This weekend I ventured up to Massachusetts to attend the PAL melee practice in Fall River. This was an all day practice, starting at 10am and wrapping up at 5pm. Trentus was gracious enough to put up both me and my travel buddy for the weekend, Gawain, for Friday night, so we were relatively fresh for practice the next morning.
We started out with some warm ups just to get the blood flowing. One of these was a single sword drill, where we had two lines facing each other, and opposing pairs would face off with single sword. Not looking for power, just for speed and agility. This was a great drill to start things off, and we did it with both hands which really warmed up the whole upper body. I did ok at this, but I’m aware that my single sword game is pretty weak. I just enjoyed the movement and tried not to hurt myself.
Our first melee drill was called the triad drill. This consisted of a box on the floor to contain those fighting, and two teams of three fighters. Two shields in front, one pole in back. When someone died, they call dead and yell for someone to fill in the vacancy. This was excellent, and super fun. It gave a good sense of being in a close line fighting, while also needing to be mindful and reactive when an opening happens so you can fill the gap quickly and not allow it to be exploited. I did my best to fill in quickly, but I did notice problems with my offense. My biggest was that I was only really focusing on the person in front of my, for the most part, when I should have attacked diagonally as previously instructed. This was also reiterated after by those running the practice. One thing I really took away from it, though, was the communication portion. Making people aware that the vacancy needed to be filled. That’s a habit I gotta develop further.
The next drill was a flanking drill. We split into two sides (there were over 30 fighters in attendance so the teams were a good size). Each side picked 5 fighters to be the flanking group, and each side had a captain who was the target of the drill. The goal was to kill the captain as many times as possible (he had infinite respawns). The catch? Only the flanking team could cross the center line of the field to pursue. I chose to be on the first flanking team, and it was an absolute blast. It reminded me of running with my sprint unit at Pennsic, since we did a bunch of flanking there. On this drill, I feel like I’m hesitating a split second going in, and it’s creating a small gap in our charge. Gotta work on just doing the Pavlov thing and going when someone says go with no thought or hesitation. As they say, “no mind”. When we switched flanking units, I got to work on the line, and that was great. I was able to work on protecting from spears and myself at the same time, which I certainly need work on.
The next drill we ran was a bridge battle. We did this two different ways. First was just a straight up single resurrection battle. Second, we split each side into multiple triads to work together. When triad members died, they couldn’t resurrect until their whole unit died and then they all rez at the same time. We did mass elimination and then holding the center line. For this, I did some things right, and some things wrong. I followed up pulses, stopped pulses, and worked the right side so I could swing my ape arms out and wrap the people across from me. The downside to that was a few times I put myself off balance and got pushed off the bridge. No bueno. Also, my triad elected me as their commander, however I had difficulty reading the situation and deciding what to do. Another problem I had, which is something that made the drill difficult for me, was keeping my triad together. We all tended to just fill in where we were needed, rather than addressing anything as an individual force. That goes on me as that unit’s voice, I should’ve been more vocal to bring them in and address something specific. I just kinda felt that while I have a vague idea what I personally can do, deploying multiple resources is something I don’t have a grasp on just yet. Communication was a big topic this day, as I wasn’t the only one not giving orders. I also had to work on letting the spears through the line towards the back when a pulse started coming. My reaction time certainly needs work, something I’m gonna try and address at future practices.
After all this awesome, we wrapped up with some pickups. I was able to add a chiv to my book, Master Dimitri. His advice to me was to vary my offense more, which I realized I was doing only after the fact. I was certainly less aggressive this practice in singles than my last trip to Nutley, don’t know if it was the exhaustion or what. I think perhaps it’s due to me having a better idea of how the Nutley guys fight, so I’m more comfortable being aggressive with them because I have a better idea what to expect. I also was able to fight my teammate Svalin, who I haven’t fought since the Pennsic Novice Tourney. He was awesome, and really has grown a lot since then. I was able to stay alive awhile, for the most part, but I’m certainly no match there. Still, it was a blast to fight him, and I learned afterward from some spectating fighters that I’m leaving my forearm too exposed when I’m in guard. Jojo mentioned this to me as well, and helped by showing me how I should hold my arm for a better guard. The way I was holding it also made it necessary for my to cock my arm before throwing a shot, so I was telegraphing way too much. I was lucky enough to have some passes with Jojo later on, and he also helped me with my shield placement so I could be more covered when in guard. It’s gonna take some getting used to, but I’ll be working on that the next few weeks to get it drilled into me. Finally, I was able to fight one of the guys who came down from Canada for practice. His style was more unique, as it consisted of a lot of fakes and redirection. This definitely kept me on my toes, and it was a great workout for my blocking. Don’t get me wrong, I eventually fell for it, but as the passes went on I was able to hold out longer and longer, which I was happy about.
Overall, this was one of the best, if not THE best, practices I’ve ever attended. I got a ton of great melee experience without a needed win or war point being on the line, and was able to ask loads of knowledgeable people questions about melee strategy. One example was when I approached Master Tiernan (sp) and asked about a pulse idea I had. I asked what the drawbacks would be if we were on the right edge and stacked two shields in front, and a column behind the inside shield. When the two front shield would hit the line, the column would sort of unroll like a carpet across the front of the enemy line. The downsides to this, apparently, are that it can interfere with friendly spears, and it telegraphs too much cuz execution would be slow. The better alternative he suggested was have one column of shields with poles in the back, and have them run a post against the enemy line. Once the first shield hit the line, he’d turn 90 degrees and sweep across, with his column in tow. Cool idea, can’t wait to try it. I also realized that while I can do without a demi in singles, I can’t do without it in a melee. To many random strikes and variables to avoid getting blasted, which I learned the hard way this weekend. Anyways, I’ll definitely be going back to this one in April, when the rest of my sprint unit will also be there. Should be good times. Only drawback to it was that after 7 or so hours of fighting, I was in rough shape for a 4 hour drive home. Not saying it wasn’t worth it, but that bit kinda sucked. Anyways, I got lots to work on for next time, and loads of knowledge I didn’t have before, so this was a big win for me. Good times!
For those who know me, they’re aware that I’m a bit mental. I have absolute shit self esteem, a horrible self image, extreme difficulty recognizing any of my accomplishments, impostor syndrome, etc. Although this sounds really awful, it’s actually weird inside my head. I’ll explain.
So, deep down, it’s not that I don’t realize I’ve done something good. I’m not blind or daft, I know a good thing when I see it. The problems I have are how I deal with such things in conversation. For example, if I played a gig with my band, and I performed really well, I’ll know it and feel proud of it. However, were someone to say as much to me, I’d thank them and be ‘meh’ about it. If they were to press, I’d nitpick the shit out of it and explain why it was a crap performance. If it was actually exceptional, I’d say it was pure luck, and I’m normally not that good. I’m shit at taking compliments, but deep down I’m actually able to see their perspective and agree on some level. I just can’t fully acknowledge it. This causes me to be of two minds of things and have weird swings, where I’ll be all “I’m total fucking garbage at this” one minute, and “I’m better than this performance” the next.
Much of this stems from shit that happened when I was growing up. Being told you’re shit at everything, being picked last all the time, being called stupid and ugly by literally everyone around you, it all adds up. The result, and the crux of it I think, is that I learned that my opinion on things relating to myself cannot be trusted, and the opinion of those around me is what matters. This changed when I got older, of course, but by that time I matched my opinions to that of the people in my youth, and thus became my worst enemy. Now, when someone compliments me, I feel that they must be wrong because I’m this monstrous, worthless piece of shit, as evidenced by years of people telling me so. I weigh new information on the scales of the past, and tend to not take any of the counterweights off. Let’s face it, all bullshit aside, I did some horrible things in my life, and acted horribly towards friends and family who didn’t deserve it. On some level, I feel undeserving of both friends and family, and on another level I want people to prove me wrong and argue that I AM worth caring about. Like I said, it’s messy in there.
This all adds to my anxiety and depression. I don’t dare believe that I’m actually worth a damn, since the second someone says anything to the contrary I’ll immediately fall back on old habits. After all, what’s a few years of good things said when put up against decades of bad. A simple, and crushing, example of this has to do with my looks. When I was a kid, other kids and my siblings would say that I looked like the character Rocky from the movie Mask. If you’ve never heard of it, google it. This has been said to me by various people over the course of my entire lifetime. The most recent was a coworker who said it, someone who has no connection to my past whatsoever. Now, regardless of what the amazing Lish has tried to beat into my head, I hear that and can’t help but think that this MUST have relevance, since so many unrelated people made the exact same comparison. When I look in the mirror, that’s what I see. Now, people could tell me the opposite until they were blue in the face, and maybe it’d have a slight effect after a few years, but the second I hear that comparison again it’ll all come crashing back down. It’s a vicious cycle of getting my hopes up, only to be reminded of what I truly am and where I belong.
I say all this because right now, my hopes are up a bit. This is a direct result of my burgeoning fighting career in the SCA. When I started out, I asked a local fighter who was helping me learn if I was where I should be, skill-wise, considering how long I’ve been in armor, or if I was beyond or behind that. I honestly felt like I was doing really well, and thought he might say on par or better. It was a stupid fishing trip where I was trying to find reasons to believe. He said I was behind, and it was kind of a kick in the guts. I don’t blame him for saying it, I asked for his honest opinion and he gave it. I kept at it, though, cuz I wanted the experiences of fighting at Pennsic and in a tourney. Since then, people have been nothing but encouraging. Even though I don’t feel like I’m getting it fast enough or consistently enough, people I respect are helping to keep me aloft. I’ve spoken with veteran fighters who have said flattering and encouraging things about not only my fighting, but my views and actions regarding the virtues of the fighting community, some going so far as to say that I’m far ahead of the game in that respect. Even so, repeating that publicly like this makes me feel like a right arrogant cunt, so full of myself because of what his friends say to him. Don’t get me wrong, my lizard brain tries to write a lot of this stuff off, as I’ve mentioned before. Thoughts like “oh they’re just saying that so I don’t lose heart”, or imagining them saying “he needs these little lies/embellishments every so often because he’s got shit self esteem”, or perhaps thinking that it’s being said so I stay in armor to fill the ranks.
The weird thing is, though, that some of the good talk is starting to stick. It’s growing roots, and it’s a feeling I can’t remember ever feeling before. I doubt everything good, by nature, and feel like it’s just a matter of time before people realize I’m not worth the time and just bail. But this is almost in defiance of that doubt. I wonder what will happen the next time someone tells me I’m garbage at this. I wonder how far down that blow will knock me. Will it be to the ground? To my knees? Will I just take it and still stand? Or can I hope to dodge or block the shot and come back swinging? I can’t say for sure, but the effect this community has had on me is really starting to take shape. An example would be the Unbelts Facebook group. I was made an admin of the group before the creator left (he got knighted, so no longer an unbelt), mainly cuz I’m online all day and was very active in the group. I had a short discussion with the other admins, who told me that as an admin of the group, people will likely see me as being in a leadership role of sorts, even though that’s not the case in real life. Upon hearing this, my first thought was “I don’t belong in that role, maybe that’s what they’re getting at. I’ll give them the out”. I asked whether they think there is someone else more suited to that position, since who the fuck am I to be in such a role. I said I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. Instead of taking me up on that, they responded by saying I’m not overstepping, and should anyone say something like “who the fuck does this guy think he is”, they’d respond with “that’s Fearghus, the admin, and he’s our dude”. I can’t begin to explain what that felt like. It’s weird being made to feel like I belong in such a community, truly belong. I’ve never really felt that. Even with my music, I’ve always felt like the community outsider. Not quite in, but not quite out, just sorta there and easily dismissed without any loss. Now I don’t just feel like I fit in, I feel like my presence is wanted and welcomed. Whether people actually feel that way, or if I’m just reading too far into it with a hopeful heart, who the fuck knows.
In truth, I’m not fishing with this post. I’m not looking for further affirmation, or confirmation of the hopes I have, mostly because I feel as though a response to a fishing expedition is not exactly credible, since it was requested. It holds less weight. Still, I have hopes that this will be something that helps me change. Something that gives me the helping hand up so I can finally get past this barrier I’ve stood behind for so long. My only fear with that is whether I will be even more of an arrogant ass were I to actually believe in myself. After all, the line between arrogance and self awareness is pretty thin, and tends to be elusive as fuck for me. I guess we’ll see with time.
Once more into the breach, dear friends. This rainy night I ventured again into the wilds of NJ for practice. I was originally gonna go with my local buddy Ulf, but he had to bail so he could study for this course he’s finishing up. Once again I offered to carpool with other local fighters, but nobody took me up on it. I still find that kinda weird. Who knows, maybe it’s just ME that they don’t wanna go with or be associated with. I may never know. Anyways, onto the practice.
Overall I feel like I had a really good practice. I started out discussing my demi gauntlet issues with Gawain, Arne, and another unbelt whose name I, of course, can’t remember. They pretty much all felt that, with the glove I use, I could forego the use of a demi and be ok. This would also free up my wrist movement for throwing shots. I decided to give it a try, and if I got hurt, then I’d just go back to using a demi. Well, the difference was night and fucking day. My transitions between shots were much easier, faster, and cleaner. My straight up shots had better speed and snap as well. Not that I legit won fights or anything, but it was a noticeable improvement. I also focused a lot more on my stance and aggression at random times to keep people guessing. Holding my guard tighter is getting more natural and easier, however someone pointed something out that I wasn’t aware of. When I was thinking about what shots to throw, especially when legged, I’d let me sword arm drift out a bit and open the slot. Once aware of this, I was able to catch it and stop myself, but this is something I’m really gonna have to focus on and correct. Another issue from the night is my calibration when hit in my forearm. My vambraces are very well padded, and after asking Arne he felt that some of the shots he landed there should’ve been good. Above all else for the night, this is the primary thing I need to focus on at my next practice. I don’t wanna be “that guy” who doesn’t take shots. On the other side of things, I was complimented on my defense, my aggression, and my shot choice. All in all, I left feeling great, and really felt like I inched forward a bit. The bits that were brought to my attention will go on the list of shit to be worked on, and I’ll do my best to get there without too many steps backwards along the way.
From an armor standpoint, adding the armored pad above my left knee and the tassets has made a HUGE difference! I no longer leave practice bruised up and injured, which is great!
This weekend I’ll be attending my first PAL melee practice in MA. I’ve heard great things about this practice, and I know I’ll learn a lot from it. I’m still mostly clueless in melee, and really just follow directions. Hopefully I’ll get a better idea of what’s actually happening. More to come.
Last night’s practice was in Wantagh, and it was just Dante, Caitlin, and I in attendance. Ya know those night when everything just works, and it’s almost as if you could do no wrong? Well, this was the opposite of that for me. I was amped up for practice, but once we starting doing passes I noticed that I just wasn’t on at all. I did ok on defense, but my offense was just a mess. I can’t blame it on Birka, as I’m not nursing any injuries from it. I just had one of those “off nights”.
The things I focused on were footwork and shield work, instead of offense. I was sure to keep my right leg back and not draw it forward, and made a conscious effort to hold me shield exactly where Sir Horic told me to. I did fair against Dante when he did his all-out assaults, though I’m still not good enough to escape those alive. Eventually, he finds his mark. I just felt…tired. I’m not sure if it’s my fitness level, my age, or what. It did make me remind myself of how limited my time is in this part of the game.
As I’ve mentioned before, I started way late, so my goals must be different than those of my compatriots. Most of my fellows seek the accolade of chivalry, and the only thing holding any of them back is dedication and time, I think. I’ve got one of those (dedication), but the other (time) is my actual opponent. I’m aware it’s sort of a faux pas to talk about the peerage being one’s focus, as if it’s an award to be won and not a position to be promoted to, but to say I’ve not thought and meditated on it would be a lie. The facts are, with an average of 13 years from amerigous award to peerage, I’d be in my 50’s at that point. I’d be at the end of my fighting career, most likely, which would also work against such a recommendation.
In a way, I’m a bit jealous of those who started much earlier, and I’m angry with myself for not getting into this sooner. I could have been doing this for years, had I sucked it up and given it a shot. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t want to try because I truly believed I’d be absolute garbage at it, and it’d be just one more cool thing that I can’t do well. My fear held me back, fear of failure and fear that I would be mocked behind closed doors for how shitty I was. I didn’t want that. Truth be told, I still have those fears. I didn’t realize that fighting would help me, though. Didn’t realize the fun I’d have, and the friendships I’d make. I have great friends who tell me kind and encouraging things, yet in my head these demons keep whispering that I’m not good enough, and that I never will be. They whisper that everyone who says good things about me is just trying to be nice, or perhaps just trying to keep me in to fill the ranks. I often feel like an outsider, like an impostor, like an interloper in a place where I don’t belong. With all these spiraling thoughts, one would think I’d just cut my losses and walk. Who would wanna be in a situation where they feel like that, right? Well, I have a skill I developed as I got older. It’s the “I don’t give a fuck” skill. See, I like fighting. When my head is in the game, the demons can shut the fuck up, cuz I’m busy and can’t talk right now. I love that feeling, it’s addicting, as is the generous praise of my fellows (regardless of whether my stupid lizard brain lets me dare to believe them or not). So, even if the demons are right, if I’m absolute trash and nobody cares, if I’m mocked behind closed doors, if I don’t belong, I’m not gonna let it stop me. I’m a stubborn old fuck, and I’ll do what I enjoy for as long as I can. If that means I never make it to OTC, or never get on the unbelts team, so be it. I’ll strive for excellence as hard as I can, while doing my best to squash the hope that I achieve my goals. I know that sounds kinda messed up, but I know myself well enough to know that keeping that hope alive opens me up way too much to a crushing disappointment I don’t want to deal with. Instead, for now, I’ll have my walls up and do my best to stave it off. After all, sometimes the best offense is a good defense.
This was my first Birka as a fighter. I’ve heard quite a lot about it being a brutal meat grinder of a tournament, so there was definitely a bit of trepidation and anxiety about it. Since I’ve done a bear pit before (though not on this scale), I figured prep work was my friend. I made pieces of armor to protect the areas of my legs that normally get blasted, and they made a huge difference for me. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Going in, I was definitely nervous. I didn’t really know how brutal it would be to survive this to the end. For those who don’t know, the heavy list at Birka is a bear pit tourney. 10 pits, 10 foot square each. Each pit has two fighters engaged in singles combat. Winner stays, and loser reports the results to scorekeepers. Once the loser exits, a new fighter from the line steps in and fights. If you step one leg out of the ring, you are now legged and fight on your knees. Two legs out, and you’re dead. It’s always moving, and it’s a timed event set for 3 hours of non-stop fighting. I had a few goals going in, and they varied in likelihood. The usual goals were there, such as having fun, fighting with honor, and being positive with everyone I encountered. Then I had others such as putting up a tough fight with everyone, not stepping out, and not making foolish mistakes. Finally, I had my two ambitious goals. These were to last until the end (be on line or fighting in a pit when the tourney ended), and make it to the top half of fighters in the points rankings at the end. The last one was kind of a dream one, since I seriously did not think it would ever happen. To my surprise and amazement, I achieved every goal I had, though some with limited success.
I started out rough. Took me a bunch of fights just to get my head in the game, and that killed a lot of time. Those first 5 or so fights I didn’t put up much of a fight at all, and made some stupid mistakes. I really should have done a few pickups beforehand just to get the nerves out and settle in. The new armor worked great, and helped me last until the end. I only really took three shots that hurt. First was a wrap behind my right knee, second was a thrust I took in the noodle, and third was a shot to my shoulder. None of them were day enders. I had a few runs of two wins in a row, which left me both elated and exhausted. I’m pleased to say that I did NOT step out of the pit at any point during the day. I remained aware of it at all times, and didn’t let anyone bully me out. I believe I fought with honor and integrity. I called my shots honestly, regardless of my frustration with my own defense at times letting them in. I was also very positive with everyone I encountered. Finally, I not only lasted until the end, but I managed to rank 61st place out of 152 fighters! Keep in mind that this has a lot to do with people either gassing out, having equipment issues, getting hurt, or just wanting to have a few fights and gear down. Regardless, though, I’m proud of how I did. I ended with 10 wins, 25 losses, and 1 double kill. Fighters are awarded 2 points per win, 1 point per loss, and one point for a double kill. To me, for someone who’s been in armor 9 months now, I’m super happy with these results. I also walked away with loads of stuff to work on, so it was a great learning experience as well.
There were a few other things of note that happened which bear mentioning. Foremost to me was an act of kindness from His Highness Duke Brennan. The setting goes like this. I was on break from fighting, so I could sit for a few and have some water. I saw my buddy Arne’s lady, Anna, working on his shield. She had been water bearing for me when I was on line throughout the day, as the Lish was showing someone around who was at their first event. I went over to see what was up. The handle of Arne’s shield broke, and she couldn’t get the zip tie through to repair it. I worked with her on it for a few minutes, but couldn’t figure it out. I geared back up and got back in line. Sure enough, halfway through the line it hit me. I knew how to fix it. I got through the line, got destroyed by a knight, and went back over. As we were working on it, Duke Brennan walked by while on line. When he saw me, he immediately came over and said “If I give you my shield, will you go back out there and fight?”. He assumed I was working on my own shield. When I told him what was happening, he was like “Oh, ok cool” and walked away. I got back in line a minute or so later, leaving the shield fixed and ready to go. The fact that he was willing to give his own shield away just to get me back out there meant a great deal to me. Moments like this are what shows other fighters, new or not, what chivalry and honor are all about. He didn’t care if he did well, he cared that I was able to get back out there and keep having fun. That’s what it’s all about, and it left me grinning like an idiot. Little moments like this make all the difference, because it’s a true sign of who someone is. This wasn’t a calculated thing, this was a reflex. We should all have such reflexes.
After the fighting was over, Arne saw me and called me over. He thanked me for helping out his lady, and congratulated me on staying in the whole time. Because of this, he gave me a gift: a medieval rosary, which he likely made himself. I was honored by the gift, and didn’t really know what to say. I hopefully didn’t come off like an ass about it, but who knows. I’m humbled he chose to do that for me, and it’s something I’ll keep with me when at events.
I must also say, I’m pleased that I only had one fight with questionable calibration. A few other fighters mentioned calling light on a few of my shots, and those I 100% agree with. One fighter I know I landed blows on, and they were as solid as I can make them, but nothing was taken. He waiting until I threw a bunch of shots, then figured I was tired and unloaded on me. Took him awhile to get in, but eventually he did, and his shot was solid so I took it. Can’t say I was thrilled with his calibration, but that’s on his honor, not mine. Thankfully, that was the only issue I had all day as far as calibration goes.
Finally, my self analysis. I started out weak, and my defense was sloppy early on. A few fights I didn’t even throw a shot, just got blasted quick. My head just wasn’t in it. I saw some videos from later on, and while they weren’t of my fight specifically, I could see that my stance was better and my footwork was better. My shots were ok, but my accuracy and speed weren’t as good as I’d have liked them to be. Hard to tell for sure if that’s just where I am, skill-wise, or not simply because I was just so amped up and it was far more intense than my usual practices. My biggest weak area is being able to deliver a killing shot against a legged opponent. I really need much more work on this, as I had a ton of difficulty with legged fighters in the lists at Birka. This wasn’t at all a calibration thing, either. I couldn’t land a light shot, let alone a good one. I also didn’t control their sword arm with my shield as much as I should have. This is just another instance of having my head in the game. Focus is something I’m really gonna have to work on, as well as my overall skills.
Still, I’m pleased with where I am from a skill standpoint. I don’t personally feel I’m where I should be given my time in armor and how many practices I go to, but I’m getting out there and working on it. I still feel that I’m slowly moving forward, which is all I can hope for right now. I attended the unbelts meeting after the fighting, which discussed making the Unbelted Champions melee team for Pennsic, which will be the best we have to offer. Do I plan on trying out for it? No, I’m nowhere near even consideration. Again, not a low self esteem thing, just facts. In the meantime, I’m gonna work at practice and events to learn stuff and get better. I know I’ll hit a plateau at some point where I just can’t get past something, so I’m just trying to push as hard as I can to get there sooner. The sooner I get there, the sooner I can work on getting past it. Hopefully my body keeps pace with me, or it’ll be one helluva short trip!
I traveled down to Wantagh for some fighty goodness. I was lucky that I didn’t get too beat up at Nutley the night before, so I could try out some of the tips I learned. Tonight it was me, Dante, Caitlin, and Conrad. Conrad had to bail early, but we got in some good passes.
I spent the majority of the practice focusing on keeping my right leg back and not bringing it too far forward while advancing. I was also focusing on keeping my shield held at the correct angle and position as shown to me by Sir Horic the week before. I had some fairly decent success on both counts. I did end up getting tagged a bunch of times, but much less often in the areas I was getting hit before, and my opponents seemed to have to work much harder instead of being able to one shot me. I still need work on closing the deal when someone is legged, but I’m sure that’ll come in time.
Now, onto Birka prep. I didn’t attend practice the week of the 21st because I didn’t want to risk getting really damaged right before Birka. As you may recall, I made that mistake prior to my first bear pit tourney, and I paid the price. For Birka, I wanted to be able to go the distance, but that would mean making some armor changes. First, I re-edged my shield. The old edging was coming apart and chewing up rattan. Second, I made two new swords, as the ones I was using were both pulpy and cracked at the tip. I also made a cut off sword to use if I get armed in a fight at practice. Third, I had to mount the upper arm protection I made to the shoulder on my chest piece so it didn’t roll around so much. I just punched some holes and laced it together with some paracord. Finally, I had to address my two biggest injury spots. My hips and the spot on my left leg just above the side of my knee. These are the spots that have taken me out of fighting for the day (or week) before, so I can’t let that happen. For my left leg, I took a knee pad and riveted some hardened plastic to it. While not pretty, it should protect me enough to not cripple my leg. For my hips, I still need to make something. I was thinking of throwing together some tassets made of leather and plastic to take some of the stink off the shots. I know I’m gonna get a lot of shit for it from other fighters, mainly because the mantra they preach is “don’t add armor, practice and get better”, or more simply and sarcastically “learn to block”. Well, here I am, 9 months into this, and I’m still getting blasted. Normally that wouldn’t bother me, as I still get hit in the helm a lot as well, however getting tagged in these areas of virtually no armor will take me out of commission. Hard to get better when I can’t fight, or even walk properly. Besides, the repeated trauma to these areas can’t be good, physiologically speaking.
So, I’m armoring up, and to be bluntly honest, the snarky commenters can go scratch. While I’d love to be a natural at this, and pick it up seemingly overnight, the fact of the matter is that I’m not, and I won’t. I’m starting this late in the game for me, and I’ve never been adept at anything physical. I’m ok with this taking me awhile to grasp and get good at. Also, let’s face some facts here. I’m in this for the fun of it, the camaraderie, the affirmation I get when I do well, and because I get to be encouraging and helpful to others on occasion. Have I considered the path to peerage? Of course I have. I overanalyze the shit out of everything, and sure it’d be great to earn awards for fighting, if for no other reason than for the simple affirmation from my fellows who would be saying I’m actually worth a damn on the field. For the peerage, of course I’d enjoy being a mentor and helping other fighters move up and have fun. Now, the facts. On the average, a new fighter goes from AoA to OTC is 8 years. I got my AoA in 2015, before I started fighting. There is also newer amerigous award for fighting, the Silver Tyger, however this is not the “participation award” that the AoA is. So, from now to OTC would be 8ish, maybe more since that’s just an average. OTC to Chiv is, on the average, another 5. That’s 13 years total. I’d be 52, unless I have a setback which would pad that out. So, in my opinion, while it’d be cool, it’s just not realistic. I’m not being self deprecating or having a case of the “poor me’s”, these are the facts as they stand. As such, I’m fine with the pace at which I’m learning. I think maybe in a year or two I’ll be an asset on the field, someone people would want fighting at their side not just because we’re friendly with one another, but because I can truly help deliver the win. If I can get there, and stay there until my body tells me it’s time to throw in the towel, I’ll be overjoyed. Sure, it’s a bummer that I started so late in the game, but such is life. I’ll make the best of it while I can do it, and enjoy the friendships I build along the way. If nothing else, I’ll have a bunch of stories about the dumb shit I’ve done in armor to tell people while we drink and laugh together for years to come.
Another two in one post because I’m lazy as hell. First, some backstory. In the SCA right now, there is a Chiv Hunt happening. The rules are basically like this. An unbelted fighter will fight as many different members of the chivalry as they can during the course of the year. 3 passes minimum, get them to sign a book. The people with the most win a prize. For those who just participate, they get a custom coin. I push to work with as many belted fighters as possible already, so for me this just gets me a sweet coin! Anyways, I’ll be keeping my tally updated here as well so I can have better documentation.
Thursday of last week got me my first name, and it was someone I’ve been trying to work with for months but it just never worked out. Earl Horic. He came down and worked with Caitlin and I, and it was great. We spoke about suppression, rotation (rotating wrist to throw combos instead of moving the arm), how my shield is strapped, and how to improve my guard. Overall it was a good practice, though my left leg just above the knee on the outside got punished yet again. I’m gonna make something special to protect that area until I get better at defense, since I was limping by the end of practice.
Last night at Nutley, we did some Birka style bear pit in the beginning, since Birka is only a week away. I went to practice with Ulf, and because of the bear pit I actually got to fight him again. We haven’t fought since maybe October. The bear pit was exhausting, and a great learning experience. One tip I got was to meet my opponent in the middle when they step in, and not let them come to me like I normally do. I fought three belted fighters last night. I fought Sir Douglas Henry, who gave me tips on inside fighting. Definitely something to work on. I didn’t give up my left leg as much overall this night, which was good. I fought Sir Beatrix, who furthered my education in inside fighting. She’s very fast and aggressive when inside, and has a pretty devastating leg wrap. The last belted fighter I fought was Sir Stefan, who helped me with throwing shots while legged and not letting my opponent just close in and do what they want. Arne was there blowing up my right leg, and he told me that when I get ready to do something I square up, which is making my right leg vulnerable. Something else added to the list. Finally, I fought another guy who I’ve fought a bunch of times, and still can’t remember his damn SCA name. His real name is Jay. He was a good fight, no doubt. I’m hoping soon to be able to go 50/50 with him. right now we’re like 70//30 at best, so I really need to up my game.
My focus for Birka right now is just to make it through to the end without having to bail due to injury. The last bear pit tourney I did was only two hours, and I had to bail after 80 minutes due to my right leg getting blown up. I’d like to be able to make it through to the end for Birka. I’m well aware there’s a good chance I’ll be at the bottom of the list, and that’s fine. I have no delusions of ending up in the top 50% for the day, though it’d be super cool for that to happen. Another silver lining is that even if I need to bow out, I’ll be able to spend more time with the Lish, getting loaded and being silly. I’ll be attending practice tonight in Wantagh, and then will take next week off so I don’t risk being injured for Birka.
Finally, the tally.
Total chiv = 4
Total kingdoms = 2
Royal peers = 1
Knights = 4
Masters = 0