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
This post is a bit late, mainly due to the holiday craziness and me being a total space cadet. I went to Nutley a few weeks back, which will be the last time for me in 2017. This time, I ventured out with the Lish and Ulf. We rolled up, geared up, and got to work.
Attendance was lighter than normal this week, though I still got in some great passes. HRH Duke Brennan was there, Sir Douglas, Sir Yan (sp), Arne, and a few others whose names I can’t remember because it’s me and I suck at that. Brennan fought glaive this time, and overall I think I did ok against him. After our fight, he and sir Douglas came up and told me about an issue I didn’t even realize I had. When I move, I swing my arms, ya know like normal people when they’re walking. Problem is, I have a shield on that arm, so when I walk I open up my defense in a rhythmic way, which he was able to exploit over and over again. I also didn’t react enough when he switched handedness, leaving my right side more vulnerable. I made it a point to focus on that the rest of the night.
I got some nice compliments as well, people noting that I’m still improving, which is a great thing for me to hear. I know in time I will hit a wall and stagnate a bit while I figure out how to get over or around it, but for now I’m still slowly pushing forward. Another big issue I have is that I don’t do any pell work. I need to establish the habit of going out and doing a little bit every day, regardless of weather.
The following week, I went to the Wantagh practice to spread some holiday cheer. There were four of us, me, Caitlin, Dante, and Conrad. I did about as good as I usually do, though with better leg protection. I’m still leaving my offside leg too open for my liking, though I didn’t realistically expect to have figured that out in a week of sitting on my couch. I also feel the lack of pell work more and more at these practices, since the fighters here leave more open than those at Nutley. Problem is, I have a helluva time trying to get there accurately while keeping enough force, so practice practice practice!
I also spoke with my cousin about fighting. He doesn’t really know much of the SCA, so I was explaining what fighting in our society is like, and he told me that he’s actually a 2nd degree black belt in Kendo. We spoke about the similarities and differences between the two, and he mentioned some suggestions on how to improve. What I found most interesting about this was the similarities in training. His suggestions were to have a dummy to practice on (like a pell), and only to practice in full armor. The reason for this, which I totally agree with, is that it makes me used to throwing shots exactly as I would in a fight, with the same limitations and restrictions. He also suggested working out different combinations, as well as footwork and movement. Lastly, he said to work on speed. Now, while SCA combat isn’t at all like point fighting in terms of force, the speed drills would absolutely help, in my opinion. Once my form and technique are on point, I’ll be working to build up my speed.
If I can keep this up, or hopefully even step up, my dedication to practice over the next year, I feel like I should be able to get to my ambitious goals. For me, I have two goals at the moment. I would like to be on par with the average SCA fighter in the east kingdom by my two year mark, which includes being competent at sword and shield. My other goal is to work in another form and not be a human pell with it by the same point. Sure, I have other shorter goals, like sticking with it, getting footwork down, working on my technique, etc, but these are my lofty ones. Whether I hit them or not, I think they’re ambitious enough to keep me pushing for at least the next year and a half. After that, we’ll see how things are and what I need to focus on.
This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of fighting in a bear pit tournament in NJ. I traveled there with a local fighter, Ozurr, and we got there just in time for the fun to begin. In total there were 18 fighters, and there were 2 pits. Winner stays, loser goes, wounds retained. Winner gets 2 points, loser gets one point. Pits ran for 2 hours straight.
I started the day with that massive bruise on my leg, and though it was days old now it still hurt to the touch. I soon found out that I’m still leaving that side too open, as shot after shot came in right on that bruise. Eventually it hit critical mass about an hour and twenty minutes in, when a particularly hard shot blasted that same spot. The pain jumped up and I had to take myself out for the day so I didn’t risk more serious injury. Still, I ended the day having fought 36 fights, and I went 13 and 23, something I’m pretty proud of. I learned quite a bit, too, as other fighters were able to let me know what I was doing wrong that left me open. I also received praise from a few people on how I fought, which left me grinning like an idiot. I’m pretty shitty at accepting compliments, so I probably came off like an ass when in fact I was humbled by the praise and the fact that they went out of their way to say something to me. I even got in some shots I’ve never been able to land before, which was super cool! Also, I finally got to fight some members of my household. I fought Sarvu, Travis, and Darius. I got to fight Darius a few times, but only the other two once each.
All in all, it was a good day, and I needed a good day after the day before. I think I fought relatively well, and I got some great feedback on stuff I need to work on. I had the pleasure of fighting mostly people I’ve never fought before (Zack was the only person there I’d fought before), and all my passes were clean and excellent. Now I just gotta wait for this Africa shaped bruise to heal a little before I get back in armor again for a practice. I also have to work on my cardio if I’m gonna get through Birka.
This is difficult for me. This past Saturday, we said goodbye to Sophie. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made for many reasons, which I’ll get into later. For now, let’s talk about the beautiful life of Sophie the Monster.
When we moved into our first house, we adopted two dogs, Yuna and Cosmo. Yuna had an issue where she’d chase her tail constantly, and we thought maybe if she had someone to play with (Cosmo was a grumpy old fucker) that she’d snap out of it. So we went to the local pound and looked for someone in need of rescue. That’s when I saw my monster. She was a 3 year old American Staffordshire Terrier that was supposedly rescued from somewhere where she was overbred for puppies. The vets said it looked like she had quite a few back to back litters, one of which was recent. The catch? According to her temperament profile, she was not good around men. When I asked about that, they said that she did not like the male employee that helped do the profile, and that she might not be good with a male owner. I wanted to meet her anyway. We met, played, walked, and she seemed to be ok. We had her meet our pups, and they seemed fine with each other, so we took her home. This was Father’s Day weekend, so I stayed home all weekend with her.
We bonded that first weekend in a big way. We played, snuggled, napped, and really fell in love. From that moment on, as the Lish would tell people, she became “my dog”. While Lish claims Sophie merely tolerated her presence, she only had eyes for the dad. So much for her hating men. Pretty soon we noticed something else interesting. Her and Yuna would roughhouse and play a lot, and from that moment on, Yuna stopped chasing her tail. The only caveat now was that sometimes their play time would get a little too rough, so we had a dog trainer come in to evaluate Sophie. She was very standoffish to the dog, and didn’t like that Sophie was a dominant dog. Her official recommendation to us was that she could not be trained to not be dominant, and that we should put her down. I was fucking devastated. Lish and I spoke about it for hours, and in the end, decided “fuck that bitch”, and we kept her.
We moved to our next home, and eventually things escalated between Yuna and Sophs. They had a terrible fight one day while the Lish had them outside, and it resulted in Sophs having to alpha-roll Yuna to get her to stop attacking. She just pinned her down and then let her go. From that moment on, however, we had to keep them separate to avoid any future fights, especially with a newborn on the way. Sophie was always wonderful around my children. There was never any hint of aggression or whatnot. They’d pet her, pull on her when they were very little, and feed her. She loved the kids so very much, and seemed rather protective of them.
Over the years, we played, laughed, got licked in the face, almost died from the farts, and loved that little pup. We named her Sophie after Princess Sophie from the DaVinci Code (her original name was Duthie…yikes!). Since she looked fierce to some people, due to her breed, but was actually a love muffin (my other nickname for her), she got the name Monster, an ironic jab at those who thought all pits were horrible and dangerous. We’d play with her favorite toy, this round rubber ball that she was never able to destroy, and absolutely loved. We called it round and fun, just like Sophie. We’d also call her Chewie sometimes because instead of barking she’d make Chewbacca noises sometimes. She loved snow, and would go outside and just eat it, which would sometimes make cold walks in the winter frustrating for those pansy humans who were shivering. She was like a bull in a china shop, and we’d joke that she was “beauty and grace” when she would barrel through something. She was a great pup.
Over the past year or two, Sophie lost quite a bit of weight, and at one point she seemed sensitive on her back towards her tail. We brought her to our vet, and we left with bad news. Sophie had liver cancer. In the months that followed, we watched her get worse slowly. She had trouble with her back legs, and eventually was falling very often. We tried medications to help, but it didn’t make a difference. She also lost her ability to hold her bladder and bowels, and was having accidents in the house pretty much daily. We had to keep her in a diaper at all times when she was in the house. She went completely deaf in both ears, and blind in one eye. We couldn’t leave her out of her crate unless we were downstairs in the room with her. Otherwise, she’d pace around the house, get into things, and have accidents that would go through the diaper and leave deposits around the house for us to find later.
Still, on occasion she was try to hop around and play with the same playful energy she always had. This made it extremely difficult to consider letting her go. I’d think to myself that she’s still got lots of life left in her, and how could I do such a thing. I didn’t think she was ready to go. When the time came recently to make the terrible call, it was with pain and overwhelming emotion. The fact of the matter is that her quality of life was poor due to the pain, lack of function, and lack of control. She ended up starting to snap at us, thinking that our hands near her face were us trying to feed her. We couldn’t risk her nipping one of the kids, and it wouldn’t be right to keep her crated all the time unless the kids were upstairs. Peanutty said to the Lish a few days earlier that he misses the old monster, and liked the old monster more than the new one. It was time. We gave her a long life, she was 13-14 years old, and would have been put down in the pound had we not taken her in, and though that should have given me some comfort, I can’t really take any at this time.
Our vet came to our home with an assistant, and we said our goodbyes to our beautiful little monster. I can’t begin to express the depth of my sorrows, my anger, and even my guilt. While a big part of me believes that what we did was right, I’ll always feel guilt about putting a dog down. I don’t think there will be a day where it won’t make me feel like some sort of murderer, someone who did away with a beautiful life without that being’s consent. I was the love of her life, and loved her so very much. A part of me hates myself for this. I loved her, more than words can accurately describe. I want her back, the old her, who played with me and roughhoused with me. I want to hit things and scream. I’m crying while writing this and can’t stop. We were there for her when she left this world, and I held her head and cried into her fur. I will miss you always, my love. Always and forever. You were my monster, my love muffin, and one of the best friends I ever had. I’m so sorry about everything, and I truly hope you are at peace. I will miss you always. I love you.
I ventured out into the wilds of Jersey again for some combat goodness, and again wasn’t disappointed. I was a little bummed that everyone that was supposed to be joining me for the ride bailed last minute, but what can you do?
This time, I fought some people I’ve never fought before, which was great. First was a fighter from Montreal, who was actually on his honeymoon with his wife. He brought his fighting gear with them so he could attend the practice. He fought 2 stick, and we had some great passes. I followed that up with Arne. I had some good passes with him as well, and during our last pass he blasted me in the right leg. I knew right away that was gonna be nasty, and it hurt like hell despite my armor. I also ended up fighting Sir Culann for the first time, which was awesome and a little bittersweet since it was his last practice before moving to the west coast. One notable pass was when he went for a thrust that I tried to parry, and instead I pushed his aim right into my cup. Oof. I fought Sir Stephan again, which was fun. So far he’s still the only one whose head shots on me actually hurt a little. I fought another local unbelt who gave me some great passes, but I can’t remember his name for the life of me. I finished up with his highness, Duke Brennan. I tried to apply what he previously told me, and went for as much as I could. I did manage to leg him, though only when I was already legged, and I’m pretty sure the shots were light. He let me know, in a not-subtle way, that I’m not defending my right leg enough now. He blasted me a few times there, right where Arne hit me, and I ended the night with a welt the size of a football on my leg.
Arne mentioned to me that I’ve gotten better, which is awesome. I still need to work more on my defense, such as keeping the point of my shield up (which Stephan told me that night), and learning to stick block a little more. I also need to keep that right leg protected, so I’m gonna have to figure that out as well. Finally, another fighter mentioned to me that I’m not putting my hip into my shots, which harkens back to something I’ve said previous: My shot mechanics are absolute garbage. I’ve watched myself hit the pell, and it’s downright shameful. I need to focus on defense when I’m at practices, and on shot mechanics every other day. Without that, I’ll never be worth a damn in a fight.
I’d been looking forward to this event for weeks. This would be the first time since Pennsic that I’d be with my melee unit on the field, and I’ve really been missing fighting with those guys. I drove in with Antonio, who was marshaling for the event, and got there just after site opened. I parked a few cars down from Colin and Todd, fellow snakes and members of my team, and saw our commander Trent not too far away as well. We chatted a bit and caught up, then got geared up. Eventually, we made our way down to get inspected and prep for the start of the war. There was a speed tourney to determine team captains, which I did not take part in, and finally we got ready for war. Just as we were lining up, the rain started, and it lasted until after evening court.
The war took place in 2 parts. First, we were up top and they had to come up the hill to us. Lay on was called, and my team hurled ourselves down the hill to meet them. We started out towards the bottom, and over the course of the first 50 minutes we went back and forth over a 20′ span of ground. It was pretty intense, with frequent pulses spaced out between sections of holding the line and letting our spearmen do their thing. I saw some truly inspiring pulse work by people on both sides, and got to run in a bunch of times. I also had my first true “oh shit” moment in a melee. I got legged, and instinctively dropped to my knees on the front line. The other side chose that moment to pulse…straight at ME! I got run over by a bunch of dudes, and lucked out that I was able to turtle up and get through it without any injury. I had some really fun pulses with my unit, as well as some with just random people, and floated around from side to side, and even the center a few times, facing different groups. Eventually, that half ended and we had a short break. We switched sides, and then moved the lower resurrection point higher up due to a medical emergency with a fighter. Luckily, it happened after the fighting was done, and I’m told she is ok and on the road to recovery.
This time, we were going up the hill, but the battlefield was MUCH shorter. This was a good overall adjustment, in my opinion, since the rain had picked up a bit and the hill was FAR more muddy and slippery. Lots of people were slipping when fighting, and especially during pulses. This time my unit stayed on the right flank and did our thing. This part of the war was a little more brutal for me. I got cupped 3 times, and took a pretty nasty shot to the guts with a spear. Still, apart from taking a minute to make sure I wouldn’t vomit after some of them, I stayed through to the end and didn’t take any lengthy breaks. Another thing of note was the combat archery. There were 2 or 3 combat archers per side, and they were absolutely killing it. There were also people throwing these axes, which was also super cool. One dude on my side threw one just over the other line, and hit a reserve dead in the grill. The guy threw his hands up like “oh come on, seriously?!”. It was hilarious! Finally, the end was called, and we were done. The timing was right, because just after that it started really raining in earnest for about 15-20 minutes.
As with every time I fight, I self analyzed the shit outta myself afterwards. Some things I did ok. When I was leading a pulse, I built up a good head of steam before clashing. I also got a few kills, which I’m very pleased about. I also feel like I called all shots on me that should’ve been called, which is something I consider very important. I never wanna be “that guy”, who doesn’t call his shit and needs to be taught a lesson. Also, most times I think I did pretty well against the spears, which I owe mostly to Danx and the others at the Monday practice. They focused on protection against spearmen, and it really made a difference. Aside from that, there were some of the usual downsides. Some of them are just from lack of experience, such as not being able to read the situation and understand where to go and exactly what needs doing. I fell back on the commanders for that, and tried my best to make myself available for them to put me somewhere. I think my biggest issue was hesitation. When a pulse was done by my side near me, I didn’t immediately follow it up and support. I followed what those around me were doing, and just sort of inched the line forward. In retrospect, more could have been done if I followed up and helped out. I also left gaps in my defense on occasion, and got legged more than a few times. It’s hard to tell what I did wrong to let those shots in, but the gap was there long enough to matter. I need to work on shield placement during pulses, as I got wrapped many times upon hitting their line when I wasn’t in front. Lastly, I need to work harder on the best shots to throw during a pulse. I was focusing mostly on scorpion wraps to whomever was in front of me, and didn’t do enough lateral attacking. I should have been attacking at angles, but that’s not where my brain went unfortunately. All stuff I need to really work on more.
After the war, I was able to throw down with my fellow unit member Sam and do a couple of passes. It was a shitload of fun, and really cool to see how different his style is from those I usually fight. I took note of some of his moves so I can try them at a later date. We finished up (mostly cuz I was spent), and headed back to the cars to gear down and change. I got dressed in warm, dry clothes and headed to the cabin for court. I hit the dayboard first, which was absolutely amazing! Had some delicious sausages, savory toasted cheese, and beef stew. There were also these pizelle-like cookies which were out of this world. My grandma would’ve been very appreciative!
During court, I was pleased to see lots of great things. Quite a few AoA’s, which now is probably my favorite award to see people get. There were also some of the amerigous awards for service and arts. Another big highlight was a gentleman, and fellow ginger, from the Mid who sang during court. It was totally awesome, and something I’ve never seen in court before.
After court, I made a b-line for the car and headed home. I had a smile on my face, in spite of how worn out and tired I was. I had a great time, and look forward to making this event every year going forward. Now it’s time to focus on upping my game as much as possible, and getting my ass to some melee practices so I can pull my weight in my unit.
I know this post is late, last week was kinda crazy. On Wednesday, I did a fighting demo at a local high school. I got there, geared up, and when the time came we did a bear pit. There were 5 of us. Me, Conrad, Murdoch, Titus, and Antonio. It was super fun, and the crowd seemed really into it which was amazing! I did ok, fighting wise. I even won a few, which was cool! Apart from the fighting, I was able to walk around and have short chats with some students. It was overall pretty awesome, and from the feedback I got from others, it seems a few kids are interested in coming down to events and checking it out.
Practice on Thursday was more low-key for me than usual. I took it a little easier because I didn’t want to get hurt before Hundred Minutes two days later. We had Caitlin, Dante, and Conrad. I did ok, but I let it far more thrusts than I should have. Dante also gave me a ton of problems, as usual. I just can’t seem to get around his defense, and on the rare occasion I did I just don’t hit hard enough. Anyways, we did mostly 1 on 1, and finished off with a few 2 on 2 fights, which were great. Overall, it was good and I’m glad I went before Hundred Minutes. Gotta stay fresh!