I haven’t posted a fighting practice blurb in awhile, and there are reasons for this. Well, not just reasons why I haven’t posted about that, but also reasons why I haven’t been posting much in general. I spoke to a dear friend who writes fantastically well, and realize a criticism I had regarding one of her recent pieces was perhaps more projection than anything else. As such, it’s time to strip down and give a look into what I’ve been going through the past year or so.
WARNING!!! This entire blog post is basically just me ranting about shit and complaining. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, then you might wanna pass on this one.
First off, the search for a new home. You might remember that I had quite a difficult time last year. I had to say goodbye to the home we started our family in. Even now, while writing this, I feel that churning in my guts about the whole thing. We finally closed on the sale (which was a profound debacle), and months later I drove by. This just happened to be the day the new owners demolished the house. I saw what was my home, full of memories, laughter, and love, broken and being carted away in dump trucks. The big and beautiful old trees were also taken down. I was momentarily paralyzed by the sight, with many emotions vying for dominance within me, like pack animals choosing a new leader. I drove away feeling devastated, and have had to make peace with the thought that I could never pass by the house again and see triggers of beautiful memories ever again.
At the same time, we began the hunt for a new home. In short, this entire process was absolutely brutal. On the plus side, we had a fantastic realtor, one who went above and beyond to help us find a new home. Still, the whole thing was a gorram mess. Over the past year we saw literally dozens of houses, and placed bids on a few, only for that to ultimately fall through in spectacular fashion. We did, however, finally find a place a few months back, and we moved in last week. We’re still in the process of clearing out everything from the rental, and are trying to balance that with unpacking enough stuff to both live more comfortably while also making room for more shit. Meanwhile, the entire process is just punishing. It feels as though no matter how much work I put into unpacking, very little gets done and we’re still drowning in chaos, at least from my perspective. Once we’re mostly settled, I’ll have to jump in and do it again when I move my wife’s mom out of her house and in with us, which will be a whole other bag of challenges.
At some point within the last year, we also found out that our eldest dog, Sophie, has liver cancer. She’s got weak back legs, a weak bladder, is blind in one eye and stone deaf. We’re not sure how much time we have left with her, and are trying to keep her as comfortable as we can. For me, it’s frustrating and I’m stuck with a lot of anger that I don’t know what to do with. I’m gonna lose my friend soon, my sweet little monster, and there’s fuck all I can do to stop that. The entire thing is like being on extended death watch, where every time I see her asleep in her crate or on the couch, I wonder if this is it…
Next, we add on financial fears. Fears that I somehow miscalculated and we’re in too deep with the house we bought. We won’t know for certain until maybe 6 months from now, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. As it is, we do have some money for renovations for the house, and there’s stuff we absolutely MUST do within the next year or so. As such, I’m gonna be saying goodbye to my beautiful Victoria (my 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 fastback). Having a classic car is something I’ve always wanted, and I’ve had her for most of Peanutty’s life now. That being said, she needs work done, and I just don’t have the loot to make that happen. I also don’t need another money pit hobby, especially when all I really get out of it is the joy of driving such a wonderful piece of historical beauty and American muscle around. Selling her would get us halfway to a bathroom remodel, which is much more desperately needed than cruising around in the car. Besides, I’m not exactly a spring chicken anymore, and nowadays I look less like a cool young metalhead cruising around in a badass car, like the older brother in Phantasm, and more like some pathetic old fucker pretending he’s still cool while going through some sort of midlife crisis.
Now back to the SCA fighting stuff. A few weeks back, the knuckles on my right hand started to really hurt. I figured it was just a padding issue, as well as the result of being a sissy with no physical strength in any part of my body. So I dealt with it. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago this past Monday, and my hand was INSANELY bad after practice. I decided to take some time off fighting to allow it to heal. It’s mostly there, but I still get a twinge if I clench my fist. Now, though, I’m getting all sorts of other pains, and at this stage in the game it’s increasingly hard to compare what should be investigated vs what is just me being older. I see so many people start fighting at various stages in their lives, and none seem to end up with the discomfort I have. I’m sure it has much to do with my lack of fitness, and the fact that physical activity NEVER came naturally to me. I understood that going in, but it still bums me out a little when I don’t see myself improving as I should. Those teaching me have been really good, and very patient and giving of their time, for which I’m eternally thankful. Still, I don’t think it will last, and I would never blame them for stepping away. I know the frustration of spending time to teach someone who just doesn’t get it, and isn’t meant for it. So if you’re one of my teachers, no worries. When you need to step away, please do so with a clear conscience. I’m just thankful to have had the time with you.
Now I know what you’re thinking (I really don’t), why not just talk about these issue with friends and whatnot. Well, that’s another problem for me. Not a new one, per se, but one that’s gone on for ages. I have difficulty with friendships. I tend to get close and drift away from people over time, and the only one I’ve ever been consistently close to is my wife. All others either rub me the wrong way, don’t reciprocate the same level of friendship, or just aren’t trustworthy enough for me to invest in. I have MAJOR trust issues, some of which grew from a self-esteem deficiency and others that were the result of being burned too often and too deeply to ever move past. It’s brutal. Sometimes I’ll be close with someone for years at a time, only for them to do something that goes against the very fabric I’m woven from, at which time I need to check out. Other times it’s just people being a little shitty because of their own issues, which they may or may not even be aware of. These times I’ll take a step back and take it as someone who needs space. Occasionally I’ll ask what’s up, if it’s something totally out of character, but usually it’s just a trait that just bumped up a level, so I step back and let things settle, lest I confront it and end up losing a friendship over saying something stupid or out of line. I also know that I tend to rub people the wrong way a LOT, but I’m actually not aware when I do it most times. I don’t know if people would rather not confront me about it for risk of a friendship ending fight, or if they think I’m well aware of what I’m doing and don’t give a fuck. Truth is, I DO give a fuck. I actually try to live my life by a code of honor, and do right by other people, so if I have a shitty habit that hurts people, FUCKING TELL ME! I know it sounds hypocritical given that I mentioned earlier that I tend to back away, but in all honesty I do bring up shitty behavior when people do it. What they do with that information is another story. I’m not gonna beat a dead horse here…
I’m sure there are other little things that pile onto this mound of crazy, but if I listed all of them this would be far longer and you’d either bail out of boredom, or drag yourself to the end, at which time you’d be praying for the sweet merciful release of death…or maybe some comfort tacos or something. Mmmm, tacos…
Last week I ended up bailing on both practices. The Sunday prior I came down with the plague, and it lasted until this past Sunday when I finally started feeling better. This Monday past I went to practice again, and it was a good one. Duke Brennan came to practice, so quite a few fighters also showed up. Since I’m absolute shite with names, I couldn’t list most of them, but I did know a few. Some were guys from the Thursday night Acre practice like Joe/Dante and Conrad. The only other fighter there I kinda know is an older gent who’s getting back into fighting after being away for many years.
This practice I tried something different. After previous practices, my sword hand would hurt. On this hand I was using a Dark Victory demi that had about 1/2″ of padding on it, and a batting glove. My sword used the hard polymer/resin cups many people use. This was bothering me in 3 different ways. First, I’d get a blister at the base of my pinky. Second, the outside of my thumb knuckle where it meets my hand would get scraped up and a little raw. Finally, and worst of all, the knuckles on my index and middle finger where they meet my hand were getting swollen and very painful. I didn’t know if it was from the padding being too stiff and the pressure being put on them from it or what, but it was painful and still hurts, even after not fighting for a week. Turns out, part of the reason may be that I was death-gripping a bit. I haven’t hit the comfort level to stay totally loose when fighting, and a good part of that is because I’m a very defensive fighter. I tend to wait for an opening, relying more on my defense to keep me alive and grant me opportunities. Might not be the best strategy, but it’s what I’ve got at the moment.
The change I made was to remove the demi padding, and instead use a street hockey glove on that hand. This change is definitely an improvement. The first two issues I mentioned before went away, and my knuckles aren’t nearly as sore as the last few times. I still have stiffness and pain, but I think that’s more due to lack of strength than anything else. I’m still working against being out of shape, and I’ve been physically weak pretty much all my life. Once the move I’m going through right now is done, I hope to do some strength training at home to make things a bit easier. In the meantime, though, this change appears to have definitely been for the better.
Over the night I fought a bunch of people. Some of the much more experienced and aggressive fighters made quick work of me, while others toned things down to give me some pointers and some sort of fighting chance. Duke Brennan was one of these people. He worked with me for awhile and helped me with my shots and power, and his suggestions paid off. I definitely felt an increase in power, and throwing shots was easier. Initially, I’d hold my sword with my thumb, index, and middle finger as lightly as I could, and when firing a shot I’d close the other two fingers to generate the power. His suggestion was that instead of closing my hand, to just swap fingers. Close my ring and pinky, but loosen my thumb, fore, and middle fingers. This felt more natural and gave me enough of a boost to throw a good shot. Landing one, of course, is still quite the challenge, and it should come as no surprise that it didn’t really happen while we sparred. But that doesn’t matter to me, to be honest. I’m glad to have had the instruction, and his grace was mad cool about everything and great to work with.
My other fights that night were the usual fare. I get a good shot in maybe one out of 8-10 fights, depending on who I’m against and how easy they’re going on me. According to Dante, my defense is getting better, which I’m happy about. There’s still much I need to work on, so I’m taking it practice by practice and trying to focus on working one or two things in particular each time.
Finally, I found out that the EK novice tourney is the day before I do Tough Mudder. I’m debating whether or not I’ll do it. I’d like the experience, even though I’ll very likely get eliminated in my first fight or two, depending on the rules. Then again, I don’t know if I wanna risk injuring myself right before TM. I’m gonna play it by ear, as I’m of two minds about it. The rules for fighting in it are that you can’t have been initially authorized more than 2 years prior. Sure, this makes skill levels tough to gauge, since someone can be attending practices for a year or more before being authorized, or like me only a few months. But I don’t know that I’d get too beat up. I’ll likely just get beaned in the head as usual, which is a really safe place to get hit. We’ll see. I have another practice tomorrow, so hopefully I can work on some more shots and start really nailing that shit down. More to come!