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).

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.


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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Nutley, Ash Wednesday

Nutley! Odd thing. I journaled each of my first 13 sets at Aedult Swim immediately, as I came off the field. But looking at some of the video, I still got a lot of things wrong. 

Tonight was Nutley and I really needed some helmet time. I only had four opponents, but that was enough.  I fought Stephan, then Arne, then Aquila, then Brenan.

The only technique I was practicing was remember how to fight. Somehow, i had forgotten. 

Ok, that's not true. What was really happening was that, per Brian's advice, I was trying to find ways to end the fight quickly. This meant abandoning the thing I've been working on most over the past five years, defense and counter punching.  I am back to being aggressive and taking the initiative. Not really a good plan against Stephan.


Stephan, as usual, hit me so hard I wanted to re pad my helmet. I never laid stick on him. He said Immade him work, but I think he was just being kind. 

Arne won our first two fights, then I bore down. He's improved his snap, meaning there's something else to guard against besides the off side body now. He's still susceptible to wraps and an only school figure eight attack rattles him. 

Aquila, being an inch taller than I, takes away all my good angles. He's tough, but I managed to take his leg  three times and kill him a few times.?

Brenan was a great fight. He is also great at breaking down a fight and analyzing it. 

I know how to throw the right uppercut, and how that becomes the right cross with a broadsword. I teach it. It's the same shot Brenan was drilling me on tonight. But I can't throw it. Not from the A frame, which is where it comes from. That's, as Brenan puts it, the Master Farrell boxing style. I've been working it into my pell work. Brenan and I spent some time going over it. 

Brenan's advice was not to cede the center. I can control the center with my thrust, but I went away from that for the practice. 

Anyway, great practice!

There are 65 days until Crown. My next time in armor will be this Sunday at Iron Bog