Saturday, January 30, 2016


You know how you occasionally find a great stick of rattan? One that sticks really well and lasts a long time? Like vorpal rattan. I just retired one. I used the same sword nearly all last year. It took me through two tough Crowns and Pennsic. Yes, I was injured part of last year, but I was amazed at how many people were taking all of my shots from a year old sword. It's a bit frayed, and after the tourney I reverently cut the basket hilt off of it, and then threw it out. Thanks Death Tongue (all my swords are named Death Tongue). 

Birka, in case you don't know, is a three hour, ten field "holmgang" bear pit. You get a number and stand in line. You fight until you are killed or step out of the list. One poin for each fight, one for each win (or two for a win one for a loss). About 150 fighters compete, and they fight more than 3,000 fights. It's the toughest tourney in the Knowne World. Great place to kind of ease into things just coming off of surgery, because I csn drop out or drop back in at any time. I usually try to rest after five times through. 

So this year I kept a running journal. Every time I rested I dictated a bit on my fighting. Not quite live blogging, because I waited till now to post it. I hoped I'd remember more of my fights. No such luck. I had planned to just do some technique work, limit my self to one shot for a fee fights, that sort of thing. Ha! That went out the window as soon as I walk in (which was about ten minutes late because they laid on before court was over). 

First rest break. My first six fights were Arn, Breeder, Thorson, Brian, Frithiker, and Doug. Not ego building. I beat Arn and Thorson, lost to Doug and Breeder, also Lost to Brian and Frithiker. On the one hand I'm not doing well. I haven't put together any runs. On the other hand, that's one hell of a tough list right there. My fight with Brian was particularly good, because I started out wounded in the hip, he went to his knees, but of course he could rise up. We fought good and long in my defense was good and it was a good flight.

Second rest break. I don't know how many times I went to the line this time, maybe three. However, I just put together my longest run. Nine victories. Including Sterling. But no knights. I don't think. A blur. Two of them I killed with wavy rising snaps. At least two I killed the top edge hooks, the same thing I killed Thorson with. That's the first time today I won more than one fight. 

Third rest break. I really can't remember who I've been fighting in this round. I think I went to the line four times, maybe it was five. I had a medium length run. it was kind of fun because I lost my trusting tip during the first fight. I haven't put it back on and don't intend to. I'm fighting fine without it. The added tip speed is helping right now. I taped it back on so often it was really weighing the sword down. I had a medium length run, and a very long run, longer then the one I had last round. I lost count. Once again old-school stuff like top edge hooks, figure eights, and hesitation wraps are what I'm winning with. Fatigue is what killed me this time around. I lost to a madu fighter I should've taken apart. But I just couldn't put anything together. Good round all in all.

Later, after a long rest. Legs are heavy. Arms are heavy. Sat down for a long time. Not dizzy just really fatigued. That kind of "I'm not sure I can walk anymore" fatigued. Feeling better now, but still moving like I'm trapped in quicksand. Now's the time to suck it up and put the hat back on.

Fourth rest break. Oh my God I'm tired. I just did four multifight runs, the last of two which were very long. I lost count. During that last run I managed to work my way entirely through the line, fighting the same person twice in the same run. That's one of the big goals for Birka. I wasn't tired for a long time. I was putting on a clinic on old-school sword work for a while. I got somebody with Ed's butterfly, stutter wraps, top edge hooks, but also just really quick double taps and rib wraps. Then I got a fight against a polearm guy that lasted forever. I won, but I could barely stand after that. Killed two more people, then I died. Don't ask me who killed me. I know that Ryo killed me one of my earlier runs but not this one. Great round, really tired!

OK, last time out. I'm done. I dropped out with 15 minutes to go. I was starting to put my helmet back on, and then I realized that I didn't want to be hit in the head anymore. I don't think I have a concussion, but Evaldr one shorted  me and it was kind of hard. My last loss was to a polearm fighter, I had been on my knees for a long run, which is a good accomplishment, I'm very proud of it. Anyway I took his leg and we wrestled a lot till he gave me a double tap in the face with his butt spike. It felt like my neck jammed a little bit. I took off my helm and, got some water, rested, I was still really really really fatigued, they called 15 minutes, and I started to put my hat back on and I said "wait a minute, I promised not to push myself. This is it. I'm done." 

So that was it. I managed to kill breeder during that last run. earlier I had killed Willy. He killed me in another round. I probably had one or two more victories over knights, but the only ones I can recall are Breeder, Thorson, and Willie, once each. Some other odd stuff: without the thrusting tip, I fought really oddly in the A-frame. That's weird, because a lot of people without thrusting tips use an a frame defense. But for me that thrust out of the a frame seems to set up a lot more than I realized. The high closed form is still not so good against the chivalry. That's how Evaldr was able to one shot me. Another knight one shot of me earlier in the day, but that was because my shield was in an A-frame position and my sword was in a high open position. My shoulder felt great all day, but now it's freaking killing me. This was a very good Birka for me. It was helmet time, it gave me a lot to think about, and boy did I do some good sword work. 

So I just checked my results. 19. At first I thought that was the points they were giving me, which seemed low, but it was my rank. I had 105 points, 60 fights, I won 45 and lost 15. I am shocked. I am shocked because I didn't think I fought that many fights, and I'm shocked because I placed 19th even though I was at court when they started, I dropped out 15 minutes before the end, and I was coming off surgery six weeks ago. An even 3 to 1 win to loss ratio seems fantastic to me. 

The winner was Doug, then Arn, then Breeder, which is how I started my day. 

Crown has not been scheduled. My next time in armor will probably be next Sunday. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Western Twelfth Night

Yes, Twelfth Night. I did not fight (though there is often night fighting at Western 12th Night), but I did get to hang around talking about fighting with lots of my favorite dukes, including Hauoc Bender, Thorfin the Cruel, and Alaric Von Drachenklaue. This is actually part one of a two part post. I'm writing it because, as he dropped me off at the train the next morning, I said to Alfred "read your Silver." 

Let me elaborate. Alfred if Carlysle is one of the best two-sword fighters I've ever seen. He is getting back into fighting after a very long hiatus. That's not as big a deal as you'd think, since so much of his game is mental. It's a very tactical fight with him, and a bit zen. Alfred has not fought much since the adoption of low profile thrusting tips. My full statement to him was "watch out for those low-profile thrusting tips, they will blow you up.... Read you Silver. Silver will teach you everything you need to know about low-profile thrusting tips." And he will. 

George Silver in his two books "Paradoxes of Defense"  ( 
and "Brief Instructions On My Paradoxes of Defense," ( 
was famously antagonistic toward the thrust. He did not eschew it himself, he used it a lot: rather, he objected to rapier fighting, which relies upon the thrust almost exclusively. He favored the edge because, as he put it, it takes a strong arm to ward a cut but the strength of a baby can ward a thrust. One of the big paradoxes of the SCA is, the way we determine victory, the unarmored combat manuals--Silver's most particularly, are the most useful for what we do. I should have referred Alfred to Fiore di Liberi's techniques for the sword in one hand as well, as it uses many of the same principles. 

In simplest terms, the way to avoid a thrust is to step off line, so that the thrust passes you by. Yes, you can parry it with either your blade or your hand, and you should, but this is your backup defense. Your primary defense is to step off line. Fiore has a technique for the sword in one hand wherein your ward (he only uses one ward for one handed sword) is with your feet in line, as in a modern fencing stance, your weight primarily on your back foot, and standing on the balls of both feet, with the sword held at the left hip, pointing backward, and your left hand on your right hip. In this way, the sword is more or less in the position it is normally in when in the scabbard (you can use this technique on the draw). Talhoffer uses this same guard, and it's similar to the first guard in I:33, but with your weight more to the back and without the buckler. The point is that you are keeping your arms and hands as far away from your opponent and as close to your body as possible. Should your opponent thrust at you, your parry is to flick your sword out. Flick is the best description--it's not a big, sweeping cut, but just a flick, deflecting his thrust and brining your sword on line, pointing at his breast. However, as you do this, and this is your main defense, you step off line with your right foot slightly to the left, taking your body out of the path of the trust. Either one is a good defense, but you use both to be careful. You could, at this point, incressare and thrust. I've used this technique in rapier fighting with good success. However, Fiore has you pass forward on the left, gaining the place, and cutting off your opponent's extended hand with a short chop.  (This is the way bob Charon teaches this technique). 

Silver's variation is that, since he uses a basket hilt (impregnable hands) he holds his sword in front in a hanging guard, and his left hand folded against his chest, instead of on his left hip. According to Stephen Hand, Sliver will do something similar, stepping off line, deflecting the sword, and passing on the left, but he is more likely to employ the elbow push, turning his opponent away, then thrusting home.  When I fight two weapon, as I noted a few posts ago (BBQ), I nearly always use arming sword and short sword, and employ a not very accurate style based on Silver's sword and dagger technique. In this, the dagger is used almost exclusively for defense. I present the dagger forward, hold the sword back, both tips more or less even with one another. I tie up their swords with my dagger and either cut or thrust with my sword. It works surprisingly well, even against dukes. I wouldn't want to try it against bellatrix, however. 

Alfred uses a high/low technique, in which he holds his right hand on his shoulder, as in a classic bellatrix sword and shield stance, and his left hand sword low near his right hip, with his feet in a normal sca fighting stance, left foot forward and right hip cocked. He should be able to use variations of the silver and Fiore techniques against thrusts. Against sword and shield fighters, stand so that, if the opponent is using a thrusting tip, you use an opposite stance (Right foot forward against right handed fighters). Your forward arm should hold your sword near the opposit hip, and the other sword should be cocked on your shoulder. No matter what they do, bring the low sword up in defense. If they thrust, step off line, parry as in Fiore, then attack with the other sword while passing forward. If they cut, do more or less the same, block with the forward sword, attack with the second sword while passing forward (at sometimes you may want to incressare, as in Fiore, or use a grapevine step, as in Silver: but the idea is always the same: the key is to get past and outside your opponent's weapon, passing forward so that you gain the place--close and square to their hip/shoulder (FIroe says you should be able to piss down their leg). Then their ribs and the back of their head are totally open to you. 

I probably didn't explain myself. Anyway: everybody should read their Silver. 

It is three days until Birka. I was just cleared for fighting by my surgeon about an hour ago, and I'm not sure I want my first time in armor after recovering from surgery to be the toughest, most grueling tournament in the Knowne World, so I am not sure at this moment when my next time in armor will be. I start training again on Monway (this is the start of my semester, so it makes it easy, as I've got a good gym available at CCNY).