Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ostgardr Heavy and Rapier Practice Tourney

Small tourneys, what do you do?

I am a big fan of practice tourneys. At BART practice, back in the early 80s, use them to help cure tourney choke. The Argent Angels host of the Crapaud, a monthly tourney. This week's will be the 242nd (and they've never missed a month). In Ostgardr we held a tournament called the Beau Geste tournament. We stopped doing them regularly a while ago, but we still try to hold them now and then. 

If the turn out is small--3-7--you need to find a way to increase the number of fights. 7-12 a round robin is fine, by the time you hit 16 you should run a double elimination.  

I hosted a practice tourney for both heavy and rapier on Sunday at Sword Class NYC, the combination Kendo dojo and HEMA school in Harlem. We had 5 heavy fighters and 3 rapier fighters (two of us were doing double duty). We held a sort of round robin for both lists. Everybody had to fight everybody three times, and we tallied total number of victories.

Just 50 push ups and 10,000 steps a day. I've done some odd workouts of squats and Dumbbells I'm designing a new workout program for the summer (4 days a week for a month I will have access to one of the best gyms in the city, plus I will have a 32 mile round trip bicycle commute. I will do one or the other. 

I fought all but one sword and shield fight in a high closed form, with my sword slightly forward of my shield, a la Prince Brian. I used the light sword without a thrusting tip. I need to be wary of exposing my arm in that form.  I was concentrating on fast counter punches and double strikes. 

As the only knight, I fought but not for the prize. In three of my rounds I used sword and shield and in the fourth I fought single sword. The other fighters were Sable, Ervald, Samale, and Ronan. 

The winner of the rapier prize was Ronan, and of the heavy prize, Ervald.

The prize for each was a jelly donut. 

It is 64 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Saturday at War of the Roses.   

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wantagh, Cinco de Mayo

Wantagh 5/5

There were four people in armor: me, Horic, Caitlyn, and Bob Fox. I fought one set each with Bob and Caitlyn and three sets against Horic. 

I used my lighter sword, which made it harder to strike a good blow, and I did not use the thrust once (and at one point I lost the thrusting tip anyway). I also fought in a high closed form, not the A frame, throughout. It taught me a few things. 

For instance, against Bob, I was trying to time a forehead cut with his blow, blocking as I threw. I hit him several times like that, but as I was throwing I was also backing out slightly, to aid my defense, and this was robbing my blow of power. I adjusted, taking a slight slide step forward as I threw the blow. I killed him. 

Caitlyn was teaching. She was not as sharp as the last time I fought her. I told her to work on her feet--move with purpose, complete the movement, don't square up--advise I should take as well. 

I fought Horic very well but had power issues. Probably two thirds of the blows I struck were no good. That's the super-light stick.  At first I was getting his leg but he adjusted to that.  When I used his technique for fighting someone on their knees he, natch, had a counter--a very wicked off side leg shot at a weird angle.  My goal was primarily to counterpunch with a straight snap. I did get one kill with a stutter wrap. The best thing I did was figure out the hole in his guard, and killhim through it--with three off-side body shots (I landed two more that weren't stout). One was a classic butterfly. 

This practice is exactly what I needed last night. I was upset about mundane tribulations and I got to hit people with a stick. Sometimes, you just need to bash somebody with a stick. 

There are 82 days until Pennsic. I likely won't be in armor till after Kalamazoo. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Crown Tournament #94, East Kingdom Spring Crown, Quebec

So this crown was not a success fighting wise, but I learned a lot about myself. It reinforced some things that I already knew, and it was a lot of fun.

First the negative: I was way under prepared. Due primarily to injuries I had not fought nearly enough between Birka and Crown. This is part of being 52 instead of 22, and you just have to manage it. Coming into this crown I felt unfinished--that's the only way I can describe it--like Edward Scissor Hands. That seems odd after 37 years of fighting, but I have been trying to put some things together in my style, and I've not quite done so. Alfred says that I'm making incremental changes and I need to start making wholesale changes (he's talking about taking a more zen approach). Maybe, but I really just need to do a few things right.

I tried a lot of other prep to get mentally ready. I worked out with weights and Indian clubs. I repaired all my armor, getting t those things (my shoulders, for instance) that I'd been putting off. I repaired my shield, made a new sword, and put the basket hilt on my old (slightly shorter and lighter) one. The drive up to Quebec flew by. I felt good. None of that helps with a lack of helmet time.

In my first loss (my third fight) my chin strap blew out. We were in pool play and had been admonished not to slow the pools down. I rushed around like a decapitated chicken trying to get it fixed. I couldn't get it riveted so gave that up after three tries and fixed it with p-cord (what Flieg calls "soft rivets").  I lost my first fight back in the pool and was out of sorts the rest of the day.

All day long I was tentative. I was trying not to lose. I had too much fear. I was not aggressive--except in my fight with Ryo (more on that later). I was told that there were two face thrusts that looked good on me in two different fights. Neither had felt like they had any positive force (my definition of that is that, while I'm not rocked by it, it has to push my helmet back into my gorget), and my opponents insisted they were satisfied with them. The one face thrust I did die to, in pool play, was just what I am looking for--stiff enough to bottom my helmet out, not "hard". I did start worrying, however, about whether or not my chin strap repair made thrusts somehow feel different. Regardless, after I was told that, I lost my next two fights and was out of the lists.

Randal and I had a long talk after the lists and he crystallized into words what I was feeling. My plan recently, not just for this list, but for my fighting in general, has been to simplify everything. Don't throw a lot of fakes or molinees, don't go for as much fancy foot work. Use that stuff when an opening presents itself, but concentrate on counter punching with snaps and off-side heads, and working the angles with wraps, off sides, and body shots. React more than you act. In the words of Duke Radnor, "let your opponent tell you how he wants to die." That is NOT what I was doing this crown. In this crown I was fighting like it was practice. I was trying everything. This is also why I lost to Arne at Mudthaw. I had something that I knew was going to work, but decided to try something else then go back to that. As Randy put it, I was cycling through techniques--"ok--that didn't work, lets try this; this almost worked, so come back to it." Randy said he heard me say at one point (and I did) "No, if I do that you'll just take my arm," meaning I was keeping up a running dialogue with myself about what I was doing, instead of just doing it. He saw that, saw a hole in one of my techniques, and simply waited for me to cycle back around to it, then took my leg. I was predictable--and my strength is usually that I am NEVER predictable. I need to do what I had planned to do all along--just stick to a couple of techniques until they work, and only add to them if an opening presents itself.

I was not fighting like myself.

One last thing. Readers of this blog will know that I have been struggling with the advantages and disadvantages of three wards--the High closed form, and the High open form and the A frame.The High Open Form is the classic Bellatrix style. It's how I was trained, and fought for 25 years, and won my crown and coronet. It is allows for the strongest and most creative offense, though slightly slower. The High closed form brings the sword forward to guard the head. It presents the fastest counter punches, but it's susceptible to wraps.  The A frame is a variation on the high closed form, and it's how I've been winning fights lately--it's very defensive. Instead of looking over the top of the shield you look past the front edge of my shield and use my sword to guard my right side--but it has almost no offense, and ti doesn't allow me to do the thing I want to do most right now--a counter punch snap or off-side body, and it's off-side head is just a touch slow. Most of the fights I've lost recently have been because I was either transitioning from one ward to the other, or because I was in the A frame and had drifted out of position, or because I was using the High open form. To be specific, nearly all my losses come on the right-side edge of my shield. I lost to off-side head shots in pool play. Ivan and Brion took my sword arm. So did Arne at Mudthaw. Tiberus knocked me out with a molinee saber cut. Randal took my *right leg with a back hand. I lost one fight to a fast inside thrust. At crown last fall, Simon beat me with thrusts to the inside of my shield (and almost got me with one on Saturday). The crown before that I was beaten by Ivan (leftie, right side of my shield) and Dimitri took my right leg when I did the foot stomp fake. Conclusion: I am squaring up way too much, exposing my right leg, drifting my shield to the left,  and not using my sword for defense as much as I need to be in the A Frame. Part of this is a natural resutl of using an A frame--the left side is cut off completely, but I'm obviously doing it wrong. Really, most of all, it's squaring up--one of the biggest sins in fighting. That cold just be me being sloppy, or it could be compensating for something physical like a bad back. Regardless, I need to work that out. Knowing that, and knowing how I felt mentally, and knowing what I was doing with technique, and that I was fighting like it was practice--all of which I figured out after the lists--actually makes me feel good about this Crown. And so does the fact that the winner--though certainly I'm no Duke Brion (only two or three were ever as good as he is)--is older than I am.

And the good: I beat two knights, Rhys and Simon, one of whom--Simon--was the only person I lost to in the round of sixteen last crown. I lost to Ivan, Brion, and Randal. Those, and my final loss to Tiberius, were all great fights. I was actually fighting very well. I had a lot of fun and I liked the outcome of the lists.

Oh, the site was at an incredible medieval village in Quebec. One of the best sites I've ever seen.

Here is some video from a French news crew showing me against Reynaud in pool play. 

Long live Prince Brion and Princess Anna!

It is 87 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will probably be this Thursday at Wantagh practice.