Once more I ventured up North to Massachusetts for melee practice. Turnout was great, there was definitely well over 20 people there. We started out with warm up exercises and then did the single sword drill, starting with our off hand. Of course, I ended up getting nailed on my left forearm because my vambrace shifted, and my arm killed the rest of the day due to the weight of my shield pushing on that area. Once that was done, we started the other drills. I was also fighting against nasty stomach problems all day, and had to step out once because the pain was a bit too much.
One drill was called a 5 and 2 drill. You enter a circle against another fighter and can’t leave. One can throw 5 shots, the other only 2, at any time. Then you switch. It was great for making me think more about combos and really choosing my shots with deliberation, since I had such a limited supply.
Another drill had triads consisting of two fighters with only swords, and the third with only a small buckler. Buckler was in the middle, and couldn’t be killed, but the swordsmen could. This one was good and bad. It was good for the shieldman trying to protect the swords, but since he was invincible they weren’t trying to hit him at all, just those across from them. Afterwards, it was discussed and some tweaks will be made to make it more useful.
Next up was the triad drill we ran last time I was there. Two triads face off against each other, two sword and shield people, one on either side, and a pole/spear in the middle. When someone gets killed, they exit and another steps in to take their place. This is a great drill, and really focuses on filling those gaps when there’s a need. In future, we’ll have to organize a bit better so there are actually lines for either form, instead of just a free-for-all.
We did a really awesome drill where we split into 3 teams. Two teams clashed in a melee, and a hold was called. Then one team stepped off and the third got to rush without the remaining team being able to reset. I really liked this one, though I had to walk off after the first run as my stomach was killing me. This drill focused on reforming and changing plans on the fly, definitely something applicable to the melees I’ve been in.
After these drills, we did some pickups and broke for lunch. I fought some pickups, and finally got to work with Sir Zippy, who helped me better understand my shield movement and working towards openings.
After lunch, we mainly focused on two sided melees. They set up obstacles, which was great as a woods battle simulation. I took a nasty shot to my left calf, and another to the back of my right thigh. I had to step out for a minute or two after each of those so I’d be able to walk again, but I was fine after that. This was a great drill. Lots of on the fly decision making, lots of thought about angles and such, plus there were combat archers to worry about! So much fun!
After all of these, we broke for the day, did our pros and cons for the day, and then went into pick-ups and such. I had some great pick-ups with people, and pushed until I had to stop and pack up. Overall it was a great practice, and I’m about as ready for melee as I can be at the moment. I’m looking forward to Balfars this weekend, I plan on jumping in during the unbelt drills and such there. This is all stuff for people who want to make the unbelt team at pennsic at some point. I know I have no place on that team this year, but I could always use the extra practice and will likely learn quite a bit from it. More to come…
I know, I know, I’m way behind here. Mudthaw was a few weeks back and I’m slacking. OK, so this is not just gonna be about the fighting bits, as some other shit happened that I wanna talk about. I will start with the fighting, though.
So mudthaw is a double elimination tourney. The only other time I did one of these was back in July of 2017 when I did the NY novice tourney in Tappan. I did a few quick pick ups to warm up, then checked the lists to see where to report. My first fight was against someone I didn’t know beforehand. It went slow, and he kept hanging back towards the ropes of the list so I didn’t want to press him and keep having a hold called. I let him come to me, and that was just the wrong move. After a bit, he ended up tagging me down the slot on the grill. I should have pressed him, and dictated the pace. Instead, I let him do so and fought his fight. I think I had a chance at picking up a win on this one, but blew it by not following my instincts.
My second fight was against Budang, a dude I’ve fought before and am friendly with. My shield work was poor during the beginning of the fight, and I ended up getting blasted in the noodle straight on. Once the wave of pain and nausea went away, the marshal called to continue. I argued that a cup shot is technically a kill, and I’m toast. Budang asked if I could take it as a leg as a point of honor. I did so, and we continued. I did much better when legged, and didn’t let most of his shots through. Problem was, I couldn’t get anything on him with enough force. Eventually my arms started gassing out on me, and I took a shot on the top of the shoulder. To be fair, had I beaten him I’d have felt shitty about it, so I’m glad it went that way. If I win, I want to have earned it. I lost that match with the cup shot, it would only be right that the loss stand. We talked about it later, and he apologized profusely, but it was just a perfect storm. His shot seemed ok targeting-wise, but I shift just enough to take it the wrong way. It happens. I’ve done it to people as well. I did get a great compliment out of this fight, though. Someone watching said to me as I walked out that he was impressed by my defense when legged, and wants to get to that level. I was pretty taken aback and humbled by the statement. It was mad cool.
So that was it, two and out. I was hoping to get a win in there, I think it would’ve been a cool accomplishment, but it just wasn’t in the cards I dealt myself. Instead, I hung around for the pick ups to start. Pick ups were a whole other story. I fought pick ups for a few hours, all of it bear pit style. A few fights in and I was totally relaxed and fought much better. I got in some truly great passes, and one of my SCA housemates commented to the Lish about how much better I fought than the last time he fought me. It was pretty awesome. I did get blasted again by Duke Edward, who caught me with a downward chop on my right shoulder hard enough to elicit a yelp from me. I took some time to let it chill out and got back to work. Later on, as it was winding down, I was able to work with another new fighter who’s only been in armor 5 months. I went over some basic stuff with him, and it felt great being able to finally help someone out in a semi-competent way.
Before the fighting, I went to morning court. A member of my household was getting her AoA, and I didn’t wanna miss it. Sure enough, when they called her up they not only gave her an AoA, but a court barony as well!!! It was such an awesome moment, and I’m so happy I was able to see it! Her barony scroll was INSANE, with Pokemon painted on it in a period way. It looked amazing! Later in the day, our two dearest friends also finally received their AoA. They had NO IDEA! When they called them out, they were like deer in headlights. We walked them up, and I shot video of the whole thing. It was great! I really love seeing people get recognized and given awards, and having had a tiny little hand in these made it feel even more awesome! Granted, what I did was basically the equivalent of “hey, look at that awesome person over there!”, and eventually they’d have gotten recognized, but it still felt super to feel like I was part of it.
Anyways, overall I had a great day. Sure, my showing in the tourney was absolute shite, but whatever. I got more experience in tourney fighting, and had some really great pick up fights. I also got to see some awesome people get awards, which is also a favorite pastime of mine. All in all, a super good time. I also lucked out that my hand held up all day. Since then, I’ve taken a sort of sabbatical to let me hand heal up. I might try practice tonight, but my main focus is on melee practice next weekend and Balfar’s the week after that. Both should be a great time!
With all that happened last week with the new pup, I totally spaced on my write up from practice. I think I hit one of the Thursday Wantagh practices as well a few weeks back, but I don’t remember much from it now because that was the week Yuna got sick. I went out to Nutley last week. I had some trouble getting back into the groove of my stance and defense, and boy did it show. This also happened at Delaware yesterday. It seems that since Adult Swim, I’ve taken steps backwards. I knew this was coming at some point, but it still sucks. At Nutley I fought Sir Douglas, Sir Yan, Arne, Sir Stephan, and a few others whose names I can’t really recall. My shield placement was off, for sure, and now my right hand is giving me problems again. I’m OK the first few fights, and after that it just hurts and that makes it hard to throw shots at all, let alone with any power. I take it easy between practices, but it’s not really fully healing, so I’m thinking of going to a doctor to have a look and make sure I didn’t seriously jack it up. Perhaps after mudthaw, since I don’t wanna miss the pick ups there. Anyways, back to my fuck ups. I’m leaving my forearm out there again, and not holding it up like Jojo told me. I’m actively trying to work on this, but I still slip back into it when I focus on something else. I’m gonna have to devote a bunch of practices just to this so I can break the habit. Finally, on the unbelt group, people spoke about using another fighter to measure your progress. Mine currently is Arne, and last week’s fights were pretty telling. Usually I can tell by his body language whether I’m doing well or not, and this time it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t in good form. I’d like to say it was just an off practice, but Delaware proved that to be false. I wasn’t blocking what I should’ve been, and he was much more toned down than usual.
Yesterday I went down to Delaware for a practice. I was hoping more of my melee crew would be able to make it down, but only Vachir was able to make it. Still, it had a good turnout and I was able to fight a bunch of people for the first time. I fought Bran finally. We’ve been in two bear pit tourneys together, and never drew each other. I also fought Vachir, Arthur, Sir Thorisson, and a few others I can’t recall. Again, my fighting was off. I was sloppy, letting a lot past that I really shouldn’t have. After the first few passes, my hand started to ache and I was barely able to throw a good shot. Even the unbelts there who weren’t new like me were still toning it way down when fighting me, more so than I’m usually accustomed to. While I get the mentality, it’s a little frustrating as I use that as an indication of my progress, and I don’t feel I’m progressing the past month or so. I gave up the leg wraps a lot, as well as the slot and right arm. Overall, though, I did have a great time, and it was awesome fighting with people I don’t usually encounter. We had fun passes and lots of laughs.
My introspection and analysis on the way home was rough. I think I’m hitting that first wall at this point, and I gotta figure a way past it. I’m rapidly approaching my year mark now (very end of April), and I still constantly feel like I’m way behind the eight ball. It’s like if I focus on one thing and improve it, another thing suffers and steps back, like it’s some big juggling act that I haven’t quite grasped the timing of. For now, in the short term, I’ll spend this week healing up in time for Mudthaw. After that, I really need to focus on getting past this hurdle. Time is against me, and I need to keep pushing forward instead of stagnating.
Since the week following Yuna’s passing, we’ve been scouring online for a new dog to adopt. Our home has felt so empty without a dog in the house, and even though our beloved friends have been bringing by their awesome little pup, it’s just not enough. Our requirements are pretty straightforward. No human or dog aggression, no food/toy/treat possessiveness, and no senior dogs…yet. The biggest, of course, is that the dog would have to be very good with kids. We saw a bunch online that looked like they might fit the bill, but many were with rescue organizations who charge ~$400 for adoption. Considering the bills we’re still paying off from both Sophie and Yuna, that’s pretty steep. We turned to local shelters, as their fees are much more reasonable, though the dogs tend to be more stressed due to the environment. After a few false starts, we went down to a local shelter and met a dog they called Cornmuffin. Terrible friggin name, I know, but the dude there said they run outta names every so often and just pick ridiculous shit. He’s what appears to be a shepherd mix, about 40 lbs, and is about 1.5 – 2 years old. He came out sniffing around the room and investigating everything, but when someone started to pet him he instantly stopped and stood still. Even the kids, who were really excited, would pet him and he’d just drop to his back for belly rubs. He was such a sweet boy that we filled out an application, and yesterday we got approved and I brought home our newest little bundle of furry joy!
Meet Egon, our newest little ghostbuster. I brought him home yesterday during a snow day, while my mother-in-law watched the kids. After a little while, I suddenly realized how much I’d forgotten about having a “puppy”. While he’s technically past that phase, we gotta work with some of the puppy things with him. For one, he’s not trained with commands. I mean, he does know sit with limited success, but stuff like ‘come’ and ‘no’ are things he needs work on. He pulls hard on the leash, and perhaps the hardest will be his ‘marking’. He doesn’t appear to be housebroken, but instead of emptying he marks areas with a couple of squirts. I brought him outside and he eliminated both ways so I thought I was good. Then he came back inside and peed on the floor ten minutes later. We also have to crate train him, which will probably be a chore since he seems terrified of his crate. I’m not sure if he fears that we’ll abandon him or something, since he was found as a stray and we don’t know what his history is. Lastly, he appears to be somewhat of an escape artist. He can jump nearly my height, and when I went to bring my fighting gear to the car this morning he blew past me and ran out the front door. I was actively trying to keep him back, too, it just wasn’t enough. So we’ve got some training to do. Oh, one more thing, so we put him in his crate last night and he whined and barked like mad. So I brought the crate into our bedroom, and once the lights were out he did it again. I woke up and read online that the best course of action, if he’s indeed whining because he wants out and not cuz he needs to go potty, is to just ignore him. Dude, it’s after midnight, the Lish and I both have work, this is not the best plan! Thankfully, Lish came to the rescue. EARPLUGS! Slept like the fucking dead after that.
Apart from that, though, he’s awesome! He always wants some love, spent the night on the couch with me playing video games (he lost, gotta teach him those combos!), and he’s amazing with the kids. They can easily approach him and play or pet him, and he loves every second of it. This is the first dog that actually played with the kids in earnest. Yuna would if we were involved, but only then. Sophie and Sully only really played tug games, and we discouraged that with the kids since we like having their arms attached firmly to their bodies. Egon, on the other hand, loves it, and they adore him already. His happy demeanor, puppy energy, and goofy play make him perfect with them. I’m hoping that once he settles in, we can socialize him more with other dogs and get him ready for a new friend.
In the meantime, we’ve got work to do. Before we even think about bringing in another dog, we need to make sure we’ve addressed the major issues. Housebreaking him, teaching him to come and to stop doing things, and being polite on a leash are the main focuses. The realization of all this hit me hard. I didn’t realize how truly lucky we were with Yuna. Never accidents in the house, always great with commands, she was just a terror on the leash and bad with other dogs. I never had to worry she was in another room doing something she shouldn’t be, and never had to worry that she’d run out the front door. She’d just stare at the open door like it was a portal to hell or something. Anyways, because of all this my anxiety launched into the stratosphere today. I’m concerned about how long it’ll take, about him getting into the pool when I’m not home to get him out, about my mother-in-law being able to cope with him when she’s home with the kids, etc. I know it’ll be ok, I’m just fucking mental and don’t handle big changes as well as I should. Lucky for me, this big change is so goddamn adorable, and lets me snuggle with him. Onward towards this new adventure!
This is extremely difficult for me right now. I apologize in advance if this does not flow well, as I know there will be many stops and starts born from the need to step away when the emotions are too much. There will also be various updates done as I remember more and more, but for now this needs to be done.
Two days ago, on February 24th 2018, we had to say goodbye to the first dog we ever lived with together. Yuna Saphira Fishy Swah was 11 years old, and was with us since she was a few months old. This entire situation gutted us because it was all so fast. Last week, she was totally fine. She ate, ran, played, and was her normal fishy self. Then, earlier in the week, she started acting off. She stopped eating as much, then stopped eating completely. She was lethargic and seemed to have a little difficulty breathing. We took her to the vet, and he did some blood work and x-rays. The x-rays showed a haze around her, which they determined to be fluid surrounding her body cavity. When the blood work came back the following day, he called us in to say that some thing looked off, and he wanted to do an ultrasound and analyze the fluid in her. He said it could just be something like pancreatitis, or it could be some form of cancer. The fluid analysis would tell the tale. She ate a can of food at the vet that day, Thursday, and things looked up. We tried giving her another can that night, but she wasn’t into it. The next day we were away, and when we got home at night she was still not eating and still very much not herself. Saturday morning, the Lish had to run a morning errand, and I went to pick up the kids from their grandparents. Around noon, Lish called to tell me she got home and Yuna was noticeably worse. Her breathing was labored, and her belly was more swollen due to fluid buildup. She called the vet, who gave us the bad news. Stomach cancer. That’s why she didn’t want to eat, and it was also causing the fluid build up. Due to the type of cancer, there wasn’t really anything he could do. I rushed home with the kids in tow to say goodbye. Our vet took us in right away, even though they were closed for the day and he had a personal doctor’s appointment that he had to cancel so he could see us. We held her, loved her, talked to her, and cried. He gave her the sedative to make her sleep, but she fought and stayed awake until the very end. I kept eye contact with her until her last, and saw her leave this world. The dam broke, the waves of sorrow, anger, frustration, and loss pounded into me, devastating me inside with every surge. The sheer disbelief, the thoughts of “how could this happen?”. I hadn’t taken it too seriously earlier because she never really got sick, and she was always filled with such boundless puppy joy and energy. How could such a perfectly bright shining star of love, kindness, happiness, and cheer be snuffed out like the flame of a candle. Now, I’m left with an emptiness, a hollowness in my heart where part of me is missing.
We left the vet’s office, and came home to an empty house for the first time. It felt wrong, awful, and alien. We gathered up her things to put them away, out of sight. I brought the crates, bowls, and food mat down to the basement. I came up to find the Lish outside, sitting in the light rain. She was clutching Yuna’s toys and crying in earnest. I joined her. We wept openly for out lost baby, our little swah. We came back in some time later and tried to get ourselves centered and distracted. We called some of our friends to make them aware of what happened. They offered to come by, but we said we’d be ok. They all came by anyway, bringing love, comfort snacks, and even dinner. Those who brought us dinner weren’t planning on staying because they had their little dog with them, and didn’t want to upset us by bringing her in. I asked them to bring her in, and it was just what we needed. The love of our friends, and their dog’s crazy puppy energy, brought some life back into our home, even if only for a few hours. We’re thankful to have such great people in our lives. The next day was difficult. I’m reminded of her absence at every turn, and I’m constantly needing to catch myself from calling out to her. I imagine seeing her every time I look at the couch or peer out into the backyard. I feel the absence of her presence when I’m in my office, and when I use the bathroom, since she’d exploit such occasions to get constant love and pets from her ‘captive audience’. I sat in my office for a time, holding her rope (aptly named, Ropey), and crying.
Yuna was our first dog together. Lish and I both had dogs growing up, and when we moved into our first house we were finally able to adopt a dog. We went to the North Shore Animal League and decided to give a puppy a home. We saw a bunch of adorable pups, but our hearts were stolen by this lanky mantle puppy cowering in the back of her cage. We took her out, and she was this little bundle of love, giving us endless kisses without being at all mouthy. We were smitten, and decided that she was the one. I had to leave briefly to drive our friend home, and while I was away, the Lish found an older dog who stole her heart as well. We adopted them both. The older dog we named Cosmo, after Cher’s character’s father from the movie Moonstruck. The beautiful puppy we named Yuna, after the beautiful summoner from Final Fantasy X, since she summoned love and happiness everywhere she went. We took them home and got them all set up. We decided to crate train Yuna, but she was too small for the small size crate we bought, so we had to put a cooler and some boxes in there to use up the space. She was a brilliant dog. House trained and crate trained in a few days. We later took her to obedience lessons, where she learned pretty well. If we said “Yuna, come” she’d always come running.
She started developing an issue where she’d chase her tail. It became a problem, and she’d just chase all the time and bark while doing so. We took her to specialist after specialist, and eventually she broke free of it because we got Sophie. The two would run and play, and it broke the cycle. She never had an issue chasing ever again, even though eventually the two started getting into actual fights and needed to be kept separate. Still, I do think they had a bond, and Yuna was different after Sophie died. Anyways, I’m getting off track here. Too many breaks.
Her name. You now know her name, as listed in the first paragraph, but here’s the explanation of everything after Yuna. First, before any other nicknames, she received her alter ego name. As I said before, Yuna was a licker. She licked everyone, and loved giving kisses. Even when she was a puppy, she’d pause mid-lick with her tongue on your hand or face, almost as if she was too tired to keep it going. She became known as The Lazy Licker, and she did that right until the end. Soon after getting her, we saw the movie Eragon and his dragon reminded us of Yuna when the dragon was young. We then started calling her Yuna Saphira. Fast forward a bit, and Lish jokingly called her Yuna fish, cuz it sounded like tuna fish. The name stuck, and we started referring to her as Fish. Yes, we had a dog named Fish… Finally, there was a joke Lish told that went something like this: “What do you call a fish with no eyes?” “Fssssshhhhh”. We would call Yuna by saying Fsssshhhhhh, and she’d come running like mad cuz that was usually playtime. We had so many great times with her, I literally can’t list them all. I will, however, give some highlights.
First, I’ll talk about her temperament. Yuna, while not really a fan of other dogs after the incident with Sophie, was the best dog with people and children. She never once showed any sort of aggression towards anyone, and was always there to comfort, play, and lick. She always wanted to be close, to lay on people, to pet, and to lick your face. When we first had her, we slept upstairs while the dogs slept downstairs. The first of us to wake up would go downstairs to let her out, and then call upstairs “incoming!”. The remaining person in bed had a brief couple of seconds to cover up while hearing the approaching thunder of her running up the stairs, just before that crazy fish jumped on the bed and proceeded to lick their face. She was always ready to play when it was playtime, snuggle when it was couch time, and comfort us when we were going through something.
She would eviscerate any toy we gave her, even those deemed virtually indestructible. Only a few over the years were durable enough to survive. We have video of her gutting her “indestructible alligator” after maybe 5-10 minutes of play. Still, she loved her toys. As a puppy, her favorite was her “heave a beaver”, but eventually her love of Ropey and Pheasant outshined them all. She did eventually have one toy that she never truly gutted, which we called her lovey. She took it with her around the house, but didn’t shred it like the others. This was only a recent thing, though. She also had horrible separation anxiety, and would shred any bed or blanket we put in her crate when we left the house. The leftovers were referred to as remnants when we’d find them around the house.
We’ll miss her “voice” in the house as well. We’re the sort of people who talk for our animals, and have full on conversations. Sometimes it’s short, like me looking down at her by the back door and saying “What’s up, little Fish?”, only to respond in her voice with “Dad. Gotta shit. Crowning right now.”. Another would be me trying to chase her down, and her taunting me by saying “Dad, you’re too slow…you need two more legs!”. Sometimes it’s longer talks, usually when Lish questions something she does and I respond in her voice. Then there’s the occasional “Damn Right!”, or “Fuckin A right, Mom/Dad!”, after which we’d tell her to watch her language, to which she’d respond “Fuck yeah, on it!”. She’d also ‘refer’ to herself as supardafish, cuz she’s very supaaaar, and incredibly da-fish. I know, we’re fuckin’ weird, but you already knew that since you read this shit. Besides, we’re damn near 2k words in this post already, so if you’re still reading you’ve probably already lost your mind anyways and this crap seems normal.
Yuna was also the only dog we had that watched TV. She would keep an eye on it for any time an animal would appear on the screen, at which time she would jump off the couch, run up to the TV, and bark her head off at “those fuckers” on screen trying to invade the house through the magic window in the living room.
She’d also play this lovely game called “attack the victim”. If the kids were chasing me around the house, or if it was me chasing the Lish, Yuna would get involved. Instead of going after the attacker and protecting, she’d attack the victim, jumping up and trying to play while slowing them down. This tactic worked to her advantage, as a slowed playful human was easier to lick in the face.
There were the little things she did. Her on my lap while I ate at the dinner table, which we called “that mysterious warmth”. Her licking us on the back of the knee when we’d get out of the shower. Hearing the Beast giggle and laugh in the bathroom after a shower because “Yuna just licked my tushy”.
A huge thing I’m gonna miss is her with the Peanutty. He always loved her, but in the past 2 years or so he really connected with her. He’d always want to be close to her, give her love, cover her with a blanket, or play with her. It was very much an instance of “a boy and his dog”. When Lish’s mom would stay over, Yuna would sleep in bed with her, but we’d often find Yuna in Peanutty’s bed in the morning. She’d leave the room with Lish’s mom and go into Peanutty’s room and climb into bed with him. He was absolutely devastated when this all went down, and yesterday was peppered with random breakdowns on his end as well.
So now we have an empty house. No little feet padding around the carpet, or clicking on the hardwood. No little head nudging my arm for love, or resting her head on my lap while I ate. No beautiful soulful eyes looking up at me while I give love and scratchies on the head. No more hearing the children giggling maniacally because she’s licking their faces, which would get more and more vigorous the more they laughed. No 50 lbs of puppy energy jumping on the bed and rooting around to find my face and deliver massive slobber attacks, tail wagging more and more furiously the longer it goes on. No barking at the TV. No climbing over the Lish on the couch so she could lay down between us while we watched TV. No more fighting with Ropey or Pheasant. No more ‘Damn Right’. No more attacking the victim. No more snuggling together in bed at night when the Lish was away for the weekend. I just walk in the house now and call out, with only my echo to greet me. At night I just go bed, and don’t give her goodnight kisses and whisper “g’night little feet” to her before shutting her crate. I’ll never kiss her tiny head or ears again, never hug her again, never smell her paws or play ‘kiss ya last’. My heart is just fucking broken, and the waves just keep coming. I’m still mostly in shock, and I think it’s because if I were to let the emotions happen I’d have a full blown panic attack and be a complete mess.
I miss you, my little angel. You were my puppy, my friend, my companion, my heart, my dog, the best little fish ever, and I don’t know how the fuck I can live without you. My life feels broken and wrong. I don’t want this reality now, because the world was a far better place with you in it. You mean so very much to me, my little pup, and I hope the feeling was mutual. I hope you were happy, and that we gave you a good life with us. We certainly tried. I don’t want this all to be true, and I hate that I’ll never hold you again. I love you, always and forever, my little baby fish. You will always be in my heart, until the day I die, and nobody else will ever be the fish.
So I’m a total space cadet and didn’t realize I hadn’t written this up, so here we go. I ventured into the wilds of Æthelmarc to attend this gigantic fighter practice. It was held in a warehouse, and we had an entire floor for fighting, which we used up. I’d guess that a few hundred people were in attendance. I got there at about 8:30am, and didn’t stop fighting for the day until about 5pm.
In attendance were fighters from many kingdoms. I fought people from the East, Mid, Æthelmarc, Atlantia, and one or two others I can’t recall offhand. It was great to see how many different styles people have, and how varied it can be. Many of my fights were with members of the chivalry, and overall I think I fought against 50 or so different people, about 20 or so being belted fighters.
I was finally able to work with Count Ioannes, who helped me with strategies for fighting against left handed fighters. I tend to do very poorly against lefties, and most times I end up getting really blasted by them, which leads me to armor up more so that doesn’t stop me from fighting. He mentioned shifting myself over so I could keep my guard and still be effective. I was able to use this throughout the day with other lefties, and it definitely helped when I was able to employ it properly.
I fought another belted fighter, not sure if he was a knight or master, who fought me barefoot. That was a pretty wild thing to see. He was a great fight, and a lot of fun to work with.
I fought a knight from Atlantia who was fighting two stick, and taught me how to properly fight against two stick fighters in an effective way. He worked with me for a good 15-20 minutes on this, and it was a huge help. Super nice dude.
All in all, I got tons of great passes in and I walked away with loads of knowledge and experience. I got to fight against all different weapons forms, and all different levels of fighters. I went in concerned about how my should was gonna hold up after getting hit hard a few nights before, but it was fine all day. My sword hand, however, was really hurting at the end of the day. I did a lot of sword blocking, and the sword constantly hammering into the webbing of my hand took a toll. I held out until the end, though, and was honored with some generous and gracious compliments, so overall it was a huge win. Here’s some pics from the day:
This weekend I ventured up to Massachusetts to attend the PAL melee practice in Fall River. This was an all day practice, starting at 10am and wrapping up at 5pm. Trentus was gracious enough to put up both me and my travel buddy for the weekend, Gawain, for Friday night, so we were relatively fresh for practice the next morning.
We started out with some warm ups just to get the blood flowing. One of these was a single sword drill, where we had two lines facing each other, and opposing pairs would face off with single sword. Not looking for power, just for speed and agility. This was a great drill to start things off, and we did it with both hands which really warmed up the whole upper body. I did ok at this, but I’m aware that my single sword game is pretty weak. I just enjoyed the movement and tried not to hurt myself.
Our first melee drill was called the triad drill. This consisted of a box on the floor to contain those fighting, and two teams of three fighters. Two shields in front, one pole in back. When someone died, they call dead and yell for someone to fill in the vacancy. This was excellent, and super fun. It gave a good sense of being in a close line fighting, while also needing to be mindful and reactive when an opening happens so you can fill the gap quickly and not allow it to be exploited. I did my best to fill in quickly, but I did notice problems with my offense. My biggest was that I was only really focusing on the person in front of my, for the most part, when I should have attacked diagonally as previously instructed. This was also reiterated after by those running the practice. One thing I really took away from it, though, was the communication portion. Making people aware that the vacancy needed to be filled. That’s a habit I gotta develop further.
The next drill was a flanking drill. We split into two sides (there were over 30 fighters in attendance so the teams were a good size). Each side picked 5 fighters to be the flanking group, and each side had a captain who was the target of the drill. The goal was to kill the captain as many times as possible (he had infinite respawns). The catch? Only the flanking team could cross the center line of the field to pursue. I chose to be on the first flanking team, and it was an absolute blast. It reminded me of running with my sprint unit at Pennsic, since we did a bunch of flanking there. On this drill, I feel like I’m hesitating a split second going in, and it’s creating a small gap in our charge. Gotta work on just doing the Pavlov thing and going when someone says go with no thought or hesitation. As they say, “no mind”. When we switched flanking units, I got to work on the line, and that was great. I was able to work on protecting from spears and myself at the same time, which I certainly need work on.
The next drill we ran was a bridge battle. We did this two different ways. First was just a straight up single resurrection battle. Second, we split each side into multiple triads to work together. When triad members died, they couldn’t resurrect until their whole unit died and then they all rez at the same time. We did mass elimination and then holding the center line. For this, I did some things right, and some things wrong. I followed up pulses, stopped pulses, and worked the right side so I could swing my ape arms out and wrap the people across from me. The downside to that was a few times I put myself off balance and got pushed off the bridge. No bueno. Also, my triad elected me as their commander, however I had difficulty reading the situation and deciding what to do. Another problem I had, which is something that made the drill difficult for me, was keeping my triad together. We all tended to just fill in where we were needed, rather than addressing anything as an individual force. That goes on me as that unit’s voice, I should’ve been more vocal to bring them in and address something specific. I just kinda felt that while I have a vague idea what I personally can do, deploying multiple resources is something I don’t have a grasp on just yet. Communication was a big topic this day, as I wasn’t the only one not giving orders. I also had to work on letting the spears through the line towards the back when a pulse started coming. My reaction time certainly needs work, something I’m gonna try and address at future practices.
After all this awesome, we wrapped up with some pickups. I was able to add a chiv to my book, Master Dimitri. His advice to me was to vary my offense more, which I realized I was doing only after the fact. I was certainly less aggressive this practice in singles than my last trip to Nutley, don’t know if it was the exhaustion or what. I think perhaps it’s due to me having a better idea of how the Nutley guys fight, so I’m more comfortable being aggressive with them because I have a better idea what to expect. I also was able to fight my teammate Svalin, who I haven’t fought since the Pennsic Novice Tourney. He was awesome, and really has grown a lot since then. I was able to stay alive awhile, for the most part, but I’m certainly no match there. Still, it was a blast to fight him, and I learned afterward from some spectating fighters that I’m leaving my forearm too exposed when I’m in guard. Jojo mentioned this to me as well, and helped by showing me how I should hold my arm for a better guard. The way I was holding it also made it necessary for my to cock my arm before throwing a shot, so I was telegraphing way too much. I was lucky enough to have some passes with Jojo later on, and he also helped me with my shield placement so I could be more covered when in guard. It’s gonna take some getting used to, but I’ll be working on that the next few weeks to get it drilled into me. Finally, I was able to fight one of the guys who came down from Canada for practice. His style was more unique, as it consisted of a lot of fakes and redirection. This definitely kept me on my toes, and it was a great workout for my blocking. Don’t get me wrong, I eventually fell for it, but as the passes went on I was able to hold out longer and longer, which I was happy about.
Overall, this was one of the best, if not THE best, practices I’ve ever attended. I got a ton of great melee experience without a needed win or war point being on the line, and was able to ask loads of knowledgeable people questions about melee strategy. One example was when I approached Master Tiernan (sp) and asked about a pulse idea I had. I asked what the drawbacks would be if we were on the right edge and stacked two shields in front, and a column behind the inside shield. When the two front shield would hit the line, the column would sort of unroll like a carpet across the front of the enemy line. The downsides to this, apparently, are that it can interfere with friendly spears, and it telegraphs too much cuz execution would be slow. The better alternative he suggested was have one column of shields with poles in the back, and have them run a post against the enemy line. Once the first shield hit the line, he’d turn 90 degrees and sweep across, with his column in tow. Cool idea, can’t wait to try it. I also realized that while I can do without a demi in singles, I can’t do without it in a melee. To many random strikes and variables to avoid getting blasted, which I learned the hard way this weekend. Anyways, I’ll definitely be going back to this one in April, when the rest of my sprint unit will also be there. Should be good times. Only drawback to it was that after 7 or so hours of fighting, I was in rough shape for a 4 hour drive home. Not saying it wasn’t worth it, but that bit kinda sucked. Anyways, I got lots to work on for next time, and loads of knowledge I didn’t have before, so this was a big win for me. Good times!