I held fighting practice at my place this week. The Thursday practices for Acre haven’t started back up yet, and the Monday ones take a few weeks off after Pennsic. I didn’t want to wait until September to fight again, and luckily two people felt the same way and came down for some sparring.
We didn’t fight very long, since with only 3 of us we gassed out in about 60-90 minutes or so. Still, I felt it was totally worth it. Following Pennsic, I feel much more comfortable in armor, and I’m starting to feel more relaxed when fighting. I did fairly well against the other fighters, who were going full tilt at me. Sure, I got blasted a few times, but I was able to return the favor as well. Both are very encouraging, and praised me a few times on my improvement, which was great. I tried correcting some of the issues I saw in the videos of me during the novice tournament, and I had mild success at best. I need to bend my knees more and tighten up, be more mobile and avoid remaining static, stop blinding myself with my shield, and learn how to properly change the angles of both my attacks and those of my opponent. I discussed this with Sir Zippy and Rory at Pennsic, and found the information fascinating and very scientific, so it was right up my alley!
I’ll probably try and hold another practice next week, and then I go on vacation before the start of the school year. Once September hits, fight practices start back up. Speaking of which, I’m going to try and make it out to the Nutley practice in NJ at least once a month. It’s a haul for me, and makes for a late night, but everyone I’ve spoken to said it’s more than worth it. At this point, I’m trying whatever I can to get better and not totally suck. I’m trying my best to hold onto this fire and not let it go out. In other news, I’m gonna pick up some shin protection and try changing up my leg armor to help with my comfort and mobility. I felt it a lot at practice, and I think my stance and movement will improve once I get this sorted out. After that, I’ll move onto torso armor so I’m not a big barrel. More to come!
Well, I survived the weekend…sort of. Truth be told, I took so long writing this cuz I ended up with bronchitis and an ear infection right after Tough Mudder last Sunday. Today is the first day since then that I felt quasi-human, which is pretty much my status quo. Anyways, enough about me, let’s instead talk about….well, ME….
To be totally honest, my weekend started Friday night when I saw Iron Maiden at the Barclays center in Brooklyn. It was a pretty late night, so I was tired to begin with on Saturday morning before the novice tourney. Quick review, Ghost was great, Maiden was great, the venue was fucking garbage and the sound guy should’ve been dragged out and beaten with dirty socks filled with mushy pickles. Now, moving onto the tourney. To say I was nervous as fuck would be a gross understatement. I got there nice and early, geared up, and got ready to fight. We presented ourselves to the royals (clothed this time), and I got my first assignment. Duncan in queen’s far. He was a lefty, and I was nervous as all hell, so my head really wasn’t in the game at all. I fumbled my way through the marshals asking me questions (totally guessed at the answers), and started out. He legged me, I legged him back, but I positioned my shield all wrong and he stabbed me in the grill of my helm for the win. Since this was a double elimination tourney, I was 0-1, and on the verge of a super quick elimination.
My second fight was against a gentleman whose SCA name I don’t know. He fought with a two handed ax. I was much more relaxed during this fight, and though he hit like a truck, I was able to get my sword past his guard and land a shot on his stomach for the win, just as he legged me (not the hip, mid thigh). I was elated to actually score a win, which was my best case scenario for the weekend. Now I was 1-1, still on the chopping block, but doing far better than I expected.
My third fight was against another whose name I don’t know. This was, by far, my longest fight of the day. The entire thing lasted about 2 minutes of non-stop wailing on each other, but in the end I came up wanting. He got me with a good shot to the head, and I went down. Still, even though I got eliminated, I was happy to have at least put up a fight. I know I showed how green of a fighter I am by the mistakes I made, and my inability to close on that fight, but I’m pleased with my performance given that I’ve been fighting all of maybe 2 full months or so total, with 3-4 weeks off in the middle due to injury and moving.
I geared down and enjoyed spending the rest of the day talking to the other fighters, trying to motivate them to kick ass and do their best, and retaining for 2 of my favorite people. The kids were there as well, and they had a blast with the other kids. It was a fantastic event, and I’m excited to be fighting at Pennsic this year since this was so much fun. I’m also looking forward to doing some pick-ups at war and learning from the many fantastic fighters that will be there!
The next morning I woke early again and went to Tough Mudder. I decided to take it a bit easier on my legs and hips this year by not running/jogging much, and that paid off. Unfortunately, I made up for it by helping WAY more with people going over obstacles. I started with skidmarked, and after that I became a staple for people going over the wall, letting others use my shoulder as a step and pushing them up and over the wall. Later on we got to pyramid scheme, and one of my teammates was trying to pull me up and wrenched my left arm pretty hard. During the Hero Carry, since the lovely Lish wasn’t able to join me due to a knee injury, I ended up with some random dude. This year, much of the run was in the woods, and I carried him on level ground to the swap point. When we switched, he had to run up hill and an extra third farther. I felt kinda bad for the poor fucker, but better him than me! At least I had a dude as a partner, cuz if any of the other people nearby wanted to partner up (all were rather thin females) I fear I’d have crushed them to death under my fat old sweaty ass. I managed to escape with dignity mostly intact. Mud mile was easier for me this year, and block ness was fun. The worst, though, was at the end. It took me about 5 tries to get up everest this year. Last year I nailed it in one. Later on, my buddy had to make it up, but he was spent from the day, and clocked in at 6’5″ and 330lbs or so. He was able to grab the top, but we at the top couldn’t do it alone. Suddenly, groups of people rushed under him and made a human pyramid to push him up. It was certainly one of the coolest and most amazing Tough Mudder moments I’ve ever seen.
At the end, I was done. I was a little sore the rest of the day, and completely exhausted. The next morning, my throat was sore and I was coughing. As the day wore on, I felt more and more like crap. I called in the next day and went to the doctor first thing. Bronchitis and an ear infection. Took the next day off too, and I still feel like ass. Coughing up junk and feeling overall plague-esque. Note to self: Don’t let the water from the Tough Mudder obstacles get in your mouth…
So here we are. I made it through the gauntlet, and though I’m a little worse for wear, I’m pleased with my performance this weekend. Now onto prepping for war, and making sure I can manage fighting in a battle of that scale.
Following yesterday’s revelation about fighting, I developed a wicked case of the poor me’s. There’s actually a phenomenon called the poor me syndrome, however that’s more of a thing manipulators do to get what they want, and people exhibiting that behavior tend to blame life or others for treating them unjustly. I don’t feel like anyone or anything is treating me unjustly, I just have shitty self esteem and seem to feel that wallowing in misery is my “place”, so I keep myself in it. Now, if you read this far I feel you deserve a disclaimer. Pretty much this whole post is gonna be me whining and complaining about shit, so if you’re among the 99% of people who actually have better things to do, then you can safely bail now. For those 1% peoples, buckle up.
Yesterday I found out that yet another thing I’m trying is not going well for me, and I’m not where I should be skill-wise. I’ve been trying, and giving it my all at practices, but it’s just not enough and my progression is very slow. For most people, I assume, this wouldn’t be much of an issue. Can’t be good at everything, right? For me, it’s another reminder that I’m not actually “good” at anything. I’ve tried things time and again, and nothing ever comes naturally to me. For most things, I plateau pretty quickly and never really get any better. Examples: I’ve been a gamer for over 30 years, and I still suck at it. It’s not from lack of practice, it’s from lack of skill. Skating, I’m OK for the most part, but even after skating for over 20 years I’m still lacking in ways that I really shouldn’t, and again it’s not from lack of practice. Even the field in which I work, I feel like I’m OK, but nowhere near where I should be with the years under my belt. Fact is, I’m a Jack of many trades, and mediocre at best.
For the remainder of the day yesterday, I walked around with my guts in knots. Being pretty much shit at everything is kinda punishing, and doesn’t really help in the self esteem and self image departments. For me, I feel that being good at things increases my self worth, or rather it would. Anyway, this is what led me to spiral once again into the chasm of the poor me’s. It all just reinforces what was told to me throughout my youth by pretty much everyone around me. I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough…basically, I’m not enough. I’ve been fighting against that stigma my entire life, so having it reaffirmed is a kick in the dick. Not that I blame the messenger, especially since I’m the one that asked their opinion, I just wasn’t prepared for how strongly it affected me.
Last night I sat down with the Lish and talked about these feelings, and I’m glad I did, cuz I’ve been a total fucktard about all of this. These feelings of mine all stem from me wanting to stand out, to be admired for my skill at something, because in my warped mind the only thing that makes me worth a damn is to be thought highly of by others. My own opinion of myself holds little weight, since I did have a healthy opinion of myself at one point and had it soundly beat out of me throughout my childhood. Still, a part of me deep down feels as though I should be more, so I keep searching for things that I can do well. Currently the only talent I have is music, and by that I mean being able to sing cover songs. It certainly didn’t come easily, and I plateau’d a long time ago, but it’s enough that I’m fair at it. She reminded me of this, and of what she’s been going through the past few years. For those not in the know, the Lish plays roller derby. When she started, she was one of the worst on her team, and none of it came easily to her. However, she stuck to it and fought for it. She went every week, pushed herself through soul-crushing practices, read up on it, and did everything in her power to get better. And she did! Now here we are three years later, and she’s awesome! Easily as good a skater as I am, if not better. She told me that I can’t compare myself to those around me. Everyone progresses at a different pace. I responded to this by stating that I understand that, but when I’m on the lower end of the spectrum it hurts and is kinda demoralizing, so she told me to quit. This is when the pride kicks in. No, I don’t just quit without really trying. So that left me at an impasse, and with things to ponder.
I meditated on this for awhile, and discovered that the real problem goes all the way back to grade school. I have the irrational fear that I’ll plateau early, and thus be a profoundly shitty fighter, and be mocked for. I’d become a laughing stock, and considering I’m in a fighting household with some of the best fighters in the East, I’d be an embarrassment not only to myself, but to my household as well, and the thought of that pains me. Yes, it’s irrational and I’m overthinking. I’m well aware. But that doesn’t change the fact that these feelings legitimately happen. They can’t be stopped, only dealt with.
So the real question is this: If I DO plateau early, and end up being a pretty crappy fighter, do I stay with it or pass my gear on to someone who may take to it much more easily. The answer, at the moment, is “I don’t know”. What I do know is that the Lish was 100% right with what she said. I just started, I need to give myself more of a chance, and convincing myself early on that I’m complete garbage and don’t belong creates a self fulfilling prophecy that will surely come to pass. Hobbies like fighting, whether it be martial arts or SCA heavy list, are not just physical. The mental aspects can make or break even the most physically gifted. Get it in your head that you’re worthless, and you’ll never be anything but that because you’ve made up your mind. Strive to be positive, fight for what you want, and be the inspiration to others that my Lish is to me. She got beat down again and again, and continued to fight for what she wanted and she fucking did it. She earned her place doing something that did NOT come easily, and I can do the same. I was there pushing her to keep at it, telling her similar things that she’s now telling me. If for no other reason, I owe it to myself to do the same and not be a hypocritical little punk. So I’ll fight. Whether I succeed or fail, I’ll push and push until I get where I want to be. If some day I decide to step back, I can do so with a clear conscience and know that I gave it my all, and nobody can honestly say I didn’t have enough heart for it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go watch Rudy…
Last night was the final practice before the novice tourney this weekend and Pennsic. Before practice, I swung by Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up a roller hockey girdle, which is basically just a pair of padded shorts. I wore those while fighting, and wow what a difference! Shots to the leg had most of the stink taken off them, and though I did get hit, I didn’t get all bruised up.
I fought a few people last night. The older gent, two young newer fighters, and a much more experienced fighter towards the end. One of the newer guys I did OK against. The others I did pretty poorly against. I can see the openings, but I have trouble getting there. Also, while I previously thought my defense was decent, apparently it’s just not. I let through a fair amount of shots that I really shouldn’t have, and I’m pretty weak against very aggressive fighters, which will likely be most of those fighting at the tourney.
Still, regardless of this I’ve been trying to stay positive about the whole thing, even though I’ve felt that I’m behind where I should be as far as skill. I’ve been doing my best to talk up other fighters I know who will also be there, and help motivate them to do their best. Unfortunately, such tactics don’t work for me unless my skills are legit there. To gauge where I am, I asked someone who attends practice and is a more seasoned fighter to let me know, honestly, if I’m where I should be, advanced, or behind. My suspicions, unfortunately, were on point. I’m indeed behind where I should be, and not progressing on par with other new fighters. Now, I do my best to not get my hopes up with stuff like this, especially given my track record with martial arts and whatnot (I totally sucked at fighting there too). This time, like an idiot, I actually got them up and hoped I was better than I thought, and that I was just being too hard on myself. Wrong again.
Before some of you start messaging me with stuff like “you’re new, give it time, everyone progresses at their own pace, etc”, know that I totally get that. The logic is sound. That doesn’t change, however, the gut punch. I don’t have any problem with what they said, I asked for an honest opinion and they gave an honest answer. Still, I’d hoped that maybe I’d take to this well and surprise myself. Instead, I’m just as I’ve been in many other things before. Mediocre at best. I’m still gonna stick with it and give it all I’ve got, and I’m happy to know exactly where I am before the tourney so I won’t be surprised and blindsided when I get obliterated right off the bat. So worst case scenario for the tourney hasn’t changed, just the best case scenario. Now, if I end up winning any fights that day, it’d be a gorram miracle. I just hope it’s not painfully embarrassing like my first martial arts tournament, whose video I deleted because of how embarrassing it was…More to come next week.
This Monday past I found myself back at fighting practice for the first time in about a month. After my last practices, my hand was in pretty rough shape. From what I read online, and spoke about with a few people, I either strained it pretty badly or tore a tendon or ligament. Still not sure what it was, but I decided to take some time off and heal up. I’m at about 95% or so now. It still twinges a bit, but nowhere near what it was. Time to get back in the ring.
Practice this Monday went pretty well, I think. I worked with the seasoned fighters/teachers there, and learned some great stuff. I took it pretty easy, and didn’t go too crazy. One of the things I realized that night is that my injury was likely caused, in part, by my trying to pull shots once I realized they weren’t gonna land. I need to learn to just commit to a shot, good or bad. This way I’ll learn to choose better and not just throw. My biggest problem of the night is where I look. I tend to look at my opponents face, or rather through it, so I can catch all his movement in my periphery. This may work when going slow, but isn’t working for me when facing someone who throws quick shots. I got blasted a few times in my upper leg just under my ass because I wasn’t focusing where I should be. I should be watching the elbow of the sword arm, since that can’t ever lie. My mistakes were paid for, as evidenced below.
Another thing we did was melee charge drills. This I found very helpful, as it gave me a brief glimpse into some melee mechanics. We alternated charging at each other, then charged one another at the same time. I didn’t do well at this drill. I tend to remain too high, and wasn’t getting low enough to get under my opponents center of gravity. I didn’t get creamed, but then I don’t think my opponent was really trying to put me on my ass. One newer fighter, the older dude who fought many years back, did SUPER well at this. Dude is like a freight train! I hope I can learn his technique and apply it so I can better hold my own. I did learn something super important during these drills, though. I learned that I should NOT be wearing sneakers! During the drill where Conrad (from the Thursday practices with Acre) and I charged each other at the same time, my left foot and his right foot kicked each other at the same time with full force. The resulting pain and numbness made me think I broke my toe, but it turns out it just jammed my toenail into the cuticle really hard. Now my toe is all bruised, but it couldn’t been FAR worse. My good friend John told me to check out the carbon fiber tipped boots, so I’ll be picking up a pair before next practice.
All in all, I’m excited to be back in it and will be throwing my hat in the ring at the Novice Day tourney later this month. I’m trying to not be nervous about it, so my main focus is to just do my best and fight with honor. If I can manage that, I’ll call it a win. I’m not expecting miracles since I’ve only been fighting since the beginning of May, with a month break thrown in there. It’s tough for me to gauge progress since I can’t really see myself when I’m fighting to see what I’m doing wrong. That’s something that the mirrored walls in a martial arts school would help with, as I used them a LOT during the years I trained for correcting my form and technique. Also, I’m not surrounded with many new fighters, and the few I’m around seem to be well past me already. Those around me have been very encouraging and have said I should do well, though for my personality it’s hard to take that at face value and not just as others trying to be optimistic and positive. I’m not being negative, I just don’t see myself improving enough to justify such an attitude. I’m more of a realist, and don’t see much point in getting my hopes high so early in the game. I will try and be centered, and approach this with as little emotion as I can muster…aside from my desire to not completely embarrass myself or make my teachers look bad, that is. If I get at least one win during the day, I’ll consider that a huge accomplishment for me! More to come.
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!