Wednesday, June 21, 2017

LOW COST ARMOR UPDATE JUNE 2017

NOTE: A COUPLE MORE LINKS HAVE DIED, SO I AM RE-POSTING THIS WITH CORRECTIONS

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  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.
 

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 slightly more expensive 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 kit from Polar Bear Forge ($90 in aluminum)
. 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.   

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 Polar Bear Forge, all of the armorers listed above are ones that I have done business with personally. I included Polar Bear because Mad Matt's  and 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, Illusion, 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. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

A War Practice

On the Bellatrix Fighting School web site, Duke Paul states that his students used to alternate training. He was in the West Kingdom, which has three Crown Tourneys a year, in March, June, and October, and three Coronations in August, at 12th Night and at Beltane. (the August coronation has a name as well, Purgatorio). In between Coronations and Crowns, his students would fight with sword and shield, while in-between Crown and Coronation they would use other forms--usually two handed weapons.  I have done something similar in the past, and am doing so this year. In between Spring Crown and Pennsic I'm planning to concentrate on my spear and pole arm fighting. I only took a spear to war practice last Saturday.

TRAINING
Well, my weight is good. After that long sojourn to California I was worried that I'd put on weight, but I weigh 220 this morning, right where I normally sit and ten pounds more than I'd like to weigh. I've not missed a day of pushups and squats, but I haven't been doing as much walking. My steep count is way down.  However Wednesday I did a three mile run, Thursday I did a bike ride, and today I did yoga and clubs. The Yoga is particularly needed. I'm getting way too tight.

FIGHTING
As I said, the only weapon I took to SRWC was a spear. I did ok with it, killed a few guys, got into a very nice duel on the bridge with Ogadai, who is an MoD and a great spearman. But I also missed a wide open shot on Russlan that would have been very advantageous had I hit him.

As with 100 Minutes War, the day starts out with a speed tourney among the unbelted fighters. The top two get to pick teams. Picks are made by units. There is a truth I've experienced here in the East, for years and years--if you're at a war practice, and Von Halstern and ICOD (who love to fight together) are on the opposite side, you are probably going to get rolled. We mostly got pounded like harp seals on our side. We didn't have much of a plan in the first two field battles. In the third one I offered Klaus a plan that worked. Sort of. Anyway, we won.

My knight, Alfrik Favnesbane, taught us tactics on a sand table. He was one of the big early war gamers back in the 70s. He helped design and game test D&D, and he was a very big player in Arafix ancients. Ours was a war band household, with unit structure and command structure that went through several evolutions. He taught us how to command on the field, but he taught us how to strategize on sand table. I got pretty good at command, and won a couple of awards for it--not to mention the West An Tir war when I was king (the thing of which I'm proudest from my reign). I only have a few things I like to do in a war-- 3/2 unit front, T formation with a sweep, form square (with a break out, a la Cyrus the Great), column charge--but my favorite thing is a piercing maneuver that Alfrik use to call a "flock of seagulls" because when done right the formation ends up looking like a flock of birds in flight, with a short and a long side, drafting off of one bird at the point. Basically, you put a heavy, slower moving unit on one flank, a slightly faster shock unit on the other, and next to that your best cowboy unit. Between the cowboys and the slower  unit (heavy infantry lets call them) you put everyone else. You don't keep a reserve. The Key is to charge. The army will get spread out a bit like a flock of birds with your cavalry unit at the point. The cowboy unit pierces the enemy formation, hopefully at a point between two units, and turns in, while the unit to their outside pins down whatever is there. The heavy infantry unit becomes the anvil to the cavalry's hammer. It relies on initiative and surprises people, since most SCA armies amble forward then try to sweep a flank. So, I I suggest  to our commander that he put Serpentius on the left flank, Northern Region on the right, Osterbleeken to their inside, everybody else in the middle, and to charge like that. Well, Osterbleeken and Northern Region switched positions, but otherwise it went as planned. We caught them flat footed and we won. This illustrates an important concept with which I was raised. No, not "go straight at em,": train all your unbelted fighters in tactics. Train on paper as well as on the field.

On the bridges we did much better. We and great spear work and made good pulse charges. Everything worked out fine. I got into some nice duels, but that was all. The heat HEAT was getting to me.

I sat out the capture the flag res battle.

Then we had knights vs everybody else. This started out with a 2-1 advantage for the unbelts, and increased as more of them came out of the woodwork to pound on us. These three battles were a lot of fun. Naturally, we lost all three. Treating them as champions battles, I borrowed a sword and shield, breaking lines and killing people. FUN!

The only only pickups I did were against Duke Brenan. He beat me two to one, but I did get a nice shield hook on him. My sword was heavy and hand no thrusting tip, and I ended up with a bit of tendonitis on top of some heat sickness.

There are 42 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor is likely to be NRWC.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A lot has been going on

I've been in armor three times since my last post. I've been busy. Last week was finals week, with no time to write. Then I flew out to San Diego for Potrero War. No blogging then. This is the first chance I've gotten to write some stuff. In spite of the fact that I've got a lot of material, this will be a short post and formatted way differently.

VIKING  DAY DEMO
Really, there's nothing much to say. Three SCA heavy fighters showed up, plus four MSR fighters who had  a demo going right across the path. We combined forces. Nothing really to report.  In fact, it was so long ago I don't recall what I did, other than hit some people.

MEMORIAL TOURNEY
This memory is easy: I won.

It's always good to win a tourney, but winning Matt's memorial tourney was special.  The format was double elimination, best two out of three each round. I can't recall how many fighters there were, but not many.  I came out of the winner's list, and I don't think I lost a fight until semi finals. There were two other knights in the tourney, but I never crossed swords with either of them.

I got to fight Jonathan four times, twice as a first round bye, and twice in semi finals. He, not myself, was my pick to win the tourney, and so I'm surprised I was able to beat him. In the bye round, what stands out is that I threw Ron's On-side head/off-side body/on-side head combo and it worked like a charm. In the semifinal what I remember is him winning our first bout, then a double kill, then I picked him apart by taking his leg then his arm then killing him.

I fought Chiba, who was using a katana, and was able to rock him back on his heels just by firing snaps at his head and not letting up. Marc would have eaten me alive.

In the finals I fought Colin. I got him first with a hook-thrust, and then with a simple pump fake.

POTRERO WAR
Ah! Potrero! As I have written elsewhere, my last time on that site was 30 years ago. It was an awesome war then and it's more awesome now. I was out there to support Agrippa and Bridget, but I managed to get some fighting in.

In the battles I fought with a Corvus center-grip oval. The only problem was my wind, and that just in the first two battles. I killed at least one person every battle, mostly as they were trying to break our line.

I was using a shorter, heavier sword than normal. It was slow and really wore me out that first battle, but as the day went on I got some of my heavy-stick style back. It wasn't fast, but any time it landed people were going to take it.

Pickups were really fun. My most important sets were with Agrippa. He pushed me hard. He was trying to dance around and intimidate me, but I was having none of that. When he settled down and just fought he tended to do better. Then we did a training technique--two, actually--wherein his advantage (speed and endurance) was lost. We went literally toe-to-toe, Von Dresden's favorite game, touching the toes of our left feet, and if you moved your foot you lost. The other was standing square at Heidelberg distance (arms length) and going for it. I won most of those fights.

Later I switched to the bunny round and got in fights with a few more guys, including Trigger (who was offered the accolade that night) and Duke Dietrich. By then, everything was working. I got Trigger with two wicked off-side body shots, one using Jade's baiting technique. I also got the butterfly working. My fights with Dietrich were great. I one-shotted him with just a well timed snap. I also got him with Martin the Temperate's leg shot, which was truly awesome. He was really amused when I told him where that shot came from.  He won most of our bouts.

It is 58 days until Pennsic. I'm still on the West Coast, and my next time in armor will likely be Southern Region War Camp on July 10.

This is me last Saturday. See this Gambesson? At Potrero in 1987 it was new!




Monday, May 8, 2017

Crown Tourney #96

Me vs. Rory

I'm closing in on 100 Crown Tournaments. I'd better win that second one soon.

As I wrote on FaceBook, I did not meet any of my goals for this Crown. I did not win more fights than I lost. Usually, having a winning record in a double elim means going to the 5th round. Because they had some early elimination bouts, and because they were calling rounds in the loser's bracket separately from the winner's bracket, I think I officially went to ether 6th or 7th round, but I only had four fights, making me 2 and 2. I did not kill any chivalry. I did not get to semi-finals. I did not win. Those are my benchmarks, and I didn't achieve any of them.

But it was an awesome day!

I fought really really well. All of my fights were against really good opponents, and all of them were epic. Three of them -- against Rory, Arne, and Avaldr -- were against legit contenders, and Luther is damn close. I totally had a blast in all my fights. I am also satisfied with both my preparation and my performance. There's room for improvement, particularly in my on-side defense and power generation and targeting with that weight/balance of sword. But I know where I need to improve. My offense and footwork were working really well.

Plus, Gracia was there to watch me champion her, and we hung out with our new family/household and had a really good time. And one more thing, that's below.

TECHNIQUE
You don't want to change anything before a Crown tourney. This is why, even though they are slightly heavier, I stuck with my bauzbands instead of repairing my lighter leather arm harness, and put off making my new legs and new shield till after Crown (the shield will be about an inch shorter, but better balanced). I didn't want to change what I was doing. But my sword died and I needed a new one. I didn't have quite as light a piece of rattan as I'd used before, and I wanted to use my Michael of Bedford style basket hilt. The sword I made was maybe an inch longer in (the blades are the same length but the basket hilt is different, so it's effectively longer), but it's much better balanced. This may have affected my fighting a bit, but nobody had been taking wraps from the light sword I'd been using, so it was probably a wash. Gui thinks I should cut an inch off of it. I like the new sword a lot. I turned the blade aorund on the other one in case I needed a backup but I never used it.

The big deal about my technique was that I had really moved away from the A-Frame. I was fighting almost exclusively in a High closed form, like in the picture above. This is obvious when you look at how I died. In the last few tournaments, I had been dying mostly to off-side shots or slot shots. I adjusted to a high closed guard to better defend the off-side. both of my deaths were to on-side head shots, little molinees from high over my shield.

WORKOUTS
As you should, I dialed down my training in the week before Crown. I didn't fight at all last week. i didn't run every day. I Friday and Saturday I didn't even do pell work, just my push ups and squats. That's what a lot of boxers do, let themselves heal and recover from all the training they've been doing.

FIGHTS
I warmed up with Horic, which was great. It just got the blood flowing and got me in the right head space.

Standing in Line next to Duke Randal, I remarked that It was silly to have Luther as the second in line, because he is really a chiv-level fighter. He's Sir Stephan von Dresden's squire, in perfect shape, like Stephan, and has been fighting for more than a decade. He's one of those St. Adrien's guys who started out in Acre--where's he's a Duke -- but train mostly in the SCA.  Let's put it this way: he was one of our heroic champions at Pennsic last year, and he won his bout. As soon as I said that I knew it would come back to bite me, because I was second from the *end* of the line. Sure enough, Ray, who was first, challenged Randal and Luther challenged me. It was a good, tough fight. He was fast but sloppy. He tried to overwhelm me with speed but was pulling out of his shots early and was a bit wild. A real wake up for me. I got his leg with Martin the Temperate's leg shot, and once I had his leg it was done with (though i can't recall how I won the fight).

Then I sat and I sat as they whittled down the fighters to 32 for an even bracket (essentially, they front load the byes).

Speaking of whittling down, my next fight was against Rory. I had said that I was more scared of Rory than I was of Arne. Rory's defense is just so incredible that he's next to impossible to lay stick on. Arne at least gives you some openings--though with Arne you've got that incredible speed and reflex to deal with. My fight with Rory was brutal. We fought for awhile trying to break each other down, till I threw a hook thrust and took his arm. I retained my shield, as that's the custom in the East. Then I took his leg, and then I killed him. And that took a long time. He's really hard to kill.

So here's the one frustrating part about Crown, and the thing that suggests that, even though I *think* I was in a good mind set, and *think* I never lost my focus, I may be dead wrong about that. The two fighters I specifically prepared for were the two that took me out of the list. I fought both of them extremely well, but I did not crack either of them (though with Avaldr I came really close).

It was obvious at Practice that Arne was, if not sandbagging, then certainly not going full bore. I put no truck in the fact that I'd beaten him a lot the past two weeks because, as Alan Iverson put it so well, we're talking about practice. This time it was just a tight fight. My defense was where I wanted it. He didn't land an off side shot on me. My offense was good. As usual he ran away whenever I pressed him. I tried the shield hook but he got in a good sword block. I tried to press and take his leg but he stepped out of it. Eventually I pressed him and his tactic worked. He caught me with a high molinee while backing out. It was a really good fight. There's some video on FaceBook.

My fight with Avaldr was even better. I mixed in some BVellatrix technique with some high closed form. The brief moment I switched to an A Frame he threw a slot shot at my body, so I closed that off and went back to the high guard. He tried a butterfly as well but we were out of position for that. I had watched some tape of him fighting Duke Cygnus at Aedult Swim and saw that he has a window that opens up for a simple slot shot when he throws on side, and sometimes when he moves to his right. I think this is how I killed him at Birka. I slipped past his guard a couple of times, both with a saber cut and with a bellatrix combo, but didn't stick them. I managed to move his shield really well with a shield fake and some foot work, but my leg shot was a dropping wrap that hit low. Eventually, he did to me exactly what Arne did and got me with a high on-side. I'm told that he threw it extremely high with a broken wrist to get it to land.

I LOVED both of those fights. Sir William said I was in total control of the fight, Avaldr just slipped a desperation shot it. Maybe, but I need to improve my on-side defense if I use that guard. Duke Vissivald said--twice--that he thought my fight with Avldr was magnificent. That's high praise--as high as it gets.

A FURTHER WORD.
I've lived in the East now a lot longer than I had planned to when I got here. I always thought I'd go home to my home, to California and to the West, once I finished grad school. The only reason I didn't, really, is because I fell in love with Gracia. I also fell in love with the East. I will always be a Western knight, I will always have my imaginary lands, my viscounty in the Mists and my county in the West. I will always be a bard of the Mists and a Knight Banneret of the West, and a member of the Rose Lief and the Leaf of Merit and the Pied d'argent and the Order of Valor and the rest. By royal contract, I have dual fealty to both the East and the West. But my primary fealty is to the East. I made a conscious decision about twelve years ago that I was an Easterner.

In the East, the fighters come up in a specific fashion built around Pennsic (it's the same in the Midrealm). Eastern fighters train to be on the Unbelted Champions team. For an Eastern unbelt, that's the highest honor. They go to the war practices and work hard and hope they are chosen. When they are, they train with the team for months, working toward that roughly 2 minutes of glory in the champion's battle. Sometime they are on the team for years. At some point, they are admitted to the Order of the Tiger's Combattant, the East Kingdom fighting award (recently it was made a grant level award and a second AA level award was added, the Silver Tiger). Since around 1980, every fighter knighted in the East has been made an OTC first. This is the fraternity of Eastern fighters.

The whole time I've lived in the East, almost 20 years now, I've never felt like I was one of the guys. Most of the chapters of my epic happened in the West Kingdom, where I was a prince and a king, where I earned glory with the Tribe and won most of the accolades an westerner can earn before gaining a peerage. I did not have that shared history with my Eastern Brothers. I didn't train with the other knights of my era for the unbelted team, I didn't share that experience with the upcoming unbelts, and I wasn't an OTC, because usually it's given to unbelted fighters. I received My OTC on Saturday before the tournament. I'm not the first foreign made knight to get an OTC, but I think the others would agree that this makes me feel like I am truly an Eastern fighter now. I'm part of the fraternity. I am as proud and as happy receiving my OTC as I was winning crown or getting knighted. When the other members greeted me and hugged me, with huge grins on their faces, I finally felt like I belonged.

According to Gui, who had this made, these are "Arabian Tygers"

It's 81 days until Pennsic. My next time in armor will be Nutley next week.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nutley 4/26

Nutley 4/26

So how do you prep for crown? How much do you train? How often do you spar? You want to fight all the time, but that is not a good option in our game. I definitely did not fight as much as I wanted to the last two months, but I trained pretty hard. Crown is this Saturday, and I’m very happy with how much I’ve worked the past couple of months. It wasn’t near the level I’d want to train for a prize fight, but it is pretty good nonetheless. It may not help me to win, but it was a good journey.

A lot of dukes say that, to be ready for Crown, you should be in armor four times a week for the three months prior to the tournament. A few people really do fight that much, but it’s overkill. But once a week won’t cut it either. Me, I’ve tried to manage twice a week the last two months, and failed (especially over break).

WORKOUTS
I’ve made it to the gym at CCNY and worked out on the heavy bag. I have cut my running back a bit due to, well, not injury, but over use. I ran two days in a row in minimalist running shoes, and really needed to rest that third day. Still doing the 50 push-ups, 50 squats, and either peel work or the heavy back every day.

TECHNIQUE
I kind of hit on something Wednesday Night. In my fights with Arne, I started fighting in my old high open form. He managed to nail me at least once in that off-side slot, but it prompted me to be more aggressive. Then I closed it down but kept that aggression. I wore my body armor, which always winds me a bit, and I fought so hard I was running out of breath faster than normal.

FIGHTING

ARNE
Arne was an awesome fight as always. I did better against him than I did at Mudthaw, but that doesn’t mean a lot. I stared out in a high closed form but transitioned to a high open form quickly—not off the shoulder or down my back, but the way I fought when I moved here, with the sword above my right shoulder ready for a power blow. This turned out to be really useful. He probably took my arm once, but I killed him several times.

JAN. 
Then I fought his knight Jan. I quickly transitioned into a high closed form, but was very aggressive. I pressed him steadily but not wildly. He beat me two of three, but I was fighting great.
PRINCE ANTON: Anton was out for Balfar’s, and came to Nutley. I took a polearm against him. It was a really light one,  and twice I had trouble generating power with it. Anton fights with a left hand lead, and it confused me because he’s so good with it. I took his arm once and killed him two or three times. He killed me 4 or five times. When I went opposed thumbs I was hopeless against him. It just got me slaughtered. Otherwise I fought him very well.

BEATRIX. 
Beatrix has been offered the accolade by Aethelmarc and will be knighted at Pennsic. As with our fight at Birka, I was really impressed by her technique—especially her footwork—and her aggression. I found after a while I was able to pattern her into a window parry, so that I knew where she was going and could move there to cut her off and strike her. They ere excellent fights.

GREGOR: 
I fought Gregor till I nearly puked. I stayed right in middle range with him where he wasn’t comfortable, and I defended very well, but once again the only time I could kill him was with a hook thrust. I’ve seen some video from that night (if possible I will post it) My targeting isn’t as horrible as it had been the week before.

I’m not at all where I want or need to be going into this crown, but I’m fighting better than I have in years.  I'm very happy with this journey, and I'm looking forward to this weekend. 


It’s five days till Crown, which will be my next time in armor. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Nutley and Iron Bog, with Video!

Fight practice is a commitment, and training for Crown more so. For instance, the good practices around here are in Jersey. Being one of those New Yorkers who don't own a car, getting to practice is a real hassle. (when I first moved here, and for several years, there was an excellent practice in Union Square, but the City closed us down by renovating the park, turning where we fought and parked into an event space/market, and now the only good practices are on the other side of the Hudson).  For instance: to get to Iron Bog practice yesterday, I left the apartment at 9:00 AM. After a set back (I got to the subway and realized I'd left my wallet at home) I had to take a cab from Brooklyn to Penn Station ($40) in order to catch my train. There being no traffic on Sunday Morning, I got there with enough time to grab coffee and breakfast at Pret a Mangier. Catching the 10:07 to Rahway ($10) I started to Jersey. However, there was both a busted switch and some single-tracking due to maintenance between Secaucus and Newark, so we were 45 minutes late. Practice? Great! Dinner with my camp-mates afterword? Fun (and $22)! I caught the 8:42 back to Penn Station ($10) and made it home at 10:30 PM. So (and this was counting dinner) practice yesterday cost me 13.5 hours of my time and (counting dinner) and $82 (counting dinner). While I was there I picked up a set of Cet's leg splints, but that's $80 I was going to spend at some point anyway. Take out the dinner (yes, I would have eaten anyway, but I would have cooked for myself), and it's only $60. So, it's a commitment.

Oh: I had a great time, and a great practice.

WORKOUTS
I finished the century drill on the last day of Spring Break. I've kept up the same workout, save that on Thursday I did not run. But I *did* run after I got him from Nutley on Wednesday night, of which I'm kind of proud. Just now, I went down to the gym at school, did my workout, with 20 minutes of yoga, then ran (in my 5 fingers) a mile and a half.

TECHNIQUE
I have transitioned now into a modified A Frame/High Guard like Gregor uses. I can take that into a standard high-guard if need be (like against Arne, because it defends my off-side better). I have mostly but not completely abandoned the Bellatrix High-open form that I'm most comfortable with. I am using Gemeni's technique of being in high open form when I'm out of range or right at the edge of it, and closing up when I move into range.

FIGHTING

NUTLEY

At Nutley on Wednesday I could not get in enough fighting. It was a great practice once again, with about 20 people in armor. I only fought five people, and only three of those were with sword and shield.

For the most part, I stank.

I started out fighting Jan Janovich. My first fight against him was great. I worked him till I took his leg, then killed him. Then we more or less traded fights till he nailed me in the cup. And not one of those annoying little tip shots either. This was a full on cleave you in two shot. Thankfully, the cup worked.

Next I fought an unbelted fighter from ICOD named Michael. He nailed me. Then he nailed me again. I killed him three times, all with a hook/thrust. I was bad!

Then I fought Gregor. He said my defense was really good. Ha! I got him once with a hook thrust.

Wanting to get some training for Crown I fought Eric Hundeman with his preferred style, sword and "broken lance" with a thrusting tip on one end. Here's the thing. If I fight it like I'm fighting sword and short sword, or case, like my usual two weapon gig, I do well. If I fight it like he and Radnor do I'm doomed.

Then I fought James, a Tribal fighter from the West. We fought Sword and Buckler. That was fun.


IRON BOG
I fought Sir Harold. Sir Mord, Sir William, Arne, and a polearm fight with Dan. However, before getting into armor, I did my whole workout-- pushups, squats, yoga, and a run around that big fighting field (I did my pell work at home). I was beat! I wanted to be tired out. It worked. My targeting was awful! My power was weak!

Harold was SUPER Tough yesterday (he was knocking Arne around). We only made it through two fights, and we split them. He was bringing a lot of heat and I couldn't get near to hitting him.

Mord killed me once. I killed him more than once. My targetting sucked and it felt my blows were really slow.

Against Bill I had a great set of fights, but that light sword was starting to broom, so a couple of times my technique worked to get an opening but didn't kill him.

Against Arne I fought really really well.

I went against Dan with the pole arm because big choppy things is one of the forms for finals. I fought it like Diablu, with downward chops from a vertical guard and did ok. Then I fought my normal pole style and did much better.

So check it out, Video!

Here's me and Gregor. Note how the "tight defense" he mentioned. Especialy at about 1:12. It reminds me of the great Michael Pope's comment about my fight with Michael San in the Cynaguan Novice Tourney, AS 13 (the coronet where it snowed--you know....). "So Valgard here says to Michael San "here Mike! Use my shield as a coffee table?" Michael said "Thank you very much sucker, eat flaming rattan death!"



More of me and Gregor:




So here's me and Bill at Iron Bog. Check out how terrible my targetting is. I'm way way off! Note how I gracefully slip and nearly faceplant right in front of him!




And finally my first fight with Arne. This was a good one, but not my best fight of the day.



It's 12 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be Wednesday at Nutley.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Iron Bog, 4/9/17

Best laid plans and all that.

I had planned to step up my training over Spring Break. I've unfortunately been frustrated by Ostgardr, and by God.

WORKOUTS
I've added Yoga and running to my daily routine of pushups (50) squats (50) and pell work (100 strikes). I'm currently on day 95 of the Century Drill. The yoga is just a warmup. I've got set yoga combinations of 5, 10, and 20 minutes. I've mostly been doing the 10 minute one. That will increase soon, and I'll start taking full classes eventually. My runs have been either a mile, or a mile and a half, or the one day I did wind-sprints, though the day of Iron Bog my run consisted of getting off the train in Newark to change trains and realizing that I'd accidentally left the station, and had 5 minutes to run around the block, across a busy street, back into the station and then up to the platform, all while dragging my armor. I made it. It was a workout.

The problem was with helmet time. I planned three days in armor--Iron Bog on Sunday, Midland Vale on Tuesday, and Rusted Woodlands on Thursday. I made it to Iron Bog. On Tuesday my trainee up in Midland Vale was hurt. Midland Vale is a 4 hour trip by four different trains--meaning I'd have to stay the night--so I decided to go to my local practice instead. Trouble was, I was the only heavy who showed up. Then on Thursday (today) somebody posted that, due to Holy Week, there'd be no practice at Rusted Woodlands (it takes place in a church).  Frustrated. One goal not met, and lots of good helmet time missed.

TECHNIQUE
I am trying to guard my right side more, fighting more in a high guard than in an A Frame this week, and practicing more overhead returns. I had not replaced the bolt on my shield, and I didn't have a spare. It's the bottom bolt on the palm strap, so I can still use the shield, but it doesn't hang correctly and leaves my leg open. I borrowed a shield from Thomas for most of my fights. This was kind of awesome, because it was well balanced and guarded my leg well most of the time (I did over block once), and really forced me into a high guard the way it was strapped. It also just wasn't my shield, so it got me killed more than once.

FIGHTING
First up I fought Mord. He killed me twice, mostly because I was using Jonathan's shield. I found my attack from the high guard felt a bit slow.

RON: I used my own shield against Ron. He was being very careful and very precise, so he basically carved me to ribbons. He took my leg twice out of three fights. I felt my defense improving against him. I could not quite get my sword moving. I didn't lay stick on him.

MATT: Against Matt I did very well. He had gone back to his heater shield, which I don't think is his best form--he fights me better with his center-grip kite. I took his leg a couple of times, I killed him with slot shots and with a rising snap.

RORY: Fights with Rory were great. One of the forms for Crown semis will be sword with broken lance, which will have a thrusting tip on one end. We both went out with sword and bastard sword held upside down to simulate this. These were vicious fights, because it's not the best form for either of us. My best kill was when I struck at his leg, stomped my foot, then hit him with the thrusting tip in the chest. He tagged me with a good face thrust and with a slot shot. I accidentally punched him in the face reaching for a top-edge hook.

JONATHAN: Great way to end the day. Jonathan is a great fighter with hand speed and good judge of measure. We had some awesome fights. I took his leg a couple of times and killed him with a hook/wrap and a butterfly. He pounded me at least once with a haymaker. Really good fights.

The list for crown is out. It's thin at the top, with only four royal peers, but very heavy in the middle. There's 39 fighters in the list, and at least 16 of them have a legitimate shot at winning. Thankfully, I'm one of them.

Duke Ronald Wilmot fighting for Duchess Bronwyn Dawntreader
Duke Randal of the Dark fighting for Duchess Katherine Stanhope
Duke Achilles son Asia fighting for Shaunna
Jarl Valgard Stonecleaver fighting for Lady Gracia Vasquez de Trillo
Sir Wilhelm von Ostenbrucke fighting for Mistress Vienna de la Mer
Sir Zhigmun Czypsser fighting for Bannthegn(Baroness) Aleyd Czypsser
Sir Sichelgaita von Halsstern fighting for Sir Harold Hakonson
Master Ryan Mac Whyte fighting for Mistress Kay Leigh Mac Whyte
Sir Culann mac Cianain fighting for Mistress Aneleda Falconbridge
Sir Cedric of Armorica fighting for Mistress Brid ni Sherlais
Master Ãvaldr Valbjarnarson fighting for Mistress Eva Woderose
Sir Pellandres, dit le frere fighting for Baroness Mari Clock van Hoorne
Sir Ivan Ivanov syn Dmitriev fighting for Baroness Matilde DeCaden
Master Dmitri Stephanovich aka Deacon de Chatillion fighting for Mistress Nadezhda Voronov
Sir William MacCrimmon fighting for Lady Susanna of Dragonship Haven
Master Sigurthr Vigurhafn fighting for Baroness Medhbh inghean Ui Cheallaigh
Baron Jonathan Miles fighting for Baroness Teresa Perez
Lord Donnan Fitzgerald fighting for Lady Aurelia Alfaiata d’Alcáçova
Baron Duncan Kerr fighting for Mistress Eleanor fitzPatrick
The Honorable Lord Richard Crowe fighting for Lady Ameria Browne
The Honorable Lord William RavenHair fighting for The Honorable Lady Albreda Aylese
The Honorable Lord Turi Mac Kinnon fighting for Baroness Marguerite de Sainte Nazaire
Baron Rory Maclellan fighting for Baroness Astridr Sigrun Ulfkelsdottir
Lord Ingvar Thorsteinsson called Critter fighting for Lady Hasanah bint al-Kalil ibn Habib
Baron Vachir Artslanjin fighting for Sarvuu Arslanjin
The Honorable Lord Gawyn O’Clery fighting for Maeve O’Clery
The Honorable Lord Klaus Winterhalter Von Wallachia fighting for Lady Anastasia Wolfe
The Honorable Lord Arne Ulriksson fighting for Lady Anna VonBaden
The Honorable Lord Galvyn Lockhart fighting for Lady Rhiannon of Ayres
Lord Dorian Kalogero fighting for Lady Aziza al Shirazyya
Lord Martin Wasser Speier fighting for Master Donovan Shinnock
Lord Berkhommer Von Nuemburg fighting for Lady Auriora de Bianco
Lord Brick James Beech fighting for Lady Nadia Hart
Lady Vasia von KÃenigsberg fighting for Lady Ãesa Sturludottir
Lord Patrick Lumhalghs fighting for Lady Melody
Lord Abel atte Watere fighting for Ãesa assa
Luthor Von Eisenfaust fighting for Lady Mabel Fortune
Onryo fighting for Esmeralda

It's 23 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be at Nutley next Wednesday. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nutley, April 5

At Nutley, they hit real hard.

So I needed to get back into armor to humble myself after Mudthaw. If that wasn't the intent, that was certainly the outcome. It was a really really big night, pretty deep, very painful.

TECHNIQUE
None. All I wanted to do coming into the night was to relax and let the fight come to me. I didn't want to o A-Frame or Bellatrix style, I just wanted to go out and fight.

WORKOUTS
I've been working with dumbbells and indian clubs a bit, but not much. I'm just doing my dailies: pushups, squats, steps, and 100 strikes on the pell. I'm on day 88 of the Century drill.

FIGHTING
Oh, wow! There were seventeen people in armor at Nutley last night, included seven knights. It was a deep night. I fought a good variety of guys, but I played in the deep end of the pool quite a bit.

DUNCAN: He's a guy I don't now very well. He hits hard on his first shot but then loses power. I got him with lateral movement to my left.

ARNE: This was tougher than Mudthaw. I had some great fights with him. I managed to take his leg twice and I won those fights. I avoided the thrust. He took my arm and my ribs once each, but I was guarding the off-side much better overall.

ALEXANDROS: He uses a heater and fights very tight. His defense is good and he doesn't fall for fakes, but you can freeze him with double pumps.

KING IOANNES: As I've said on this blog before, I wear a lobster-tail gorget because my biggest fear is a neck injury.  Last night I got all dressed up to fight Ioannes, then realized I'd forgotten to put my gorget on. Good thing, too! He was out their grand-standing and posing, trying to throw me off. I don't think it worked. I mostly stayed on my game and came after him. Once I mirrored him, but that was the worst it got. I don't think I laid stick on him at all. He has that wicked high shot that Duke Anton from Atlantia used o throw, which is nearly impossible to guard, but he jumps into the air wen he does it. Twice he hit me with it, and the second time was right across the lobster tail of my gorget. When he's air born, it lands REALLY deep.

ERIC HUNDEMAN: I manged to get him with a couple of thrust, including when I was on my knees, thrusting him in the belly. That was satisfying. I also got him with a top-edge hook. Nonetheless, most of my plans were not working at all, and he took my head off a couple of times.

STEPHAN: When you fight Von Dresden, you have to be prepared for the thunder to rain down upon you. He hits harder than anybody at that practice. In fact, he also hit me on my gorget, and it was so hard I felt it in the palms of my hands. He also got me with one of those short-stick strikes he trows, which are his hardest blow. The thing is, both the really ard shots he hit me with were follow-up shots. When Stephan hits you, you kind of go limp for a milisecond, or maybe its just that you cringe. Whatever. It means you are totally helpless for a second. If he thinsk you took his shot he will stop fighting, but normally he's so fast that his second shot has landed before you can get "good" out. To me a very good practice is one wherein I land a stick on Stephan somewhare. I did not do that. However, when we went toe-to-toe (literally--it's a game he likes to play, stand with your toes touching first one to step back or get hit loses), it was savage and I did great. When we were done everybody watching went "whoa" and somebody applauded.

HORIC: I mean, how could I not wait to get a shot at Horic? Those were very good fights, and I won them both. I almost got him with a butterfly. I did get him with thrusts twice, once with a hook/thrust when we were both on our knees. His is such a great fighter!

It's 30 days until Crown Tournament. My next time in armor will be Sunday in Iron Bog.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mudthaw 2017

Everybody keeps telling me what a great Mudthaw I had, how I made an incredible run, how I had some epic bouts. All of this is true. I did great. I fought well, I think I fought honorably, I had a great time. But when it really comes down to it, I had two fights against two unbelted fighters, one of whom I'd just beaten, and that was all it would take to get me into the semi finals--and I couldn't get it done.

Mudthaw, if you've never fought it, is one of those big tourneys that rival Crown's for size and quality. In most kingdoms (the West, with three crowns and six coronets a year is an exception) have one or two tourneys that are as big or bigger than Crown Tourney, and as hard fought. Mudthaw is one of those. There were 70 - some odd (I heard, but all I remember was 70 something) fighters--bigger than most Eastern crowns. There were four royal peers in the list, plus Doug Henry, who is one of our two non-Dukes (he's better than nearly every duke in the kingdom, he just doesn't want to be king. He usually wins Mudthaw and always wins Birka). And there was a passel of knights and the usual hungry unbelts. It's a very tough list. It also draws from all over. We had a couple of guys down from Montreal.

They fight it as a double elimination list, but did something odd this time. They started out as though they were going to fight a winners and a losers list, but they forgot to front-load the byes as you need to in that situation (to make that work you need both the winners and losers lists to be powers of two by the 3rd round). So they were mixing the lists up, but they still wanted to get down to two fighters with one loss and two with none, so they could run the semi final the way they usually do. More on that later.

I can't recall all my fights in detail at this point. What I can recall is this: I went in without a plan. I fought some A Frame but a lot more of a traditional high-guard and some Bellatrix. Bellatrix attacks lost me two fights, but I was more relaxed, moving better, and was fighting my own game, not anybody else's. I got compliments from both Ron and Viz on that.

As far as I know, Eric Hundamn and I were the only knights paired with another knight in the first round. This was a tough fight, as is taller than I and uses an odd sword and spear (ish) style. I managed to kill him with slot shot but it was hard and very close.

My next fight was against a bastardsword fighter, I was warned that he was very sharp, so I was cautious. I used the same modified A Frame I use against pole arm fighters and, when he attacked, I stepped in and just pounded at his leg till he went down. I actually got a hook on his sword then I hit him in the body.

My third fight was against an unbelted fighter named Godric. He was really good, but had no idea how to handle an old-school figure 8 attack. I got him with a back hand.

I think fourth round was my bye. This was what really lost the tournament for me. They were fighting byes and I got Tiberius Naughtious Maximus, a scutum fighter who is taller than I and who put a loss on me at the Crown Brion won. We fought and took each others arms. Called that a double kill and fought again. Called that a double kill and fought again. I won, but I was so winded I could barely stagger back to camp. No we were in 5th round when things start to get hairy. Sure enough I went right into my next fight. I draw Brennan. As I said, now is when it gets tough.

So Brenan has been taking my off-side leg very handily of late. I knew that going in. I'd been thinking about it for two weeks--if you fight Brenan watch out for the off-side leg shot. After some feeling out and cautious range games, I attack. I want to get him with a hook thrust, but I've been killing him with that too much lately, and he knows it's coming. He is countering by twisting his body out of the way and leaning to his left every time he feels my hook. He throws a blow at the same time that almost gets me. I then decide to use an aggressive Belatrix style attack: I throw the off-side head, do the tear-drop return to the on-side head and step forward as I do, and as soon as I take that step he nails my (off-side) leg. Ok, that's a ducal move and I just did what I swore I wasn't going to do, lose my off-side leg. After that we have a very long fight. I almost get him with a hook thrust from my knees but he dodges it again. I almost get him with that slot shot to the belly. My head and off-side are well guarded but he works me over till he lands a (hard) wrap to my shield-side ribs. Ok. That was an epic fight against a duke.

Next I draw a really fast, wiley fighter from Canada named Reinhardt who just blew up Bill in the first round. That was a hard fight and, to be honest, I was tired and don't recall how I won it. I probably took his leg. Maybe?

Next round I drew Arne, who is the toughest unbelt in the list and finaled here last year after taking my arm when I knew better than to throw the foot-stomp thrust. This fight was truly epic. We went for a long time. I knew the off-side was coming, so I had that guarded. Unfortunately, he's also developed a very good attack down the middle agains the A-Frame. He nearly took my arm. He usually leaves himself open to high wraps when he steps in, but with my brand-new fairly light sword I couldn't get those to stick. Finally, in one of our more violent exchanges, I got his leg when he over-blocked and I moved off-line to my left. Then I worked him for awhile until I got a good shield hook and snap on him.

That was 7th round, unless I'm leaving something out.

Now it comes down to this. There are two fighters without losses, Doug and Horic. Did I mention Horic? This is a song about Horic.....

Well, not really. Horic is a count from Long Island, he was Gendy's squire, he's Gui's grand knight and was Von Dresden's knight. He's a great guy but he dropped out of the SCA for awhile. Oddly, I was the last guy to fight him before he dropped out, at a practice in 98 at Kisena park, and the first guy to fight him back in armor, at a barbecue at his house 18 months ago. He's been going to the Wantagh practice that Gui and I go out to sometimes, mostly to see him and Mordreth. So he decided to drop 45 pounds and come out of retirement. He's still got amazing hand speed and great reflexes, and he shocked a lot of people (but not those of us who'd been going to Wantagh). He did great. I never fought him. This is just a shout out to him for the great day he had.

In addition to Doug and Horic there are five fighters with one loss: me, Arne, Thorson, Brenan and an unbelt named Victor. Now there's lots of things we can do at this point. We can keep running it as a single-tree list, like many kingdoms do, until there are two fighters for the final round. We can fight three more rounds with the unbelts, which will give us two from that group. Thorson pressed hard for a roman style melee. But, in the end, they decided to fight a round robin among us five, mostly because Arne wanted that instead of the melee option. That's right, at the END of the tournament, we had to fight a five person round robin. It figures the youngest kid in the bunch would want the option that was the most tiring. Oh joy.

My first fight was Count Thorson. Thorson is the reason I adopted the A-Frame. One, he makes it work so well, but two, it was the only defense I could find against his quick off-side face shot, which every A Frame fighter uses (when he threw it, and I was in an open guard, it just sailed down the top-edge of my shield and there was nothing I could do about it). We fought hard for a minute or two, but I took his leg then killed him. That, killing Thorson in a tournament, is one of the great moments for me lately.

Then I got Brenan again. This time he did not get my off-side leg. Again I threw the hook thrust and again no dice. My defense was much tighter this time. Eventually he got my shield-side leg, then we fought a long time before he got me with a  wicked shoulder chop.

And that was the moment when I looked around and said I can do this. I've got a win and a loss. Brenan has a loss (to Thorson) but Thorson just lost to Arne. Arn'e has lost to Brenan. If I win these next two fights against Arne and Victor I'm in semis against Horic.

I settled down to fight Arne. I worked out of my A Frame. We had a couple good exchanges. He almost got me with that slot shot once,. The second time he threw it is caught me solid in the belly. Not really hard but good and clean and just enough.

Then I fought Victor. That was a short but powerful experience. I don't remember having fought him before and had no book on him. He was using a tear drop kite. I've been having good results using a Belatrix attack against that form. I threw the first blow, started the second, and he stepped into my advance and hooked my shield. Nobody in this kingdom uses shield hooks but me. And apparently this guy. I'm like "Oh shit" he bends around and cuts me off, then brings a hammer blow down on the top of my helm. Great technique, and I am out.

Adendum: Victor tagged me in this photo on Facebook of the moment he took my lunch money. You can see the hook, the blow, and how fucked I am.  I never should have let this happen.



Semis was Brenan against Horic, with Brenan needing to win twice, which he did. Doug made short work of Arne, then Brenan beat Doug in a one-fight final with single broadswords that included at least one double kill.

So yeah, I had a great day. Yeah, I could have done better. I was totally gassed at the end, which I know is why Arne got that shot in, and probably why Victor beat me as well.

Oh, then I served high table at the feast, because royal peers and barons should do that sort of thing. Fighting Mudthaw and serving feast equals 17,800 steps according to my fitbit.

I feel tired this morning but it was an awesome day.

Addendum: so I couldn't find any video of me, but I found some great video of Brenan fighting Victor. Victor uses a hook/thrust!! Yay! I developed that technique about five years ago, and have had real success with it. I don't know if Victor figured it out himself or saw me do it, or if he reads my blog, but he's only the second person besides me I've ever seen use that technique. Yes, it was unfortunately against Brenana whom, as I noted above, has a counter for it.  But good on Victor.



It's 41 days until Crown. My next time in armor may be this Thursday in Hawthorne. If not the following Wednesday at Nutley.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Iron Bog 3/19

You know, I carry a phone with me everywhere I go. My phone has a camera. It should be easy to get video of my practices, but I never do. I tell myself this all the time, and have been since long before we all carried a camcorder in our pockets. You'd think now it would be automatic. Nope.

All of which is to say that I wish I had video of my last two practices (there is video on FaceBook of me at Aedult Swim. It's humbling).

TECHNIQUE
Radnor is a disciple of Musashi. He believes in fighting without attitude. Worrying about my stance, guard, wards, etc. is fighting with attitude. At some point you have to stop worrying. Fighting should be the same as walking across the field. So I was trying to fight without attitude, without technique. It was more or less working. The one blow I specifically decided to work on was Ron's off-side leg shot. It's a simple shot off a wavy on-side head fake. I landed it twice.

WORKOUTS
I've been getting to the gym. What I've been doing there is simple: my regular work--50 push-ups, 50 squats, century (in this case I use a heavy stainless steel bar and do 50 1/2 combos with each arm in the mirror)--plus some yoga, and some dumbell work. That's it. No barbells, no weight machines, no heavy lifting. I did get on the treadmill the other day, just to get my steps up.

FIGHTING
Ah! Iron Bog! One of my best days in awhile.

Whether or not to use the A Frame or the high closed guard, or even the high open guard, was incidental. Count Gemini taught that you can use the high open guard when you are out of range, but as you get into range you should close to either an A Frame or a high closed guard, then at close range always be in a high closed guard. But the movement between them is fluid and without attitude, just like your steps. This is how I approached all my fights.

I fought Quintus first, as a warm up. I mostly fought him at medium range and used a high closed guard, looking over the top of my shield, but also an A Frame. I went in without a plan and tried not to care. I took his leg several times and he killed me once.

The reason I'd gone down to Iron Bog was to fight Ron. I fought him next. We only had two fights, fairly long, but I won them both. They were great fights. In the first fight I took his leg (maybe with his leg shot, maybe with an upsilon leg fake, I can't remember) and then, after a time, beat him with an arm and body fake that went left, then right, then struck straight down the middle. I was almost out of range, so I slipped inside his sword block and struck him in the chest. In our second fight he took my leg really easily with his off-side leg shot, but my defense was very good. I threw a wavy rising snap and shifted my weight, hitting him in the face--a shot that was pure Houghton. He was impressed. He said I was nowhere near so predictable as I had been two weeks ago.

Next I fought Gavin (Dave Goldstein). Those were really good fights, but Gavin uses a fairly small center-grip heater shield, which is pretty easy to move around. I just worked on controlling range and moving his shield around with combos, creating openings. We double-killed a couple of times, and he took my arm twice. He also short sticked me REALLY HARD in one of our double kills--hardest blow I've taken in awhile (love my new helmet!). My best strike on him was a hook/thrust to the body.

Next I fought Bill McCrimmon). Our first fight I totally channeled Radnor--High open form, strive for height, wavy the sword around behind my head, fakes from long range, option shots, etc. I took his leg with an upsilon leg strike and then killed him with a butterfly (but Gendy's version, not Radnor's). Our other fights I was a bit closer and tightened my defense up. I beat him 3 to 2 at that point.

I wanted to fight Mord and Harold as well, but they both were beat up and got out of armor, so I fought Harold's squire Matt. He's gone to a center-grip kite and more of a VDK style (good choice for him. I made that work for awhile and only gave it up because the center grip kite was giving me tennis elbow). unfortunately, hes really really wild. His first couple blows are ok, but then he starts to stick his shield too far out in front of him and move around behind it, and all sorts of angles open up.

For the end of the day I got in a polearm fight. I borrowed Harold's light 6 foot glaive, and the guy I fought (I'm sorry, I forget his name) was using a seven footer. Oddly, the thing that usually work best for me--opposed thumbs and swim moves in close--wasn't working and caused the two losses I took. But everything else was working. I wound over the top of his pole and cut him. When he switched to a left hand grip, I faked high to his right and cut his left hip. I shortened my grip and got him with both thrusts and shoulder cuts. I beat his glaive aside and came over the top of it. Then I used my money-shot, the fake face thrust, circle disengage as a leg fake, then real face thrust with a step. That worked too.

My big problem is the same--A-Frame vs high closed form, tight defense with few offensive options vs more open defense with more options, counter punching versus attacking--in other words, everything. Oh yeah, and (possibly due to the soreness I've been having in my back, which flared up in one fight) I've been doing the old-man fighter things of squaring up to rain blows down on my opponent, which cost me my arm twice, my off-side leg at least once, and my ribs a time or two. Really, I think that accounted for all of my losses, come to think of it. But not worrying about any of that stuff--which is always the est place to be mentally--was what worked.

It is 45 days until Crown Tourney. My next time in armor will be this Saturday at Mudthaw.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Barren Sands Schola

There are lots of ways to work out. Lately, I've been a minimalist: 50 push ups, 50 squats, 100 sword, strikes, every day. I haven't always made the steps (and I do it by average, so 70,000 in a week--usually I rest on Sundays, and this week we had a snow day).

It's the century drill that is hardest. I am on day 66 as I write this. For 100 days you hit the pell 100 times. If you skip a day you start over at 1. If you loose count you start over at 1. There are variations. Radnor, who taught me the drill, suggested that if you can't hit a pell use the knife edge of your hand against a pillar doing slow work. I can't get to my pell due to some construction in the courtyard so I've been using a concrete pillar in the basement and some old broomed swords. I started out using my flex bar for days I traveled and doing slow work on a door jam. At the gym one day I did swings with a heavy steel bar used as a handle on the cable machine. Lately, I've been striking a soft target with my Indian clubs. But 100 strikes a day for (so far) 60 days.

There was a small tournament last weekend in Barren Sands. I mean small. There were five fighters and Gui and I were the only knights. The good of this tournament was that I got in some great sword and pole arm fighting. I lost the pole fight to Collin (I had a borrowed  halberd and he just beat me on speed). The greatsword fight was in the finals against Gui. And time you get to fight Gui with a greatsword it's a good thing. It's his best form. But beating Gui in a finals with a greatsword is a great thing. He went for a leg shot, tried to duck my blow but didn't. Pretty as that.

The best stuff was the fights at the barriers. In the first one Gui and I were given a total of three lives--not each, just three lives. I resurrected once, he did not. The unbels got three resurrections each. That's 12 to 1. We lost, but it was epic. Then we did some single sword at the barrier, a game I'm really good at and we had a blast.

This was at their Witner Schola. It was a very fun event, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

It is 50 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be Sunday in Iron Bog.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Iron Bog

There were five knight's besides myself at Iron Bog practice: Duke Ronald, William, Harold, GUI and Mord. My plan was to work with Ron and maybe fight two more guys, but I ended up fighting all the knight's there, plus Bran, a bruiser with a center grip. 

I fought like ass. 

WORKOUTS
I'm half way through my Century Drill. I've been doing 50 push-ups and 50 squats daily. I haven't made 70,000 steps a week every week, but I hit 78,000 last week. 

TECHNIQUE
At Nutley, Brenan helped figure out what's wrong with my snap out of the A Frame. I was cocking the tip before throwing it, instead of punching to the shoulder like I should. This was my main technique on Sunday, and I focused in it too much. I also tried a bit of weak (goofy foot) A frame.

FIGHTING

Warmed up against Bran, and found lateral movement at the edge of range was best. He wants to bull rush. When he pulls his defense in he's very vulnerable. 

RON
He dissected me. He said I was being predictable, which is bad. My only real grace is *not* being predictable. It was probably because I was working on that A Frame snap so hard. Too focused. I did get him with a nice hook thrust and with Martin the Temperate's leg shot (which he was really impressed with), but then he killed me. As with Brenan, my off-side leg was easy for him. I was squaring up too much and floating my shield out to protect the on-side leg. My sword is brooming, or I must get have gotten him with one deep wrap. 

BILL
I had corrected my shield issue. Bill tried several off-side shots that I blocked. Like Ron, he scored a big hit with a simple snap as I was throwing a combination. Bad. I won most of our fights, but my mistakes were huge and costly. 

HAROLD
I couldn't take Harold's leg to save my life, but I was winning most of our fights. After the first two I switched to a weak A Frame, working some of the Lucan techniques (with the wrong shield). This was really effective. I did set him up for a beautiful rising snap. 

MORD
I did well against Mord. Most of my kills were timing shots from the high guard. He got me with a couple of back hands. 

GUI
All of the problems of fighting a left handed fighter are magnified when you fight Gui. Then they're magnified again when you fight him with a greatsword. He totally tattooed my right hip. I got a few double kills when he did it, but mostly he timed it off of blocks and ducked real well. I could not get the thrust I kept looking for. I did best with downward cuts along the line of his blade to his right shoulder. Fighting Gui with a greatsword is awesome, because it's a *fight.* It's more violent than most Sword and shield fights. I put my body armor on. It was a great way to end the day. 

It's 60 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be next Sunday at Iron Bog.