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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

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.