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!
Last Thursday I decided to forego sleep and see a late showing of Alien Covenant. I’ve been dying to see this ever since it was announced, which was bolstered by Ridley Scott’s promise to have listened to the fans and delivered where Prometheus did not. My spoiler free review of this movie is as follows: As far as a standalone movie, it’s decent and watchable. It’s an entertaining film, but it doesn’t really stand out in any significant way. As far as Alien canon goes, for those who adore the franchise as I do, it’s a disappointment that they used too many tropes and ridiculous decisions to shit all over the established canon and diminished the franchise as a whole.
NOW FOR THE SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK, from a standalone movie (not caring about canon), this movie is at best entertaining yet unremarkable. It starts out with a scene between Weyland and David (the android from Prometheus). Problem is, since the scenes with a young Weyland were cut from Prometheus, there’s no real way for most people to know who the fuck that is. The scene is foreshadowing for the reveal towards the end, but it drags and is a very boring start to the movie. Also, it’s apparent from this conversation that David is “off”, so it’s odd that Weyland chose to keep him around, even after his model was upgraded. It’s also odd that David was unaware of this upgrade. Were they somehow able to create and produce self-healing androids in the short amount of time between the two missions? Just seems odd, but we’ll take that one on faith.
Next you’re sort of introduced to the crew. Some good shit happens here. The scene where the original captain dies in his cryo pod is cool (pun totally intended). After that, they work to fix up the ship and you get some interaction. Problem is, most of it feels kinda disconnected, weak, and forced. The banter between the characters doesn’t really point towards any sort of cohesion as a group. Also, the whole fact that they were a bunch of couples really didn’t have any use or place in the plot whatsoever, aside from Daniels giving exposition about the cabin her and her husband were gonna build. Fassbender did a great job acting, as usual (sans his ‘southern’ accent), but I really didn’t give a shit about any other character. There was very little actual connection. People died, and no fucks were given. In contrast, I was bummed when many of the characters in Aliens died (especially Hudson and Vasquez), and when some of the characters in Alien 3 died (especially Dillon). This is because the script was there, the scenes were there, and the acting was on point. I think Covenant had a good cast, they just didn’t have as much to work with. Then they marketed it as if Daniels would be similar to Ripley, and she wasn’t. She was stronger willed, but she lacked the conviction and confidence that made Ripley who she was.
Crew aside, the decisions in this film are also stupid. They decide to veer off course to investigate a planet they know nothing about, while also putting thousands of lives in jeopardy in the process. They go to the surface and don’t take any samples or readings before going out without helmets on, knowing that any alien world could be host to unknown diseases they’d have no immunity to, and could bring back to the colony ship. They split up at just about every chance they get, on an unknown world and with an android that is an unknown quantity.
Finally, we get to the destruction of the Alien canon. This, for me, is the part that breaks my heart. So first (timeline-wise), David and Shaw go to the Engineer home world, dock over a huge courtyard, and bomb the shit out of them. Originally, they went there for answers, but nope, bomb time. Also, for an advanced race such as them, their “city” looked like ancient Rome, and there weren’t many of them at all. Maybe a few thousand. Not what one would expect from such an advanced civilized race. Also, they were allowed to dock without any apparent communication. No “unidentified craft, please respond”. Nope, just come on in with your doomsday ship, and we’ll all line up under you like a bunch of fuckin’ idiots. Now, for some reason, before the Covenant arrives, David kills Shaw and dissects her. This appears to go against what is seen in the online video of them that was released just prior to this movie. She put him back together, they seemed to care about what happened to each other and had some sort of friendship. However, out of nowhere, boom, she’s dead. I don’t think he experimented on her with a chest burster due to the fact that there are no other aliens on the planet when the Covenant arrives.
Now the Covenant shows up, and we have people stepping on the spores that impregnate people with these neomorphs. This whole process, in my opinion, was great. I liked how it went into them, gestated, and burst through their spines. Very cool shit. The only not-so-cool thing was the trope of the dude getting sick, feeling sick, and saying “nah, I’m fine, nothing’s wrong”. They’re on an unknown world where diseases can easily affect them, why wouldn’t he bother saying something. The scenes could have had just as much impact, and it wouldn’t feel cheap. Then we move along to the shit with David. Apart from him killing Shaw and taking her apart, we find out that HE is the one that created the Xenomorph (It’s not exactly the same, but extremely close to the classic ones). He lures the captain down to his egg chamber, the idiot captain puts his face in the egg, and BOOM! Facehugger to the grill. Then, an insanely short time later, he wakes up and almost immediately gets his chest cracked open by his new baby Xeno. Now, there were many atrocities during this whole bit. First, facehuggers stay attached for a long time, not a few minutes. Second, when the remove themselves, it’s at least a few hours before the chestburster comes out. Third, the chestburster is more of a snake-like creature and not just a miniature NECA figure of a warrior alien. Finally, to top it all off, it starts mimicking David is some silly ass scene that was just so ridiculous that I almost laughed in the theater.
So there it is. David created them. No idea how, with no queen and no hosts aside from Shaw, whose body didn’t appear to have hosted anything. The entire space jockey/engineer story is washed away and ignored so we can see the android create the Xenos, thus David fulfills his foreshadowing scene in the beginning saying that creators get killed by their creations. How very Mary Shelly. This just irks the shit outta me, and goes against much of the other established canon, even from Prometheus. For example, Xenos and a queen are seen in the ship in prometheus, so how did he create them when they existed before?
Now we get to the Xenos themselves. They did look pretty cool, for the most part. The CGI wasn’t all that great, but the design was good. Sadly, they were kind of stupid, and not all that scary. During the fights with them, I didn’t really feel like the crew were in mortal peril. There was just so very little tension in the scenes. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, and honestly I felt more excitement during the neomorph battles in the wheat. They seemed smarter, which goes against the whole perfect organism thing. Another thing that really helped with the previous films, sound and music. The others used both to set the mood so incredibly well, and this movie just falls short of that. There weren’t really any memorable moments in the score or sound effects that I recalled even when walking out of the theater.
Now, the ending. First, how’d they kill the Xeno? Yup, you guessed it, right out the airlock. Also, that scene was just a bit silly, with her dodging at the last second as if it couldn’t see the huge ass fucking bulldozer approaching from behind her. Then, she is seen joking around with Tennessee, the dude whose demeanor is NOTHING like someone who just lost the love of his life, and most of his fellow crew. Finally, Walter. He puts her in her pod, and she then realizes that it’s really David. First, David can’t heal and Walter can, so she should’ve known earlier when she was stapling his face. Second, the hole in his chin mysteriously disappeared. And finally, C, his hair is a different color and cut. Did he hit up the salon on the way? I don’t think the engineers had much use of hair care products. It was such a ridiculous and stupid trope to throw in there, and so incredibly obvious, that it was downright insulting at this point.
Some will say that this is all butthurt because this wasn’t the Alien movie we all wanted. I call bullshit on that. This was more like the TV show Lost. It seems like there were all sorts of different directions he wanted to go in, so he went in all of them, and couldn’t decide which would be the official story. Then he expects us to be OK with him choosing the dumbest and most cliché direction of all, and ignore all the plot holes and the shitty change of tone that now affects the entirety of the franchise. Changes to canon like this are like the butterfly effect, they bloom outward and change the rest of canon, for good OR, in this case, bad.
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!