In my youth, I don’t think I ever really considered the concept of honor deeply or meaningfully. As such, I did much that would make me a rather dishonorable person. Over the years, however, I’ve thought quite a bit about it, and I’ve tried my hardest to walk the path of honor as much as possible. I’ve read books on chivalry and bushido, adapting it as best I could to fit the modern age. This has proven difficult for me, as my initial reactions tend to be quite less than honorable, but it’s something I’m working on.
My personal path to honor involves always trying to do the right thing by others, thinking and meditating on the most reasonable and right thing to do in situations, and live my life with humility, understanding, and patience. The best part about all this is that when I’m actually able to do it, the feeling is amazing. Things also tend to work out better when I act more honorably. Still, though, I’m not sure when I’ll truly be a person that I would call a truly honorable person, if ever. I have many moments of weakness, anger, and foolishness that plague me and set me back. Also, I suffer from terrible hindsight, and that sets me back far enough to ensure that I may likely never get there.
There are things I have done, and things I have said, which I can never fully forgive myself for. I look back in shame at these things, and whenever I feel like I may be making solid progress towards my goal, these are what set me back to where I was. There are some people close to me, and in my family, whom I have always desired a deeper relationship with, which can never happen due to my past actions. It pains me, in profound ways and with abyssal depth, to know that I can never make it right. Sometimes my actions come with permanent consequences, and those shine like new scars on my face. They are there whenever I look in the mirror, and are still painful to the touch. These will not go away, they will endure for as long as I will, and for all my talk about honor and doing the right thing, they will forever be a reminder of my shame and failure. In a way, they do serve a positive purpose. They keep me humble, though often cause me wounds as well. Though it’s not entirely rational, I tend to think I deserve none of the good in my life because of the sins of my past. Sins not against any sort of deity, which would be odd since I’m an atheist, but sins against others, and sins against myself. I don’t feel that I should be forgiven for such things, and I have great difficulty judging myself solely on the man I am at this moment, and not the entire picture.
So I’m stuck with sort of a conundrum. Can one such as me, who has so much red in their ledger from years past and from recent memory, be thought of as a truly honorable person? Could I ever be deserving of such praise when I’ve done so much damage in my lifetime, often to people I truly love? Do I even deserve forgiveness for such things? I’ve meditated on this much in the past few years, and the best I can come up with is this: Were I speaking to someone else, and this was their story, I’d be able to see them as honorable and respectable, both regardless and because of their past. If they were that way while also having a tainted past, I’d say it even more so since they had to overcome a proclivity to act without honor. However, I know my past firsthand. I know that there are things that others can never truly forgive me for, that I can never truly forgive myself for, and that have prevented me and others from having more meaningful relationships regardless of whether I was forgiven or not. Because of this, I’d feel that I would be a hypocrite to ever think myself capable of being an honorable person. I will forever strive to be the best I can be, but I fear that the darkness in my past will always prevent me from deserving praise or to be thought highly of by others. I fear the scars will always prevent me from seeing my face as anything but a collection of sins and mistakes.
Last weekend was a local event that saw our existing baron and baroness step down, and a new baron and baroness step up. There was also archery, thrown weapons, rapier, and heavy list. The heavy tournament was also to determine the new baronial champion.
I started out concerned with my ability to even participate, since they wanted rotating forms and I’ve only really ever fought sword and shield. I was able to get authorized in the other forms, though, and people had enough loaner gear there (gauntlets, polearms, etc.) that I felt less like a dick participating. I’d honestly have felt weird going through the whole thing with sword and shield when others were all switching forms.
Starting off, me and another local fighter decided to warm up a bit before the tourney. We fought a few times, then another fighter swapped in, then a few more, and before long we had a bear pit for about 15-20 minutes. Then we started the actual tournament. It was round robin with about 9 fighters. I did as good as could be expected, and won maybe 2 or so fights. I’m happy with how I did. The majority of the fighters there were far better than me, and this being a champion tourney I wasn’t expecting to have a winning record as a guy who’s been in armor only 5 months. I stuck with my lessons as best I could, but was simply outclassed, and that’s fine. I also lost all but one of my other forms due to having very little experience and not knowing how to defend myself competently enough. The one fight I won was pretty much given to me, as my opponent was overheating and appeared to have just wanted it done with so he could cool down. That fight was absolutely hilarious. I fought polearm, he fought greatsword. He took my right arm, and then chose to fight one armed against me as a courtesy. Neither of us could swing with any power, and thrusts was tough due to the weight and us being tired. It was damn comical, and probably my favorite fight so far. Even the other marshal came over and was like “what the hell is going on here?!”. We were cracking up. My opponent, whose name I of course don’t remember, was awesome and gracious about it all. Definitely the best kind of people I find on the field.
I ended the day with 3 fights in a row, due to some confusion as to who fought who. I was exhausted at this point, and thankfully the first two tagged my pretty quickly so the fights didn’t drag on. The last one seemed more evenly matched, and I was able to pull out the win somehow. Afterwards, I popped my top and crashed. I was actually thankful for the end, as I didn’t have the stamina to keep going and I was overheating.
I actually enjoyed trying out the other weapons forms, even though I did terribly. I looked into possibly getting some gauntlets so I can do that again at other tournaments, but right now they’re all a bit out of budget. From the conversations I’ve had with other fighters, it seems as though gauntlets are the kind of thing you spend good money on so you get good stuff. Since I work with my hands quite often, I decided to follow their advice to the letter. In the meantime, I’ll have to see what else I can do to my current kit to make it more comfortable and easier to maneuver in. All in all, though, it was a great event. We saw some truly wonderful moments as people were given awards and peerages. We also attended our first feast, and the food was absolutely fantastic! I ate until I could eat no more, and went home tired, sore, and full. I could ask for no better!
Last night I went back to the An Dub practice for the first time since before Pennsic. They stopped holding them starting just before war until last week, though last week I couldn’t make it. This week I went and, to be honest, it was a shit show from the very start. Not practice itself, but my participation in it.
It began with me forgetting my fighting pants at home, so I went home after work to get them and then headed out. When I arrived, I was going through my bag and I realized that I forgot my elbow and knee pads at home. I was pretty pissed at such an oversight, but luckily two of the fighters there were able to lend me both so I could gear up. So I start gearing up, get my legs on, then stand up, look around, and realize I left my fucking CHEST PIECE, of all things, at home as well. I couldn’t believe how stupid I was, and for me that’s saying something. At this point I was furious with myself. I really didn’t want to go another week without fighting, I felt it’s been long enough as it is. Luckily for me, another fighter who wasn’t gonna gear up was willing to lend me his chest armor so I was finally able to fully gear up. The chest piece I borrowed was much more form fitting and smaller than the one I usually fight in, and I felt much better in it.
So I started fighting, and I definitely started feeling the steps I’d lost by not being able to fight for a few weeks. My stamina and strength took a pretty sizable hit, and my defense was spotty at best. I let in quite a few juicy shots, so now it looks like I fell down a flight of stairs. I felt slow and sloppy, and wasn’t able to get where I needed to be in time. Don’t get me wrong, I never expect to come out with a positive kill/death ratio at these practices. The fighters that attend are all more competent fighters than I am. Still, my performance was kind of a shit show, in my opinion. Anyway, I started out doing singles against a few people, and then we ended up doing a bear pit (winner stays until he/she loses). I don’t think I fought more that two in a row in the pit, but I did get the occasional win. After awhile, I gassed out and couldn’t hold my shield up anymore. I was relying on body and head movement to get out of the way instead of blocking with my shield. When that happened, I was pretty much done, so I pushed myself to fight two more times and called it a day. I’m just happy my sword arm was ok, since while on vacation two weeks ago I fell while skating and landed hard on my right side. My shoulder and arm were messed up for days, but it doesn’t seem as though there was any lasting damage.
I’m gonna try and get a practice together this week to get more time in armor, and hopefully I’ll start moving forward again. In the meantime, pell work is on the menu…
I held fighting practice at my place this week. The Thursday practices for Acre haven’t started back up yet, and the Monday ones take a few weeks off after Pennsic. I didn’t want to wait until September to fight again, and luckily two people felt the same way and came down for some sparring.
We didn’t fight very long, since with only 3 of us we gassed out in about 60-90 minutes or so. Still, I felt it was totally worth it. Following Pennsic, I feel much more comfortable in armor, and I’m starting to feel more relaxed when fighting. I did fairly well against the other fighters, who were going full tilt at me. Sure, I got blasted a few times, but I was able to return the favor as well. Both are very encouraging, and praised me a few times on my improvement, which was great. I tried correcting some of the issues I saw in the videos of me during the novice tournament, and I had mild success at best. I need to bend my knees more and tighten up, be more mobile and avoid remaining static, stop blinding myself with my shield, and learn how to properly change the angles of both my attacks and those of my opponent. I discussed this with Sir Zippy and Rory at Pennsic, and found the information fascinating and very scientific, so it was right up my alley!
I’ll probably try and hold another practice next week, and then I go on vacation before the start of the school year. Once September hits, fight practices start back up. Speaking of which, I’m going to try and make it out to the Nutley practice in NJ at least once a month. It’s a haul for me, and makes for a late night, but everyone I’ve spoken to said it’s more than worth it. At this point, I’m trying whatever I can to get better and not totally suck. I’m trying my best to hold onto this fire and not let it go out. In other news, I’m gonna pick up some shin protection and try changing up my leg armor to help with my comfort and mobility. I felt it a lot at practice, and I think my stance and movement will improve once I get this sorted out. After that, I’ll move onto torso armor so I’m not a big barrel. More to come!
Well, I survived the weekend…sort of. Truth be told, I took so long writing this cuz I ended up with bronchitis and an ear infection right after Tough Mudder last Sunday. Today is the first day since then that I felt quasi-human, which is pretty much my status quo. Anyways, enough about me, let’s instead talk about….well, ME….
To be totally honest, my weekend started Friday night when I saw Iron Maiden at the Barclays center in Brooklyn. It was a pretty late night, so I was tired to begin with on Saturday morning before the novice tourney. Quick review, Ghost was great, Maiden was great, the venue was fucking garbage and the sound guy should’ve been dragged out and beaten with dirty socks filled with mushy pickles. Now, moving onto the tourney. To say I was nervous as fuck would be a gross understatement. I got there nice and early, geared up, and got ready to fight. We presented ourselves to the royals (clothed this time), and I got my first assignment. Duncan in queen’s far. He was a lefty, and I was nervous as all hell, so my head really wasn’t in the game at all. I fumbled my way through the marshals asking me questions (totally guessed at the answers), and started out. He legged me, I legged him back, but I positioned my shield all wrong and he stabbed me in the grill of my helm for the win. Since this was a double elimination tourney, I was 0-1, and on the verge of a super quick elimination.
My second fight was against a gentleman whose SCA name I don’t know. He fought with a two handed ax. I was much more relaxed during this fight, and though he hit like a truck, I was able to get my sword past his guard and land a shot on his stomach for the win, just as he legged me (not the hip, mid thigh). I was elated to actually score a win, which was my best case scenario for the weekend. Now I was 1-1, still on the chopping block, but doing far better than I expected.
My third fight was against another whose name I don’t know. This was, by far, my longest fight of the day. The entire thing lasted about 2 minutes of non-stop wailing on each other, but in the end I came up wanting. He got me with a good shot to the head, and I went down. Still, even though I got eliminated, I was happy to have at least put up a fight. I know I showed how green of a fighter I am by the mistakes I made, and my inability to close on that fight, but I’m pleased with my performance given that I’ve been fighting all of maybe 2 full months or so total, with 3-4 weeks off in the middle due to injury and moving.
I geared down and enjoyed spending the rest of the day talking to the other fighters, trying to motivate them to kick ass and do their best, and retaining for 2 of my favorite people. The kids were there as well, and they had a blast with the other kids. It was a fantastic event, and I’m excited to be fighting at Pennsic this year since this was so much fun. I’m also looking forward to doing some pick-ups at war and learning from the many fantastic fighters that will be there!
The next morning I woke early again and went to Tough Mudder. I decided to take it a bit easier on my legs and hips this year by not running/jogging much, and that paid off. Unfortunately, I made up for it by helping WAY more with people going over obstacles. I started with skidmarked, and after that I became a staple for people going over the wall, letting others use my shoulder as a step and pushing them up and over the wall. Later on we got to pyramid scheme, and one of my teammates was trying to pull me up and wrenched my left arm pretty hard. During the Hero Carry, since the lovely Lish wasn’t able to join me due to a knee injury, I ended up with some random dude. This year, much of the run was in the woods, and I carried him on level ground to the swap point. When we switched, he had to run up hill and an extra third farther. I felt kinda bad for the poor fucker, but better him than me! At least I had a dude as a partner, cuz if any of the other people nearby wanted to partner up (all were rather thin females) I fear I’d have crushed them to death under my fat old sweaty ass. I managed to escape with dignity mostly intact. Mud mile was easier for me this year, and block ness was fun. The worst, though, was at the end. It took me about 5 tries to get up everest this year. Last year I nailed it in one. Later on, my buddy had to make it up, but he was spent from the day, and clocked in at 6’5″ and 330lbs or so. He was able to grab the top, but we at the top couldn’t do it alone. Suddenly, groups of people rushed under him and made a human pyramid to push him up. It was certainly one of the coolest and most amazing Tough Mudder moments I’ve ever seen.
At the end, I was done. I was a little sore the rest of the day, and completely exhausted. The next morning, my throat was sore and I was coughing. As the day wore on, I felt more and more like crap. I called in the next day and went to the doctor first thing. Bronchitis and an ear infection. Took the next day off too, and I still feel like ass. Coughing up junk and feeling overall plague-esque. Note to self: Don’t let the water from the Tough Mudder obstacles get in your mouth…
So here we are. I made it through the gauntlet, and though I’m a little worse for wear, I’m pleased with my performance this weekend. Now onto prepping for war, and making sure I can manage fighting in a battle of that scale.
Following yesterday’s revelation about fighting, I developed a wicked case of the poor me’s. There’s actually a phenomenon called the poor me syndrome, however that’s more of a thing manipulators do to get what they want, and people exhibiting that behavior tend to blame life or others for treating them unjustly. I don’t feel like anyone or anything is treating me unjustly, I just have shitty self esteem and seem to feel that wallowing in misery is my “place”, so I keep myself in it. Now, if you read this far I feel you deserve a disclaimer. Pretty much this whole post is gonna be me whining and complaining about shit, so if you’re among the 99% of people who actually have better things to do, then you can safely bail now. For those 1% peoples, buckle up.
Yesterday I found out that yet another thing I’m trying is not going well for me, and I’m not where I should be skill-wise. I’ve been trying, and giving it my all at practices, but it’s just not enough and my progression is very slow. For most people, I assume, this wouldn’t be much of an issue. Can’t be good at everything, right? For me, it’s another reminder that I’m not actually “good” at anything. I’ve tried things time and again, and nothing ever comes naturally to me. For most things, I plateau pretty quickly and never really get any better. Examples: I’ve been a gamer for over 30 years, and I still suck at it. It’s not from lack of practice, it’s from lack of skill. Skating, I’m OK for the most part, but even after skating for over 20 years I’m still lacking in ways that I really shouldn’t, and again it’s not from lack of practice. Even the field in which I work, I feel like I’m OK, but nowhere near where I should be with the years under my belt. Fact is, I’m a Jack of many trades, and mediocre at best.
For the remainder of the day yesterday, I walked around with my guts in knots. Being pretty much shit at everything is kinda punishing, and doesn’t really help in the self esteem and self image departments. For me, I feel that being good at things increases my self worth, or rather it would. Anyway, this is what led me to spiral once again into the chasm of the poor me’s. It all just reinforces what was told to me throughout my youth by pretty much everyone around me. I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough…basically, I’m not enough. I’ve been fighting against that stigma my entire life, so having it reaffirmed is a kick in the dick. Not that I blame the messenger, especially since I’m the one that asked their opinion, I just wasn’t prepared for how strongly it affected me.
Last night I sat down with the Lish and talked about these feelings, and I’m glad I did, cuz I’ve been a total fucktard about all of this. These feelings of mine all stem from me wanting to stand out, to be admired for my skill at something, because in my warped mind the only thing that makes me worth a damn is to be thought highly of by others. My own opinion of myself holds little weight, since I did have a healthy opinion of myself at one point and had it soundly beat out of me throughout my childhood. Still, a part of me deep down feels as though I should be more, so I keep searching for things that I can do well. Currently the only talent I have is music, and by that I mean being able to sing cover songs. It certainly didn’t come easily, and I plateau’d a long time ago, but it’s enough that I’m fair at it. She reminded me of this, and of what she’s been going through the past few years. For those not in the know, the Lish plays roller derby. When she started, she was one of the worst on her team, and none of it came easily to her. However, she stuck to it and fought for it. She went every week, pushed herself through soul-crushing practices, read up on it, and did everything in her power to get better. And she did! Now here we are three years later, and she’s awesome! Easily as good a skater as I am, if not better. She told me that I can’t compare myself to those around me. Everyone progresses at a different pace. I responded to this by stating that I understand that, but when I’m on the lower end of the spectrum it hurts and is kinda demoralizing, so she told me to quit. This is when the pride kicks in. No, I don’t just quit without really trying. So that left me at an impasse, and with things to ponder.
I meditated on this for awhile, and discovered that the real problem goes all the way back to grade school. I have the irrational fear that I’ll plateau early, and thus be a profoundly shitty fighter, and be mocked for. I’d become a laughing stock, and considering I’m in a fighting household with some of the best fighters in the East, I’d be an embarrassment not only to myself, but to my household as well, and the thought of that pains me. Yes, it’s irrational and I’m overthinking. I’m well aware. But that doesn’t change the fact that these feelings legitimately happen. They can’t be stopped, only dealt with.
So the real question is this: If I DO plateau early, and end up being a pretty crappy fighter, do I stay with it or pass my gear on to someone who may take to it much more easily. The answer, at the moment, is “I don’t know”. What I do know is that the Lish was 100% right with what she said. I just started, I need to give myself more of a chance, and convincing myself early on that I’m complete garbage and don’t belong creates a self fulfilling prophecy that will surely come to pass. Hobbies like fighting, whether it be martial arts or SCA heavy list, are not just physical. The mental aspects can make or break even the most physically gifted. Get it in your head that you’re worthless, and you’ll never be anything but that because you’ve made up your mind. Strive to be positive, fight for what you want, and be the inspiration to others that my Lish is to me. She got beat down again and again, and continued to fight for what she wanted and she fucking did it. She earned her place doing something that did NOT come easily, and I can do the same. I was there pushing her to keep at it, telling her similar things that she’s now telling me. If for no other reason, I owe it to myself to do the same and not be a hypocritical little punk. So I’ll fight. Whether I succeed or fail, I’ll push and push until I get where I want to be. If some day I decide to step back, I can do so with a clear conscience and know that I gave it my all, and nobody can honestly say I didn’t have enough heart for it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go watch Rudy…