Beating with a stick
As many of you already know, this past summer I went to Pennsic. I had a great time there, and really loved the entire experience. While there, I watched a fair amount of the fighting, and thought it looked pretty interesting. I was asked by a few people if I’d be interested in learning, but I declined. I declined, not because I wasn’t at all interested, but because I know myself all too well. If I were to try it there, and get really into it, it would’ve consumed much of the little time I had there, and I really wanted to enjoy the time away with the Lish. Recently, however, I’ve been thinking about Pennsic and the SCA. I spoke with a close friend, who is responsible for getting us into this in the first place, and decided to give the fighting a try. Her and the head of her household, whose gracious acceptance of us at Pennsic made it even more appealing to delve into, arranged for me to attend a local fighter practice. I went for the first time two weeks ago, and will go again tonight (last week I missed due to snow). For those who are unfamiliar, I’ll describe my noob experience.
First thing to note, I read a TON of shit about it before even stepping through the doors. From reading about the rules of combat to the creation of a pell, sword, and armor, I definitely read my fill at that point. Nothing was really left but to go try it out. Another close friend of mine joined me that night. We met up with the contact person I was introduced to, and went inside to get to work. First thing I noticed, everyone was totally cool. Very nice, very helpful, no bullshit or condescension. I dig that kinda atmosphere. One thing I can’t stand is elitism. Not to say that nobody in this hobby IS, since every hobby has them, I’m just glad these folks weren’t. Anyways, the majority of the night was spent doing a strength building exercise. The swords they use are made of rattan, and one end has a basket of some sort. This makes one end heavier. For the exercise, you hold the sword by the tip, heavy end away from you. Hold your left arm straight out to your side, palm out, and slowly rotate the sword to go parallel to the floor and touch your outstretched hand. This may not sound so bad, but for an out of shape fuck like me, holding your arm out to your side for 20 minutes is goddamn brutal. I had to take a break for a few seconds every couple of minutes to ensure that my arm didn’t decide that the pain wasn’t worth it, and chose to secede from my union. I will say this, though. After about 30 minutes or so, either the pain subsided considerably, or it blended into the background as my body decided that this was part of our homeostasis and accepted it. I wasn’t sore the next few days, which surprised me.
Anyways, after a while, we were taught how to correctly perform a strike. It looks simple enough, but in practice it must be done precisely to be correct. This is very similar to the martial arts I’ve practiced in the past, since a small adjustment in technique can mean the difference between a brushed off blow and a knockout blow (porn works the same way, with the same nomenclature). My personal assessment of my own skill, after witnessing the correct way and then MY way, is that I did fair. Most of the motion is correct, but what I was doing was hurting my thumb which is incorrect. I need to correct that before going forward.
That was pretty much the extent of the first lesson, which was fine with me. Overall, I enjoyed it, hence why I’ll be attending again. I spoke with a few people afterwards, who had concerns about my desire to get into armor and start hitting people. I was somewhat confused by that, since I wouldn’t wanna spar with someone in martial arts if they didn’t know how to throw a punch correctly. Just means someone is gonna get hurt. Apparently, though, not everybody thinks that way. This discipline of fighting, just like other martial disciplines, will take a lot of time and repetition to really get down. I’m cool with that, since for right now it doesn’t require a monetary committment outside of a few bucks a week for the practice space. I’m definitely curious what it’ll be like to wear 50 lbs of gear and then try whacking someone across the face with a stick wrapped in duct tape, but I’m in no particular rush, since my technique is a large bag of shit currently.
If I do get far into this, there are some options. Different types of weapons and configurations are allowed, and all are used differently. I’ll see what suits me best, since I’ve been told that I’m at a disadvantage with a sword due to my arms being long enough to drag the floors. There is also the option of light weapons, such as fencing. I’m built better for fencing, but I’m gonna take this one piece at a time. Best case scenario would be that I could do both. This way I can be struck with and without armor on a regular basis….wait, why am I doing this again?
Truth be told, what makes this more worth it is the people involved. My experiences with the SCA have included some seriously choice people. The friend who introduced me to the scene is super cool about it all, and has helped me a lot along the way. She introduced me to her household, which is run by people who I was able to fully respect virtually instantly, which for me is saying something. I don’t typically give people my respect outright, even if they’re in a position of power. I’ll give the position respect, but not necessarily the person. Just ask my boss, he’ll tell you. Anyways, even others associated with the household were awesome. I also have another good friend who runs his own household, and he did his part to make my experience great. He also helped me with information about fighting and whatnot, complete with what to look for and what to avoid. All in all, if this kinda shit interests you, get some info on local groups and give it a whirl. It’s a good time, and from my experiences it’s with good people. What’s not to like?!
That being said, do I think I’ll end up becoming a knight in the SCA someday? Most likely not. I’ve always been a shitty fighter in other disciplines I’ve studied. Also, I really enjoy the loose party and fun aspect of Pennsic. I love the freedom, the parties, and the revelling. If I was serious about fighting, I’d have to minimize that a lot due to practices and battles, which would be a bummer for me. Let’s face it, fighting isn’t something I’ve ever been particularly good at. Drinking, partying, and making an ass of myself, however, comes very naturally, and I’m a pro at it! Good for a jester, but not exactly the values of a respected knight who follows the code of chivalry. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t learn to fight, develop good technique, and do my best. If I get good enough, I’ll be able to help teach new people, since I did quite a bit of that when I was in Tae Kwon Do. Basically what I’m getting at is this: Just because I don’t wanna go all the way, doesn’t mean I can’t participate. That’s a cool thing about this, you get into what you want, at your own pace, and to the level you decide. No pressure, and nobody breathing down your neck. For me, those close to me who are in this are just happy that I’m involved, however much that may be, and that acceptance and caring is more than worth me giving it the best try I possibly can.
If you’re interested in reading about this stuff, check out the SCA homepage HERE. If you are interested in learning about fighting, you can find info for that HERE. There’s so much interesting shit to get involved with, it’s really worth a look.