Monday, September 12, 2016

The Feast of John Barleycorn

Ok, two things: first off, Barleycorn has long been my favorite Eastern event. The very first one I went to was a blast. No, the fighting isn't as good as at other events, but it is a good party and usually a decent feast.

But let me say a few words about Sir Edward's tournament...

And these words could lose me a few friends...

A lot of people HATE sir Edward's tournament. He's been running ti for 22 years now. In Ostgardr, ti's very popular. In the rest of the kingdom it is generally reviled. Hatred for this tournament, which is the centerpiece of the fighting at Barleycorn, has significantly depressed attendance. I've hared complaints from all sides on this: complaints stating "there should be no testing in fighting," and "when I'm gearing up for a tourney I shouldn't have to remember that Vert is green." I've heard people complain "I don't wnat to have to drive three hours to take a test," and "I don't want to drive six hours to be told I can't fight in the tourney." I've had knights tell me "we decided a long time ago that all that stuff was bullshit."

To which I say "bullshit."

Let me explain. Sir Edward Zifran hosts a tourney called the "unbelted challenge," which ahs two parts, a tournament and  a written test. The test has 50 questions, 9 of which have never changed. They include questions on heraldry, chivalry, arts, sciences, EK law, corpora, and medieval history. They are things like "give the heraldic names for the following colors" and "name three Ladies of the Rose." You need more than 60% to pass, and you need to pass to get tournament. You get ten points for every fight you win in the tournament, and ten for winning the tournament itself. The prizes are always the same: coffee crisp chocolate bars, which make a nice light snack. It's not a hard test. Anybody who has been reasonably active in the SCA for more than three years, who reads a book once in awhile, should get at least 61%. The whole thing is Sir Edward's playful way of promoting the idea that knights should be well rounded individuals.  As is well known, by corpora, all peers are supposed to know how to dance, play chess, emblazon arms, compose a poem, etc. And as is also well known, the chivalry often ignores these requirements, only looking at how well each candidate can fight, and whether or not they are a jerk.

And the order suffers for it.

I was talking to Duke Ronald about it recently. We were squire brothers, and the people who trained us--Alfrik our knight, William the Lucky, Andrew of Riga, James Greyhelm, William of Houghton, Meythen Gervaise--were real hard asses about this stuff. Edward, who was knighted int he West, comes from that tradition as well. While I want to see Barleycorn flourish, and I get that lots of people hate the test and don't come for it, my gut reaction to that is "stop your whining."

If you are a serious fighter in this game you should know that stuff by rote. You shouldn't have to remember that Vert is Green. You should know that as well as you know that Duct Tape is usually gray. You should know the difference between a pavanne and a bransle. You should know that you have to be a member of the SCA to fight in crown. Some of the questions are harder, sure: but you should still pass. And if you can't you shouldn't complain about it. You should study: because if you can't pass Edward's test you should not be considered for knighthood.  

This year was a bit different. Attendance was up because of the investiture. More people entered. Everyone who took the test seemed to enjoy it--even the three who didn't pass. There was lots more fighting for them anyway (the second tourney went on till nobody could keep going). The queen took it and approved. It was good to see. 

I've been hitting the gym on Thursdays, using my Indian Clubs, dumbells and kettle bell at least one other day, 50 pushups, 50 squats, and 10,000 steps a day. I've also been taking the German Longsword classes at Swordclass NYC. So I'm feeling good. But I need to up my aerobic activity. I still haven't gotten my bike on the road, and I've only run twice (once on the treadmill) since school started.

I was being intentionally lazy. First of all it was hot and I was tired. I had to run the rapier tourney, as I was the outgoing champion. I fenced six bouts then stood around for an hour in the REALLY hot humid weather in my doublet and sweatpants. Second of all, I wanted to work on energy conservation. So it was goofy foot, high form, counter punches with snaps, off sides, straight leg shots and maybe a wrap.

That was a recipe for pain. So I switched to an A Frame.

I didn't get to do much. By the time I got into gear I wasn't the only one who was overheated and tired. It was a universal affliction. I did get some great bouts against Balfar's foster-squire Victor. He is awesome! He was fighting Florentine and I was feeling his blows. I got him with some thrusts but little else. I fought in the mellees and had a very good time. I fought a few pickups with Conrad from Acre as well.

Mostly I tried not to collapse.

I've passed marker six in the "Let's Walk to Birka Challenge."

It's 54 days until Crown Tourney. Assuming anybody else shows up (not looking good) I'll be in armor tonight at McCarren Park. Otherwise my next time in armor will be at Nutley on Wednesday.

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