Wednesday, February 24, 2016

AEdult Swim Fighter Practice 2-20-16

AEdult  Swim Fighter Practice

Days don’t get much more awesome.

When Tim announced the AEdult Swim fight practice it was supposed to be a nice regional get together. The Aethelmarc fighters, a few Easterners and Atlantians—no big deal. But then Dukes from Ansteora and Artemesia got involved, and it just snowballed. It was one of the best weekends of fighting I’ve ever experienced. There was no war, no prize, nothing but the stick mattered.  It was the Pennsic pickup field with no other distractions. That’s hard to beat.

Until last week I wasn’t sure I’d be able to attend. I had a deadline coming up, but I got my manuscript in early and was able to go. I rode out with Darrek and Cat from Midland Vale, and I rode back with Ulfr from An Tir. Both trips were a joy.

Years ago I used to journal my fights. I’d take a marbled notebook to practice with me and write down what I’d done in each set of bouts. That came to be replaced with this blog, but I don’t always write this blog right away, and I’d write different things. Journaling had been lost. At Birka I dictated a journal into my phone each time I took a break, and for this practice I bought a marbled notebook, and journaled each set once again.  A good thing, too.

The overview is like this: in an old shoe factor in Milton PA, there were 269 authorized fighters, about 220 of whom were heavies. The second day was smaller, but another 20 showed up who weren’t there on Saturday. Some people got there at 8 AM and put armor on, and fighting went till 5:00. I spent seven hours in armor on Saturday and 4.5 or 5 on Sunday. I fought 20 people on Saturday, 10 on Sunday, plus Auzer (who was going for a number and was short so I gave him a bout—I had planned not to fight any Easterners, but he was an exception). I think I fought 7 Dukes, but I was relying on others sometimes to identify them, so I might have been wrong (I thought a couple guys were there who weren’t).  I had pulled out an old, light stick that had been abandoned with the thrusting tip broke off. I gave it a new tip and used it till it was a broom. Here is how my weekend went according to my journal:

1.) I warmed up with an unknown Aethelmarc unbelted with a Scutum. I took his leg a lot. He got me twice (I think). I killed him several times. I feel loose.

2.) Byron, Crown Prince of Aethlemarc:  I fought him really well. He’s fast. Opens with a straight thrust from an A-frame.  Likes a vertical cut as well. Squares up too often and moves his shield WAY too much. Fights I won were with a top-edge hook (once combined with a wavy rising snap).

3.) I fought an unbelted fighter named Guilbert from the Midrealm. He uses the classic Midrealm center grip tear drop. He’s short. He got me with an off-side head once, and a slot once. I killed him with stutter-wraps (double pump fake to freeze them then wrap), and with butterflies (rising snap that turns into an off side body shot), both standing and when he was on his knees. I might be squaring up too much.

4.) Duke Sean, Artemesia.  OMG!!! Sean was one of the main reasons I wanted to come out. I’ve known him since AS 20, when he was about 14 or 15. He’s one of the best fighters I know, and he fights very much like I do, or at least like I used to, with small misdirection fakes and molinees to freeze his opponent. He was top of my dance card, and I paid in pain! Our first three fights he kicked my ass like I was a newbie. I was tense and wound up, and I was biting on what Ron calls “the puppet show,” the way he moves his hand to distract you. It’s something I do myself, and I was waiting for it, and then when he did it I lasered in on it—like he wants me to—and he plowed my leg, then threw one of the slickest off-side body shots EVER. He either turned it down a gear or I got focused, because after our first three fights I won the next three. With us both legged I used a hidden snap (hiding my hand behind the forward corner of my shield and throwing a snap); once when he was legged I used a hook-thrust; then I killed him with a hidden snap while we were both standing.

5.) Duke Lachlin, Ansteora: Opposite of Sean, in that he didn’t force me into anything. His technique is what I use against newbies—from an A-Frame or High Closed guard throw quick snaps or off-side headshots as soon as their sword is engaged. He likes to tap your sword before anything else, like Sebastian van Baden’s old “bug feelers” technique, so he knows where it is and can control it. It was embarrassing! I killed him with a hook/thrust and a hook wrap (the best discovery of the day may have been finding my hook wrap, which I probably haven’t thrown for 20 years or more but was really effective this weekend). He uses a big-ass scutum and I never took his leg. He hits light but clean, and I took what he was throwing. He can plow you when he wants to.

6.) Next I fought Meg, a new fighter from Aethelmarc. She was super enthusiastic and bouncy. She uses a center grip shield and is a sucker for an off-side head. She took my arm and then, for some unknown reason,  I fell into Brian Taragon’s stance, where the sword is held almost verticle in front of the shield. It worked on here very well. Got me tattooed later in the day.

7.)  I fought three fights against an unbelted fighter from Aethelmarc named UlrichI was lousy! Getting tired. Arm got hit hard that last set, and it’s a bit tight. I was lazy and I missed him, torqueing my wrist all to hell.  Probably killed him once out of the three.

8.) Duke Vik from An Tir, now Avacal. He’s a tall big Viking with a scutum. Favors a weak-high-closed from. (sword foot forward, sword forward, high guard). I took his leg and then killed him with a Gendy butterfly (step deep and fake the wrap then, like the butter fly, bring the tip over and around, hitting him in front center body or face). Our second fight he took my leg and killed me. Our third fight we double killed after he took my leg.

9.) Duke Cuan, Atlantia  These were great fights!! He has a very relaxed style with a lot of out-front sword work, like Brian. He was cheating a weak closed stance to increase his range, but I was hitting his leg fairly regularly, usually with a high fake, low cut. What I learned is RELAX!! When I was fighting a targeting game from range, like he was, relaxed and precise, I was winning: when I tried to press him I lost. As with all my fights I was alternating guards: A Frame, High closed form, high open Bellatrix style. High closed form was the best against him.

10.) Lothar, and unbelted from Aethelmarc. I’m getting tired and lazy again. Cuan took a lot out of me. I’m looking too much for those counter punch off-side timing shots like Cuan and Lachlin throw, but my technique is bad. Hand below the edge of my opponent’s shield. Bad. That’s the fatigue.


Already my arms are lead…. I’m really tired….. I should have shucked my vambraces for my break, as I did my leg harness… It’s nice outside… warm… my goal is ten more fighters, six of them knights.

11.) Sir Steiner, Ealdomere. I’m tired. I’m sloppy.  He landed a thrust that had no positive force on it because I was throwing my head back. We talked about it. Everything is cool (NOBODY has had calibration problems today with anybody as far as I can tell: it’s great when it’s all for fun! ) He uses a small center grip scutum and ducks a lot. He creamed my arm, the unarmored upper forearm, inside the elbow cop. I killed him once, I think (?). My neck is stiffening up.

12.) Duke Aaron, Ealdomere. I’ve fought him before, beat him once in a tourney at Pennsic He’s a lefty with a small center grip. He beat me good! He’s a counterpuncher, great movement, all over me forcing me to move where he wanted me to go. I could take him when I got his leg.  He hit my wrist and it’s really hurting now.

13.) Signey, unbelted fighter from Atlantia. She is so small there is almost no target. Gets underneath your defense and chews on your legs. She has a great body thrust. I tied myself up a few times trying to find her.  Once I found the off-side head I could hit it. 

14.) Sir Amos—Atlantia (the Monk). I’ve long admired his kit and the way he approaches fighting. I’ve seen him at Pennsic but never crossed swords with him before. They were great fights. He’s got a wicked off-side that took my arm a few times. His cross hilted sword has great balance and impact even with short cuts. I tried to duplicate his off side and couldn’t’. Don’t fight a high open style against him, he will eat up your off side body and head. 

15.) Tearnach (sp) a leftie squire from Aethelmarc. I’m tired and sloppy. My reactions are a beat slow. He is tough but venerable. There’s nothing fancy—an off side head and leg shot. Tempo changes worked well against him—he couldn’t keep up. He comes in too hard and is vulnerable to deep wraps. My arm aches. 

16.) Sir Magnus, Drachenvald. He uses a sword and ax, trying to set up the body thrust and the face punch, both of which he got. The off-side body shot worked when he closed. Using a Bellatrix style worked against him. My last fight I looked like a FOOL! He spun on me and I took his ax-arm. Then I stopped and looked at him. He looked at me, then he back handed me in the face. It was beautiful. Ulfr laughed. 

17.) Duke Ulfr, An Tir. I always like fighting Ulfr. It’s a real challenge. I won our first fight, then he had me probably two wins for every one I got. He spun on me and plowed my arm. Ow. I killed him with a Gendy butter fly as well (good An Tir technique that). I took his arm a couple of times with off side shots. They were great fights. 

18.) Sir Ian from Aethelmarc: He’s tall with a  center grip heater. He’s got a strong first thrust but ties himself up with it. I took his leg twice and killed him both times. I’m so tired I’m reverting to high open form a la Jade or BoB, weight forward. It looks swell. It’s not planned—it’s just where I feel most comfortable when I’m tired. I go back to my roots. 

19.) Sir Wynfriend (sp) from the Midrealm. He uses a small center grip and he’s about my height. Stands with a high A-frame but has a quick rotation leg block.  Worked out of an A-frame for most of our sets. I got him coming forward once, we were probably even overall. 

20.) Bryce. Great way to end the day, a HARD hitting Atlantian! He is so good! Our first fight he threw his bread and butter—step and a vertical off side. I was out of position and it hit me right on my gorget, the lobster tail part over my cervical vertebra, so hard I felt it in my finger tips. I’ve been hit like that before. My entire fighting career my gorget (not my helm or my cup or my gauntlets) has been the piece of armor I most care about. My biggest fear is a broken neck. I’m glad I cared, because that was a shot! I hate to think about taking it without good armor. We probably traded even. I certainly wans’t up on hi. High thrusts worked best—once off a pump fake. I also taught him the hook-thrust. A great way to end my day!!


A much smaller field, but everybody is also really tired. My arm ached and my wrist, which got hit yesterday, felt a bit inflamed. I threw away the sword I had been using and taped up a stick I’d gotten from William McCrimmon a few months ago. It’s planed and extremely light, and because it was designed for a shorter basket hilt, had a very short blade once I taped it to my Baldur hilt. That’s ok because (a) It gave me a really fast counter-punch snap, a technique I’m trying to build upon and (b) I’m not sure I could have thrown a good snap with anything heavier.

On that straight quick snap, which is also called a molinee snap by some people (it's the saber cut to 5), I had a good conversation with Roger Stockton about the difference between people who learn lots and lots of techniques and those who have just two or three blows. Roger was squired to Duke Andreas die Eisfalke, putting him (like me) in Alfrik’s line. Ice really has two shots—a quick nap and an off-side leg. He reminds me a lot of Duke Christian du Glaive. I come from the Western tradition of learning lots and lots and lots of different techniques, fakes, hooks, timing blows, combinations, etc. None of that served me well when I moved to the east, because the style of fighting we do here is based on a tight defense using a big shield—one that doesn’t get moved around by all those fakes and combinations. Hooks were still ok. My fighting over the last few years has been built on narrowing my techniques (though you couldn’t tell by the way I was fighting this weekend), and trying to fight more like Christian and Andreas. I’ve never beena  counter-puncher, I never worked a lot with Sagan, who was the teacher of that style in the West, so it’s a big transition for me. It is also what I was trying to do on Sunday. 

1.) Sir Pelandreas from Tir Mara: I was avoiding Easterners, but I never see the Canadians so I broke my “no Easterners” rule. He fights with a  medium-sized round shield and a low-closed form (holding his shield low and his sword vertical above it). I killed him with a hook-wrap. Having trouble getting my shots to count with the light stick. A longer sword would open him up to a leg shot. My wrist hurts enough that I’m not sure I can throw a snap. Using Bellatrix style tired me out. Pace yourself.  

2.) Duke Tim: Ow! My bruised leg! Ow! My tender wrist! Tim and I had a great set. I killed him with a stutter wrap and with a hook-thrust. My high-closed form worked best. The whippy stick robbed me of two kills. Best win for me: he legged me and I got him with Houghton’s “sit down!” shot. 

3.) James, unbelted from Atlantia: Tall, experienced, but tired. Hook wrap and stutter wrap killed him. Use hook-wraps more. Work on targeting. On butterfly, drive the shot forward instead of pulling it down. Missed twice on high thrusts because the stick was short. Took his leg with both a double tap and an upsilon (a rising snap that turns into a short leg cut). 

4.) Sir Cunwyn (sp) Aethelmarc. She hits light on some shots but has a good off side. Wraps are useful against her. The upsilon leg shot and Martin the Temperate leg shot (A hidden shot that starts with the elbow straight out and sword on the shoulder, knuckles down) worked against her. Killed her with a Gendy butterfly. 

5.) Count Roger Stockton: I did very well against him. Landed three blows that were light—drive the skinny stick more. Got him with Darius tap-thrust (tap the top of the shield then thrust to the face). He is floating his defense forward as he moves, opening up both the wrap and the off-side head/face shot. Took his leg twice. We were about even. He had a good observation: I’m switching from offense to defense, so when I am defending I lock up and am no threat, and when I’m on offense my defense floats out, creating openings. 

6.) Sir Finn, Aethelmarc: His main attack is an off-side molinee, but he often directs it to an off-side head: tricksy. When I went into a high open Bellatrix form late in our set it worked, otherwise I was tight. Best attack is timing the off-side head to his snap or double tap the off-side head. Got his arm through the scoop in his hoplite shield, a planned technique I was very proud of. 

7.) Oswin from Atlantia: Great lesson in patience and counter-punching. Fights in a high-weak A-frame. Every time he throws a leg he’s open to an on-side snap, and every time he throws an off-side he’s open to an off-side head shot, so the high-closed form worked best. I did that “tank” thing that Duke Christian used to do. Just slowly walk forward in a high closed form an throw a snap whenever he moved. That worked. 

8.) Duke Cygnus from Aethelmarc: Took me apart! Very physical fight. Pretty big scutum but lots of movement. As with Oswin, walking up in high-closed form won the day. He goes wide—big leg shot, deep off-side, deep wrap, pretty square. Better movement backward might break his defense. Took my arm twice. Ulfr has a good observation. He opens appears open, but he moves that scutum through his defensive zones then moves behind it, making him much harder to kill than you think he will be. 

9.) Edward (Nug) from Aethelmarc. Fights in a kettle hat. Big guy. Throws the best bull shit shot I’ve seen in years—a face thrust that runs behind his head, using the brim of his kettle hat as a guide. He’s a sucker for a hook-wrap. 

10.) Sir Ragnar from Atlantia: He won our first bout and our last, I won the rest. His strong hand is his left. Throws a classic head/leg combo very well. Beat me with that our first fight. The second bout I took his leg by jamming his swords, then I wrapped him. Our third bout I got him with a face thrust as he dodged right. Our fourth bout got him with a molinee cut to the face as he took my arm. Our fifth bout I took his leg and thrust to the body. Our sixth bout I got him with a  slot. Our 7th bout I threw a floating thrust, one that comes from the hip and accompanies a circling step. He dodged it and threw a leg/head that I walked right into. Hit me so hard I handed him my lunch money.    

Reading this, it sounds like I lost a lot more than I did, because I’m mostly concentrating on what I did wrong. I beat all the unbelted fighters and most of the knights I faced. I traded even with some of the Dukes and was only really outclassed by Lachlin and maybe Sean. I’m sure I was plus 15 or 20% for the day.

The best things I found were my hook-thrust and my counter-punch molinee/snap (the saber cut). The best thing I practiced was patience. This was a very good practice for that.

Here’ some video that Cat Woody took of me fighting Duke Vik:

Over all, the great thing about this was that it really speaks well for the SCA and its future. Seriously: here were almost three hundred fighters, most of the heavies, meeting together just for the love of fighting—no war points, no prizes, no crowns, just stick. It is the kind of thing we need a lot more of: not that that other stuff isn’t fun, but fighting for the love of fighting is what will keep this game going.

It is 66 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at the Viceroy’s birthday tourney this Sunday.   

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Training new fighters

 Ah I am so stiff and sore!

A constant theme of this blog is how best to train your fighters. I'm a student of Paul of Bellatrix, As are, in a way, we all, but he was not my first trainer. Paul's training method, which of course emphasizes his style, involves a lot of slow work and pell work and a bit of kata. Paul maintains that fighters should practice unarmored for a year before putting armor on. This is not the way and we normally train, and it's really hard to get people to commit to that. People are here because they want to fight, not because they want to do slow work. I was put into armor at my first fighter practice and thrown to the wolves (literally: my second opponent was Elrik Scapvarger--my first was Eichling von Arum, which, I contend, is why I was able to win a crown eventually). The other unbleted fighters at that first practice were Rolf the Relentless and my eventual knight, Alfrik. So it kind of worked. However, the proof was in the putting: everyone who actually trained with Paul and his training method was good the day they strapped on armor. Very good: after one year of slow work they were always equal to or better than fighters who had been in armor for three years. In other words, they packed three years of training into one by not putting on armor.

This week I got to work with several new fighters at two fighter practices. I also got helmet time, which was great. I did not get to fight against any knights, which sucks for me, but was good for the people around me.

After Birka I decided that it was time to get back into my routine of doing push-ups every day. I intellectually knew what it would be like to take six weeks off of everything, but I could not really know until I experienced it. It sucked! Now, part of my problem is that fighting in Birka is the closest thing we do to running a marathon, and I probably needed a lot more recovery time that I gave myself. When I started doing 50 push-ups a day two years ago, I just started doing 50 push-ups a day. It was a bit of a struggle but I worked into it quickly. On 1 February, deciding that the first was a good time to start a workout routine, I started doing 50 push-ups a day. I was weak. Really weak. The second day I tried this I ended up not being able to complete my last set of 10. I had to stop and start over again. In every way I am tighter, weaker, and more winded than I was before my surgery. Not doing anything for six weeks is awful. I don't recommend it. After a week I took a day off, and then dropped down to 20 to 30 push-ups most days, although I did do 50 this morning, and on on Saturday. I did not do any yesterday. I'm building up to March 1, when I can start doing 50 push-ups a day again.

Nonetheless this is been a pretty good week for workouts. I'm getting back into it. I've been doing push-ups and squats. I never did stop walking. At the gym Saturday I did treadmill, push-ups, some warm-up weights, and some straight up full body work taking a bar from the floor to a military press and back in sets of 10. Monday I did yoga, Indian clubs, some shadow work with the clubs, and my polearm kata. Sunday and Tuesday I fought.

I was training people this week, and getting helmett time, not working on my own technique. The one thing I was truly concentrating on was edge work. I did not have a thrusting tip on the sword I used for most of my fights.


Counting myself, there were five people in armor. One of them, Raven  was brand-new.  I fought my usual style, sword and heater, mostly in A-frame, but also using the high open and high closed guards a bit. I had great fights with Auzer and Sam, I got to use interesting techniques, and I got helmet time.

Raven is a small thin girl who was in armor for the first time. I think she might have done a little bit of pell work in the past. I worked with her for about half an hour. I started out teaching her defense and doing slow work. I drilled her on several blocks. I taught her a proper stance.  I taught her three blows: onside head, off side head, and leg shot, and told her to limit herself to those. Then she went out and did slow work with another fighter as I watched. I would pause the fight and critique both of them as it went on. Then I let them fight two fights, just to get her used to swinging full speed and getting hit a bit. Her defense was very good for someone their first time in armor. after a rest break, I had them do Paul's offense /defense drill, where one fighter attacks, and one fighter defends, the defending fighter gets three blows only, and the fight is over once the third blow has been thrown. Gui worked with her on defending against left-handed fighters, and then after a rest break she did some light sparring with Sam.

This is not the way I would like to teach. I'd like to have a few days out of armor, doing slow work and drills, so someone can then work on it home for a few weeks, before putting someone in armor. But people crave the contact. They want to fight. So do I.

Gui and I have been wanting to get to the Middletown practice for a couple of years now to work with the unbelted fighters up there. We try to get around and do some training, especially where knights don't get to a lot. That practice is better than others, because at least one knight, Tanaka, who is one of the best trainers we have, gets up there on a regular basis.

That practice was excellent. It restored my faith in the future of fighting, and in the SCA.

There were 10 people in armor, and I am sorry but I don't remember most of their names. Two of them were brand-new, two of them were new at last hundred minutes war. There were two really good unbelted fighters, and Tanaka showed up. There was an equipment issue, in that for one group of three fighters they only had two helmets and two shields.

I worked with one of the brand-new fighters for quite a while. He had never done anything at all, not even pell work. He was using a Lucan style kite, so I taught him the Lucan stance and basic technique. Partially because that is such a strong defensive stance, he was pretty good right away. His biggest problem was starting blows too far forward and throwing low leg shots. Those are both easy to correct.

I began by teaching him the proper way to hold that shield. For those unfamiliar with it, it is a peaked kite, and you hold it with the peak guarding the left side of your helmet while looking past the front edge of the shield. This means you're using an A-frame. We discussed both the strong and of the weak stances – that is, shield foot forward and sword foot forward – and I explained to him why the weak stance is favored by most fighters who use that shield. As with Raven, I only discussed three blows with him. I showed him how to throw them and did some slow work with him. When he got into actual fighting, he was beginning to put those blows together in combinations. He was very good for a first-time fighter.

After some basic fun fighting (they are enamored of bear pits up there), I went back to training some of the newer fighters again. I discussed with them how to make and use pells (they all have back yards!) and pointed them to some videos they can use for pell work drills. Then I showed them my block/strike drills, which are a lot like those used in the Asgard school out of Trimaris.  After some more pick-up fights, we talked about footwork and I showed them my interpretation of the compass Rose. That discussion requires a lot more time, and video.

I did one thing that was probably not wise. For myself I mean. In order to teach people how to use the shields that they were using, I picked them up and used them myself. I don't know when the last time I used a Lucan kite was, maybe never: but I was totally slaying with it last night. Then, just for fun, I took Tanaka's small center grip heater into a fight against Hassan, the best unbelted fighter up there. I won all but one of our bouts. I was totally rocking it old-school: high open form, fakes and molinees, fancy footwork, long range sniping: total Bellatrix/Radnor stuff. That kind of fighting is the most fun I know. But I promised Jade and Lucan that I would stick with one shield type till I won another crown.

There was a lot of video shot of this practice, and Gui used a video coaching program that allows for frame by frame analysis. Some of that will be posted in the future.

It is 73 days until crown tournament. My next time in armor will be Saturday at Duke Timothy's adult swim fighter practice.