I’m a slacker, I know. I haven’t really taken the time out to write posts, and that sucks, because just like groceries, info is better when it’s fresh. That being said, a lot has happened in the past few months, but rather than go into deep detail, I’ll just give the hightlights.
Following Fall Crown, I was able to take part in a training weekend with Duke Sean. I traveled up to Massachusetts with Antonio and spent the weekend at Trent’s place. The training was VERY different from what I’ve attended before. The focus wasn’t on developing specific combinations or forcing openings, but rather to be observant and exploit things when they reveal themselves. We did lecture at first to explain the concepts, then put our gear on and did some fights. When we fought, others looked on and picked apart where we went wrong based on the methodology taught in the lecture. It really was pretty great. That night we went over how to break down videos to see what happens and where people go wrong, and the next day we did footwork and pick ups. Overall a great weekend. I realized a lot of my problems with power generation are based on my lack of proper recovery, so I’ve been working on that since.
Following the Duke Sean class was 100 Minutes War. I ran a little late getting my gear on, and just missed the commander’s tournament. Eventually, I found out which side I was on and jumped in. This event was a blast for me. Had some great action packed moments, did some things I was really proud of, and also did some truly stupid and hilarious stuff as well. Our team won the day, and it was a really close battle, which was great. After the melee, I did pick ups with polearm for awhile. I was able to work with some of the more seasoned pole people and got some great tips. I’m hoping to be much better with it by the time Pennsic comes around. I really enjoy being able to switch, either between field battles, or when rez’ing during woods. I also plan to practice pole at the next melee practice in March, so I can better understand how it should be used in melee.
After 100 Minutes, life happened. Between then and Birka, I was only in armor twice. Once was a local practice in someone’s house (we fought in the living room, it was amazingly hilarious!), the other was Nutley. The Nutley practice was Birka prep, so we did a bear pit all night. With all the rust of the holidays on me, it was a pretty punishing practice, and I fought like shit. Still, practice is practice. I’ve had times before where I’ve had a few weeks off and somehow came back better, but wasn’t one of them. I was just hoping I could get my shit straight at Birka.
Birka was pretty rough. I did have some decent kills, and a few short streaks, but couldn’t manage much more than maybe 3 or 4 in a row. This year we also had less fighters, around 120, so once the first hour was over the line got really short. It stayed that way until the end. I had two main goals going in, and a secret goal I hoped for. My mains were that I wanted to stay in until the end, and that I score higher than the previous year. I did both of those. My secret goal, which I didn’t vocalize to anyone until after the event, was that I’d break into the mid 20’s. That didn’t happen, by quite a bit. I finished at 34. My Birka results are as follows:
2018: 61st out of 152 with 46pts
2019: 38th out of 137 with 72pts
2020: 34th out of 124 with 87pts
While this initially looks like I did better this year, I actually didn’t. If you calculate the numbers based on what place I’d be out of 100 fighters, I’d have been 40th in 2018, and 27th in both 2019 and 2020. I stagnated. That realization hurt. I thought I had gotten better, and while going through the pits people gave me encouragement saying I looked good out there. But the proof is in the pudding, and the numbers don’t lie. Sure, I could make excuses and cite other factors, but in the end I placed where I did. Sucky realization, but that just means I need to push through this wall if I wanna get better at this shit.
After Birka were three great practices. First, I went to an outdoor practice in Ostgardr. I did passes with a knight from another kingdom (can’t remember his name…I know, you’re shocked!), Ozurr, Brom, Gawain, and others. It was a blast, and I got some really awesome tips from those I fought. The next weekend I hit the PAL melee practice, and Aedult Swim the week after that. Melee practice was a TON of fun, and brought me out of my post-Birka funk. It reminded me that even if I never become a great singles fighter, I can still get it done on the field by doing my job in melee. The unbelted champion team this year is gonna be based on how good a soldier people are, instead of just the top 30 killers. The focus is on working together, and being great when fighting in a unit. As such, these practices and the upcoming events are focusing on training soldiers. I love this idea, because that’s what I really need to learn. Being honest, I wouldn’t say I’m there yet, as far as the team goes, but I think with hard work I could get there in a couple of years. A lot of it really comes down to understanding the tactics, positions, and responsibilities, and being able to execute. That’ll all come with experience, and this melee season I plan on getting out there as much as possible. The past two years I was injured during the spring, which kept me sidelined. Now I’m finally ready to get out there and learn. Anyways, that was what I focused on at the melee practice. I felt some things click, and hope I can keep that momentum going. As for swim, that was a wonderful gauntlet of beatings. I fought a bunch of really great dudes, many who gave me some solid advice. I also sought out a bunch of lefties, since I don’t fight them often. I got to spend the day around people I care about, bullshit with loads of folks, and generally just have fun.
So that brings us to now. I took a week off after swim so my body would stop being sore. Next week I head back to practice so I can start focusing on my most glaring problems. I also need to do some armor repairs, make a new sword, make a great sword, and make a fighting tunic. When melee season really gets going, I don’t wanna still be fighting in this gambeson because of the heat issues. I plan to make modifications to my hidden armor, and a lightweight tunic with some light padding and armor points so I can be more comfortable. I also need to cross train and get my cardio up. I’m my own worst enemy with that shit, mainly because I despise working out. It’s just boring as hell. Also, running on a treadmill or outside is difficult for me because of my torn meniscus. Still, it’s gotta be done, and if I ever want to get to the level of prowess I’d like to be at, then I need to do this. No time like the present, because after all, the clock just keeps on ticking…
I’ll freely admit, I was pretty nervous going into crown. I wanted to fight well, and avoid embarrassing myself on the list field at all costs. I made a new sword with a thrusting tip, and re-taped my existing sword with a tip. My armor was all set and in good order, and I was ready to go. My first impression of the site was “wow is it pretty….and freaking COLD!”. It was about 30 degrees when we arrived on site. I signed in and schlepped my gear to the list field. I got armored up and walked around to say hi to people I knew, which helped me warm up a little.
Crown had 31 combatants. We processed in, shared some lovely words with her majesty, and got ourselves sorted into pools. There were four round robin pools, 3 with 8 fighters, and one with 7 fighters. My pool had 8, and they were myself, Lord Konall, THL Kit, Centurion Tiberius Nautius, Master Tommaso, Master Avaldr, Sir Ryu, and Jarl Ivan. Prior to crown, I had decided to change how I approach the fights in tournaments. Usually, I like hanging back and seeing how people fight a bit before starting an attack. This time, I pledged to be more aggressive and not let anyone fight their own fight if I could help it.
My first bout was against Sir Ryu, and it was by far my worst. Lost to a basic thrust in under 5 seconds. After the fight, he explained to me how my guard allowed that to happen, so I tried to adjust for the rest of my fights. I wish I had done some quick warm up fights to get my head in the game beforehand. Second was against Lord Konall. I got legged early on, but was able to leg him and get in a head shot. Next up was Jarl Ivan. I’ve fought him a few times before, and almost all ended in a one shot. This time, I actually hung on a bit and made it more of a fight. I got legged and got hit with a wrap to the head.
My next fight was against Tiberius. I kinda fucked this fight up, and I’ll explain why. First, my goal in this one was not to fall victim to his brutal 2 shot combo, which I accomplished. I was able to leg him, however when I did so he hit my sword arm. Without thinking, I dropped to my knees, and as he was able to kill me with a thrust I called a hold. I had to explain that my brain shorted out and I took the arm as a leg. We talked it out, and he let me stand back up and keep my sword arm, thus leaving my shield arm dead. After a quick series of shots, he got me with a wrap to the back of the head and neck. THL Kit de Coldwood was next. Here I was able to leg her, and finish up with a shot to the head. My next bout was against Master Avaldr. This one was rough, and my footwork was definitely my downfall. I got legged, again, and fell for a low fake into a head shot. On to Master Tommaso. We traded blows for a bit, until we both scored head shots for a double kill. We re-fought it. This time, I was able to get a leg shot in, and then a short wrap to the body under the shield for the win. This was my last bout.
As you have probably guessed, I did not make the sweet 16. I went 3 and 4 in my pool, which I’m happy about. I felt good about my performance the day of, and stayed around for finals and court. I was happy to see my friend Tiberius make the final 4, and he was absolutely inspiring to watch all day! He ended up being awarded the shield of chivalry in court, which was a well deserved honor, in my opinion. After the event, I watched the videos from the fighting. I noticed quite a few things wrong, things I actually thought I was no longer doing. It’s pretty rough coming off the high thinking you were awesome, only to rip it to shreds the next day. Still, it just shows what I already know. I need a lot more work. I plan on focusing on pell work again, and perhaps I’ll do the 100 day challenge again after my vacation in a few weeks. I can see a bit of a difference between my mechanics during the baronial championship and crown, and I’m not sure why it happens. Maybe I just need to give more time at practices to sword and shield, instead of letting it slip so I can learn new forms. Either way, it really was a fun day, and I had a blast fighting, joking, and laughing at the event. The East got new heirs, Duke Tindal and his consort, and I got more experience. Wins all around.
VIDEOS FROM CROWN:
About a month or so prior to last year’s AAA event, I went to a friend’s house to learn how to throw knives and axes. It was a great time, and I learned a lot. I practiced a bunch over the next few months, and competed in last year’s thrown weapons championship. After a few weeks, I ended up destroying my target board, and never got around to making a new one. Since then, I’ve thrown at 4 events total. Ducal Challenge 2018, AAA 2018, Novice day 2019, and Pennsic 2019. Going into the baronial championship this year at AAA, I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot.
I started out practicing knives and axes earlier in the day. After MANY rounds, I was finally able to get them to stick more often than not, though my aim left something to be desired. Spear, which I had the most trouble learning, is what I did best at. After a bit of practice, I walked around with the Lish and the kids and just chatted with people. I even got the wee beast to give throwing axes a try. While she wasn’t able to throw them hard enough, she tried her hardest and did well. When the time came for the tourney, I signed up and gave it a go.
The tournament was run as follows. There were 16 competitors. Everyone had three throws for each weapon: knives, axes, and spears. There were playing cards stuck to the targets. The weapon had to tear or pierce the card to gain a point. The top two throwers went on to a final round against “woody”, a wooden target dummy that looked like the dude from the board game Operation. I started throwing knives. One didn’t stick, one stuck but missed the cards, and one stuck and tore a card for a point. Second was spear. I stuck all three spears, and two of them pierced cards, giving me 3 points total. Finally, I threw axes. While I did get two to stick, they were nowhere near the cards. Of the 16 competitors, only two people were able to score, Hrothgar and I. We advanced to the finals. For woody, there were target circles on him. Cutting the edge of the large targets got you 1 point, and sticking inside it got you 3 points. Cutting the edge of the small targets got you 3 points, and sticking inside it got you 5. I aimed for the big targets and stuck one inside and one on the line, for a total of 4 points. Then, Hrothgar went, but was unable to score. Amazed, I walked away with the win and became the new baronial thrown weapons champion!
Later on, I decided to try getting my axes to stick on the dummy. First ax thrown went right in the crotch, which elicited a pained “ooooo” from those watching. It was kinda hilarious. The wee beast then gave his head a few chops, just to let him know what she’s capable of. Then, in court, I was brought up and given the regalia as well as a prize of a bearded throwing ax! I also got a super awesome scroll made by Fiona the Volatile, whose stuff I’ve been drooling over for awhile now! Eanraig was made our archery champion, and Akos was made the brewing champion! Overall, a fantastic day!
I’ll start this out with some quick backstory about my officer position. Back in March or so, I starting talking to my local seneschal about stuff. For those who don’t know, a local chapter such as a barony will have its own officers. The seneschal is the administrative head, basically the president of the chapter. Anyway, she felt I’d be a good deputy and asked if I’d be interested. I accepted, and spent the next few months slowly learning a little about the position. Then, in June, she decided she needed to take a step back from the SCA to sort out some personal stuff, so I stepped up into the role. It was…rough, to say the least. I basically had to crash course it all. It was expected that I’d be stepping back down once she returned, but earlier this month she decided that she would not return to the position. Now, I will serve out the remainder of her term. This is important because things happened in the week leading up to this event that I won’t get into here, and I was stressed as hell going into the event. Instead of focusing on my fighting, my head game just wasn’t there and it hurt me in the end. I recognize this, and admit I should have done this better.
This tournament was to be fought using 4 separate forms. Initially, the forms were supposed to be: Sword and Buckler, two Weapon, Single Sword, Polearm. I started taking up polearm just before Pennsic, but I still sucked at it. I also tried learning sword and buckler at Nutley with Sir Arne two weeks before the tourney. While this definitely did help me, I was nowhere near where I should’ve been. In the end, though, we didn’t end up fighting polearm. Instead, that was replaced with sword and shield.
The forms were fought round robin, which was pretty brutal. Each round robin tourney winner would advance to the semis, then it was single elimination. We soon realized that if you didn’t win one of the pools early, you’d be super gassed at the end. The first tourney was sword and buckler. While I did fairly well at this, in my opinion and with all things considered, I didn’t win overall. I may have ended up with about a 50% win ratio, maybe less. Still, not bad for a very new form for me. Brom took the win and advanced. The second was two weapon. I did better at this than I thought I would, especially considering I didn’t thrust. I had a better than 50% ratio. The winner of this tourney was Lev, I believe. I honestly don’t remember his name, I wasn’t familiar with him prior. The third tourney was single sword, which is easily my worst form. I did fair at it, but still absolutely need more work. I lost early on to Andromedas, and had to fight through the loser bracket to get to the last fight against Andromedas, who bested me again. He advanced. The last tourney was sword and shield, where I went undefeated. I was the last to advance. At this point, I was pretty exhausted. Since time was an issue, the semis began immediately after my last sword and shield fight. I had almost nothing left in the tank, and my opponent was Andromedas once again. We danced our dance, and in the end he bested me and advanced. Lev defeated Brom, so Andromedas and Lev fought the finals where Lev won. However, since he is not a member of the barony (and neither was Brom), the fight to determine the champion was Andromedas and I. He was crowned baronial champion, and in my opinion he will make a fantastic champion!
I absolutely need to spend more time training in other forms, and not just solely focus on my primary. Also, after watching the videos, I realized how many points of honor I gave up during the tournament. Part of me thinks I should probably minimize that when doing so results in me fighting my worst form. Still, it was a good day, and I was happy to have made it to the finals. It was also great that the Lish and the kids were there, and were chanting my name during my semi final match. Overall fun, though having it be round robin was too much of a meat grinder in my opinion. Perhaps if I wasn’t so gassed I’d have done better in the end.
During a brief break in the fighting, their majesties came over and opened a field court. They called me forward, and inducted me into the Order of the Silver Wheel, which is the amerigous award for service. I was given the very last medallion made for their reign, which means very much to me, and a beautiful scroll to boot! I am very honored to be in such good company as this order.
The remainder of my day was spent running around and helping out. I missed a fair amount of court because I was helping prepare for feast, and spent the evening in the kitchen doing dishes and running errands. By the end, I was wiped, but it was worth it. Twas a good day!
PLAYLIST OF MY FIGHTS:
I’d like to start out by admitting that I was nervous and anxious as hell going into war this year. I took on more than previous years, what with the Assassin’s Guild game, and Assassin’s Guild contract, running with scissors, organizing the team for the Atlantian melee tourney, and being acting seneschal for my barony during war. All of this, compounded with my usual paranoia that my tent will leak and that I’ll forget something important, made me a ball of anxiety beforehand. Luckily, for me, that boiled away after being on site for a day or so, and I was able to relax and have fun.
We got there on Friday, but didn’t really do much other than set up our stuff, drink a bit, and chill in camp. Saturday morning I went down to Aedult Swim for some passes. I spent about 3.5 hours down there fighting both chiv and squires from all over, and had a blast doing so. I got to meet some great people, and we joked and laughed and gave feedback to one another. After showering, I met up with Ru and Weasel from the Royal Assassin’s Guild. They provided me with the contract for an assassination that was to be done at Pennsic. My mark was none other than Sir Beatrix of Aethelmarc. I told them I would do my best to get it done in glorious fashion. Later that day, while wandering through the vendor area with Lish, Ioannes, and Honig, something fantastic happened. Ioannes was speaking to a Countess from Ealdormere. She then came over to the Lish and asked her if it would be ok if she asked me to be her champion in the roses tournament. Lish agreed, and so she turned to me and asked if I would champion her. I was so humbled and honored by this, and accepted straight away. I would be the heavy list champion for Countess Jolecia of Litchfield. Later that day, Lish and I did guard duty for EK Royal, then processed in the opening ceremonies with our barony. Following that, we met up in our camp to witness Honig take Lily as her apprentice.
Sunday was a long one. We watched the morning war points, both for unbelted champions and belted champions. Then it was off to our baronial encampment for the ice cream social, and back to the field to see heroics. After heroics I was able to catch the tail end of the novice tourney, where my buddy Cassian took home the win. Later that night, the Lish and I headed over to bloodguard for some board games and drinking, which was a fantastic time!
Monday was field battles in the morning. While I was initially supposed to be in a group of others on scissors, I ended up being cut loose and ran with Ioannes, Arne, and Cassian. I roamed from pocket to pocket, filling in where I was needed until I was taken out. It was a lot of running, and the heat became an issue after the 3rd battle. I spent the 4th one cooling off and getting re-hydrated, and went back out in the 5th. That last run was the best I did out there all day. I took about half a dozen down before being outflanked by numbers. After field, I went to the vendors and bought myself a new belt for my legs. I got a cloth C-belt, which worked out much better for me the rest of the week. Later that day, I had the honor of once again representing the East in the Atlantian 10 Man Melee Tournament. Our team this year was big enough that we could rotate out as needed, unlike last year when we needed to borrow people. This year there were 5 teams. East, Atlantia, Northshield, Aethelmarc, and a second Aethelmarc team. Northshield only had 7 members, so we filled in their ranks to get more play time. I had a great time, lots of laughs and murder. In the end we placed 3rd overall, and each captain got to pick a bottle of booze from the chest. I chose the apple pie moonshine, because reasons. Before our victory drinks, we did a roman melee with all teams. I lasted a little more than halfway, until Runi and I were ganged up on by a team of other fighters. We had our victory drinks, some kind words for one another, and lots of laughs. Our team this year was Andromidus, Rademas, Berkhommer, Ceòl, Rafi, Vachir, BadHands (can’t recall his legit SCA name), Chiba, Runi, Rodrigue, Muiredach, Embla, Tiberius, and myself. I did some pickups after the melees, and got to fight Rodrigue again. We had some great passes, and I finally called it quits and went back to camp to shower and have dinner.
Tuesday was woods battle, and we were lucky enough to have a ride to and from from Sven’s wonderful wife! I ran with a group of scissors this battle on and off, depending on who stayed alive. I rez’d about 4-5 times all battle, and took one 5-10 minute break to cool down. There was a lot of ebb and flow to the area I was focusing on, and I ended up screaming myself horse relaying commands, which lasted until well after I got home from war. At the end, we made a final push for the remaining flag, and it was a member of scissors who got her gauntleted hand on it and held it until the end. I planted myself in front of her until the battle ended, and we kept the Midrealm back until the final canon. It should be noted that we were vastly outnumbered this war, but despite that fact we took all the points for woods. The end of that battle really had me psyched, it was a great way to finish things off, and I felt like something I did made a real visible difference. We all met up as a team at the end and talked it out, then left the woods for showers and such. I spent the remainder of the day chilling out in camp, relaxing and playing board games. It was pretty awesome!
Wednesday morning was the roses tournament. The format for this was 7 rounds of singles, best 2 out of 3. If you win the first two in a row, you get 10 points, and your opponent gets 0. If you each win one, then you win the third fight, you get 7 and your opponent gets 3. My total at the end was 24. Personally I feel like I should have scored better, but I was getting gassed and my defense gets sloppy when I’m tired. Apart from that, though, I had some amazing passes, and probably the most fun I had all war. Probably the funniest thing from that tournament was when Sir Kettle, who was marshaling, jokingly mentioned cupping me to my opponent. Sure enough, the second fight ended exactly that way, purely by accident. I laughed so hard it took the edge off the shot. It was hysterical. Aside from the sillyness, I got to meet and fight some great fighters, from the East all the way to Australia. I met some absolutely wonderful ladies of the rose, and was humbled and honored to be able to fight for Countess Jolecia. I even received tokens from some of the roses whose fighters I fought. Easily the best tourney I’ve been a part of. Later that day, I attended baronial court. I was honored to be the recipient of the Silver Feather, our baronial award for service. After dark, I attended the memorial for Seamus, who passed away suddenly prior to Pennsic. It was very emotional and raw, but beautiful words were said and those attending got one another through it. After the memorial, we went to midnight madness for some shopping and chilling with our friends. During this, we ran into Sir Rory and Baroness Astrid, whom we camp with, and they informed me that Sir Beatrix was in the area wearing a blue tunic. I roamed about for a few minutes until I located her. I had roughly 5 or 6 other people with me, so as she went towards a booth I asked them to go in and surround her, while pretending to shop. Lish noticed a dog at the booth, and focused the efforts on giving the pup some love. I walked past the booth, and saw her noticing my presence from the corner of my eye. Once out of sight, I doubled back and waited until she knelt down to pet the dog, which is when I slipped into the tent behind her. I approached, rested my hand on her back, and said “Sir Beatrix, would you accept this kill from me, you are completely surrounded by my assassins”. She accepted, and there was much laughter and fun! She was such an amazing sport about it!
Thursday morning I attended a Bellatrix class with Ronan, and while I was only there as his stunt opponent, I really got a lot from his class. I’ve since been practicing what he taught, and will also be taking under advisement his advice for fighting lefties. Since I fought my ass off pretty much every other day at war, I figured I’d take the day off and try to do some other stuff I’ve been wanting to do. I picked up 2 new throwing axes and took them to the range. After some warming up, I threw for the populace war point, and scored an 8 and an 11. Turns out I’m better at spear than axes or knives. The rest of the day I kinda just chilled out and enjoyed the event.
Friday we woke, ate, and broke down camp. We all chipped in to help, and had it pretty much done by 2pm or so. From there we went home.
Overall it was a good Pennsic. As always, there were things that I wish I did better, and I got in my head a bit, but overall it was fun!
Atlantian Melee Tourney:
I’ve been remiss in keeping this up to date, and there’s a reason behind that. Following the diagnosis of my knee (torn medial mensiscus), and my right hand/wrist (bone spurs/sprain/torn TFCC), I’ve had a rough go of it.
I attended a demo in early May, the week after crown, which was good. Got a good amount of passes in, and had a blast. Then I attended a practice up in Maine and got blasted in the wrist again. This time, it hit bone because I was an idiot and didn’t wear a demi (my vambraces usually cover my wrist, but they shifted). This resulted in pain and a bone contusion, which caused me to take more time off to heal.
In June, I attended another demo and fought some passes, but didn’t really push. My wrist was still bothering me, so I took it easy. The MRI results for that finally came back, and I was cleared to go back to practice. I’ve attended a few since, and it’s been a mixed bag. The local practices had me starting to feel like I was getting back to where I was. I went to Nutley last night, and had a bad practice. Some days you get a penny, some days you gotta hand it back. All in all, I’m struggling just to get back to where I was, let alone to move past there. I need to be in top form, or close to it, for Pennsic next month.
A big part of the issue is my armor. My new kit looks good, but I’m fighting against it still. I can’t move the way I need to, my arms and chest are bound up a bit too much, and it’s fucking HOT! My gorget doesn’t fit well over the gambeson, which makes my helmet sit weird as well. I need to get to work fixing and fitting all this shit so I can fight without restrictions. Problem is, I don’t really know what I’m doing with all this, and I’m concerned that if I make it to fit my own way that I’ll end up doing something I shouldn’t, something that another person who’s “in the know” could’ve warned me against. This is one of the more frustrating things I’ve had to deal with over the years. Finding others who can and will help get armor fitted right is very hard for me. So, I’m gonna end up just winging it and seeing what happens. Hopefully it doesn’t result in yet another avoidable injury. I could probably deal with a little restricted movement, but the heat is a dealbreaker.
Part of why I was in such bad form at Nutley was because of the heat. I got overheated by my second set of passes, and struggled to fight past the tunnel vision. After only fighting 3 or so people, I had to call it quits to avoid heat exhaustion. I won’t lie, I felt embarrassed because of this. I should have done better, should have had my armor fitted better, etc. I try to hold myself to a higher standard, especially when I’m representative of a certain level of martial prowess (Silver Tyger). This is all on me. Now is the time to get my shit in order, get to more practices, push harder, fight better, and learn from my mistakes.
I’ll check back in after Pennsic. I plan on hitting the EK Novice Day before war, and since I can’t compete in the heavy list tourney there, I will be there for pick-ups and to compete in thrown weapons. Hopefully by then I’ll have all my gear sorted and can get back up to speed.
We made the long trip down to Delaware for my first crown tournament as a combatant. This week was also my 2 year mark in armor, and I was excited to be there to fight for my amazing wife! I had my new kit all ready for a sword and board test run, my new shield ready for its test run, and plenty of KT tape!
Crown tourney is a double elimination tourney. This year, there were some fights that were a “by”, which didn’t count towards your wins/losses. I got to the site, got geared up, and lined up for procession. I’ve done this once before, at Novice day last year. We spoke to their majesties, I got my game face on, and got ready for the lists.
My first fight was against Sir Donnan Fitzgerald. For the most part, he stayed at range and played a thrusting game. I spent the beginning of the fight gauging my proper stance with the new shield. After a few traded shots, he landed a face thrust that caught the top of my grill. My second fight was a “by” fight against Lord Malys MacGregor. We traded some blows and got into it, and I ended up getting a deep wrap to the head to win it. My third fight was against Lord Josef von Ulm. We had a bit more back and forth, and he got me twice with a leg shot, the first of which was called flat by the marshal. Once legged, we traded for a bit until he was able to land a thumb lead to my side. Officially, my record was 0-2 for this tournament.
I’m torn with regard to my performance. On one hand, I’m aware that I went into this with quite a few disadvantages. I haven’t fought sword and shield in 2 months, nor have I been to a practice in that time. I only fought in Balfars, which had a few singles passes and some short melee, all with a polearm. This was also only the second time in my new armor, and my first fighting sword and shield in it. Speaking of my shield, this was my first time using the newly strapped shield, so my guard was all wrong and I left different gaps as compared to my previous one. Finally, I was also dealing with my injuries: my torn meniscus, torn TFCC and sprain in my wrist/hand, and the arthritis and bursitis in my shoulder. On the other hand, I did not fight as well as I’d hoped. My guard was sloppy, my targeting was off, I was arming my shots without putting hip into them, I was standing tall which leaves me open lower down, and my footwork was just bad. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the results would’ve been different as far as wins and losses had I been top of my game for my skill level, but I think I would’ve made them work much harder for it.
All in all, though, I had a great time, and enjoyed my fights quite a bit. I wish I could’ve done more fighting in pickups and such, but according to my hand it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I will, however, take all I’ve learned from this and will take steps to resolve it. I will start PT soon for my knee and shoulder, and tomorrow I get a shot in my hand and will be wearing a brace for the next few weeks. Once all this is dealt with, I will be back to work with a vengeance. I will do better in my next crown.
This year for Balfar’s challenge, I thought I’d do something similar to last year. If you read last year’s update about this event, you’d know that the team I was on represented my buddy’s baroness. This year, I asked my baron and baroness if I could assemble a local team to represent our barony. They agreed, and I was able to recruit Antonio and Ulf of Surtr’s Brood. We were all set to go, until that PAL melee practice that is.
My last update mentioned that I wasn’t exactly 100% after that practice, and was taking a break from practices to rest up. My hand and shoulder on my sword arm hurt all the time, as did my left knee. I hit the orthopedist, got some MRIs, and got the news. I have arthritis, bursitis, and minor tears in my shoulder, and a severely torn medial meniscus in my knee. My hand has sprains and a small tear in my TFCC, but the bigger issue there is that the bones in my wrist have spurs on them that are rubbing against the meaty bits and causing problems. As such, I did not want to fight sword and shield at Balfars so I could save my hand for crown. So I decided to make myself a polearm and give that a go, and I’m lucky I did so.
Balfar’s teams are triads, and the rules apparently state that there must be at least one great weapon per team, a rule I was unaware of. By switching to polearm, we now followed that rule purely by accident. Had I not switched, we may not have been able to take the field. Antonio has great weapons, but no gauntlets. We lucked out in that aspect, however I’d only ever actually fought pole 18 months or so prior on the day I authorized in it. Now I was going in relatively cold, with just a small amount of pell work and video watching to go on.
This was also my first time fighting in my new kit. My leg armor and helm stayed the same, though I have a new aventail and I removed the mane. Now, I switched out the battered old coat of plates and replaced it with a new gambeson, muscled kydex cuirass, new stainless elbows, and new stainless spaulders. This took me quite a bit of time to get together and assembled, and by the time the day came I still wasn’t able to get the vambraces fitted properly to work under the gambeson. As such, I fought without them, and just used padded spandex sleeves under the gambeson. I luckily only took one shot to the forearm all day, which hurt like hell but wasn’t too bad. I still have some more fitting to do, but it was manageable.
I started the day out by working with Sir Antonii. We had a great session, and he gave me lots of great stuff to work on as well as a better understanding of the mindset I should be in to fight polearm. Had it not been for this, I’d have had very little idea of how best to approach the coming fights.
The conditions of the day were poor. The field was VERY muddy, and I had big concerns about my knee going into it. Thankfully, those in charge realized this as well and moved the fighting to the basketball courts. Since the courts were so much smaller, the format had to be modified. We did 3 separate tournaments. First was a 3 on 3 melee single elimination tourney. In this tourney, we faced the team run by Kit in the first round. We pulled right, kept formation, and fought hard. We lost that fight, and were thus eliminated in the first round. The second tournament was also one team against another, but we did singles combat. Last team left with living members wins. My fight was against someone fighting two sword. I tried some point work from a distance, and read when he closed and tried some inside work, but he was faster and delivered before I could. We went out in the first round of that as well. Last up was a roman melee. All teams formed a large circle facing inward. When lay on is called, we advance in, but cannot immediately engage the team to either side us. For this, we held back a little and roamed around, harassing but not actually engaging. About halfway through we lost Ulf. Antonio and I roamed around trying to draw people into one another and thin things out. Antonio got tagged next, and then it was just the pole noob running around trying to not die. I was able to manage some kills, but ultimately got hosed by a bunch of people. It was a blast!
At this point, my knee was starting to act up, so I geared down and let it chill. It was great day! We all had loads of fun, and it was an honor to represent our barony on the field! Now, my sights are set on crown. I fixed the issues with my vambraces, and I have my new shield strapped and edged and ready to go. My miracle goal for the day is to not go out in 2, though seeing as how the roster of entrants is a who’s who of awesomeness, and I’m currently injured, it’d be quite a feat. We shall see what happens. After crown, I’ll be sending my shield back to my buddy to have it properly painted with my arms. In the meantime, I’ll stick to learning polearm. I’ll also need to focus on physical therapy for my knee and shoulder, in order to try and lessen the pain I’m in. Surgery isn’t really going to help either of these injuries, so if the PT doesn’t knock out the pain I’ll just have to manage it until I physically can’t do it anymore. I do have options, though, such as combat archery and spear. I’m not out yet. Though I do keep getting tripped up, I’ll always rise to my feet again so long as I’m able.
I ventured back into the wilds of Massachusetts this month to attend melee practice again. Though the trip is a little rough, I’m able to crash with some delightful people and get in some awesome practice as well with some Northern Army badasses! This time was no different, and though I’m still feeling the effects on my body, I feel like I did something good this time.
We started with the usual warm ups and single sword drills. This time was special, since the largest dude there blasted me in the cup during it (totally 100% my fault). Kinda felt bad because the guy felt horrific that it happened, but hey, I pretty much did it to myself by blocking and moving exactly the wrong way. Lesson learned. After this, we did some different drills than what I’ve done there before. First was a triad drill, but instead of fighting in a box, it was done on a bridge. This drill was great, and we had some awesome people doing command that split us into shields and poles so either could be sent in as needed. After that, we did a drill based on a tactic known as “gates”. This is also mainly for bridge or other small quarters, and it was focused on protecting the spears and using the space efficiently for both offense and defense. I LOVED this drill, made loads of sense, and it gave everything much more of a team feel. We had to work together to be effective, and when we did it was VERY effective. After this, we did broken field battles, regular field battles, and then a reverse Balfar’s drill. That last one is when two triads square off, and the losing team stays, acquires the newest member of the winning team, and goes against a new triad. This was when I got whacked a bit. I went to throw a shot in the thick of it, and my sword got caught and twisted. Jacked up my sword hand again, and a little of my shoulder. I sat out the remainder of the melee so I’d at least be able to do some singles work afterwards.
I only fought two people in singles, Sir Zippy and Kit de Coldwood. Had some excellent passes with both, and really noticed that my renewed focus on footwork was saving me from being immediately one-shotted all the time. I feel like I did ok in both sets, for my current skill level, which I took as a win. Both fighters also gave me some great feedback to chew on and work with afterward.
My biggest takeaway here was that, for the first time in my fighting career, I didn’t feel like I was absolutely useless shit at melee. During defense, I was able to do my part at stopping charges and keep my spears alive, and during offense I was able to get in there and hit their wall, stay alive, and take a few people out. I was also yelling a lot more, echoing commands and setting up some pulses of my own, with admittedly mixed success. I still have a LOT to learn, but that day I felt like I was moving in the right direction. My lady was told something at a roller derby clinic that applies here. Some people are naturals at things, and after a practice they’ve earned 50 cents or a dollar. Others will earn dimes and quarters. Then there are those who fight for each inch, and earn their pennies. May not seem like much, but they cherish those pennies, and they keep collecting them. Soon, they’ll have a dollar, and that dollar will mean a great deal to them because of what it truly represents with regard to their journey. I earned my penny this day, and I’m grateful for it. I’m gonna use that to keep me going, and hopefully I’ll keep earning my pennies.
I haven’t been to practice since, however, since my hand and shoulder are a bit wonky. I’ll start back up next week, with either a greatsword or as a lefty again, since I don’t wanna make anything worse. I know I’m playing it safe, but last time I pushed I really got hurt and was out for months, so best to not make that mistake again.
In other news, I spoke with my local Baron, and he allowed me to gather and run a baronial team for Balfar’s this year. I hit up some people, and it looks like it’ll be me, Antonio, and Ulf, both from Surtr’s Brood. Should be some good times, and this year I’ll be looking to break last year’s streak and get 2 wins in a row, instead of just one. Until then, enjoy some pics from melee practice. Or don’t. Either is fine. But you should, cuz my red tunic was clean and looked all spiffy….and the SOCKS!!!! The white crew socks with grey sneakers! That shit is my secret weapon! I got kills cuz my cringey footwear was mesmerizing!! I mean, dude, how could you resist. Don’t lie, I KNOW you’re gonna look at those pics now, you can’t help it. I’ve entered your mind!!!!
At this point, it should be no surprise that I love doing demos. They’re super fun, low stress, and get great crowd reactions. Last week, I did a demo for a Cub Scout troop who meet where Thursday practice is held. Since the demo was for MSR (Acre), I decided to try to cover up most of my armor as much as possible, since they have rules against visible plastic armor such as most of my kit, including my zoombang. A good friend gave me an oversize tunic he had awhile back, and I gave that a go. Surprisingly, it just fit me with my armor on. I will admit, it was weird fighting in a tunic, and I didn’t really start getting used to it until halfway through Aedult Swim the next day. The demo itself had 5 fighters. Me, Dante, Conrad, Nico, and Ronan. We did some singles fights, followed by a quick 2 on 2 melee. It was a blast, and both the kids and adults really liked it. After the demo, I packed up and drove to PA.
Once again, Aedult Swim was awesome! I fought about an even number of unbelts and chiv, and the vast majority of unbelts I fought were far beyond me in skill, which was good. A quick note on heraldry, slightly off topic, but it’s always good to know what royals look like. I fought the prince of the Midrealm, bullshitted with him, and had no fucking idea who the hell he was. I found out a few days later when someone tagged him in a photo and I checked his page. I also fought an unbelted 2 stick fighter, Ozurr (not our Ozurr), who was AWESOME! Super fast, very clean fights. Best I was able to do against him was a double kill, and that was only once. All in all, I think I did fairly well for myself. I felt more or less on point, and as such was able to document the flaws in both my offense and defense better. When I get tired, I tend to get more predictable in my offense, and I still need to get better at reading fakes and blocking them more efficiently. My regular stance is fair from a defense perspective, but still leaves a little too much helmet exposed. Part of this is cuz my helmet sits high on my head, so it ends up being taller than it should be. The other part is just simply not being good enough to cover and block that spot well. Offensively, I noticed that the new sword I made was a big help. I made it slightly shorter, but lighter and better balanced than my previous ones. As such, it was noticeably faster than the others I’ve used. My new bench mount belt sander made all the difference. Still, all in all I feel happy with my performance overall, and it felt good to walk away feeling that I did my best. Afterwards, my body was a general disaster. My left leg got blown up a few times, my right arm was pretty much useless due to being blasted a few times and throwing lots of shots, and my muscles were jacked up overall. Still, it heals.
Last night, I went back to practice. I probably shouldn’t have, since I’m not back at 100% after the grueling weekend, but I figured ‘fuck it’, I ain’t gonna get better by sitting on my couch. When I arrived, I was told that a bunch of the usual suspects wouldn’t be there, so it’s possible no other heavy list fighters would show. To my surprise, my buddy Ulf from Brood walked in a few minutes later, ready for some fighting! I was super happy to see him well enough to fight again, since he shattered his collarbone last year. Sabrina showed up a little later, and we all fought together. It was a good practice overall. I tried working on some footwork and combinations, with limited success. Still, it’s something. This coming weekend I’m gonna try to make it out to a demo in NJ for more armor time. My next event will be Balfars, since I have a wedding the day of Mudthaw. In the meantime, I’ll be hitting up practices as much as possible!