There was a pretty good turnout last night as far as heavy fighters go. I think total there were five of us, and we all got to switch off. I spent most of the beginning fighting another newer fighter, who’s very good. According to someone else there, he’s only been in armor a few months, about as long as me, but definitely more skilled. I also fought with Conrad, whom I fight pretty regularly, and a few others.
Overall practice went well. I’m still having a lot of trouble keeping my left leg protected, and might need to consider a longer shield since my legs are so long. I ate that shot quite a few times last night, mainly from the newer fighter. I also helped him with his thrust shot, since he was having trouble getting it right. He improved on it at practice, which was awesome. It felt great to be able to teach someone something for once. I still seem to be having calibration issues, and many of my shots are simply not hard enough. I really need to focus on mechanics to develop that power. This is gonna mean more pell work at home, which works out because I just got my pell set up in the yard. I’m gonna skip Thursday practice this week to let my leg heal a bit before Nutley next week, when it’s probably gonna get blown up again, and will instead work on the pell to try and beat the technique into my head.
Towards the end of the night, there was an issue between me and another fighter. I was fighting someone, who I’ll call Phil (no idea what his name is). He was very aggressive with his basket and shield, and kept punching my shield into me. I wasn’t sure whether that in particular was legal or not, but since other fighters were there and had fought him, I figured it likely was. I got legged, and while he was standing over me he started ramming down like he was when I was standing. I held on a few seconds until he made a big push and literally threw me to the ground. As I was getting back up, I said “throwing someone to the ground like that, not very chivalrous.”. I meant it as informational, but it was taken otherwise. Phil’s housemate, Hank (dunno his name either), stepped in to further discuss, while Phil geared down. I explained my reasoning and point, and was told that in their household such a thing isn’t said in that way. I vowed that while at their practices, I will respect the ways of their household and rephrase going forward. I didn’t get to talk to Phil about it after, and truly hope he harbors no resentment. Hank and I finished our conversation and had a few passes at each other. I went until I couldn’t hold my shield up and called it a night.
I felt bad that someone’s night got ruined as a result of something I said, but I was also taken aback that it wasn’t discussed right then and there and hashed out. I figure it was smoke from another fire, and I’m trying to let it go. Hopefully, if he’s there next week, Phil and I can hash it out and be cool.
This question has come up a lot in the past few weeks, whether it be from friends and family or from other fighters. From an outside perspective, I’m sure it can seem a bit odd. I dress is unusual clothing and armor, attend practices that last hours, and all so I can get hit with heavy sticks until I’m bruised as shit. Well, the outer part of it can definitely seem odd, but damn near everything I get out of it is internal. The stuff you can’t see. If you ever asked me that question, and wanted a more complete answer, then read on. I’m not gonna put a TL:DR at the end, so if you really wanna know you gotta just suck it up, buttercup.
I’ll start with the physical aspect. I HATE working out. I was never one who enjoyed going to the gym, or lifting weights and running the treadmill at home. I need the activity to be enjoyable. There has to be some other draw. When I was younger, it was skating street. I’d skate upwards of 15+ miles a day, so I was in awesome shape. This was also when I was single, and didn’t have jack shit to do with my abundance of free time. Fighting does that for me. It gives me a physical activity I really enjoy, and I already feel the difference in myself. I can fight for longer periods of time now compared to when I started only 6 months ago, so I’m definitely getting a benefit. I’ve also felt my strength and coordination get better. It’s also a great feeling to feel like I CAN actually do this. I studied martial arts (TKD) for a few years, and left just shy of being a black belt. I did sparring in that, and I was absolute garbage. I’ve also been in fights growing up, and never did all that well in them. Armored combat came a little more naturally to me, for some reason. I feel much more comfortable and way less useless. This feels like something I can actually do competently someday, regardless of whether I actually get to that level or not.
When I began in the SCA, quite a few people tried to get me into fighting. I resisted for a long time, recalling how awful of a fighter I’ve been in the past, and how I never really had the killing instinct. While my form and technique in martial arts was on point, I didn’t have that fire that I needed to be competitive in sparring. I think part of the reason was a fear that I would really hurt someone. I think my opponents being armored makes that a non-issue for me, and lets me push a little harder. I still don’t go full tilt, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I should be able to get it done without wailing on someone.
Now, the less physical. For me, there are lots of psychological reasons for me to do this. To start, the camaraderie amongst this brotherhood of fighters (lady fighters included), is amazing. Before I started, it seemed like it would be similar to the jocks in high school, and that even if I did throw my hat in the ring with them, I’d never truly be one of them because at heart I’m just a goofy, geeky loser who makes awful jokes and asks a million questions. In reality, it’s more like the feeling I got during tough mudder. The people involved come from all walks of life, and while they’re working on excelling as individuals, they also have the mindset to help everyone else around them achieve their goals as well. Sure, there ARE people who act more like the high school jocks, but they’re a rarity from my experience. I’ve worked with people from newer fighters up to veteran knights and dukes, and I’ve yet to run into someone who was a condescending jerk to me. They want to help, they want you to succeed, because in the end it just makes the game better for all involved.
Another aspect is that of honor. As you may know from a previous post of mine, I take honor very seriously these days. Because of this, I’ve actually been brought to tears by acts of honor I’ve witnessed, as well as acts that have honored me personally. An example of this was when a fellow fighter, whom I respect a great deal, invited me to be officially part of the Northern Army, saying it would be an honor to have me with them. I couldn’t actually respond for quite awhile, due to the emotion of it all. I know it may sound silly to those outside the society, but it is very much a thing for me. I feel…wanted. I’ve NEVER had that in an activity like this in my entire life, and I’m unbelievably humbled by it. People want me around, want me fighting by their side, want me involved in something they hold so dearly in their hearts. That means a great deal to me, and fills a place in my heart that I thought would remain empty forever. This is now a big reason for my push to get better. I want to be an asset to my team, I want to earn the place they’ve already given me, I want to pull my own weight and eventually be the man who people will want by their side. I don’t personally feel that I’m deserving of what I’ve already been given, regardless of whether that feeling is borne of logic or the specters in my past, so I will push myself to be the best I can be so I can truly feel worthy of being there. And once I’m there, it’ll be onto the next goal while I pay it forward to other new fighters.
Another reason is that it’s simply fun as all hell! It’s a rush squaring off against someone, or being in a melee. I love how fast paced, strategic, and sometimes comical it can be. Most of the time I’m fighting, I’m joking or just smiling. It’s a blast squaring off, getting smacked around, or trying ridiculous things in an attempt to land a good shot. Afterwards, I enjoy a good natured chat with my opponent where I can give or receive tips (mostly receive), and joke around about stuff. It’s super fun.
The last reason I’ll go into here is probably the strongest for me. Many years back, I began suffering from bad depression and a pretty nasty anxiety/panic disorder. I was crippled for months with constant dissociative panic attacks and depression bad enough that I wasn’t eating. Years of therapy, and a period of about 2 years where I took medication, helped me out of the hole. My anxiety problems aren’t gone, per se, but I am able to keep them in check. It’s a battle I fight every minute of the day inside my head, and it can be exhausting. Every minute…except when I’m in armor and fighting. When my kit goes on, the demons go silent, and it’s like waking from a bad dream. I feel more like my old self again, the me I could be before my mind broke. Sometimes I get that way when I’m really drunk, but that can lead to other problems so I don’t do it very often. I get out there and fight, and it’s freedom. My mind doesn’t have time to give me shit about anything. The feeling is also similar to when I’m singing on stage, but then I can feel a twinge if I’m performing difficult material and I’m concerned I might not pull it off that well. So this is the purest form of that feeling, and it’s all because I put on armor and fight.
So that’s what does it for me. I’m stepping on the field because I get inclusion, acceptance, validation, freedom, and peace. I’m driven towards excellence by honor, respect, service, and pride. I take pride in my advancement, and the feeling when I occasionally score a kill out of skill and not luck. I honor my brothers and sisters on the field, and my beautiful and amazing consort (the Lish!), by striving to be better. I serve this society by taking part, getting better, and encouraging those around me to do the same. I get quite a lot out of this game we play, it’s able to fill voids within that have been vacant for so long that I accepted their emptiness as normalcy. No matter where this path takes me, how it ends, or what happens along the way, I’m both happy and thankful to be on it. I thank you all who have helped me thus far, those who gave me subtle, and some not so subtle, nudges to get going. Those who have accepted me, taught me, pushed me, and helped to temper what was already there. Those who I inundate with endless questions, and who always respond with love, thorough answers, and a smile. You all do me great honor, and I’m in your debt more than you can possibly know. I’m humbled by these gifts you’ve all given me, and I will do my best to repay them with honor and purpose.
So yeah, that’s why I do it. Have any other questions? If so, let me know and I’ll ignore them for a few months before finally answering them! 😉
I actually considered skipping practice last night. My arm and leg and still pretty beat up and tender, and my sword is now cracked at the tip and getting a little pulpy. Thankfully, I couldn’t bring myself to stay home. I figured I’d go and if I got too beat up I’d just head out early. Prior to practice, a local fighter who hit me up on Facebook posted a message on my wall telling me that I’m doing really well for the amount of time I’ve been in armor. A few other fighters at my regular practices have recently told me the same thing. This, of course, goes counter to how I’ve been feeling as of late, that I’m not where I should be. I can’t even begin to explain how humbled I am that people are going out of their way to help me along and praise my efforts. It shows the truest nature of the fighter community, for sure, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I’ll get more into that later, for now let’s talk practice.
Sure enough, during my first fight, I got blasted in the right bicep…EXACTLY where I got hit last week and on Monday. I took a minute, and then got back in and took special notice of my defense so I wouldn’t be hit there again. This worked for me, and I didn’t take any more shots there for the rest of the night. I decided to try some new things this practice. For one, I watched the pell work video shown below and tried doing what he said in the beginning. I struck, pulled back to block the most likely shot, then went in again. I had varying results, but overall it helped more than hurt. Here’s the video:
I also tried moving around a lot more. I’d go in, back, to the sides, crouched, and this I think helped me quite a bit. If for nothing else, it kept my opponent on their toes. It also made it a little easier for me to get shots in, though my lack of speed and strength made most of them light. One thing that was also a challenge was the changes I had to make to my own guard when moving around. I opened myself up quite a few times because I didn’t adjust when I moved.
Overall I had a decent practice. I was able to fight a bunch of people and went against some different weapons I don’t usually encounter like a hand ax and a big pole ax. I wouldn’t say I did really well, but I didn’t embarrass myself or blast anyone in the pills, so that’s a plus!
Now, my six month checkup. It’s been about 6 months since my first practice in armor. I had done pell work for about 2 months back in 2014, then stopped going until I could actually get loaner gear and fight. This took me quite awhile, but I eventually got all my shit and made my way to my first practice the last week of April 2017, a little under 6 months ago. I went until late June when I had to take 3 weeks off because I was moving and also to let me hand heal from an injury. After that, I’ve been mostly nonstop, only missing weeks where there were no practices being held and I couldn’t get people to my place to fight.
Overall I think I’ve improved quite a bit, having started from knowing jack shit about what I was doing out there. My shot speed, power, and precision have gotten better, though still have quite a long way to go. Still, I can deliver a killing blow on occasion. My defense feels fair to decent, and I don’t get one shotted too often. I’m still easy to open up and exploit, but I’m getting a little better at reading those moves and adjusting. My mobility is also starting to get going, and I’m getting more comfortable moving around and not just standing there like a pell waiting for someone to wail on me. The biggest stride I feel like I made is my comfort level. I feel much more comfortable and at home in my gear, and I’m a lot more relaxed when I’m fighting. I still need to work on my breathing, though.
So I think I’ve come a fair way thus far. I’ll take the word of others that I’m doing well skill-wise considering my time in armor, simply because I have no frame of reference. They’d know far better than I would. In my mind, though, I still need a ton of work. My biggest focus is to get good enough to pull my own weight in my melee team. I don’t wanna be “that guy”, who’s on the team cuz we’re buddies and household-mates. I wanna be there because I get things done, because I help my team achieve goals. I wanna feel I’ve earned the place I’ve already been given, and the honor others have already bestowed upon me. I’m on the right road for that to happen, I just gotta keep practicing, keep fighting, and keep learning. Realistically, from what I gather from other fighters, I’ve got a few years to go before that happens. I just hope I don’t plateau before I get there.
Last night was a brutal practice. I went into it without my head in the game, so I feel like I fought like shit. I tried using the guard Stephan showed me, but was leaving my arm too vulnerable and paid for it quite a few times. I also tried working on footwork and not over committing my shield when blocking, but fell short of the mark nearly every time. I was definitely outclassed, for sure, but I also didn’t feel like I was in the right zone.
Then there were the nut shots. Though I was aiming for leg shots, I ended up hitting others in the cup more than once. I debated just gearing down and walking off because of how furious and embarrassed I was over the whole thing. I ended up throwing far less leg shots, and almost no body shots, from that point on. I also took two full shots to the cup, and one glancing shot, which were well deserved regardless of whether they were intended or not. I don’t know what it was. The first one I threw, I got. I was aiming lower, but he crouched more as I was swinging and I couldn’t pull the shot in time. The others I have no excuse for. I didn’t aim for it, my aim was just off and it got hit.
Apart from that, I pushed until I couldn’t lift my shield anymore. My sword arm and left leg took a beating as well, but I went until I had nothing left. Even in the beginning, though, my shots were slow and weak. I got a few in, but they didn’t have much on them. I just had no game. Couldn’t get around defenses, couldn’t put enough on shots, it was just a mess. I’m sure everyone has nights like that, and it really does suck. I’m hoping Thursday will be a little better.
There was some good, though. A younger guy at practice, who was filming some of the fights, was talking to me at the end of the night. Don’t really know much about him, or how long he’s been with the brood, but he mentioned to me that he was impressed with how I fought considering I’ve been in armor just under 6 months. I took it as a good compliment, even though I have my differing opinions on it. Still, regardless of whether I agree with him or not, or whether he was just trying to be nice and encouraging, it’s a cool thing to hear. I currently feel as though I’m not improving as I should, and that my current skill level is garbage for someone with as much armor time as I have. For me, positive feedback is always a hard thing to believe. If someone gives me positive feedback, I just assume they’re being kind and encouraging to keep me interested and positive. I don’t assume they actually truly mean the words. Negative feedback, however, is almost always taken at face value. What can I say, I’m a weird dude with shitty self esteem. I wouldn’t say to someone’s face that “oh, you’re just being nice”, cuz that’s kinda dick, but I can’t help but feel it. It’s something I’m working on.
Finally, someone on a Facebook group for fighters posted the following video, and it really speaks to me. It’s something to think about, and a direction I need to follow. I’ve linked it below, so check it out.
This week’s coloring:
So last night I went to Nutley for the first time with my buddy Ulf, another local fighter. I’ll admit I had some concerns going in about this being an elite only kind of thing, and that people wouldn’t want to spare any time for noob fighters like us. I’m overjoyed to report that this concern couldn’t be further from the truth.
We got there just as they were opening up, which was great. I met up with my buddy John, who gave me a run down of how practice usually goes. I geared up, and fought Arn, a fighter I’ve known for a while now. After him I fought Sir Douglas Henry, Sir Stephan, Sir Jan, and Duke Brennan. Every single person I fought was awesome with me. It felt very welcoming and comfortable. I never once felt like I was looked down on or that I was being smacked around for their enjoyment, which is something some newer people seem afraid of. I luck out that early on, after discussions with other veteran fighters, I was able to get in the mindset that I’d be ok fighting pretty much anybody without feeling intimidated. Sure, I know I’m gonna get my ass kicked, but squaring off against people at this level is well worth it. Everyone had very useful tips for me to work on. Footwork and mobility, moving my shield too much when I block, keeping my elbow protected, positioning my sword so I can more easily block onside head shots, and just overall working on my mindset when I fight. After each round of fights, my opponent would remove their gear and walk over to me to help me out. With all criticisms came equal praise of what I did that was right, which is huge to me. As someone who’s done martial arts for years, I always found that the best teachers were like that. It’s not just about the negative, it’s also about what’s being done right.
I know my reactions and footwork and issues I need to work on, as well as straight up pell work. My flat snap is more of a downward chop, which is something I have to work on over and over until I get it through my thick head. Also, for now I think my shield work is my main focus. My left leg is a general disaster right now from getting hit literally over a dozen times last night. I’m thankful that everyone I fought dialed themselves down, or it’d be far worse than it is. I can’t really say I have any complaints whatsoever, and just wish I was closer and could go out there more often. It was such an upbeat atmosphere, nothing like the member’s only club I feared it would be. I’ll be working on the feedback I was given that night and will hopefully improve on it for my next trip out there. I’ll wrap up with a few pics taken from last night.
I went out east last night for some more fighting goodness. Only two other fighters geared up with me, one of which only fought a few times before he had to leave. So mainly it was just me and my buddy Ulf.
I did ok last night, but some things REALLY need to be worked out. I’m able to see the openings a bit more now, but still can’t seem to get there in time. My fakes are getting a little better as well. My leg shots last night, though, tended to be a little low, which is odd for me. I need to work on flattening the blade so the tip doesn’t drop low enough to catch the knee. Also, I took a few leg shots on the left. This is one of my weakest parts of my defense. I’m ok with guarding my right side, but my left leaves much to be desired. My other problem that night was dealing with his aggression. He charges up and presses me a lot, and I can’t seem to sidestep or move fast enough to counteract it. I end up backing up and turtling up until he gets tired, and then attack while he’s tired. This won’t work on someone who can keep that shit up, though, so I really need to work on dealing with that.
My foot was OK for the most part. It still hurts, and by the end it was killing me. I went home and iced it and it’s back where it was. I made an appointment with the doctor for next Monday, so here’s hoping I get a better idea of what’s happening.
Finally, I spoke to Ulf about wanting to go once a month to the Nutley practice, and he’s down for the trip as well. He mentioned really wanting to up his game as much as possible, and hopefully become a knight someday. I really hope he does, he’s a cool dude, so we’re gonna carpool there next week and have some fun. Here’s hoping the doc doesn’t give me bad news on Monday so I can go!
Almost 2 weeks back, I went to the Thursday practice. The night started out normally. I geared up, chatted up a few people, and got to fighting. From the get-go, it was a shit show for me. I fought like crap, and kept giving up easy shots and not really delivering any of note. This went on until about 30 minutes before the end. I fought another newer fighter and legged him. While on his knees, I was having a hard time finishing him off. That’s when it happened. My assumption is that he went for an offside leg shot, but his aim was nothing short of abysmal. Instead of hitting my leg, of even my knee or shin, he struck unhindered on the top of my forward foot. The blow hit solidly on the side of my instep, and I saw stars! It was horribly painful. I gave it about a 20 count before just sucking it up and finishing the fight. In another minute or so he was exhausted and could not continue, so I sat down. The pain worsened. I decided to gear down, and another fighter was kind enough to bring me some ice. I sat and watched the fighting for a bit longer, then I packed my shit and went home. I iced it again, took some Advil, and went to bed.
The next day, the pain was still pretty bad. I couldn’t put any weight on it without sharp pain, and decided to go to the doctor. After X-rays they said it wasn’t broken or fractured, and to see a specialist if it still hurt after awhile. Over the next few days it started getting progressively better, and by the next Thursday I decided to try going to practice again.
This Thursday practice was decidedly better than the last one, but my foot was still bothering me and I think I pushed a bit too much. I was focusing mainly on my fighting and not on the pain in my foot, and by the end of the night I was in pain again. I iced it and took more Advil, but since then it’s been even more tender. I do feel like I fought better this time around, though. I was moving more and trying new guards, some of which worked and some did not. Overall it was a good practice, aside from the foot pain.
I’m going out east to practice tonight, so hopefully my foot will hold up. I’m also gonna contact a foot specialist to see what is actually going on with it. My fear right now is that a tendon or ligament tore badly and is causing the pain. My guess is that they’ll need an MRI or something like that to know for sure, but here’s hoping it’s nothing serious. More to come!