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…
Last night was the final practice before the novice tourney this weekend and Pennsic. Before practice, I swung by Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up a roller hockey girdle, which is basically just a pair of padded shorts. I wore those while fighting, and wow what a difference! Shots to the leg had most of the stink taken off them, and though I did get hit, I didn’t get all bruised up.
I fought a few people last night. The older gent, two young newer fighters, and a much more experienced fighter towards the end. One of the newer guys I did OK against. The others I did pretty poorly against. I can see the openings, but I have trouble getting there. Also, while I previously thought my defense was decent, apparently it’s just not. I let through a fair amount of shots that I really shouldn’t have, and I’m pretty weak against very aggressive fighters, which will likely be most of those fighting at the tourney.
Still, regardless of this I’ve been trying to stay positive about the whole thing, even though I’ve felt that I’m behind where I should be as far as skill. I’ve been doing my best to talk up other fighters I know who will also be there, and help motivate them to do their best. Unfortunately, such tactics don’t work for me unless my skills are legit there. To gauge where I am, I asked someone who attends practice and is a more seasoned fighter to let me know, honestly, if I’m where I should be, advanced, or behind. My suspicions, unfortunately, were on point. I’m indeed behind where I should be, and not progressing on par with other new fighters. Now, I do my best to not get my hopes up with stuff like this, especially given my track record with martial arts and whatnot (I totally sucked at fighting there too). This time, like an idiot, I actually got them up and hoped I was better than I thought, and that I was just being too hard on myself. Wrong again.
Before some of you start messaging me with stuff like “you’re new, give it time, everyone progresses at their own pace, etc”, know that I totally get that. The logic is sound. That doesn’t change, however, the gut punch. I don’t have any problem with what they said, I asked for an honest opinion and they gave an honest answer. Still, I’d hoped that maybe I’d take to this well and surprise myself. Instead, I’m just as I’ve been in many other things before. Mediocre at best. I’m still gonna stick with it and give it all I’ve got, and I’m happy to know exactly where I am before the tourney so I won’t be surprised and blindsided when I get obliterated right off the bat. So worst case scenario for the tourney hasn’t changed, just the best case scenario. Now, if I end up winning any fights that day, it’d be a gorram miracle. I just hope it’s not painfully embarrassing like my first martial arts tournament, whose video I deleted because of how embarrassing it was…More to come next week.
This Monday past I found myself back at fighting practice for the first time in about a month. After my last practices, my hand was in pretty rough shape. From what I read online, and spoke about with a few people, I either strained it pretty badly or tore a tendon or ligament. Still not sure what it was, but I decided to take some time off and heal up. I’m at about 95% or so now. It still twinges a bit, but nowhere near what it was. Time to get back in the ring.
Practice this Monday went pretty well, I think. I worked with the seasoned fighters/teachers there, and learned some great stuff. I took it pretty easy, and didn’t go too crazy. One of the things I realized that night is that my injury was likely caused, in part, by my trying to pull shots once I realized they weren’t gonna land. I need to learn to just commit to a shot, good or bad. This way I’ll learn to choose better and not just throw. My biggest problem of the night is where I look. I tend to look at my opponents face, or rather through it, so I can catch all his movement in my periphery. This may work when going slow, but isn’t working for me when facing someone who throws quick shots. I got blasted a few times in my upper leg just under my ass because I wasn’t focusing where I should be. I should be watching the elbow of the sword arm, since that can’t ever lie. My mistakes were paid for, as evidenced below.
Another thing we did was melee charge drills. This I found very helpful, as it gave me a brief glimpse into some melee mechanics. We alternated charging at each other, then charged one another at the same time. I didn’t do well at this drill. I tend to remain too high, and wasn’t getting low enough to get under my opponents center of gravity. I didn’t get creamed, but then I don’t think my opponent was really trying to put me on my ass. One newer fighter, the older dude who fought many years back, did SUPER well at this. Dude is like a freight train! I hope I can learn his technique and apply it so I can better hold my own. I did learn something super important during these drills, though. I learned that I should NOT be wearing sneakers! During the drill where Conrad (from the Thursday practices with Acre) and I charged each other at the same time, my left foot and his right foot kicked each other at the same time with full force. The resulting pain and numbness made me think I broke my toe, but it turns out it just jammed my toenail into the cuticle really hard. Now my toe is all bruised, but it couldn’t been FAR worse. My good friend John told me to check out the carbon fiber tipped boots, so I’ll be picking up a pair before next practice.
All in all, I’m excited to be back in it and will be throwing my hat in the ring at the Novice Day tourney later this month. I’m trying to not be nervous about it, so my main focus is to just do my best and fight with honor. If I can manage that, I’ll call it a win. I’m not expecting miracles since I’ve only been fighting since the beginning of May, with a month break thrown in there. It’s tough for me to gauge progress since I can’t really see myself when I’m fighting to see what I’m doing wrong. That’s something that the mirrored walls in a martial arts school would help with, as I used them a LOT during the years I trained for correcting my form and technique. Also, I’m not surrounded with many new fighters, and the few I’m around seem to be well past me already. Those around me have been very encouraging and have said I should do well, though for my personality it’s hard to take that at face value and not just as others trying to be optimistic and positive. I’m not being negative, I just don’t see myself improving enough to justify such an attitude. I’m more of a realist, and don’t see much point in getting my hopes high so early in the game. I will try and be centered, and approach this with as little emotion as I can muster…aside from my desire to not completely embarrass myself or make my teachers look bad, that is. If I get at least one win during the day, I’ll consider that a huge accomplishment for me! More to come.
I haven’t posted a fighting practice blurb in awhile, and there are reasons for this. Well, not just reasons why I haven’t posted about that, but also reasons why I haven’t been posting much in general. I spoke to a dear friend who writes fantastically well, and realize a criticism I had regarding one of her recent pieces was perhaps more projection than anything else. As such, it’s time to strip down and give a look into what I’ve been going through the past year or so.
WARNING!!! This entire blog post is basically just me ranting about shit and complaining. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, then you might wanna pass on this one.
First off, the search for a new home. You might remember that I had quite a difficult time last year. I had to say goodbye to the home we started our family in. Even now, while writing this, I feel that churning in my guts about the whole thing. We finally closed on the sale (which was a profound debacle), and months later I drove by. This just happened to be the day the new owners demolished the house. I saw what was my home, full of memories, laughter, and love, broken and being carted away in dump trucks. The big and beautiful old trees were also taken down. I was momentarily paralyzed by the sight, with many emotions vying for dominance within me, like pack animals choosing a new leader. I drove away feeling devastated, and have had to make peace with the thought that I could never pass by the house again and see triggers of beautiful memories ever again.
At the same time, we began the hunt for a new home. In short, this entire process was absolutely brutal. On the plus side, we had a fantastic realtor, one who went above and beyond to help us find a new home. Still, the whole thing was a gorram mess. Over the past year we saw literally dozens of houses, and placed bids on a few, only for that to ultimately fall through in spectacular fashion. We did, however, finally find a place a few months back, and we moved in last week. We’re still in the process of clearing out everything from the rental, and are trying to balance that with unpacking enough stuff to both live more comfortably while also making room for more shit. Meanwhile, the entire process is just punishing. It feels as though no matter how much work I put into unpacking, very little gets done and we’re still drowning in chaos, at least from my perspective. Once we’re mostly settled, I’ll have to jump in and do it again when I move my wife’s mom out of her house and in with us, which will be a whole other bag of challenges.
At some point within the last year, we also found out that our eldest dog, Sophie, has liver cancer. She’s got weak back legs, a weak bladder, is blind in one eye and stone deaf. We’re not sure how much time we have left with her, and are trying to keep her as comfortable as we can. For me, it’s frustrating and I’m stuck with a lot of anger that I don’t know what to do with. I’m gonna lose my friend soon, my sweet little monster, and there’s fuck all I can do to stop that. The entire thing is like being on extended death watch, where every time I see her asleep in her crate or on the couch, I wonder if this is it…
Next, we add on financial fears. Fears that I somehow miscalculated and we’re in too deep with the house we bought. We won’t know for certain until maybe 6 months from now, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. As it is, we do have some money for renovations for the house, and there’s stuff we absolutely MUST do within the next year or so. As such, I’m gonna be saying goodbye to my beautiful Victoria (my 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 fastback). Having a classic car is something I’ve always wanted, and I’ve had her for most of Peanutty’s life now. That being said, she needs work done, and I just don’t have the loot to make that happen. I also don’t need another money pit hobby, especially when all I really get out of it is the joy of driving such a wonderful piece of historical beauty and American muscle around. Selling her would get us halfway to a bathroom remodel, which is much more desperately needed than cruising around in the car. Besides, I’m not exactly a spring chicken anymore, and nowadays I look less like a cool young metalhead cruising around in a badass car, like the older brother in Phantasm, and more like some pathetic old fucker pretending he’s still cool while going through some sort of midlife crisis.
Now back to the SCA fighting stuff. A few weeks back, the knuckles on my right hand started to really hurt. I figured it was just a padding issue, as well as the result of being a sissy with no physical strength in any part of my body. So I dealt with it. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago this past Monday, and my hand was INSANELY bad after practice. I decided to take some time off fighting to allow it to heal. It’s mostly there, but I still get a twinge if I clench my fist. Now, though, I’m getting all sorts of other pains, and at this stage in the game it’s increasingly hard to compare what should be investigated vs what is just me being older. I see so many people start fighting at various stages in their lives, and none seem to end up with the discomfort I have. I’m sure it has much to do with my lack of fitness, and the fact that physical activity NEVER came naturally to me. I understood that going in, but it still bums me out a little when I don’t see myself improving as I should. Those teaching me have been really good, and very patient and giving of their time, for which I’m eternally thankful. Still, I don’t think it will last, and I would never blame them for stepping away. I know the frustration of spending time to teach someone who just doesn’t get it, and isn’t meant for it. So if you’re one of my teachers, no worries. When you need to step away, please do so with a clear conscience. I’m just thankful to have had the time with you.
Now I know what you’re thinking (I really don’t), why not just talk about these issue with friends and whatnot. Well, that’s another problem for me. Not a new one, per se, but one that’s gone on for ages. I have difficulty with friendships. I tend to get close and drift away from people over time, and the only one I’ve ever been consistently close to is my wife. All others either rub me the wrong way, don’t reciprocate the same level of friendship, or just aren’t trustworthy enough for me to invest in. I have MAJOR trust issues, some of which grew from a self-esteem deficiency and others that were the result of being burned too often and too deeply to ever move past. It’s brutal. Sometimes I’ll be close with someone for years at a time, only for them to do something that goes against the very fabric I’m woven from, at which time I need to check out. Other times it’s just people being a little shitty because of their own issues, which they may or may not even be aware of. These times I’ll take a step back and take it as someone who needs space. Occasionally I’ll ask what’s up, if it’s something totally out of character, but usually it’s just a trait that just bumped up a level, so I step back and let things settle, lest I confront it and end up losing a friendship over saying something stupid or out of line. I also know that I tend to rub people the wrong way a LOT, but I’m actually not aware when I do it most times. I don’t know if people would rather not confront me about it for risk of a friendship ending fight, or if they think I’m well aware of what I’m doing and don’t give a fuck. Truth is, I DO give a fuck. I actually try to live my life by a code of honor, and do right by other people, so if I have a shitty habit that hurts people, FUCKING TELL ME! I know it sounds hypocritical given that I mentioned earlier that I tend to back away, but in all honesty I do bring up shitty behavior when people do it. What they do with that information is another story. I’m not gonna beat a dead horse here…
I’m sure there are other little things that pile onto this mound of crazy, but if I listed all of them this would be far longer and you’d either bail out of boredom, or drag yourself to the end, at which time you’d be praying for the sweet merciful release of death…or maybe some comfort tacos or something. Mmmm, tacos…