So much happened last week that I really dropped the ball on these posts. I went to Nutley on Wednesday and my usual Thursday practice the next day. Practices went like this.
I flew solo for Nutley. I had a good audiobook, so the drive wasn’t so bad. I realized once I got there that my sword was pretty much broomed. The end of it was split, and one half of the split part was splintering. I taped the crap out of it so nothing would get through, and fought.
\This was my first actual test run with my newly redone leg armor. I have catcher’s pads I’m using as greaves, with my articulated stainless steel knees attached to them, and cuisses my buddy made out of leather and plastic plates. Overall they worked pretty well. I was able to move better in them without having to adjust them the whole time. My belt is still a pain in the ass, as the back keeps riding up and getting stuck on top of the hockey girdle I wear. Gonna have to make a cuisse belt to resolve that. Getting hit in the legs was less painful now, except when I got tagged on the outside just above my knee wing where there’s a small gap in my armor. Seems to be a common place for me to get hit, so I’m gonna try and come up with something in the meantime to protect that area since I keep getting hit there.
This practice, I was trying to focus more on protecting my left leg. It seems as though when I was focused on it actively, it wasn’t bad, but once I got distracted by trying to throw shots and combinations, my attention slipped and I’d get tagged. This is definitely gonna be a work in progress, so I plan on mainly focusing on that until I get it through my thick head
I fought a bunch of people I’ve never fought before . One knight, a woman I’ve never met before, was my first fight. Fast shots, and someone I couldn’t afford to let into close range. It was good to see and learn how she was able to close on me and take apart my defense. The others I fought were all unbelts except for my last fight, I believe. I did fight one of the local fighters that I see at practice too. I was able to land shots on occasion against various people, but they had nothing on them. Overall, it was good, and I felt my performance was fair.
The next night I did about the same, or perhaps a bit worse. My shield arm was sore from the night before, so that opened me up a bit. I was able to do decently against someone with a greatsword, and it was cool to fight against the different style. I again ran into the same problem of cleanly landing shots that were just way too light. This factors into my next big hurdle: shot mechanics.
While I technically can throw a shot, that doesn’t mean I throw them correctly when I’m fighting. Put me in front of a pell and I can blast it. Put me in an actual fight, and I’m hitting people with stalks of celery. The difference, as I analyzed on Thursday, is in my body mechanics. On demand, I throw with proper body movement and torque. In a fight, I’m typically either not set properly or just not focusing enough and my technique suffers. The fix: more pell work. Even though I set mine up, I haven’t devoted the time to it. Sure, I can list a litany of excuses as to why I haven’t done it, but they’re irrelevant. Even five minutes a day would make some sort of difference, and I just haven’t been doing it. I spent part of the weekend setting up a new sword for myself to use in practice, as well as one to use on the pell. Tonight I’ll go to practice, but if nobody shows because of the rain I’ll end up doing pell work at home. I also must start doing work on my off days when I’m not going to a practice. I think that if I can get my shot techniques better, while also working on my leg defense at practices, then maybe I’ll be able to hold my own the way I should be. I’ll try and follow up on that in the future to see how it pans out.
There was a time, when I was a kid, where I didn’t really listen to music at all. I didn’t ask to hear certain songs, didn’t ask someone to put on the radio, and I didn’t have a favorite song or band. I did enjoy playing music to an extent, and played in orchestra and then band in grade school, but it wasn’t a core part of me. It didn’t run through my veins constantly. This all changed the summer I was introduced to Iron Maiden.
There was a kid in my class that I made friends with, and he came over my house to hang out one day. He brought a cassette with him to play for me. It was the latest Maiden album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Whether it was just the music, or a combination of the music and the fact that I thought this was one of the cool kids, I got hooked. Some time later, I purchase this album on cassette, the first music purchase of my life. From there, the music exploded a bomb within me, and my life was quite literally changed forever. Maiden opened the door to other metal bands, as well as many other things in my life. Many of their songs had to do with history, books, TV shows, movies, broadway plays, and various other subjects. I learned from them while also rocking out to the amazing compositions. I was the only one in my class to ace the test on Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge because of the Maiden song of the same name. This band influenced my life in innumerable ways, and all for the better.
The biggest impact, hands down, was made by Maiden’s front man, Bruce Dickinson. From the first time I heard him sing, I knew I was hearing something special. Then I saw him perform on the video for Live After Death, and on a bootleg video my cousin got me of Maiden playing in Dortmund in 1983. From that point on, I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to be a singer, and front a band. I, basically, wanted to be Bruce Dickinson.
I’ve since seen the band play numerous times. My first time was with the singer who replaced Dickinson, Blaze Bailey. After he left, I got to see them on their reunion tour for Ed Hunter, which was at the Hammerstein ballroom in NYC. I was maybe 3 people away from the band on the floor, and it was incredible. Definitely one of those shows I wish I could go back to and relive over and over again.
Now, fast forward to a few days ago. A local bookstore was hosting a signing with none other than the man, Bruce Dickinson himself. He’s promoting his autobiography, which was just released. I sat in the crowd and waited for him to come out and speak. He spoke for about an hour or so, and it was great. He was funny, a little quirky, and pretty down to earth about everything. Finally, it came time to do the actual signings. He was only to be signing his name, no personalization, no photos, none of that. While I waited in line, it looked like an assembly line, and fans didn’t really have time for much interaction. This was likely because he spoke for awhile, and had it gone slower he’d have been there until midnight for sure. Regardless of this fact, my mind raced with things I should say to him. How could I possibly explain to him in just a few short words the mountainous impact he had, and still has, on my life? Hell, I’m writing this post right now, and I’m already well over 600 words, and I’m still nowhere near doing it justice. The time finally came, and I walked up. He sat right in front of me, easily the only celebrity idol I ever had growing up (sorry Billy, not that kind of Idol), and the emotion finally broke and crashed into me. It was like being hit by a tractor trailer doing 100mph. He looked up at me, and perhaps realized to an extent what was happening in my head. He reached out his hand to shake mine, and we shook hands. All I could manage to say was “Thank you, it’s an honor.” My voice shook a little as I spoke. I walked away and felt the waves crashing over me again and again. I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve ever felt like this after meeting someone. He inspired me to become a musician, then again to become a singer and front man. He’s why I try to be dynamic on stage. When I was going to a vocal coach, my goal songs were all sung by him. These are songs I aspire to one day be able to sing and perform. And it doesn’t stop there. He’s a fencer, an airline pilot, and even brews beer. He started an aircraft maintenance company and created jobs. He flew into countries during conflict to get people stranded there out and to safety. There’s so much here that inspires me outside of music, and inside of music he’s always been at the top of my list of influences and inspirations. In a way, I’m kinda glad it went quick. Considering how I felt at that moment, any conversation would’ve devolved me into a blotchy, emotional, slobbery disaster, desperately in need of some paper towels and perhaps a tarp. They’d have needed security to escort me out while my eyes and nose streamed horror, as I muttered incoherently through choked sobs and stream of consciousness ramblings inside my head.
I’m left with a surprising revelation. I’ve never been one to try for backstage passes to meet the band or anything like that, even with Maiden. In my mind, the last thing they probably wanna do after walking off stage is to hear my stupid ass grovel for half an hour in awe of their awesomeness and impact on my life. They’ve heard it before countless times, I assume, and probably just wanna shower and eat a sandwich or some shit. In spite of that, I think now I’d be interested in meeting them. Hell, I’d love to just bullshit with some of them over a few beers and talk about stories and what their take is on the whole crazy ride they’ve been on throughout the years. I think that’d be amazing. Still, if it never happens, I’ll be cool with that too. I’ll still always have their music and concerts, and that inspiration will certainly last me a lifetime, and hopefully I can pass it on to my kids. Hell, I’ve already introduced loads of my friends to them, creating die hard fans every time. It’s pretty easy when the band is that awesome.
TL:DR – Met Bruce Dickinson at a book signing, was totally composed, and it was fuckin’ metal! UP THE IRONS!!!
There was a pretty good turnout last night as far as heavy fighters go. I think total there were five of us, and we all got to switch off. I spent most of the beginning fighting another newer fighter, who’s very good. According to someone else there, he’s only been in armor a few months, about as long as me, but definitely more skilled. I also fought with Conrad, whom I fight pretty regularly, and a few others.
Overall practice went well. I’m still having a lot of trouble keeping my left leg protected, and might need to consider a longer shield since my legs are so long. I ate that shot quite a few times last night, mainly from the newer fighter. I also helped him with his thrust shot, since he was having trouble getting it right. He improved on it at practice, which was awesome. It felt great to be able to teach someone something for once. I still seem to be having calibration issues, and many of my shots are simply not hard enough. I really need to focus on mechanics to develop that power. This is gonna mean more pell work at home, which works out because I just got my pell set up in the yard. I’m gonna skip Thursday practice this week to let my leg heal a bit before Nutley next week, when it’s probably gonna get blown up again, and will instead work on the pell to try and beat the technique into my head.
Towards the end of the night, there was an issue between me and another fighter. I was fighting someone, who I’ll call Phil (no idea what his name is). He was very aggressive with his basket and shield, and kept punching my shield into me. I wasn’t sure whether that in particular was legal or not, but since other fighters were there and had fought him, I figured it likely was. I got legged, and while he was standing over me he started ramming down like he was when I was standing. I held on a few seconds until he made a big push and literally threw me to the ground. As I was getting back up, I said “throwing someone to the ground like that, not very chivalrous.”. I meant it as informational, but it was taken otherwise. Phil’s housemate, Hank (dunno his name either), stepped in to further discuss, while Phil geared down. I explained my reasoning and point, and was told that in their household such a thing isn’t said in that way. I vowed that while at their practices, I will respect the ways of their household and rephrase going forward. I didn’t get to talk to Phil about it after, and truly hope he harbors no resentment. Hank and I finished our conversation and had a few passes at each other. I went until I couldn’t hold my shield up and called it a night.
I felt bad that someone’s night got ruined as a result of something I said, but I was also taken aback that it wasn’t discussed right then and there and hashed out. I figure it was smoke from another fire, and I’m trying to let it go. Hopefully, if he’s there next week, Phil and I can hash it out and be cool.
This question has come up a lot in the past few weeks, whether it be from friends and family or from other fighters. From an outside perspective, I’m sure it can seem a bit odd. I dress is unusual clothing and armor, attend practices that last hours, and all so I can get hit with heavy sticks until I’m bruised as shit. Well, the outer part of it can definitely seem odd, but damn near everything I get out of it is internal. The stuff you can’t see. If you ever asked me that question, and wanted a more complete answer, then read on. I’m not gonna put a TL:DR at the end, so if you really wanna know you gotta just suck it up, buttercup.
I’ll start with the physical aspect. I HATE working out. I was never one who enjoyed going to the gym, or lifting weights and running the treadmill at home. I need the activity to be enjoyable. There has to be some other draw. When I was younger, it was skating street. I’d skate upwards of 15+ miles a day, so I was in awesome shape. This was also when I was single, and didn’t have jack shit to do with my abundance of free time. Fighting does that for me. It gives me a physical activity I really enjoy, and I already feel the difference in myself. I can fight for longer periods of time now compared to when I started only 6 months ago, so I’m definitely getting a benefit. I’ve also felt my strength and coordination get better. It’s also a great feeling to feel like I CAN actually do this. I studied martial arts (TKD) for a few years, and left just shy of being a black belt. I did sparring in that, and I was absolute garbage. I’ve also been in fights growing up, and never did all that well in them. Armored combat came a little more naturally to me, for some reason. I feel much more comfortable and way less useless. This feels like something I can actually do competently someday, regardless of whether I actually get to that level or not.
When I began in the SCA, quite a few people tried to get me into fighting. I resisted for a long time, recalling how awful of a fighter I’ve been in the past, and how I never really had the killing instinct. While my form and technique in martial arts was on point, I didn’t have that fire that I needed to be competitive in sparring. I think part of the reason was a fear that I would really hurt someone. I think my opponents being armored makes that a non-issue for me, and lets me push a little harder. I still don’t go full tilt, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I should be able to get it done without wailing on someone.
Now, the less physical. For me, there are lots of psychological reasons for me to do this. To start, the camaraderie amongst this brotherhood of fighters (lady fighters included), is amazing. Before I started, it seemed like it would be similar to the jocks in high school, and that even if I did throw my hat in the ring with them, I’d never truly be one of them because at heart I’m just a goofy, geeky loser who makes awful jokes and asks a million questions. In reality, it’s more like the feeling I got during tough mudder. The people involved come from all walks of life, and while they’re working on excelling as individuals, they also have the mindset to help everyone else around them achieve their goals as well. Sure, there ARE people who act more like the high school jocks, but they’re a rarity from my experience. I’ve worked with people from newer fighters up to veteran knights and dukes, and I’ve yet to run into someone who was a condescending jerk to me. They want to help, they want you to succeed, because in the end it just makes the game better for all involved.
Another aspect is that of honor. As you may know from a previous post of mine, I take honor very seriously these days. Because of this, I’ve actually been brought to tears by acts of honor I’ve witnessed, as well as acts that have honored me personally. An example of this was when a fellow fighter, whom I respect a great deal, invited me to be officially part of the Northern Army, saying it would be an honor to have me with them. I couldn’t actually respond for quite awhile, due to the emotion of it all. I know it may sound silly to those outside the society, but it is very much a thing for me. I feel…wanted. I’ve NEVER had that in an activity like this in my entire life, and I’m unbelievably humbled by it. People want me around, want me fighting by their side, want me involved in something they hold so dearly in their hearts. That means a great deal to me, and fills a place in my heart that I thought would remain empty forever. This is now a big reason for my push to get better. I want to be an asset to my team, I want to earn the place they’ve already given me, I want to pull my own weight and eventually be the man who people will want by their side. I don’t personally feel that I’m deserving of what I’ve already been given, regardless of whether that feeling is borne of logic or the specters in my past, so I will push myself to be the best I can be so I can truly feel worthy of being there. And once I’m there, it’ll be onto the next goal while I pay it forward to other new fighters.
Another reason is that it’s simply fun as all hell! It’s a rush squaring off against someone, or being in a melee. I love how fast paced, strategic, and sometimes comical it can be. Most of the time I’m fighting, I’m joking or just smiling. It’s a blast squaring off, getting smacked around, or trying ridiculous things in an attempt to land a good shot. Afterwards, I enjoy a good natured chat with my opponent where I can give or receive tips (mostly receive), and joke around about stuff. It’s super fun.
The last reason I’ll go into here is probably the strongest for me. Many years back, I began suffering from bad depression and a pretty nasty anxiety/panic disorder. I was crippled for months with constant dissociative panic attacks and depression bad enough that I wasn’t eating. Years of therapy, and a period of about 2 years where I took medication, helped me out of the hole. My anxiety problems aren’t gone, per se, but I am able to keep them in check. It’s a battle I fight every minute of the day inside my head, and it can be exhausting. Every minute…except when I’m in armor and fighting. When my kit goes on, the demons go silent, and it’s like waking from a bad dream. I feel more like my old self again, the me I could be before my mind broke. Sometimes I get that way when I’m really drunk, but that can lead to other problems so I don’t do it very often. I get out there and fight, and it’s freedom. My mind doesn’t have time to give me shit about anything. The feeling is also similar to when I’m singing on stage, but then I can feel a twinge if I’m performing difficult material and I’m concerned I might not pull it off that well. So this is the purest form of that feeling, and it’s all because I put on armor and fight.
So that’s what does it for me. I’m stepping on the field because I get inclusion, acceptance, validation, freedom, and peace. I’m driven towards excellence by honor, respect, service, and pride. I take pride in my advancement, and the feeling when I occasionally score a kill out of skill and not luck. I honor my brothers and sisters on the field, and my beautiful and amazing consort (the Lish!), by striving to be better. I serve this society by taking part, getting better, and encouraging those around me to do the same. I get quite a lot out of this game we play, it’s able to fill voids within that have been vacant for so long that I accepted their emptiness as normalcy. No matter where this path takes me, how it ends, or what happens along the way, I’m both happy and thankful to be on it. I thank you all who have helped me thus far, those who gave me subtle, and some not so subtle, nudges to get going. Those who have accepted me, taught me, pushed me, and helped to temper what was already there. Those who I inundate with endless questions, and who always respond with love, thorough answers, and a smile. You all do me great honor, and I’m in your debt more than you can possibly know. I’m humbled by these gifts you’ve all given me, and I will do my best to repay them with honor and purpose.
So yeah, that’s why I do it. Have any other questions? If so, let me know and I’ll ignore them for a few months before finally answering them! 😉
I actually considered skipping practice last night. My arm and leg and still pretty beat up and tender, and my sword is now cracked at the tip and getting a little pulpy. Thankfully, I couldn’t bring myself to stay home. I figured I’d go and if I got too beat up I’d just head out early. Prior to practice, a local fighter who hit me up on Facebook posted a message on my wall telling me that I’m doing really well for the amount of time I’ve been in armor. A few other fighters at my regular practices have recently told me the same thing. This, of course, goes counter to how I’ve been feeling as of late, that I’m not where I should be. I can’t even begin to explain how humbled I am that people are going out of their way to help me along and praise my efforts. It shows the truest nature of the fighter community, for sure, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I’ll get more into that later, for now let’s talk practice.
Sure enough, during my first fight, I got blasted in the right bicep…EXACTLY where I got hit last week and on Monday. I took a minute, and then got back in and took special notice of my defense so I wouldn’t be hit there again. This worked for me, and I didn’t take any more shots there for the rest of the night. I decided to try some new things this practice. For one, I watched the pell work video shown below and tried doing what he said in the beginning. I struck, pulled back to block the most likely shot, then went in again. I had varying results, but overall it helped more than hurt. Here’s the video:
I also tried moving around a lot more. I’d go in, back, to the sides, crouched, and this I think helped me quite a bit. If for nothing else, it kept my opponent on their toes. It also made it a little easier for me to get shots in, though my lack of speed and strength made most of them light. One thing that was also a challenge was the changes I had to make to my own guard when moving around. I opened myself up quite a few times because I didn’t adjust when I moved.
Overall I had a decent practice. I was able to fight a bunch of people and went against some different weapons I don’t usually encounter like a hand ax and a big pole ax. I wouldn’t say I did really well, but I didn’t embarrass myself or blast anyone in the pills, so that’s a plus!
Now, my six month checkup. It’s been about 6 months since my first practice in armor. I had done pell work for about 2 months back in 2014, then stopped going until I could actually get loaner gear and fight. This took me quite awhile, but I eventually got all my shit and made my way to my first practice the last week of April 2017, a little under 6 months ago. I went until late June when I had to take 3 weeks off because I was moving and also to let me hand heal from an injury. After that, I’ve been mostly nonstop, only missing weeks where there were no practices being held and I couldn’t get people to my place to fight.
Overall I think I’ve improved quite a bit, having started from knowing jack shit about what I was doing out there. My shot speed, power, and precision have gotten better, though still have quite a long way to go. Still, I can deliver a killing blow on occasion. My defense feels fair to decent, and I don’t get one shotted too often. I’m still easy to open up and exploit, but I’m getting a little better at reading those moves and adjusting. My mobility is also starting to get going, and I’m getting more comfortable moving around and not just standing there like a pell waiting for someone to wail on me. The biggest stride I feel like I made is my comfort level. I feel much more comfortable and at home in my gear, and I’m a lot more relaxed when I’m fighting. I still need to work on my breathing, though.
So I think I’ve come a fair way thus far. I’ll take the word of others that I’m doing well skill-wise considering my time in armor, simply because I have no frame of reference. They’d know far better than I would. In my mind, though, I still need a ton of work. My biggest focus is to get good enough to pull my own weight in my melee team. I don’t wanna be “that guy”, who’s on the team cuz we’re buddies and household-mates. I wanna be there because I get things done, because I help my team achieve goals. I wanna feel I’ve earned the place I’ve already been given, and the honor others have already bestowed upon me. I’m on the right road for that to happen, I just gotta keep practicing, keep fighting, and keep learning. Realistically, from what I gather from other fighters, I’ve got a few years to go before that happens. I just hope I don’t plateau before I get there.
Last night was a brutal practice. I went into it without my head in the game, so I feel like I fought like shit. I tried using the guard Stephan showed me, but was leaving my arm too vulnerable and paid for it quite a few times. I also tried working on footwork and not over committing my shield when blocking, but fell short of the mark nearly every time. I was definitely outclassed, for sure, but I also didn’t feel like I was in the right zone.
Then there were the nut shots. Though I was aiming for leg shots, I ended up hitting others in the cup more than once. I debated just gearing down and walking off because of how furious and embarrassed I was over the whole thing. I ended up throwing far less leg shots, and almost no body shots, from that point on. I also took two full shots to the cup, and one glancing shot, which were well deserved regardless of whether they were intended or not. I don’t know what it was. The first one I threw, I got. I was aiming lower, but he crouched more as I was swinging and I couldn’t pull the shot in time. The others I have no excuse for. I didn’t aim for it, my aim was just off and it got hit.
Apart from that, I pushed until I couldn’t lift my shield anymore. My sword arm and left leg took a beating as well, but I went until I had nothing left. Even in the beginning, though, my shots were slow and weak. I got a few in, but they didn’t have much on them. I just had no game. Couldn’t get around defenses, couldn’t put enough on shots, it was just a mess. I’m sure everyone has nights like that, and it really does suck. I’m hoping Thursday will be a little better.
There was some good, though. A younger guy at practice, who was filming some of the fights, was talking to me at the end of the night. Don’t really know much about him, or how long he’s been with the brood, but he mentioned to me that he was impressed with how I fought considering I’ve been in armor just under 6 months. I took it as a good compliment, even though I have my differing opinions on it. Still, regardless of whether I agree with him or not, or whether he was just trying to be nice and encouraging, it’s a cool thing to hear. I currently feel as though I’m not improving as I should, and that my current skill level is garbage for someone with as much armor time as I have. For me, positive feedback is always a hard thing to believe. If someone gives me positive feedback, I just assume they’re being kind and encouraging to keep me interested and positive. I don’t assume they actually truly mean the words. Negative feedback, however, is almost always taken at face value. What can I say, I’m a weird dude with shitty self esteem. I wouldn’t say to someone’s face that “oh, you’re just being nice”, cuz that’s kinda dick, but I can’t help but feel it. It’s something I’m working on.
Finally, someone on a Facebook group for fighters posted the following video, and it really speaks to me. It’s something to think about, and a direction I need to follow. I’ve linked it below, so check it out.
This week’s coloring:
So last night I went to Nutley for the first time with my buddy Ulf, another local fighter. I’ll admit I had some concerns going in about this being an elite only kind of thing, and that people wouldn’t want to spare any time for noob fighters like us. I’m overjoyed to report that this concern couldn’t be further from the truth.
We got there just as they were opening up, which was great. I met up with my buddy John, who gave me a run down of how practice usually goes. I geared up, and fought Arn, a fighter I’ve known for a while now. After him I fought Sir Douglas Henry, Sir Stephan, Sir Jan, and Duke Brennan. Every single person I fought was awesome with me. It felt very welcoming and comfortable. I never once felt like I was looked down on or that I was being smacked around for their enjoyment, which is something some newer people seem afraid of. I luck out that early on, after discussions with other veteran fighters, I was able to get in the mindset that I’d be ok fighting pretty much anybody without feeling intimidated. Sure, I know I’m gonna get my ass kicked, but squaring off against people at this level is well worth it. Everyone had very useful tips for me to work on. Footwork and mobility, moving my shield too much when I block, keeping my elbow protected, positioning my sword so I can more easily block onside head shots, and just overall working on my mindset when I fight. After each round of fights, my opponent would remove their gear and walk over to me to help me out. With all criticisms came equal praise of what I did that was right, which is huge to me. As someone who’s done martial arts for years, I always found that the best teachers were like that. It’s not just about the negative, it’s also about what’s being done right.
I know my reactions and footwork and issues I need to work on, as well as straight up pell work. My flat snap is more of a downward chop, which is something I have to work on over and over until I get it through my thick head. Also, for now I think my shield work is my main focus. My left leg is a general disaster right now from getting hit literally over a dozen times last night. I’m thankful that everyone I fought dialed themselves down, or it’d be far worse than it is. I can’t really say I have any complaints whatsoever, and just wish I was closer and could go out there more often. It was such an upbeat atmosphere, nothing like the member’s only club I feared it would be. I’ll be working on the feedback I was given that night and will hopefully improve on it for my next trip out there. I’ll wrap up with a few pics taken from last night.