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!
I’m gonna start using this to log info from my practices, as a way of keeping my progress and letting me know who I met and when. Last night I attended my 5th overall practice. I also attended practice last Thursday, where there were 7 people in armor, which was cool cuz we learned a little about melee. I’ll take this piece by piece.
Last Thursday’s practice had me doing some 1 on 1 with the woman who I sparred with the week before. I started out by fixing my shoulder cop, which had come off a few days before. My shield also needs new edging, but I haven’t gotten to that yet. Anyways, 1 on 1 was good. I felt more in control of my defense and didn’t let as much in. She advised me that I should use my height advantage more, but I’m still hazy on how to actually do that. Next we did some small melee training. This was 3 of us noobs and the woman I’d been sparring with against the 3 more seasoned fighters. We went 1 for 3, which I take as pretty good. It was TOTALLY different than a straight up fight. Much more craziness and disorder, hard to stay together and control the pace. We ended off with some 2 on 2, me and another noob vs the woman and a noob. We won the first round by getting them both. Second round, my partner got tagged early, so it was 2 on one. I got lucky and tagged the newer fighter so it was just a 1 on 1, which she said we could stop without finishing since we’re trying for melee stuff. The end of the night, I found Brad, a gent a little taller than me, but much faster and far more skilled. He used a two handed ax. I did ok, and was able to avoid getting creamed until his gauntlet took a hit and the joint froze. We couldn’t un-stick it so we called it a night.
Last night I started out talking to a guy named Will, and sparring an older gent who was just getting back into the game. Throughout the night, I fought him, a woman who went by the name Purple, Tor, and Tycho at the very end. Tor and Tycho are both lefties, and I’m MUCH worse fighting them. Tycho and Purple were only there to get authorized, so they probably won’t have repeat performances anytime soon. Against the two righties I think I did ok. Not great, but a solid OK. I was able to stay alive for a fair amount of time, usually, and got a few shots through here and there. Against the lefties, not so much. I’m leaving myself far too open on my right side, and leaving my elbow to far out. Thankfully both gents were kind enough to not abuse the openings too much, and just threw out a few “reminders” that my blocking still sucks. My biggest issue, though, seems to be my shot mechanics/technique. I just haven’t had the time to spend working at the pell to practice them, and my lack of upper body strength is certainly a factor as well. I’m very slow, and don’t usually hit hard enough to kill. Will showed me how to do proper wrap shots, though the motion feels awkward and weak. Still, overall I wouldn’t consider it a “bad” practice. I think, at this point, any practice where I don’t get really injured is a good one. I just have so much to learn, and I need so much work. I’m hoping by going twice a week that I’ll start to actually see some improvement before war in a few months. If nothing else, just for endurance and strength. My arms get VERY tired after awhile, and I get out of breath pretty quickly.
The only thing that kinda worries me is the thought that when I hit the peak of my ability, that I’ll still be so bad that I won’t enjoy myself any longer. I’m having fun now, and I really enjoy the sparring and learning. But I know myself from the other arts I’ve done, and my lack of a drive, that killer instinct, always held me back in those. Maybe I’ll be able to get over that. Only time will tell.
Well, it finally happened. I finally got enough armor together to start learning to fight in the SCA. There are a few practices that happen near me, so I reached out to pretty much everyone to see what my options were. First, the Thursday night practices. I went to those a few times a few years back, but only worked on pell work. The one time I tried on armor there, it didn’t really fit me and I couldn’t do shit. Second, is a Sunday morning practice. I tried going to that a few weeks back, but issues with my helm, and the fact that it was freezing cold, caused me to abort. Since then my weekends have been jammed and I haven’t been able to go back. Finally, there’s a Monday practice which an old friend of mine was able to get me into. Keep in mind that each practice is with different people, and not the same group.
So, two weeks ago I attended what is, for all intents and purposes, my first real practice. I went to the Thursday one and geared up. There were only two others in armor there, but we worked on some basics. Stance, blocks, footwork, etc. All in all it was good, and everyone was really cool about everything. The following Monday I went to the other practice and worked with my friend and another guy. I missed Thursday and Sunday that week, but went again to Monday practice last night and had another good practice (by my standards).
All in all, from the feedback I’ve gotten, I’m apparently going relatively well for a beginner. Not great, but not awful, and I’m learning. That said, my body getting used to this is rough. After the first few practices, my muscles were so sore I had trouble getting around. After last night, my muscles are sore again, but nowhere near as bad. The only parts that hurt are the unarmored areas that got hit cuz my defense is sorely lacking (SORE! PUNS!).
I must say, though, when I first attended practices years ago, my experience wasn’t as good. There were people there who gave off a vibe that put me off, and I’ve learned by now to trust my instincts. I could have continued going, even without a kit (armor), but I chose to back away instead. These past 3 practices, however, have been very different. The people there are mad cool, patient, and helpful, and really seemed to express an interest in getting me up to speed. In return, I’m doing my best to push myself and not be myself too much, in an effort to prevent me from saying/doing anything to rub others the wrong way.
So now starts the work, and I need quite a bit of it. According to one guy last night, my defense is good for a noob, which I take as a big win. My offense is sorely lacking, but I knew that’d be an issue. I was always more of a defensive fighter, even in martial arts. I see other fighters being aggressive, and one of my biggest concerns is that I’ll never be able to get to that level of aggression. I just never had that killer instinct. Still, I’m approaching this from a place of pure honesty with myself. If I have fun and enjoy doing this, which I currently do, then I’ll keep at it. If I start not liking it, I’ll just pass my gear onto someone who needs it. I’m also going to try and not let others discourage me. I know there will be people who will talk shit, make comments, throw out some put-downs, etc. I’m gonna do my best to brush those aside and not let it ruin my enjoyment. So far it’s been good, and I hope it stays that way. I’ve got a pretty long road ahead, but I’m actually setting myself a realistic goal, and a not-quite-so-realistic one. I’d like to make it to the quarter finals in a tourney, which I think may be possible with a few years of hard work. The other would be to win one, which I think would require a perfect storm of good luck to achieve. Either way, I hope to one day learn enough to be able to teach others and pass it along. You know what they say, those who can’t, teach. I’m ok with that, so long as there’s fun to be had!
Finding the right pub is one of the most important things in life. It’s something that can happen right away, or take quite some time. The key part here is to find a good location, with a good atmosphere and people you can really relate to. The establishment should be run well, and those in charge should have a clear focus on doing their best to ensure everyone has a good time and enjoys themselves, while also having a good time themselves. It’s also very important to have an open environment, where anyone can voice concerns to the management or others in the bar and work out any issues without it resulting in a fight where the cops have to be called, or worse, an ambulance.
However, the MAJOR key here is the people. People who GET you. People who are there for a variety of reasons, but value having a good time and letting go of the crap in their daily lives. People who can give you advice, or listen to yours with an open mind and respect your opinions. Not at all an easy thing to find. For me, one of the biggest things is feeling not only accepted there, but wanted there. Those at the bar, people I respect and whose company I enjoy, wanting me to come down there as often as possible simply because they enjoy my company, is one of those things I find incredibly important. Along with that, truly being appreciated for who I am and any help I give is also huge. For me, these things are important for reasons that many who know me don’t really know about. I was one of those who never really had this. Most people, during the majority of my life, were….less than accepting of me. I was mostly disliked by my peers, with the exception of the choice few, and even then only very few gave enough of a shit to really try to understand me and value what I brought to the friendship table. Many times I was just treated like the entertainment. I was the dancing monkey, the court jester, and everything in between. So, because of this, I never really had a place where I felt like I fit in. I could adapt to sort of fit here or there, but it never really felt right. It was like being a multifaceted key, where one side would fit one thing, but the other sides wouldn’t fit it at all. It made being in certain groups both fun and taxing at the same time. A few groups fired on more than one cylinder, but not many, and most times it wasn’t the core cylinders that really matter. This all changed, of course, when I found just the right pub.
Now, I can let myself be me, and not only is it ok, but it’s enjoyed…sought after, even. Sure, I have had friends before who felt this way, but having people who are virtually strangers to me feel this way has had a slightly different effect, and this little difference ended up making all the difference (fuckin A, I use that word a LOT!). This isn’t to say that my friends aren’t as important, or haven’t helped me and healed me in ways, because they absolutely have. This is more to say that even though you have great friends, finding a group of people who know fuck all about me, and having them not only welcome me but want me around, despite me really being myself around them, heals a very deep and very old wound inside. A wound that’s never started truly healing because of how specific it is, and how rare the treatment for it is. Finding the pub you can call home really really doesn’t have much to do with the alcohol, since you can find that in a variety of other places, or even on your own. I can go elsewhere and have scotch, or learn about rum, or whatever. But that right pub will make all of it so much better, so much more gratifying, and more fulfilling than any self discovery of such things. I finally feel like I found mine, and hope I’m not jinxing myself by writing this. I can not only be myself, but I can be who I want to be when I’m there. I can genuinely be me, all beliefs and thoughts intact, and all core cylinders firing. It’s a freedom of sorts, and I’m diggin’ it right now, so much so that I take great pleasure in giving back in any way I can. Truth be told, even if something does happen to fuck it up, at the very least it will have given me hope that this is something that CAN be healed, and that’s far more than a scarred and beat up cynic like me could have ever hoped for. For that, I will remain eternally thankful.
This past weekend the Lish and I attended an SCA event called Mudthaw. Lish had been feeling under the weather a few days prior, but we made the trip regardless because one of the members of our house, Ivan, was to be knighted at this event. It was an awesome time. We watched the fighting, attended courts, attended his vigil (I’ll explain), and even got to participate in Ivan’s procession into court. Pretty cool stuff, and it reminded me more about why I enjoy this as much as I do.
We started the day helping set up. As you’d expect, things were a little hectic, but those in our household banged it all out without any major issue we were aware of. We headed over to morning court after awhile, and waited for Ivan to be called up. Now, if you’ve read my diatribes and such before, or know me personally, you know that I’m a sloppy mess over things such as honor and respect and whatnot. I still can’t watch The Last Samurai without full-on ugly crying at the end, complete with smeared snot across my face like horrible mucous war paint a-la Braveheart. So when I saw his face, and it dawned on him what was happening, it got me. I’d seen him involved in quite a bit in the short time I’ve known him, and he always seemed to just do what needed to be done without any drama or bullshit. I’d spoken to him about stuff as well, like fighting, armor, leatherworking, etc, and he was always warm and welcoming to me. As such, seeing the comprehension on his face, and the visible rush of emotion that hit him, was awesome! As he walked away, he was in a sort of shocked daze. Honestly, he looked like he was just proposed to by the love of his life. That’s one of the only times I’ve ever seen someone react as such. It made me so happy to see this.
Now, for those of you who are a bit confused, I will explain a few things, and hopefully I get them right. If I don’t, I’ll just edit this shit. At morning court, the king and queen called him up and extolled him, citing his accomplishments and his excellence of character. They then called up the Order of Chivalry, which is the peerage comprised of knights and masters at arms. A peerage is kind of like a group of earned nobility. You have one awarded for skill at arms, the Order of Chivalry, one for outstanding service, the Order of the Pellican, and one for the arts/sciences, the Order of the Laurel. There is more to all this, but that’s a basic gist. Anyways, at this point he is asked if he would pledge his fealty, accept the responsibilities, and join the order. After this, he spends the day in a vigil, where others can sit with him one on one and give him advice, congrats, etc. Following the vigil, he is called into evening court where he is to give the crown his answer, and if his answer is yes he is then knighted at court. Make sense? If it doesn’t, you can go to the SCA website and read up on that shit, cuz I’m moving on.
So after morning court, we watched a fair amount of fighting. Granted, most of this was for my benefit since I’m trying to learn this stuff. One thing I definitely learned is that I have a VERY loooooooooong way to go. A few years, I’d gather, before being able to really hold my own and possibly win once or twice. Also, I was loaned a fucking kick ass helm and gorget, which was passed to me through members of my household. This brings me one step further towards having enough armor bits to spar with. Anyways, we eventually made our way to the vigil to pay our respects. I must say I thought it was odd that it was called a vigil, because the only times I’ve ever attended a vigil was when someone died. Thankfully, Ivan was still alive when we got there. While we waited to sit with him, there was lots of awesome food prepared by members of the household, so I had enough bratwurst and meat pies to require a boatload of fiber to pass. We sat with him for a brief time, not wanting to take up time that he could spend with those he’s known longer and whatnot. We congratulated him and expressed our pride to be able to call him family, and then absconded to the bar for a pint, as we had no relevant advice to give him.
We hung out and talked to people for a bit, then eventually joined the procession to follow him into court when he was called. I must say, I always feel like I don’t belong in those. Not because anyone ever makes me feel unwelcome, quite the opposite in fact. I dunno, in my mind, I’m more of a nobody in the group. I haven’t been in this for long, and the only thing I really bring to the table would be sarcasm and alcohol. Granted, the alcohol is important, but still. I know the reason for this is that I believe being involved in such a thing is a place of honor, and honor is to be earned. All I’ve really done so far is ask an assload of questions and had people provide for me. I know, it’s my issue. I get that I wouldn’t be asked to be there if they thought as such, so I guess the better way to explain it is that I’m humbled by my inclusion. I still strive to find ways or skills to develop that would allow me to contribute more, but it’s a work in progress. Right now, all I have to offer is booze, horrible jokes, and the ability to pack a car.
Fuck, long tangent. OK, back on track. We followed him in, bowed, and then proceeded to the back to watch the fun. As if his emotion wasn’t enough, one person from each peerage Order had to speak on his behalf. Every person who spoke for him was choking up with emotion during their speeches, causing my “allergies” to go into overdrive. I found myself recalling why this game has allure to me. People are awarded for their honor, for the good things they do, and for the good people they are. Respect is shown, people are acknowledged, and honor is bestowed in a genuine way. It comes from the heart and the mind, and we all know that this is the stuff that really gets me. I watched and listened, all the while experiencing the storm of emotions it invoked. It was absolutely awesome, like being in person to witness such events previously only seen on film. Knowing those involved made it even more emotional and real. He rose up at the end as Sir Ivan, and we cheered and clapped for him. It was really cool to see, and to be a part of, even if only a small part of. Stuff like this is what makes this as much fun as it is.
So that was our experience. For both of you who read my blog regularly, if you have any questions, just hit me up in the comments. Vivat!
Last night I attended fighter practice for the first time in ages. What with band practices and the Lish doing derby, I haven’t been able to attend, but my buddy has been going pretty regularly. For here, since everyone gets a special name, I’ll call him Mick. He’s been collecting armor bits, he built a pell, and now has a set of loaner kit (kit=armor) to play with. When I showed up, he was already getting suited up, so I stuck to the pell for the first hour or so. After that, he was tired and sweaty as fuck, like he just got out of the pool at an abandoned hotel. Mick asked me if I wanted a go in the armor. I said yes, but not really to fight. I wanted to see what wearing armor was like: How it moved, how it restricted movement, how much it weighed, etc. While getting suited up, the fighter who was working with Mick, whom we’ll call Bob, came over and said that we can have a go when I’m all geared up. I figured why not. I remembered Hamish’s line from Braveheart when he said “Well, we didn’t get dressed up for nothin!”.
The armor itself was a bit uncomfortable, which is to be expected with loaner gear. I have an odd body type, which means I have issues finding certain clothes. It also means that loaner gear it not gonna ever fit me right. The armor was thick leather. The top of it dug into my clavicle pretty hard on the right side, and the arms held me back from making good offside shots because it dug into my hand and wrist. Apart from that, and the copious amount of grody Mick sweat, it wasn’t bad at all. Visibility through the helm is something I’ll have to really work at to get used to as well. I’ll also need a helm that fits my heat in the right way. The one I borrowed, Mick’s, sat a bit low and I had trouble seeing high shots coming. To be perfectly honest, though, my armor was most certainly not my problem.
Once we began fighting, I was reminded of a few things.
- I’m a very defensive fighter. I know many newcomers may be that way at first, but I’ve been this way for a very long time. I’ve fought in martial arts before, and I’m always defensive. Hell, even when I play fighting games in the arcade, I have a defensive style. Gotta get outta that.
- My reflexes suck. I mean REALLY suck. I can’t even count how many times I got hit when I knew it was coming, but didn’t react in time. Because of this, I shall call my persona Internet Explorer.
- I’m physically weak as fuck. I pretty much always knew this as well, as I’ve never had upper body strength in my life. I have very long legs, and always had all my power there, and other arts and fighting styles incorporated the use of the entire body when performing a strike. Even a punch’s power, which many seem to think comes from the mainly upper body, actually comes from the hips and core. In this, however, it’s all isolated. Strikes come from the arm and upper body, so I hit like a mildly upset 3 year old in the midst of a hissy fit. Even if I was given a full opening, I don’t think I could effectively deliver a killing blow. Also, my left arm was very underpowered for effectively using my shield. After some fighting and teaching, one of the knights came over to teach me some stuff about shield movement. I could see he was getting a bit frustrated with me because I kept screwing it up, but at that point my arm was killing me and I just didn’t have the strength to get it done.
I feel bad about being such a shitty student. I do try, and when I see them getting frustrated I do try harder, but I have a slight learning disability which can make it difficult sometimes. That, compounded with my lack of physical prowess, makes for a tough situation for both student and teacher. Still, they were all extremely patient and awesome. The guys I worked with were very open and kind, and really did a great job in making me feel as comfortable as possible through all of this, while also teaching me what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do.
Overall, it was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, and I think if I can get my strength up I’ll have a much easier time learning. Keep in mind, though, I didn’t really get hit much. The only time I really got hit was when I asked Bob to hit me in the head hard enough to be a called shot. It didn’t really hurt, thankfully. It was more like….remember in cartoons as a kid, when one character would put a huge cast metal bell on the head of another and then ring that shit with a hammer like he’s mining for diamonds? It was like that. Not terrible, just different and a bit disorienting. So my takeaway from this is that I need padding, armor that fits a bit better, and strength training, but overall it was fun shit!
As some of you know, I dropped off the face of the blogosphere (I can’t believe I actually just used that ridiculous word) a while ago. Lots of shit happened since then, the biggest of which being my change to a new place of employment. I’ve had a bunch of stuff to write about, but just haven’t had the space or time at work to do so, and my personal time at home is pure insanity most days. I’ll try my best to sum it all up here, so bear with me.
First and foremost, the Lish decided to try out for a roller derby team. I’m, of course, fully supportive of this, being a straight male and all. She made it onto the team, and has been balls deep (metaphorically speaking) in derby ever since. She’s currently working on passing her skills test so she can be cleared to play in games, and I have no doubts that she’ll pass and kick ass. The team she’s with is great, with some real top shelf people involved, and I’m happy she got involved in it. I kinda wish some of my hobbies had the same feeling of camaraderie, but alas I have geek hobbies, so the power playing and dick waving (again, thankfully, metaphorically speaking) is always prevalent. That brings me to my next point.
My bands have been in a sort of flux lately. The cover band is doing ok, and we actually played shows recently! The original project I was playing keyboards in took a turn for the worse. We lost our drummer and bassist, and have yet to find replacements. Our searching has so far turned up a large number of complete lunatics, wackjobs, and dudes who really need to learn what it means to say they play an instrument. Some dudes came in and just had no idea what the fuck they were doing. Some had personal issues, such as the guy who was pushing 50 and had to work out with his daddy, whom he still lived with, what nights and times he could come out to play. And some were just plain bat shit crazy, who looked like Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s 2 having a seizure. Finally, my old original band has had some movement lately. We broke up a year and a half ago, leaving an album unfinished and without playing a last show. Recently, we all got together to discuss our next steps, if any, and we all agreed to finish the recordings and play some shows. Where it goes after that is anyone’s guess, but at least we have something good on the horizon. I’m honestly stoked about it, since this is really the only band I’ve been in that I really felt was “my” band. Here’s hoping something good comes of this.
Aside from that, it’s pretty much been business as usual. We’ve been attending a few SCA events, and enjoying that. I haven’t been to fighting practice really, with only one attendance since Pennsic, because the timing never really works. Lish usually has derby practice that night, and I’d rather save the sitter than go to practice. I do wish I was able to get into it, since whenever I see guys fighting at events I kinda wish I could suit up and join in for a bit. A close friend of mine got into it the same time I did, and is having a great time and really enjoys it. I must admit that part of the reason is me being grossly out of shape, as well as being not physically strong. Much of my training would just be straight up strength and endurance training, and let’s face it, I’m a lazy fuck. I’d much rather sit at my bench and rebuild PCBs than do squat jumps and burpees…
I’ve seen a few movies that I’d like to share my thoughts on, stuff like Snowpiercer, Europa Report, 5 armies, etc. I’ll do my best to get those going, as well as some other shit. I’m also going to post some more arcade related stuff on my other blog, so if you have any interest in that crap, give it a look. Otherwise, I’ll see you freaks around soon!