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 weekend was a local event that saw our existing baron and baroness step down, and a new baron and baroness step up. There was also archery, thrown weapons, rapier, and heavy list. The heavy tournament was also to determine the new baronial champion.
I started out concerned with my ability to even participate, since they wanted rotating forms and I’ve only really ever fought sword and shield. I was able to get authorized in the other forms, though, and people had enough loaner gear there (gauntlets, polearms, etc.) that I felt less like a dick participating. I’d honestly have felt weird going through the whole thing with sword and shield when others were all switching forms.
Starting off, me and another local fighter decided to warm up a bit before the tourney. We fought a few times, then another fighter swapped in, then a few more, and before long we had a bear pit for about 15-20 minutes. Then we started the actual tournament. It was round robin with about 9 fighters. I did as good as could be expected, and won maybe 2 or so fights. I’m happy with how I did. The majority of the fighters there were far better than me, and this being a champion tourney I wasn’t expecting to have a winning record as a guy who’s been in armor only 5 months. I stuck with my lessons as best I could, but was simply outclassed, and that’s fine. I also lost all but one of my other forms due to having very little experience and not knowing how to defend myself competently enough. The one fight I won was pretty much given to me, as my opponent was overheating and appeared to have just wanted it done with so he could cool down. That fight was absolutely hilarious. I fought polearm, he fought greatsword. He took my right arm, and then chose to fight one armed against me as a courtesy. Neither of us could swing with any power, and thrusts was tough due to the weight and us being tired. It was damn comical, and probably my favorite fight so far. Even the other marshal came over and was like “what the hell is going on here?!”. We were cracking up. My opponent, whose name I of course don’t remember, was awesome and gracious about it all. Definitely the best kind of people I find on the field.
I ended the day with 3 fights in a row, due to some confusion as to who fought who. I was exhausted at this point, and thankfully the first two tagged my pretty quickly so the fights didn’t drag on. The last one seemed more evenly matched, and I was able to pull out the win somehow. Afterwards, I popped my top and crashed. I was actually thankful for the end, as I didn’t have the stamina to keep going and I was overheating.
I actually enjoyed trying out the other weapons forms, even though I did terribly. I looked into possibly getting some gauntlets so I can do that again at other tournaments, but right now they’re all a bit out of budget. From the conversations I’ve had with other fighters, it seems as though gauntlets are the kind of thing you spend good money on so you get good stuff. Since I work with my hands quite often, I decided to follow their advice to the letter. In the meantime, I’ll have to see what else I can do to my current kit to make it more comfortable and easier to maneuver in. All in all, though, it was a great event. We saw some truly wonderful moments as people were given awards and peerages. We also attended our first feast, and the food was absolutely fantastic! I ate until I could eat no more, and went home tired, sore, and full. I could ask for no better!
Last night I went back to the An Dub practice for the first time since before Pennsic. They stopped holding them starting just before war until last week, though last week I couldn’t make it. This week I went and, to be honest, it was a shit show from the very start. Not practice itself, but my participation in it.
It began with me forgetting my fighting pants at home, so I went home after work to get them and then headed out. When I arrived, I was going through my bag and I realized that I forgot my elbow and knee pads at home. I was pretty pissed at such an oversight, but luckily two of the fighters there were able to lend me both so I could gear up. So I start gearing up, get my legs on, then stand up, look around, and realize I left my fucking CHEST PIECE, of all things, at home as well. I couldn’t believe how stupid I was, and for me that’s saying something. At this point I was furious with myself. I really didn’t want to go another week without fighting, I felt it’s been long enough as it is. Luckily for me, another fighter who wasn’t gonna gear up was willing to lend me his chest armor so I was finally able to fully gear up. The chest piece I borrowed was much more form fitting and smaller than the one I usually fight in, and I felt much better in it.
So I started fighting, and I definitely started feeling the steps I’d lost by not being able to fight for a few weeks. My stamina and strength took a pretty sizable hit, and my defense was spotty at best. I let in quite a few juicy shots, so now it looks like I fell down a flight of stairs. I felt slow and sloppy, and wasn’t able to get where I needed to be in time. Don’t get me wrong, I never expect to come out with a positive kill/death ratio at these practices. The fighters that attend are all more competent fighters than I am. Still, my performance was kind of a shit show, in my opinion. Anyway, I started out doing singles against a few people, and then we ended up doing a bear pit (winner stays until he/she loses). I don’t think I fought more that two in a row in the pit, but I did get the occasional win. After awhile, I gassed out and couldn’t hold my shield up anymore. I was relying on body and head movement to get out of the way instead of blocking with my shield. When that happened, I was pretty much done, so I pushed myself to fight two more times and called it a day. I’m just happy my sword arm was ok, since while on vacation two weeks ago I fell while skating and landed hard on my right side. My shoulder and arm were messed up for days, but it doesn’t seem as though there was any lasting damage.
I’m gonna try and get a practice together this week to get more time in armor, and hopefully I’ll start moving forward again. In the meantime, pell work is on the menu…
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.
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!