve fighters in our pool. The knights in our pool included myself, Duke Brion, Sir Luis de Castillo and Harold Haakonson. Among the unbelted fighters was Sterling, Fergus, Collin, and Hrafn Bonesetter, who (spoiler) went to the final round. I can’t remember all the other names, but most of them were very tough.  I lost two fights in my pool, to Brion and to Collin. I normally fight Collin well, but he beat me pretty quickly. My biggest win, of course, was over Hrafn. He is a very good two sword fighter who uses more of a western than Milwaukee style—Double strikes and cross blocks. When I fight a two sword fighter, especially one who’s swords are out in front of him, I flatten my shield our and hold it slightly away from my body. This allows me to pick up his leg and body shots easier, as they are coming equally from both sides. I guard my head mostly with my sword. I close range, and then jam his swords with my shield, rotating it so that it covers as much side-to-side as possible, and crouching. Then I try to take their leg or thrust them in the chest/shoulder area. This is how I beat Hrafn.  I took his leg then his arm then killed him. The loss to Brion was quick. I took both Sterling’s and Luis’ arms. My victory over Harold is on FaceBook (I can’t copy it here). It’s old school and beautiful.

My first fight in the round of sixteen was against—who else—Wulfhir of Stonemarche. This time he was fighting with a shield. A coffin-shaped shield—long and thin. He was way too hesitant. I took his arm and then killed him. He needed to be more aggressive.

My next fight was against Baron Simon, a pole arm fighter who (Spoiler) went to semi-finals.  He was really, really tough. Against glaives I like to go into a low modified A Frame, presenting my thrusting tip. Sir Kuma says he can only see one of my eyes when I do it, making me really hard to hit. After a thrust I like to follow up and try to control the glaive with my shield while striking at the leg. I was defending really well, but eventually Simon took my leg and then stayed out. I turtled and tried to sucker him forward—that was the only time I was hunting an arm, and that because it was the only target that got close to me—but eventually he got me.

In the losers list I drew Duke Gryffith. About ten or twelve years ago I drew him in a tourney and one-shotted him with a simple molinee/head cut—like Radnor or Eric von Steinhouse used to throw. It’s a molinee at the head that misses, but the sword just follows around into a snap. After that one time killing him with it, Gryffith never fell for it again. I pull it out once in awhile—I’d used it on Collin in the pool, but he’d blocked it. I had not fought Gryffith in at least five years, maybe more, so I figured I’d try it again to see if he’d forgotten it. He had. After one-shotting a duke and knocking him out of the lists, I really didn’t care about what happened the rest of the day.

The next round I got to fight Ivan, who had so thoroughly destroyed me last crown. Last time he was super aggressive. This time he was cautious. We spent a good five minutes or more staring at each other. When we finally engaged, he was still just as fast, but my defense was a little bit better. I took his leg, then he took mine as I took his arm. I managed to kill him after that.

That led me into the quarter finals again. Because Ron had not yet fought Brion and I had, but Ron had fought Simon twice already, I got to fight Simon again so Ron didn’t have to face him a third time (He had won their fight in pool play). This time I fought Simon much better, but I was a bit fatigued, and he could still run faster backward than I was running forward. I did something I occasionally do—not just against polearm fighters but especially against them: I threw a spinning back fist. Sisiulle said “You know better than to show boat” but it wasn’t really show boating. I’ve won fights in crown with that shot, including against really good polearm fighters. When a pole fighter is using a right hand forward grip, he’s more vulnerable to shots from the off side, which is where the spinning back fist strikes. I timed it well, throwing it right after a thrust that missed to my right, so I wasn’t in danger of being hit while my back was turned. He picked it up, but that was ok. I got my weapon and my feet reset. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my shield reset. It was probably fatigue, or maybe I just wasn’t thinking. The combat computer had a glitch in it. Anyway, my shield was just a bit too wide to my left and he hit me with a thrust to the face. After the fight I realized that I had been too focused on his leg. I’d thrown a few cuts at his head while I was running him down. I picked up his leg shots well that second fight. I realized that he was circling mostly to my shield side, so I was able to cut him off a bit. But what I don’t think I did was throw a wrap. I was concentrating too much on trying to take the leg, which he had defended. I needed to throw a high wrap when I was close to him and he was blocking my leg shots.

ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!! For the third time (maybe fourth) since I moved here I got knocked out in the quarter finals. I have yet to make it to semi finals in an Eastern crown—which is where you can really call yourself a contender. On the other hand, only one guy beat me in the knock out round, and I went to quarters, which I hadn’t done in a while (I think since 2010).

Anyway, Crown was awesome.

My big take away is that I’m in a good space with my fighting. I fought really well. I continue to believe that I will win another crown one day.

The victor of the day was Duke Keneric over Hrafn in three straight. Vivat!


I’m skipping 100 minutes war because it’s (once again) opening day of deer season. It is 72 days until Birka. I don’t know when I will next be in armor.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

How to run a practice. Or two.

I've been to a couple of practices recently that I haven't written about. Frankly, I didn't do much at either one of them. Still nursing my wrist injury, And fighting only with my short pole arm, I didn't want to push anything too far.

I have harped on this before, but I'm going to ask the question again: what's the best way to run a practice? Our natural inclination is to get out there and fight. That's what we do. It's what we love. We love the adrenaline, we love the competition, we love the contact. Real hard-core fighters; they love hitting and they love being hit. So the tendency is just to pair up with people go out and fight between three and eight fights. That's how we practice. It's been that way forever. It was that way for me 35 years ago, and it's that way for me most of the time now. 

But I trained quite a bit with the Duke Paul. If you read his article in the known world handbook, you know that he advocates training based on that you will find in martial arts schools. He used to advocate a year of unarmored training for new fighters, working just on form and movement for that year before ever putting on armor. Nobody wants to do that, but the guys who actually worked with Paul and trained for a long time without strapping up were hell on wheels the first time they put armor on. 

Every time I have tried to run a series of unarmored classes, I've been met with great enthusiasm on the first night followed by a steep drop off on the second night. Most people want to just go out and fight. 

Paul also has some ideas on how to run an armored practice, and I try to use these as much as I can when I'm dealing with less experienced fighters. In the past two weeks I've had the opportunity to run or participate in practices that were geared more towards training then fighting. Both worked well. 

MCCAREN PARK
our first McCarren Park practice in a long time was quite a success. There were four unbolted fighters plus myself in armor. Ervsld was there wearing some of his armor to do polearm drills, and Sir Gui was there to help train.

While people got an armor, slowly, I spent time training a new person who wanted to learn about fighting. We worked on stance and blow delivery for about 20 minutes. Hardly enough time, but I had a lot of things to do.

Because we had two right-handed fighters and two left-handed fighters, I worked with the right-handers and Gui worked with the left-handers. While Gui discussed numerous blow combinations with his pair, I did situational work with the two fighters I was training, using some of Paul's training techniques. 

We started out just doing blow drills in armor. You block with the sword, throw the same blow as your opponent blocks, repeat. The blow from the standard hanging guard, saber parry number five, and the reverse hanging guard, saber parry number six. Then we took a break.

During this break, I thought a few fights with Samale using my pole arm against his sword and shield. I discovered that I still cannot use the thumb supposed grip.   Fights were fun. 

We used Paul's offense/defense drill, where in one fighter gets to attack nonstop while the other fighter has only three blows, and the fight ends with that third blow his thrown. We did this standing a few times, then with each defending fighter kneeling. Then we took another break.

During this break I worked with Ervald on Palarm drills. I have about five or six Palarm techniques that I use I showed them each one and how to drill with it on the pell. 

Next we ran a simple bear pit. Each of the fighters had to fight it to the others once. Then we took another break. 

Last, to finish up, we did melees, because that's a great way for people to get in a lot of fighting with slightly less risk of injury. Since there were four fighters we ran multiple melees where in each person teamed with each other person at least once.

I ended the night doing some Fiore-based long sword technique with Ervsld. 

I maintain that in this type of practice fighters learn much more than they would in the standard bashing. The trouble is, bashing is so much fun!

SOUTHERN ARMY SUNDAY
this past weekend's southern army Sunday was a pretty good practice as well. There weren't that many fighters in armor, perhaps 12 or 13, but we did a lot of good work.

The only single combat I did was when I warmed up with my pole arm against sir Mord fighting sword and shield. I won all three of our fights, and felt pretty good about what I was doing. But my wrist was already bothering me. The rest of the day I stepped in and out of the melees with either polearm or spear. Spear didn't bother my wrist at all. 

We started out with a shield wall drill. This drill is kind of not fair to the shields, and it bothers me. We worked out a way to make it more fair and I think it works better. We put all the shields on one side, and rotated the Spears in two at a time on the other side. In the first part of the drill the shield are just supposed to stay alive as long as they can. If they are killed they step out and then step back in as the resurrected. This cannot go on too long, because it's sort of the fish in the barrel thing. That's the part that's really unfair to the shields. We solve this problem by giving the marshals the ability to call a charge at any time. When the Spears we're getting cocky or lazy, or it had just gone on for a little while too long, the marshals with yell charge, and the shields would charge forward and cream us. The second form of this drill that we did was an advancing drill. We set up a line and the shields had to advance across it against two or three spears at a slow steady walk. By the time we were done with these two drills, the shields were almost impossible to kill with just two or three Spearman alone. They were working together very well overlapping their shields and staying alive.

Next we did some situational work. We started out just using triads, with a random teams of three. Then we mixed it up a bit by doing uneven sides. We would add a fourth and the fifth fighter to the first triad, and have three on four, then three on five, then four on five etc. A couple of times we would stop for instruction about the best way to attack a superior force. (The answer is to attack a flank say that you can stack them up, crossing their T like Nelson at Trafalgar). 

After that we ran a set of several resurrection bridge fights. This is another way to get a lot of combat in, so people really enjoy themselves, and works very well at the end of the day. 

The point of neither of these practices was to fight. The point of both of these practices was to train. We interspersed situational drills with instruction, and in both cases there was a marked improvement just over the course of the day among the unbolted fighters.

I received a clean bill of health from my doctor and permission to resume normal activities with my wrist. Just in time. It is seven days until crown tournament, and my next time in armor will be a crown.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cloisters

What do you do when you're injured? Do you quit fighting, do you work on parts of the body that are not injured, or do you find a way to keep fighting anyway? Mostly I have been nursing my injury by not fighting, but that doesn't always work. I have been so depressed not being able to put on armor for most of the summer.

Sometimes, all you want to do is put on armor and hit people. I have been in armor exactly 6 times since the last crown tournament and that includes the three days that I was at Pennsic. Last week I finally got in to see my orthopedist, who put a brace on my wrist and said wear it every day all day long for three weeks. It makes swinging a broadsword absolutely impossible, but I wasn't fighting anyway. I've been through this before: I broke the same wrist several years ago. More on that below.

WORKOUTS
I have gotten into the gym a couple of times recent, including once this week for a very good leg workout: leg presses, calf raises, leg extensions, leg curls, five sets of 10 reps on each exercise, building to max weight. Also did some yoga that day. Unfortunately, my gym has canceled yoga classes due to a mold outbreak in the classroom, with no clue as to when it will be eradicated. Classes at school conflict with my teaching schedule this semester. So mostly it's been 50 push-ups every single day, and 10,000 steps most days. The doctor said no more PT, so the Indian clubs have been set aside.

TECHNIQUE
With my wrist in a brace I was fighting left handed and with a pole arm. That's about as deep as my technique got. 

FIGHTING
I put armor on and fight. It's what I do. It's what I love. OK, it's not the only thing I love: I love acting, and singing, and teaching, and cuddling with my girlfriend. But mostly I love to fight. I also enjoy the cloisters them a lot. 40,000 people show up to the medieval fair and most of them walked past our field even if they don't stop. We always get a great crowd!

In other words, getting out and fighting made me feel about as happy as I've been recently.

My right wrist is currently in a brace, and I cannot break it over which means fighting with a broadsword in my right hand is extremely difficult. But I am from the West, and I have a certain history. One of my mentors was Sir William the Lucky, and he instilled in me the ancient western value that you always fighting crown. Only Dukes get a pass on that. Fighting in crown is what we are here for, and everything else is kind of a sideshow. It's prepping for fighting in ground, or it's what we do to perform as or for the king. Crown is how this game started, and crown is really what it's all about. So you fight in crown. When William didn't particularly want to win crown, and he won three even though he only uses the title count, he would fight left-handed. When I broke my wrist years years ago, I fought in both Cynagua coronet and the subsequent crown tourney with my wrist in either a plaster cast or brace and fought left-handed. When I broke my leg in the champions battle a few years ago, I fought in both the following Western and Eastern crowns in an air boot (they were both that October--I did pretty well too). 

I don't think I had fought left-handed more than once or twice in the last 25 years. And probably no more than 20 times my entire career. However, if there is one thing I can do left-handed it's throw a really good Bellatrix snap. I pulled my center grip Viking shield out of storage and went to it. My fights were all classic Bellatrix, only once did I bring my sword forward into a high closed form guard. I probably fought more fights with pole arm that I fought with sword and shield however. With pole arm I csn fight right or left-handed and do so with pretty much all of my normal technique. One thing I did discover was that the thumbs opposed to grip, (like the common, erroneous idea of quarterstaff), which is used by Duke Vissivald, and is what I like to use again sword and shield fighters didn't work very well -- or rather it was very painful. It involves a short very hard punch to the head, and that put a lot of shock on why sore wrist. But I still won two fights that way. 

I'm currently the rapier champion of Oatgardr, so I fought that as well. We did three shows and I split my time between rapier and heavy in the first half-hour show, I fought only heavy in the second show, and only rapier in the third.

A couple of things stood out. There were three unbelted fighters there, Owain, Ansel, and Ronan. I killed each of them with both my weapons forms at various times. I had a couple of great fights against Ansel where in he was using great ax and I was using my short pole arm. Against Ronan I had a really good kill with my pole arm. My go to technique for pole vs sword and shield for years was a three phase fake. I would fake a  thrust to the head, do a circle disengage so it looks like I was going for the leg, and then come back up with the face thrust. I often use this with a two-handed sword as well. Ronan is left-handed, and I was fighting him with a left-handed lead grip on my pole. I have never thrown that shot left-handed, but it works really well. Later, in a sword and shield fight against him I threw and upsilon leg shot, then another, then faked it and turned it into a rising snap. Rule of three. Faked him out of his jock. Owain was using lots of different forms. I took sword and shield against his two sword and pole against his shield. All in all I died a lot but I won more. 

I was really happy how I fought over all. We ended both shows with a grand Mellee, and I won them both.

I will be fighting in crown. Maybe I'll be fighting left-handed, maybe I'll be fighting with pole arm, but I will be fighting in crown. It's what I do.

It's 32 days until crown tournament, and I don't know when my next time in armor will be.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Low Cost Armor Version 3.0

IT'S BEEN SEVERAL YEARS sine I updated my post on low cost armor. a lot has changed since then, the biggest thing being that Ashcaft Baker has gone out of business. This is a HUGE blow to the SCA and to getting new fighters started in the SCA. Not only did they have the most affordable basket hilts, they produced "starter kits" that were the best way to get people into armo on a budget. They are going to be sorely missed.  

I try to keep up with trends in armor, who the new armorers are and where to go for deals, but it is not an easy task. The rise of Eastern European armorers, most of whom cater to the ACL crowd, had been particularly difficult to keep track of. However, one thing can be said: ten to fifteen years ago, the emerging armorers from the old Eastern block provided an influx of cheap armor that may or may not have been sturdy enough for SCA combat. Theey are now the primary source of high-quality reproduction armor that is built for steel fighting, and the prices show it. 

I've decided to reorganize this new version a bit to start with appearance and then how to achieve it, but the basic premise is still the same. I am not only interested in how to get on the field cheaply but whether or not you can create a reasonably period kit for less than $300. That's a heady task fifteen years later, due to inflation, so I won't hold to that number quite as rigidly any more. 

I am also not saying "be cheap." As a commentor on an early version of this post noted, the SCA is notoriously cheap. It's true. It is in our genes. It comes from our hippie aesthetic and our college dorm roots. The founders of the SCA not only didn't have the resources we take for granted (like an internet that not only promotes commerce in low cost reproductions but the exchange of information and techniques in how to build stuff), they didn't have money. There was NOBODY in the US making and selling authentic garb in 1966. NOBODY who even knew HOW to make armor. The SCA spurred a great rise in creativity and research into these areas, but they did so, at first anyway, as kids living on a budget in college dorm rooms. Very few of the early SCA members were gainfully empoyed. They were also doing it in Berkeley and New York and Chicago in the late sixties and early seventies, an era of plucky do-it-yourself experimentation, when a social movement was rejecting store-bought and corporate-produced items in favor of those you made yoruself (an exception could be made for a used VW microbus to haul you and your gear to tourneys or Greatful Dead concerts, or for an old Norton Comando motorcycle to double as your trusty steed). It was even better if you were learning how to make stuff as you were doing it. Hippies and college students had no money but they had lots of enthusiasm.  

When I first joined the SCA in 1979 I was a 15 year old high school freshman without a job. My first suit of armor was arms and box gauntlets that I made myself with the help of my future knight, 20ga articulated plate legs with 16ga knees and a set of 20ga Laurica that I bought from the guy who had made it, for $20, and a freon can helmet that my best friend's dad had welded for me as a birthday gift. My knight was great at getting people on the field for next to nothing, which was necessary when we were all in high school or college or working minimum wage jobs as 20 somethings. Now people come into the SCA with solid well paying jobs and disposable income and can drop $1,000 at Mandrake or Icefalcon and not worry about it. 

This  article is not for either of those two sets of people. You can still get on the field for next to nothing with some simple tools and some sewing skills. For a brief time I had a set of armor, worn under a t-tunic and harem pants-that came entirely out of garage sales: two catcher's chest protectors worn as boy armor (one front, one back), a flotation belt for kidney protection, a gorget made out of a cervicly collar, catcher's shin guards as knee protection, lacross shoulders, hockey gloves, and a pair of youth motocross grieves on my arms because they worked as rigid vambraces with elbow cops. I taped a shin guard to the inside of my forearm. Only the helmet (still a freon can) was a speciality item The helmet always is. These days you can get cast off plastc pickle barrels and make ugly body armor out of it. If you cut the plates and sew them to canvass or leather you can even make a decent looking visby coat out of it. You can still find hocky vambraces and motocross armor at garage sales. You can get on the field cheap. Please, just cover it up if you do. You can even, fairly easilly, make a barrel helmet out of a plate of steel with no welding--just rivets--that will get you on the field. Patterns for this are all over the internet. Check out the pattern archive section at the Armour Archive for this and lots of other helpful tips. This site should be your first stop after reading this blog post. 

You can also still go to IceFalcon or Windrose or any number of armorers and buy $1,000 suits. You can go to Jeff Wasson  or Ugo Serrano and pay $10,000 for a custom, museum quality 16th Century garniture. But can you, without special tools, metal working knowledge, or artistic sill, get a munitions grade, resonably period suit of armor for around $300, either off the rack or with just a bit of sewing or assembly? 

Yes, and that is what this article is about. 

The first thing to remember is that your look is determined by your silhouette as much as anything else. The most important elements are a helmet and a surcoat, and these are where your efforts should be. The SCA's Known World Handbook has patterns for surcoats and gambessons, and you can find those things on line as well. The main expense is always your helmet. It should be at least 14ga, 12ga is better. It should be made from a well known armorer who makes a lot of gear for the SCA. It can easily cost more than our budget. In fact, it often will. However, there are still a few places where you can still get a period looking (we will make some allowances for a bar cage) helmet at less than $150, which is absolutely essential for this project. 

So decide what you want. In this post I imagine a couple of 14th Century impressions, and a 13th Century one, all munitions grade. Note, that for ANY time in the SCA period, if you are trying to put together a knightly kit, it will cost you. Knights were at the top of the social order, they were at all times part of a complex and expensive weapons system. They way to think of a knight is not as some bozo with a sword, it's as the medieval equivalent of an F-15 fighter jet. Now think about how expensive an F-15 is, and then ad individuality and vanity to the mix, take the technology back 600 years, and you get knightly armor.  When you are starting out in the SCA you are a soldier, a levy, not peasant but not a knight either. You should dress accordingly.

As with all things the prices listed in this post are subject to change without warning, and some of the armorers may have gone out of business by the time you read this. 

The two armorers I use most often are both armoring laurels who make affordable mutions grade armor at good prices: Master Alail Horsefriend and Master Cet Donegal.  (Among other things, Alail made the helm I wear using Rough from the Hammer parts made by Ronald Wilmot, and then Cet put the bar cage on it: so three armoring laurels worked on my helm, which in the end cost me less than $100). Cet purchased Rough From The Hammer from Duke Ronald and makes rough unfinished parts as well as custom pieces. As I write this his web site is undergoing a reconstruction and he doesn't have his catalog up, but you can contact him there. This is the place to go to REALLY keep the prices down. Cet’s stuff comes rough finished and un-strapped—he sells parts to other armorers who finish the products and resell them. On his most recent price list, elbow cops from this shop were $15 a pair. Shoulders are $20 a pair. He makes very affordable helmets, but only as custom orders. Alail also has some great prices on munition grade armor: a sugarloaf helm for $100 in 14ga mild, splint legs for $120, splint arms for $80 and stainless for only 150% of his base price. Here is a basic suit put together from his catalog:

Great Helm, $80
Elbows, $20
Knees, $25
Churburg Breast plate (w/ Kidney Protection) $120
Simple Gorget, $40
Spaulders, $20

That totals out to $305. We still need a few pieces. We have to make cuises and vambraces and we don’t have hand protection. Some scrap leather to make vambraces and cuisses out of, a basket hilt and shield basket, and you’ll have a suit of armor most of which came from an armoring laurel within our target price. Not too shabby. Then add a gambeson and a nice surcoat and you will look very knightly.

To complete the project you have to pick and choose pieces. Some armorers have expensive helms but reasonable legs. One has the best price on bascinets but their gorgets are expensive. In every case to keep prices down avoid buying cuises and vambraces. Those are easy to make. I want to put together not just SCA armor, but a kit that, if not historically accurate, is at least evocative of a single time period. Below are a few more kits which fit the bill.

Crusader Kit:
From True Hearth Armory
• Teardrop Helm $100
• Standard gorget $50

From Bokalo’s Armoury
• Demi Gauntlet $30

From Rough From The Hammer
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Spaulder A $13
• Kidney Plates $20

That’s $238. Now invest in Period Patterns #101, available from several SCA merchants, sewing sites, and amazon for $20. Try 
Bonnie's pattern Shop. Or Google it. 

Make the long, short sleeved crusader gambeson, reinforced with some of the plates from Rough from the Hammer. Make the gamboized cuisses, also included in the pattern, and attach to those the kneecops using leather lacing or cord. Use an inexpensive canvass and cotton batting, and materials for this should be about $40. They are not required under SCA rules, but some kingdoms require vambraces, and they are really a good idea. You will need to make some out of scrap metal or heavy leather, but the elbow cop is the hard part and you bought that.

We are now SCA legal. Total for this project before shipping is $298, including the cost of the pattern, which really shouldn’t count towards our total since it will be used several times over. Note: I didn’t include materials for a shield, but my first several shields were free anyway—scrap plywood, discarded garden hose and an old belt for straps.  Edge it in alluminum chanelling.

Regarding hands: Ashcraft Baker is gone, but the Ren Store still sells basket hilts for $20. (shield baskets same price). Bless their hearts. Still a good spot for beginners. Gauntlets would be at least $120 a pair. Good gauntlets would more than double the cost. Go with the $20 baskets.  You will want a cup, and some elbow pads (you don't need knee pads with the gamboised cuises). This  raises our cost by about $50. Guess what, we are just around $350. 

14th Century Kit #1
One variation is to turn this into a Wisby suit. Do everything as above, except don’t get the helm or the or make the gambesson. Instead, invest in the Wisby #7 kit from Mad Matt's Armory
. For backing you can use leather or the pattern that came with Period Pattern 101. Period Patterns #102 even has a pattern for the coat itself.  Now top it off with the $80 great helm from Horsefriend Armory. If you back the coat of plates in canvass, cost will be about the same as the gambesson, probably less. You've added $45 to the total cost (since you used a less expensive helmet), $65 if you invest in that second pattern.  

14th century suit #2

From Illusion Armory
• 14 ga. Bascinet (the 16 ga is only $85, but please get the 14ga). $110

From Bokalo’s Armoury
• Pinned dog collar gorget $38
• Demi Gauntlet $30

From Rough From The Hammer
• Fanless elbow cops, no wings, pair $12
• Fanless knee cops, no wings, pair $13
• Globose Breastplate $65

From Ren Store.
• Basket Hilt  $20
• Shield Basket $20

That comes to $308. NOW: get both Period Patterns #101 and #102. Make the gamboized cuisses from pattern #101 and the jupon (short, long sleeved gambeson) from pattern #102. Materials for the jupon and cuisses, again, are about $40. Use some sole leather for vambraces. Note that this suit doesn’t have shoulder protection. That's another $13 from Rough From The Hammer.

Really, the secret is to get a good looking helmet. The rest of your hard points can be armored fairly inexpensively. Then cover it up with a good surcotte and you won't look like a schlub.

With the exception of Mad Matt's, all of the armorers listed above are ones that I have done business with personally. I included Mad Matt's because GAA went out of business and I needed somebody who makes a Wisby coat kit. That piece is the only one that I cannot say I have personally inspected. All the others-- Rough From The Hammer, Horsefriend Armory, Bokolo's Armory, Truehearth, The Ren Store, Mandrake, and IceFalcon, are all places that have purchased stuff from and have been satisfied with. Jeff Wasson and Ugo Serrano are people who's work I cannot afford but which I've inspected, and who, lets face it, have sterling reputations. Although I haven't used each and every piece listed in this post, I've bought stuff from all these armorers and don't hesitate to recommend them as businesses.

That being said, here is the standard caveat: SCA combat is a rough sport. You can get hurt. You do this at your own risk. I don't endorse directly any of the specific products mentioned here, and am not responsible nor liable for anything that happens to you while you are using them. 

A word about my own kit, pictured on this blog in a number of places. I'm not big into persona. I'm an SCA Knight, and my persona is SCA Knight. My inspiration for the knight I want to be comes not from history but from my youth: Sir William The Lucky, Duke Paul of Bellatrix, Duke Radnor of Guildemar, Duke James Greyhelm, Duke Rolf the Relentless and my knight Sir Alfrik Favnesbane chief among them. I'm not trying to be Marshal or Charney or Bayard. My own aesthetic for the past several years has been to present an impression of a 13th Century knight fighting in a brouhard--that is to say a rebated tournament in which swords made of whale bone or even, soetimes, cane were used. In other words, when they fought in period the way we fight in the SCA. I've recently (finally) gone back to gamboised cuises with soup-can knees and away fro the plastic legs I'd been wearing (which were supposed to be a temporary fix three years ago). Most of my armor--kidney belt, pauldron's vambraces including elbows, and even my gauntlets, are courboli leather. I get most of it from Torvaldr's Leather Works As soon as I can save enough for his leather Globose I'm getting that too for when I fight without a shield (I'm currently using a Kendo kit for that, worn under my surcotte, of course). Then I'll replace my current courboli shoulders with his cops, and eventually my knees as well. That is how I stay relatively period--by fighting in the type of stuff a medieval knihgt would wear if he were fighting with rattan. (I do have a bar cage--which would be much later) 

It is 62 days until crown. I am nursing a wrist injury, and will not be in armor till after Barleycorn at least. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

BBQ Practice with 100% more pool

BBQ Fighter practice (with 100% more pool) 

So I took a couple weeks off to rest my wrist. In fact, I was not even going to fight this weekend. But then Horic got into armor, and Cullyn showed up, and my wrist wasn't hurting at all. 

But it is now. 

It's one of my favorite non events. Horic's has a big house with a pool and a hot tub and a gas grill. There's a school with a big athletic field a block away. It's become our version of Labor Day- the end of the summer barbecue. It's awesome. 

Oh yeah, but first I should probably write about Pennsic. 

PENNSIC

Pennsic was practically an afterthought for me. I was only there for two nights. I fought in two battles. I did a few pickups on Wednesday and a couple on a Sunday. I was there for William McCrimmon's knighting, to give him my Spurs and to fight him as a knight. I did those things. I was also there to fulfill my duty to my good friend Thorvaldr, and meet his 50 knight challenge. I did that too. There is some video, but I couldn't find it.  

Some few thoughts: 

Hauoc's next goal seems to be to win crown with a bastard sword. He's using Duke Mark's cross guard, which I'm not sure even Mark knows he uses, and he is as good with that as he is with everything else. 

The king of Lochac Ducks, and has a wicked off side, but fight him with a pure Bellatrix style and he is lost. 

When you've got a spear, and you trap the Tuchux in the Jaws of the Vosk, it makes the eleven hour bus trip to the war completely worth while. No, really.

The woods battle will henceforth be known as the EMT fest. 

I can counterpunch pretty well right now.

WORKOUTS
I've gained 7 pounds since Arsenic and old lace ended, working in a call center between five and 10 hours a day. I've also gotten repetitive stress from mousing. Bad thing. Still doing 50 push-ups a day but my steps are down. I've had a couple of long bike rides it only one day at the gym. Depending on my wrist, my last day at MTC (September 9 or 11), marks the start of my new regimen. That's when I will free up enough time to workout the way I want to prep for Crown. 

TECHNIQUE
I am still varying my defense a bit and concentrating on the rule of three. I was using A frame for two or three fights, a more standard high closed form for two or three, and then a high open Western style. I fought Mord, Baldwin, Horic, and Cullyn sword and shield. I also fought Antonio Giancarlo with two sword and got my ass kicked by Zack / Auzer with great sword. 

My wrist felt fine on Saturday but ached horribly Sunday and still hurts. I  wore the gamboised cuisses so walking is a bit hard today. Somebody, I think Zack, popped me in the elbow. 

From this vantage (post hot tub), I'm not sure I have a clear recollection of all my fights. I know I fought Mord and Balfwin pretty well. I did best against both of them using a high form. 

I only fought three fights against Horic. The first one he won quickly with a counter punch. The third he won when I threw a much too slow spinning back fist. The second fight I'm proud of. I threw a stutter wrap and he blocked it. I threw it again and he blocked it again, but that was to set up my third blow--I threw the stutter but struck his leg as he, naturally, blocked the wrap that wasn't there. Rule of three. Then I closed with him and blinded him with my shield, opened it just wide enough, and thrust him in the face. 

Cullyn has knocked me out of two recent crowns with the same shot--an off side that comes at a down ward angle and triggers of the shoulder. At the crown Darius won he did it as I stupidly threw a molinee to his off side leg.  He fights the Lucan style, goofy foot with a long sword and a long kite  shield. In our first fight I threw a blow at his head and then threw Kelson's rebound leg shot while side stepping to the left off line. This blow is one where you strike the face of your shield and, as it rebounds, drive the stick into his leg. A totally bogus only in SCA fighting shot, but it worked. I killed him once I'd taken his leg. I noticed that Horic had been killing him, naturally, by counter punching with a straight snap from a high guard. A couple of times he nearly got him with what was essentially the shot Hauoc throws from the high closed goofy foot guard--as he strikes your leg, block with the shield and the sword in a hanging guard, then in contact shoot straight down. I tried to do that to him in crown but my shield is too big to big to make that work. It's a small shield technique. It worked once I think for Horic. As a result after our first bout I concentrated on a regular high closed form, looking over the top of my shield instead of past the front edge. It worked well. I hit him I the arm, head, or shoulder in several quick fights.


It's often good to look at somebody from behind to analyze their footwork and stance. Here I am fighting Cullyn. Im using an A-frame. My shield may be cocked a touch too high, exposing my leg, and my sword should be out a bit more to intercept his off side head shot, but I managed to cover when he sturck at me.

I borrowed a short sword to fight Antonio with. My two sword style is inspired by George Silver. I use two wards-- high open ward with the short sword held like a buckler, and a center ward where I stand left foot forward, both points presented and even. Pointing at the face. It's kind of like this famous picture of Sliver--only not:



As befits a system inspired by silver, it is painfully simple--lazy even. I just ward any cuts with blocks to the outside and then take the inside line with my thrust. The dagger exists mostly to bind and to parry, and I only attack with it when I'm pressed or if I've taken my opponent's leg. If I'm in the high open form, I'm probably planing to cut to the leg--which I did to Antonio once. Then I did a completely un-sliver thing. I turned the shortsword to a dagger grip to protect my leg. blocked his blow, cut with my sword to bind his and then stepped in and thrust to the body with the short sword.




Here's the one good pic of our fights. I was fighting out of the high open guardI've blocked hone of his shots and stepped forward (VERY un-Silver thing to do). Note that I've got him back peddling while I am going forward, my short sword (a bit longer than I like, actually) is positioned to parry/bind any cut he makes, and I'm about to pulverize his leg.

Against Zack, as I said, I just got my ass kicked. I was trying techniques that I was not making work. I had a heavy sword with a thrusting pommel. I tried to go core to core then hit him in the face--no dice. He just murdered me with shot chops to the head that I should have been able to block. The cut to the blade and thrust, which usually works well, didn't at all. I finally did a little better when I switched to a high guard with my right foot forward--keeping myself at distance. I managed to cut to his leg then, feeling a bit desperate, I used a technique I've never used before, turning my lead/right hand thumb down on the grip and using an oarsman shot but with both hands. I hit him in the belly. Only fight I won from him. 

I was the hit of the bbq with the back-strap I prepared. Rub with salt then grill to 135 degrees interior temp, turning it once or twice. 

Every fight practice should have a hot tub. No, really. 

It is as far as I know 66 days until crown--unless it is 73 days. I am nursing this wrist injury and don't plan to be in armor -- until at least Barleycorn. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

RiverFest demo 2015

RiverFest was hot. The car I was driving got backed into. My calf injury flared up as soon as I started fighting. Putting no my boot I noticed the top of my foot was swollen and  thought I might have a stress fracture. A band called "Blood Sweat and Tears" was headlining, but it included none of the original members. Bo Bice from American Idol was the vocalist.

Still, all in all, it was a great day, and that horn section truly rocked!

WORKOUTS
I'm still doing the #fighterchallenge. One more day to go. Today was a cable core workout. Saturday I'd had a 10 mile bike ride. Friday was Pell work, mirror work. Every day my usual 50 push ups.

TECHNIQUE
The only technique I was specifically working on was the great sword technique I've been working on all year, cutting into a thrust: where you make a short chop with the blade at your opponent's blade then break your wrists, straighten your arms, and the followthrough becomes a thrust to the face. I killed Gui with it once, but nobody else. I mostly fought sword and whiled and, since the people I was fighting were fighting either bastard sword or two weapon, I had an advantage. This was in the first session of the demo.

In the second session we held the Beau Geste tournament (back after a long hiatus). There were three unbelted fighters plus myself and Gui. Gui and I were not competing. Each of the unbelts had to fight each other in a round robin, and they had to fight myself and Gui once each. Weapons were matched and the unbelted fighter got to choose. That ended up with me having one great sword fight and two sword and shield fights.

In the great sword fight against Auzer I managed to take his leg. I tried a couple of techniques, including Gendy's Oarsman style (fail), and I killed him with a simple chop to the neck/shoulder in an exchange.

My fight with Samale was sword and shield. He is fighting a classic Bellatrix style, so this was a fun fight for me. I took his leg and killed him with Radnor's butterfly technique, though it was poorly done because I hit him in the head when I was supposed to hit him in the ribs (I was out of position).

The third fight was against Tycho. After a couple of exchanges he cupped me--the common problem fighting a lefty.

Tycho and Auzer ended up in the finals. They fought greatsword, two weapon, and sword and shield. Auzer won all three fights.

It is 38 days until Pennsic. I will not be in armor until then due to the play my lady and I are producing.

IF YOU ARE IN THE NYC AREA tickets for our play are now available!! http://www.arsenicandoldlacenyc.com/

IF YOU ARE NOT IN THE NYC AREA our Hatchfund campaign still needs you! http://www.hatchfund.org/project/arsenic_and_old_lace

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Southern Army Sunday

Last Sunday was the Southern Army practice in Iron Bog, and Gui, Tycho and I went down. A good time was had by all. This post will mostly be about how to run a war practice. Due to injury, the end of the semester, starting the play, and just plain fatigue, I hadn't been in armor since crown. I came out of crown with elbow pain in both elbows and shoulder pain at the back of my shoulders that was worse on my shield shoulder. I rested that, but the pain really didn't go away until I fought again. Fighting made everything better.

WORKOUTS
As I write this (Saturday 6/13/15) I am on day 27 of the #fighterchallenge, wherein you have to train every day for 30 days in a row, post your training to FB and challenge other fighters to do the same. If you miss a day you start over. This is kind of a cheat for me, since I already do at least one thing--50 push ups, every day and haven't missed a day in almost 18 months. But I have to do at least one other thing. You can see what I've been doing by following me at mapmyfitness.com or on FaceBook under the #. Wednesday for instance, I did 50 push ups, a dumbbell workout (hammer curls, shoulder presses, triceps presses, and bench rows), 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer and then that thing with the two ropes using a tabata timer.

TECHNIQUE
None to speak of.

PRACTICE
Manfred, who has been Warlord more times than Charleton Heston, and Harold Haakonson, who is the unbelt captain, ran the practice. There were three knights in armor for most of the day--me, Mord, and Cullyn. Manfred was in and out. Gui did not fight.  For the first few fights, Manfred put most of the experienced fighters on one side and gave numbers to the other side. Teams started out 8 vs 12 or 15 (not sure which). Since there were five shields and three pole arms on our side, I made two triads of two shields and a pole each, with me and Sir Cullyn in reserve for the orange team. We beat the green team for the first few fights, but after each time we discussed it, and soon they were beating us every time. That was rewarding.

We ran four or five fields, then some bridges, then some gate battles. after each set we stopped and de-briefed. We also ran two ressurection battles, where we worked on pulse charges. 

There was some dispute among the Chiv as to how best to charge and what constitutes a pulse charge. One way, which I learned as a new fighter, is to get low, hip/shoulder check your opposite aside, and penetrate as far into the back field as you can, not bothering to swing your weapon but just trying to push into the backfield. This is great in a gate scenario, but hard to execute due to the massed troops. It's also useful at the end of a bridge or to break up a unit in the open field. The other method is to go in hard and higher, push people back while attacking with your weapon, then retreat. A big difference is that in this is that shield men who are charging are trying to kill, and to push back but not to penetrate. This is what is commonly called a pulse charge because who do it, fall back, and do it again. It is the prefered method nowadays, mostly due to the tactic of having spears fight in the front ranks on a bridge, and because of how the Pennsic bridges are normally fought and scored. 

I did not fight in every scenario due to a helmet malfunction. I got that fixed and did s few one-on-ones. I fought Mord and Hassan, but I was not working on anything specific.  

It is 42 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be tomorrow at Riverfest in Ostgardr. Due to the play, this will be my last time in armor before Pennsic. 

And speaking of the play, it runs July 9-12. We are still fundraising via Hatchfund, and have a few more characters to be sponsored. Help us out! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Crown Tourney #91, East Kingdom, Spring, AS 50

Crown tourney #91

I’ve fought in 91 of these, and this was one of the best. It was certainly one of the toughest. It was also very symmetrical: counting a first round bye, I fought six fights, against three unbelted fighters and three knights, I won three and I lost three. The three unbelted fighters I fought were three of our top unbelted fighters. The three knights I fought were all contenders. I killed two of the knights—Sir Sicehlgaita von Halstern and Thomas of Ravenhill, the two fighters who had knocked me out of the last crown in the Southern Region. I also lost to one of the fighters I beat in that crown.

My first round bye was against Sterling De La Rosa. One of my big problems going in was that I had been moving my sword guard up in my A-Frame defense (instead of more of a boxer stance) to give me more offensive options, but that was hanging it out a bit. I’d lost it to Sterling at practice last Sunday.  He hit it again in our bye fight and I called that a loss for me. This was a good thing, as it served to remind me that my arm was vulnerable, and while a couple of my opponents targeted it later, nobody took it. Sterling went to quarter-finals, and knocked Gui out of the round of eight. This was a good warm up fight.

My second fight was against Sichel, who had knocked me out of two of the last four crown lists. We had a good long fight. Both she and Tommy have a great inside thrust, which was tough to guard against, so I was keeping my distance—if you see that thrust coming you can usually back out of it, which is what I did. I took her leg with the Martin the Temperate leg shot. I’ve got about eight or nine techniques specifically to use against people on their knees. The fifth one I tried worked—a top-edge hook.

My next fight was against the new knight Sir Ivan Ivanov (one of two left handed Sir Ivans in the kingdom).  Ivan was having an amazing day. He was running on that “new knight bump” and it was really paying off. He took my leg and then hit me in the ribs after a great fight. He went to semi-finals out of the winner’s bracket before losing to Brennan in two fights. (in the East, normally, a fighter out of the losers bracket must beat a fighter out of the winners bracket twice to advance to finals—in other words, the fighter out of the winner’s bracket come in clean while the fighter out of the losers bracket comes in with a loss).


(one of the most amusing things about fighting in both the East and the West is how lists are normally organized: one kingdom uses a single-bracket double elimination system taken from Judo competitions, the other uses a two bracket double elimination system common in sports like Volleyball. Both kingdoms sometimes combine this with round-robin pool play taken from soccer. Fighters, marshals, and especially lists-ministers in each kingdom HATE the system used by the other kingdom, and describe it in terms that range from “silly” to “dishonorable.” The best wine is from home…..)

My next fight was against Sir Thomas. Thomas has finaled in two of the previous four crowns. He is a tough, tough fight. After a hard long fight I killed him with an on-side but I can’t remember if it was wrap or a snap. I had hit him with one earlier that I had called flat, to it was probably a wrap. This was one of the most intense fights I’ve been in in a long time. It was as tough as any fight in a final round.

My next fight was against Ketil. I had beaten him in a crown not long ago. He’s a good unbelted fighter. I tried to take his leg and he was fighting sword-foot forward. I cupped him, which I was sorry for. But I felt lucky to get out of the fight. This was his second loss.

My last fight was against Dimitri, who had beaten me in Mudthaw. Once again—big, tall, with a long sword and a HUGE  kite shield. This is a really interesting fight. I thought that, until he took my leg, I was fighting really well, basically controlling the fight, my defense was strong, and my combinations were moving him around. Thomas said I looked tired and slow, certainly slower than in my fight with him.  My lady said I looked anxious and desperate, that I was not in control at all, that I was trying to use tricks to finish it. She has a point—I did use a back spin. It didn’t work. But the technique where I lost my leg was the foot-stomp. Thirty years of using that technique I think this is the first time I’ve lost my leg doing it. I might have done it a bit slowly, but he looked at that and just plowed my leg. Once that happened the fight was basically over. He stood at range and sniped at me till he could kill me.

Tally was good enough to post videos of the two fights that I lost. They are great. In both these videos I see things that I am doing well, things I am doing wrong. I see things that make me want to question my calibration, and things that make me think "damn! I should have seen that during the fight! I might have won!! 

The first one starts after Ivan has already taken my leg, so there’s not a lot to see. At 56 seconds and at 1:09 he throws the same combination, both of which I get a basket/sword block on. The second time it is so fast I can’t see it. I had to look at it frame-by-frame and at one point the sword just disappears. I don’t know how I got that sword block back there, because on video I can’t see the sword coming at all. He kills me using Radnor’s rule of three. He throws that same combination again, and I get the sword block up there again, but the third time he hits me in my ribs. Break that pattern the third time. Note how he steps a bit to the left each time before closing—he’s not circling, but he’s moving so he can get a better angle past my shield. I did not move with him and I probably should have.



The second video, my fight with Dimitri, shows more of the fight. I like it because I can see my thought process in all of it, and make out what I think is his. I still feel I was in good command of the fight until he takes me leg.  My back spin looks slow but it is well timed. He hits my shield as I do it, so I should be able to get him, but he recovers too quickly.  There’s a good angle on my throwing the foot-stomp, and you can see that he just triggers on it, disappears behind his shield (I had no chance of hitting him) and plows me. He is totally hunting my arm, especially after he takes my leg. The fist shot he throws looks pretty good, and I don’t know why I don’t take it (I hope it was light). The rest I pick up. He also triggers on me when I peek past the leading edge of my shield. He is precise and really on with his targeting. You can see what both of us are doing. He is staying back, sniping, controlling range and not letting me have any opportunity to hit him. I am trying to draw the arm shot again. At least once I almost get him with the snap when he sets up a bit too close, and once I draw the arm shot and I block it, but my counter is too slow and he gets out of the way. It is beat – beat – beat, when it should be beat-beat/BEAT—using Radnor’s dictum that all fights are won in between beats (or on the up-beat). If I time that better and throw the shot as I block instead of after the block, I probably win the fight. Thomas was right—I was tired. All the time he is giving me one and only one possible target—his off side leg. It’s the only thing that’s really in range. This is the Lucan style of fighting goofy foot with a long sword so you are always out of your opponent’s range while still being able to attack. I avoid going for the leg, knowing it’s a fool’s errand, but finally I give in and take the bait, and he thrusts me in the face quite beautifully.  He had very good reactions in this fight, and totally worked for this win.


This was an good list for me. It was great to have my lady there to watch me fight. I had lots of fun. I fought really really well. All of my opponents seemed to have fun fighting me. EVERYONE I fought was a really good fighter—there were no walk-overs. I had a blast.

I was SO tired afterward. I hit that “I just fought in Crown” wall later that night at the cheesecake factory. My shoulders are stiff and my legs are rubber. I slept all day yesterday. All of this means I had a great list!

It is 81 days until the Pennsic war. I will not be in armor this week.


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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bonus Post! October Crown, 1992!

BONUS POST

With Crown coming up in two days, and me winding down my training, I decided to post on some other things.

TRAINING:
I have done 15,000 steps a day for the last three days. That includes a run I took part in at school. It was supposed to be the BMCC 5K, but there was construction in Hudson Park where the run takes place, so it became the BMCC 3.8 K. I ran it in 22:20, which is a pace of 9:22, better than my usual. I also have done 50 push ups every day, and some yoga and indian clubs.

OLD TIMEY VIDEOS!

So I wanted to put these on YouTube so I cold embed them, but I couldn't' get them to convert properly. Michael Doyle, AKA Eirik Ulfson, has lately been posting some photos and even a couple of videos of the West Kingdom in the late 1980s and early 90s to FaceBook. Among them are these two gems.

This first:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/sne1qdlclxa9p9n/1991-10%20October%20Crown%20Kylson%20vs.%20Valgard.mpg?dl=0

Is one of the most memorable fights I've ever had. This is me versus Vsc, Sir Kylson Skyefire at October Crown in 1991.

One of the things I remember most about this crown was in the line up before the lists. I was standing in the knight's line with Kylson, Radnor, and (I think it was) Michael Hugh Stuarts. At 6'3" I was the shortest one of us four. An unbelted fighter walked up to us, looked at the line, and said "man! You guys are huge! I wouldn't want to fight any of you!" I said to him "Oh, you don't need to worry about us. If I were you I'd worry about him," and I stepped aside to reveal Viscount Sir Edward of South Haven. Edward was fairly short--a full head shorter than any of us. He was also a knight before any of us. He had great big Popeye arms and one of the fastest off-side head shots I'd ever seen.  He sort of looked up at us, his hands folded in front of him, and smiled as if to say "who, me?" Radnor, who hadn't noticed that he was there, looked down to his right and said "What? Oh wow! Yeah!" then he leaned forward and said quietly with a little smile "he'll do stuff to you none of us even remember how to do." The poor unbelted fighter went away very confused.

Kylson was one of the fighters who truly intimidated me. He was huge--I'm 6'3" and he towered over me. He fought with two big heavy swords and I absolutely did NOT want to be hit by him.

Watching this video is mind bending for so many reasons. I remember a lot of things about this fight. I remember that I lost my leg. I remember him asking about the shot that hit me in the hip. I remember dying. I DON'T remember switching to a thrusting ax after we were both legged. I didn't even own a thrusting ax at that time. I hate thrusting axes. I know why I did it: impact weapons are often good against florentine fighters because they get indie their blocks. This is how I won crown a few years later. But against Kylson it was just plain stupid.  I was doing much better with the sword. The hip shot that I took, which he asked me about, looks from this angle like it hit me in the ribs, but in fact he was rolling it up and it hit my hip first. I do not at all remember that head shot that I don't take right at the end. In fact, I don't remember dying in this fight, though I remember that I lost. The head shot from Kylson's left hand hits me on the outside of the head. It looks like it could have been good. It was clean. If it was in the face I definitely should ahve taken it. It might be, I can't tell. We talk about it. It looks like it glanced. Regardless, 23 years later, I am looking at that and saying "should I have taken that?" The blow I die to doesn't look as good, but it definitely hits better, and it stops instead of glancing down.

This second video, however, it the prize.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qlg0dnd91gg6bpo/1991-10%20October%20Crown%20Finals.mpg?dl=0

This is the final round from that tournament. It is probably the most memorable SCA finals and series of fights hat I have seen in 36 years. It shows two of my favorite fighters--two of the best ever--at the absolute hight of their abilities. Kylson died about ten or eleven years ago. He was one of the best fighters I've ever known who never won crown. He lived up in Alaska and did not make it down to Crown tourneys in California more than three or four times. The first time he came down he ran into Jade in the finals. The second time (this one) he ran into Radnor in the finals. To travel all that way to fight the two best fighters in the kingdom, and arguably the SCA at that time, was probably pretty frustrating. That crown against Jade was the first tourney Kylson had ever fought in that he had not won. That's how good he was.  This fight is one that I think about and describe all the time. I've written about it in this blog. Although the video doesn't show the end (Radnor won) it shows the two biggest moments.

The first is that first fight where Radnor one-shots Kylson. Kylson had this habit of posing with his blades wide going into a fight. You can see it in his fight against me. It was dramatic and intimidating and it gets him killed. We all thought we could take advantage of it, but nobody could until Radnor drew him. He did not count on Radnor's timing or his reach. My memory of this fight has always been that Radnor passed on his right, took a lunging step forward, and hit Kylson in the face, but that's not what the video shows. It shows Radnor closing range, first with a passing step (radnor believes in Musashi's dictum of "attitude without attitude"), and a gathering step, and then throwing a shot as Kylson's swords get wide, right at theier widest point and right at end of Radnor's range, but the kicker is that he leans forward a bit by coming off his back foot as he throws the blow. This is why it lands. Radnor used to talk about transition windows, striking at that moment when a fighter's mine had shuffled off of defense and onto either movement or offense, and this is an example. He catches Kylson at that moment where is mind is on his swords and not Radnor's. It's also an example how perfect Radnor's range perception is. I feel like kow-towing and saying "We're not worthy!"

The second moment is when Kylson beats Radnor in the second fight. Radnor has a great record--he won every tournament he entered for a period of 20 years. He rarely ever lost a fight, so to see him go down was shocking. Jade turned to me and said that was the first time he'd seen it.  I can recall Radnor in that 20 year period losing once to Paul, once to Philip Harlech, once to Thomas the Incomplete, and this time to Kylson.

Watching these two videos is an interesting look at what Western fighting used to be in the 80s and 90s before big shields, sword-forward guards, and low-profile thrusting tips. I liked this style of fighting a lot. It was prettier, more fluid, and more fun in some ways than how we tend to fight now.

BIG TIME ENTREATY! We are producing a production of Arsenic and Old Lace this summer in NYC, and we are crowd funding it on Hatchfund. Please visit our site, watch the video, and donate. It's tax exempt, and you'll be supporting independent theatre in New York City! http://www.hatchfund.org/project/arsenic_and_old_lace

It is two days until Crown Tourney. The next time I will be in armor will be at Crown.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Last practice before crown.

This weekend is East Kingdom Crown Tourney. It is also the Pacquaio vs. Mayweather fight. Pacquio’s announced schedule includes one more sparing match, today (Monday) and then a drive to Las Vegas form LA. He won’t be training right up until Friday or Thursday night. He is going to wind his training down. Boxers do this to recover, to heal any small injuries, and to be rested by the time of the fight.

I haven’t been training for this crown. I took most of the winter off, suffered an injury in January, and have been pretty slow to get back in. I am as rusty as I can recall ever being. I’ve got my timing back, but I’m still making silly mistakes based on rust and lost muscle memory. But I’m still done training. I won’t fight at any of the practices this week. I did get down to Iron Bog yesterday, though. I didn’t think I would be there, but yesterday morning I got a text from Gui asking if I wanted to go down with him. I really needed it.

WORKOUTS
Have been limited to yoga, bike rides, and push ups. This week I will run a 5k on Wednesday and to Indian club work twice, plus pushups. I’m still averaging 10,000 steps a day walking.

TECHNIQUE
This practice was alla bout edge work. I did not throw a single thrust the entire day. Other than that I was working on everything.

FIGHTS
I fought four people. One guy with a Viking name, whom I spent a lot of time working with to warm up; Mord, Gui, and Sterling. That was plenty of fight. Ron was there to coach me against Gui and Sterling, which I needed. I need to repair my regular legs, so I was wearing my gamboised cuisses, which meant a lot of pain a couple of times. 

I approached this practice like a training session. I got together with an unbelted heater fighter who wanted to learn some stuff. I ran him through several warmups and drills. We did several minutes of  slow work, concentrating on form and vision. Then we did the two sabre parry drills (parry 5 and parry 6—the hanging parry and the window parry). After a short rest we did offense/defense drills. In the first one we did a drill where the agent could attack all he wanted, while the patient agent only had one blow—an on-side snap. We fought this for a bit over a minute on each side. After that we did Paul’s offense/defense drill, where the agent has all attacks and the patient agent has three blows, a snap, and off side and a leg shot, and the exercise is over when the patient agent has thrown each of those blows once. This is always a great way to start.

After that I fought Mord. We fought three fights, and I won two out of three. The one he won I threw a blow and stepped forward on the right into his counter. I don’t know if he planed that, reacted to me, or just got lucky. I’ve been dropping my shield on my recoveries, and this was the main thing I was trying to concentrate on. A couple of my wraps lacked power.

Then I fought GUi. I fought him really well. I took his leg twice. He won all three of our fights, but not easily. I hit him twice without power – once a cut to the belly, once on the leg – because I wasn’t powering through the shots. I was defending my leg really well against him, which is tough for me.

After that I fought Sterling. He took my arm because I was hanging it out. I took his leg twice and I killed him twice. The trouble I was having was taking advantage of his ducking and burying my wrap shot. I hit him once with the stutter warp with no effect.

In all of my fights, if I had used my thrusting tip, I would have done better than I did.

Ron confirmed that I was dropping my shield too much, and getting tunnel vision in my fights with Gui. He suggested a fake that forces Sterling to duck and then a hammer blow. He also said that I was ignoring Sterling’s off-side hip and body, which were open, and he was correct. I didn’t think once about throwing there.

This was a great tune-up practice for Crown.


It is five days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will be at Crown. 

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Arsenic and Old Lace: WELCOME TO ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (or "The Spirit of Brooklyn"). 
Last year I produced a successful production of Hamlet, and financed it through Hatchfund. Along the way, Hanna Edwards joined as co-producer, and Craig Hutchison came on board as director. Afterward, we were casting around for something else to do, and Hanna had the idea of doing something tangential to Hamlet (we even thought of founding something called "The Hamlet Tangential Theatre Company"). One thing we discussed was doing a 20th Century American comedy, since it was about as far away from Renaissa...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Very Late Nutley Post, regarding 4/1

So it's been two weeks since I was in armor, at Nutley Practice on April Fools Day. I had foolishly thought that I would practice at least twice during spring break. Of course, I was wrong!

WORKOUTS
I have been working out regularly, though. I've don'e pushups every day and since March 29 I've logged 75 miles walking, running, and biking (that includes a 12.3 mile bike ride last Sunday). I've also been using my indian clubs to rehab my shoulder.

TECHNIQUE
So I decided that I was going to carry my epiphany from Mudthaw forward. Since I am using a tip heavy sword at the moment, that is what's drawing me into more of a stand-up Western style. That style gets me beat when I fight the upper echelon fighters here in the southern region, so I've tried to move out of it. I'm working on keeping my right hand up more in my a frame, instead of in a lower, boxer-style guard.

But the bigger thing is that I'm trying to be slightly more aggressive. That was what was winning me a lot of my pickup fights at Mudthaw. I may have carried the defensive boxer fight as far as I can.  I won a lot of fights last year by just waiting people out, but I'm trying to push the issue a bit more now. That caused me some big problems with the top fighters (see below), but won me fights agaisnt every body else.

FIGHTING
Honestly, and I'm sorry, but I only have a clear view of two of my fights that night, against Stephan and against Brennan, and those I remember primarily for my mistakes. The unbelted fighters I fought, I don't remember those fights as clearly. I's been two weeks, so cut me some slack.

I jumped in and fought Stephan right away. My usual take away from a fight with Stephan is that if I can hit him once I've had a major accomplishment.  I was aggressive, I pressed the issue, I got my ass kicked. I realized after the third time that I was making a rookie mistake and dropping my shield on rebounds. That is Stephan's meat--he is a counter-punching fighter who triggers off either hand or shield movement, and he was creaming me. After I adjusted for that I had some good fights, in one of which I took his leg. I thought Ah ha! Now I have a chance. I decided that I would close with him like Horic, Stephan's knight, who I ahd been working with a bit on my close game. I struck an off side, which he blocked, and jumped in. Horic will move in close and go either toes-to-knees with a legged fighter, or move off line to his left just a bit, and launch a series of hard fast attacks, several of them with the back edge but to the front of the helmet (a wrist breaker or torque shot). I didn't get that chance. As soon as my toes landed, Stephan pushed off on his un-struck leg, leaned deeply to his left, and hit me with a rib shot I am still feeling thirteen days later. I also noticed that Stephan, in his A Frame, fights with his sword edge up, not forward, so his wrist is cocked back slightly. I'm starting to try this to see what the advantages are. So far it appears to allow for a little more snap on the onside  head shots. I think it's because it gives it a slightly better angle when it lands.

My fights with Brennan were better, in that I actually won a few of them. But in trying to fight in close with him and be aggressive, I was losing my leg a lot. I was also not getting the kind of short, quick shots I needed to in close like that because of the balance on my sword.  

It is 18 days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will be tomorrow night at Nutley.