So I hit up both local practices last week, and I’m happy to say that my hand held up ok. I mostly fought lefty at the Monday practice, and was lucky enough to fight Sir Cael before he left to move back out west. He worked with me doing sword and shield, and helped me learn how to block and throw better in this guard. We also went over my foot placement to better generate power for my non-dominant hand. Something else that came up, which has come up before, is dictating the fight. I was more on the defensive, as I was when I started, because I’m not really confident throwing shots with my left. I can barely throw an onside killing blow, and my offside is just garbage when actually in guard. My combo flow is also really rough, and my wraps are non-existent. Still, it was a good practice for that, and I worked on some defense with Danx while using two-stick.
Thursday’s practice was similar in terms of progress. I don’t feel noticeably more comfortable with my left or when fighting two stick. I’m also not using thrusting tips, which probably makes this a bit harder, but I don’t wanna rely too much on that with my left and not learn to throw good shots. I fought Dante, Sabrina, Conrad, and a newer guy I didn’t know. I eventually did fight right-handed for a bit, and was ok, but I’m noticeably hesitant and have taken a very obvious step backwards. I’m hoping to gain some of that ground back before war this summer, and at least be back to where I was before Balfar’s.
Going forward, I plan on attending EK 50th, GNEW, and the EK Novice Day tourney. Hopefully this year I’m able to go a little farther than I did last year at the novice tourney, since this is the last year I can do it. After that, I’ll probably still go and marshal and/or do pick-ups. I dig that they do that event, gives noobs a taste of the pageantry and such.
As for my hand, I had the MRI and my ortho said he didn’t see anything abnormal in it, so he recommended I go to a specialist. I’m reaching out to a few to see who takes my insurance, and hopefully they can figure it out.
The past month has been sort of a roller coaster of emotions for me. I did have some amazing times in Europe for two weeks, one of those with the amazing Lish. I also was dealing with the issue with my hand the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it’s unusable or anything, it’s just that I had to wear a brace for a month and occasionally I’d move it the wrong way and get a twinge of pain. I tried not to think of how long this would go on, tried not to think about how it didn’t seem to be getting much better, and tried to just let it heal. I eventually took off the brace when the doctor told me, ran for my sword, and took some shots on the pell. Low and behold, the pain started to return after just a few shots. This hit me like a gut punch. Instead of maybe being back out there like normal, as if nothing ever happened, I was prevented from taking that step forward.
Lots of things ran through my head as I mulled this over. I knew that my orthopedist was gonna tell me I needed an MRI to see the extent and type of damage done, and at my appointment yesterday he said exactly that. Once the approval is in, I need to get the scan done and go from there. I also considered what this would mean for my fighting career. I’m right handed, and I’m a sword and shield fighter. It’s all I know, and for the currently foreseeable future I can’t do it. While I wallowed in my bullshit stew, I reached out to a few other fighters to give them an update on what was happening. I ended up talking to one for quite some time, and when she saw where my head was she proceeded to hit me with “the chair leg of truth”. She told me “Your self pity is a crutch for your fear of failure.”, and she was right, on that and what else was deeper than that. I was feeling bad for myself, and my fear of failure grabbed onto that as the excuse for why I couldn’t do it. I was so focused on not being able to do it the way I wanted, that I lost sight of the reality that I could still do it in other ways. I had already set the ball rolling to train to become a marshal, but after that conversation I decided to just train myself in different ways and get back out there. It’s a powerful thing, feeling like someone you’re not close with believes in you, and thinks you can do it. That conversation was just what I needed to clear my head of all the whiny bitch bullshit.
Part of me even considered briefly not mentioning any of this. I could keep my self loathing, self pity, thoughts of walking away, and the deep sense of defeat a secret. I could tell people I just decided to give it a go, and play it cool, like I was some pillar of inspiration, dedication, and discipline. But that isn’t what happened. I wish I had the strength to do it on my own, but I needed help. Why am I saying all this? Because if you’re reading this, you might be in the same boat someday, and you need to know that it’s not only totally normal to feel this way and need help, but that it’s OK to admit it. I haven’t really hidden much of my mistakes from people, out of shame, ego, or pride, but there have definitely been times. In recent years, I’ve made more of a point to suck it up and admit my weaknesses and mistakes. This was one of those. I jumped on the self pity train, and was looking for my seat so I could ride it out. I’m glad I never found it, and jumped off the train.
How did I jump off? Well, I started doing pell work with my left hand. I’m learning how to throw shots with it, and to hold proper guard lefty. Then, last night, I went to practice and fought. I mainly fought lefty sword and shield, using a center grip for my right hand. This was also the first time I’ve used a center grip, so it was quite a learning experience. I was mostly focusing on getting my stance right and blocking shots. I threw a few shots, but they were weak, clumsy, and awkward. I did manage to land a few properly and cleanly, but I just don’t have the power yet. I did fight a round or two righty, just to try it out, but kept it light and didn’t push. Later on, the center grip shield I was using broke under a flurry of greatsword blows. I then decided to try fighting two sword the rest of the night. This was WAY out of my wheelhouse. From what I was told by the others in attendance, two sword requires aggression and not a defensive style. I’m a very defensive fighter by nature, so this was extremely unsteady ground for me. I had a couple of fairly decent blocks I managed, but for the most part I got torn up. Still, regardless of how low my skill level was at what I was doing, I had a blast, and was grinning like an idiot the whole time. It was as if a big tightness in my chest was finally able to ease, and I felt much more comfortable being able to get in armor and fight again, even though I’m not anywhere near where I was before. In essence, I’m basically starting over fresh. It’s like being a brand new fighter again, and having to learn from the ground up. Throwing shots, shield movement, footwork, etc.
I also ordered up some gauntlets, and when those come in I’m gonna try polearm and greatsword to see if one of those fits me better and doesn’t cause discomfort. I know weapons depth is a thing people strive for, but that’s not really what I’m moving towards so much. I’m looking for one that I can do comfortably and that doesn’t hurt my hand. This way, should my righty sword and shield days be over, I’ll have another way to get out there. I’m not giving this up. It means far too much to me, a sentiment I didn’t fully realize until last night when I was back in armor. I will push, I will fight, and I will ride this ride as long as I possibly can. I owe it to myself. I will prove to my inner demons that I AM worth a damn, and that I CAN do this.
If you’ve been following my fighting posts, you’re aware that I keep running into issues with my sword hand. I was resting it leading up to the last melee practice in early April, and that day it started hurting again. It actually bothered me all week after that, leading into Balfar’s challenge.
I started the day with some pick-ups, and the pain kicked in right away. I was able to deal with it for most of the day, but by the end of the day it was pretty nasty. As such, I was only able to participate in one of the melees against the chivalry, and wasn’t able to do any pick-ups afterwards. It hurt the following days as well, so I finally went to my PCP. She ordered an x-ray, and told me that I needed to see an orthopedist. She also told me that the ortho was very likely going to tell me that I need to stop doing what I’m doing. I got the x-rays and made the appointment with the ortho for the following day. This left me to ponder the very real possibility that this incredible ride I’ve been on was about to end.
I was pretty fucked up that night. The idea that this could all be over because of this hit me way harder than I was thought it would. When it all comes down to it, a very large part of why I fight is because it focuses on honor, respect, chivalry, all concepts I hold very close. There is so much about being a fighter in this game that holds great meaning for me, not the least of which the camaraderie and brotherhood found amongst fighters. If I were to be permanently sidelined, that would be it. I’m not even sure I could be a marshal, but I’m clarifying that and will edit this post when I have more informations. I also wouldn’t be able to teach newer fighters, since I haven’t been doing so long enough and I wouldn’t be able to throw a solid shot as an example. More to the point, though, it would speak to my insecurities, mainly my impostor syndrome. I always personally feel this need to prove that I belong on that field, that I deserve to be there, that I’ve earned my place on the battlefield. It’s not that anyone has made me feel otherwise, it’s all me and my stupid lizard brain. Being sidelined would be affirming those fears in my head. It would say to me “You see? You really DIDN’T belong out there, and this is just further proof.”. I thought there was a chance I’d found my place in the society, and that place might be taken away.
I saw the ortho the next day, and I brought a sword to show him exactly what I’m doing. I explained it as thoroughly as possible, and was surprised when he commented on how neat he thought the whole thing was, rather than giving me sideways looks like other doctors. He examined my x-rays and said they were clean. No fractures, no breaks. He checked my hand out, and for the time being he decided that the issue is that of a repetitive injury. He gave me a splint to wear, day and night, for the next 3 weeks. After that, I need to go see him again and re-evaluate it. I can’t fight during this time. Once I have my re-check, he’ll determine if it’s likely all healed, or if I need to go for an MRI to see what might be the problem. So, it’s sort of good news, but I won’t know for sure until the end of May. Still, I HATE taking time off from practice. I feel like it’s a huge setback, and in reality it pretty much is. I have to claw for every inch in my climb towards competence at the art, and slipping just a little can push me way back. Still, if there’s a chance that I can keep doing this, I’ll do whatever it takes.
Now to address two final bits. I spoke with the Lish about this whole thing, and she mentioned what she’s heard from people in roller derby (for those who don’t know, she’s a badass roller derby chick!). Sometimes people run into injuries that will always be there, and will always give them problems. There’s a choice to be made, and that is whether to quit due to injury, or suffer through it for the sport you love, even if it fucks you up worse in the long run. If this is something like that, I honestly can’t see myself quitting. At this stage, this means too much to me to be able to give it up without one helluva fight. The other bit is the elephant in the room, and while it’s a sort of faux pas to talking about it like this, I feel it needs to be said (and I don’t really give a fuck). The goal of this path in the society is the white belt/baldric of chivalry. From the get go, I knew such a goal would be an incredible long shot, considering my skill and my age. Regardless, I could still daydream about attaining that level someday, and being worthy of such a position. If this becomes an ongoing issue for me, or if it kills my fighting career altogether, then it becomes the final nail in the coffin of that dream. I feel like the death of that dream would be easier to deal with if it was a slow death over time, and not the gunshot that this would be. Perhaps it’s better this way, best not to dream and get hopes too high. After all, not all paths lead there, and who am I to say that mine SHOULD reach that point. I guess time will tell.
This weekend past I got to participate in Balfar’s Challenge, an awesome melee tourney up in CT. The gist of the tourney is this: Everybody starts in triads, or teams of 3 fighters. All teams will have a name, our was Jocelyn’s Hedgehogs, as we had the honor of fighting for Baroness Jocelyn. The first round is 3v3, and the winning team absorbs the losing team. The new team fights under the name of the winners. The next round is 6v6, and so on, until there are either 2 or 3 teams at the end in a big melee.
My team was comprised of newer fighters. We had me, fighting for just under a year, Conri who’s been fighting just over a year, and Rodrigue who’s been fighting 2-3 years I think. For our first round, we decided to come up with a strategy, and somehow I ended up being in charge. Still unsure how that happened, but I did my best to just run with it. I put Rodrigue on the left, me on the right, and Conri in the middle just behind us. I did this because Rodrigue is a left handed sword and shield guy, and I’m a righty, so I figured having our shields in the middle would protect us from any shots thrown diagonally, and would prevent all of us from trying to throw shots in the same area. Conri also suggested that we throw leg shots so he could tag people when they dropped their shield. All of this sounded great in theory, and shit the bed when it all got going. The other team split up, two of them rushing me and their knight going to flank. Rodrigue got legged by Sir Zippy, but took him out on his way to his knees. I got taken out by the other two, who finished off Rodrigue, but got taken out by Conri. We absorbed that team and went on to round 2.
While preparing for round 2, I asked Sir Zippy what our strategy should be going in. His reply was that it was my team, so I should decide. Once again, I just winged it. I paired everyone off, and one pair was set to split if we needed two triads instead. The idea was to read the incoming team and be ready to split off to match their tactics. I can’t say whether any of that became relevant, because the leader of the opposing team literally ran me over during the initial rush. Sigur, their team leader, rammed into me and bowled me over. I went ass over teakettle, and he fell past me. I scrambled to my feet, and squared up on him. As we were about to engage, I saw 3 of his teammates bearing down on me behind him as well, but he didn’t see them yet so I rush him. I was able to take him out before I got buried under a rain of death blows. We lost the battle, and were absorbed into team Aim Low. We kept winning as team Aim Low until just before the end. In the finals there were three teams, so we did a round robin. Our team ended up third, as we lost both of our battles.
Personally, while I had a lot of fun being out there, I didn’t do well as far as prowess or tactics. I started out with my hand still bothering me quite a bit, and the pain got worse after just the first few pickups I did to warm up. After that, I participated in some unbelt drills and melees, which were being done to choose the unbelt team at pennsic. Don’t get me wrong here, I’ve ZERO delusions about that whole thing, but the more practice the better. Just after the tourney, I was able to do some pick ups, one of which was Sir Anoniii. Had some great passes with him, and learned some more about fighting against glaive. No less than 4 people came up to me after it with advice, which was awesome! After that, there was an unbelts vs chiv challenge. I went in the second wave, but tweaked my back when I fell and someone fell on top of me at a weird angle. At this point, I was totally done. Truth be told, I should’ve called it quits much earlier, since my hand was so messed up I could barely throw shots, but I didn’t want to miss out on this since it’s the last time I can fight at an event until the end of June, due to lots of stuff happening in my personal life.
I geared down after that battle, changed clothes, and ate. After that, I sat and watched the pick ups. I had major FOMO at this point, since all I really wanted to do was put my shit back on and go out there and fight some more. My body, however, had other plans. Even now, my hand is still messed up, and I’m going to the doctor this week to have it looked at. Still, I had a blast hanging out with the friends I’ve made along the way, and making new friends as well. I drove up with a local fighter, Conrad, who is mainly an Acre guy but fights SCA as well. This was his first time at this event, and he had a blast. Him coming with me also made the trip much better, as we chatted in the car the whole time. I got to fight alongside my buddy Conri, who did really well despite not being in armor for months and just getting over being sick.
All in all, it was a great event, and I had a blast. I knew I was going in at way less than 100% due to my hand, but just being able to participate and hang/fight with friends and brothers/sisters kept the shitty thoughts and feelings at bay. Hopefully the doctor doesn’t give me terrible news, and I can get back out there soon. My next event will be EK 50th anniversary, so here’s hoping I’m back to 100% by then!
Once more I ventured up North to Massachusetts for melee practice. Turnout was great, there was definitely well over 20 people there. We started out with warm up exercises and then did the single sword drill, starting with our off hand. Of course, I ended up getting nailed on my left forearm because my vambrace shifted, and my arm killed the rest of the day due to the weight of my shield pushing on that area. Once that was done, we started the other drills. I was also fighting against nasty stomach problems all day, and had to step out once because the pain was a bit too much.
One drill was called a 5 and 2 drill. You enter a circle against another fighter and can’t leave. One can throw 5 shots, the other only 2, at any time. Then you switch. It was great for making me think more about combos and really choosing my shots with deliberation, since I had such a limited supply.
Another drill had triads consisting of two fighters with only swords, and the third with only a small buckler. Buckler was in the middle, and couldn’t be killed, but the swordsmen could. This one was good and bad. It was good for the shieldman trying to protect the swords, but since he was invincible they weren’t trying to hit him at all, just those across from them. Afterwards, it was discussed and some tweaks will be made to make it more useful.
Next up was the triad drill we ran last time I was there. Two triads face off against each other, two sword and shield people, one on either side, and a pole/spear in the middle. When someone gets killed, they exit and another steps in to take their place. This is a great drill, and really focuses on filling those gaps when there’s a need. In future, we’ll have to organize a bit better so there are actually lines for either form, instead of just a free-for-all.
We did a really awesome drill where we split into 3 teams. Two teams clashed in a melee, and a hold was called. Then one team stepped off and the third got to rush without the remaining team being able to reset. I really liked this one, though I had to walk off after the first run as my stomach was killing me. This drill focused on reforming and changing plans on the fly, definitely something applicable to the melees I’ve been in.
After these drills, we did some pickups and broke for lunch. I fought some pickups, and finally got to work with Sir Zippy, who helped me better understand my shield movement and working towards openings.
After lunch, we mainly focused on two sided melees. They set up obstacles, which was great as a woods battle simulation. I took a nasty shot to my left calf, and another to the back of my right thigh. I had to step out for a minute or two after each of those so I’d be able to walk again, but I was fine after that. This was a great drill. Lots of on the fly decision making, lots of thought about angles and such, plus there were combat archers to worry about! So much fun!
After all of these, we broke for the day, did our pros and cons for the day, and then went into pick-ups and such. I had some great pick-ups with people, and pushed until I had to stop and pack up. Overall it was a great practice, and I’m about as ready for melee as I can be at the moment. I’m looking forward to Balfars this weekend, I plan on jumping in during the unbelt drills and such there. This is all stuff for people who want to make the unbelt team at pennsic at some point. I know I have no place on that team this year, but I could always use the extra practice and will likely learn quite a bit from it. More to come…
I know, I know, I’m way behind here. Mudthaw was a few weeks back and I’m slacking. OK, so this is not just gonna be about the fighting bits, as some other shit happened that I wanna talk about. I will start with the fighting, though.
So mudthaw is a double elimination tourney. The only other time I did one of these was back in July of 2017 when I did the NY novice tourney in Tappan. I did a few quick pick ups to warm up, then checked the lists to see where to report. My first fight was against someone I didn’t know beforehand. It went slow, and he kept hanging back towards the ropes of the list so I didn’t want to press him and keep having a hold called. I let him come to me, and that was just the wrong move. After a bit, he ended up tagging me down the slot on the grill. I should have pressed him, and dictated the pace. Instead, I let him do so and fought his fight. I think I had a chance at picking up a win on this one, but blew it by not following my instincts.
My second fight was against Budang, a dude I’ve fought before and am friendly with. My shield work was poor during the beginning of the fight, and I ended up getting blasted in the noodle straight on. Once the wave of pain and nausea went away, the marshal called to continue. I argued that a cup shot is technically a kill, and I’m toast. Budang asked if I could take it as a leg as a point of honor. I did so, and we continued. I did much better when legged, and didn’t let most of his shots through. Problem was, I couldn’t get anything on him with enough force. Eventually my arms started gassing out on me, and I took a shot on the top of the shoulder. To be fair, had I beaten him I’d have felt shitty about it, so I’m glad it went that way. If I win, I want to have earned it. I lost that match with the cup shot, it would only be right that the loss stand. We talked about it later, and he apologized profusely, but it was just a perfect storm. His shot seemed ok targeting-wise, but I shift just enough to take it the wrong way. It happens. I’ve done it to people as well. I did get a great compliment out of this fight, though. Someone watching said to me as I walked out that he was impressed by my defense when legged, and wants to get to that level. I was pretty taken aback and humbled by the statement. It was mad cool.
So that was it, two and out. I was hoping to get a win in there, I think it would’ve been a cool accomplishment, but it just wasn’t in the cards I dealt myself. Instead, I hung around for the pick ups to start. Pick ups were a whole other story. I fought pick ups for a few hours, all of it bear pit style. A few fights in and I was totally relaxed and fought much better. I got in some truly great passes, and one of my SCA housemates commented to the Lish about how much better I fought than the last time he fought me. It was pretty awesome. I did get blasted again by Duke Edward, who caught me with a downward chop on my right shoulder hard enough to elicit a yelp from me. I took some time to let it chill out and got back to work. Later on, as it was winding down, I was able to work with another new fighter who’s only been in armor 5 months. I went over some basic stuff with him, and it felt great being able to finally help someone out in a semi-competent way.
Before the fighting, I went to morning court. A member of my household was getting her AoA, and I didn’t wanna miss it. Sure enough, when they called her up they not only gave her an AoA, but a court barony as well!!! It was such an awesome moment, and I’m so happy I was able to see it! Her barony scroll was INSANE, with Pokemon painted on it in a period way. It looked amazing! Later in the day, our two dearest friends also finally received their AoA. They had NO IDEA! When they called them out, they were like deer in headlights. We walked them up, and I shot video of the whole thing. It was great! I really love seeing people get recognized and given awards, and having had a tiny little hand in these made it feel even more awesome! Granted, what I did was basically the equivalent of “hey, look at that awesome person over there!”, and eventually they’d have gotten recognized, but it still felt super to feel like I was part of it.
Anyways, overall I had a great day. Sure, my showing in the tourney was absolute shite, but whatever. I got more experience in tourney fighting, and had some really great pick up fights. I also got to see some awesome people get awards, which is also a favorite pastime of mine. All in all, a super good time. I also lucked out that my hand held up all day. Since then, I’ve taken a sort of sabbatical to let me hand heal up. I might try practice tonight, but my main focus is on melee practice next weekend and Balfar’s the week after that. Both should be a great time!
With all that happened last week with the new pup, I totally spaced on my write up from practice. I think I hit one of the Thursday Wantagh practices as well a few weeks back, but I don’t remember much from it now because that was the week Yuna got sick. I went out to Nutley last week. I had some trouble getting back into the groove of my stance and defense, and boy did it show. This also happened at Delaware yesterday. It seems that since Adult Swim, I’ve taken steps backwards. I knew this was coming at some point, but it still sucks. At Nutley I fought Sir Douglas, Sir Yan, Arne, Sir Stephan, and a few others whose names I can’t really recall. My shield placement was off, for sure, and now my right hand is giving me problems again. I’m OK the first few fights, and after that it just hurts and that makes it hard to throw shots at all, let alone with any power. I take it easy between practices, but it’s not really fully healing, so I’m thinking of going to a doctor to have a look and make sure I didn’t seriously jack it up. Perhaps after mudthaw, since I don’t wanna miss the pick ups there. Anyways, back to my fuck ups. I’m leaving my forearm out there again, and not holding it up like Jojo told me. I’m actively trying to work on this, but I still slip back into it when I focus on something else. I’m gonna have to devote a bunch of practices just to this so I can break the habit. Finally, on the unbelt group, people spoke about using another fighter to measure your progress. Mine currently is Arne, and last week’s fights were pretty telling. Usually I can tell by his body language whether I’m doing well or not, and this time it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t in good form. I’d like to say it was just an off practice, but Delaware proved that to be false. I wasn’t blocking what I should’ve been, and he was much more toned down than usual.
Yesterday I went down to Delaware for a practice. I was hoping more of my melee crew would be able to make it down, but only Vachir was able to make it. Still, it had a good turnout and I was able to fight a bunch of people for the first time. I fought Bran finally. We’ve been in two bear pit tourneys together, and never drew each other. I also fought Vachir, Arthur, Sir Thorisson, and a few others I can’t recall. Again, my fighting was off. I was sloppy, letting a lot past that I really shouldn’t have. After the first few passes, my hand started to ache and I was barely able to throw a good shot. Even the unbelts there who weren’t new like me were still toning it way down when fighting me, more so than I’m usually accustomed to. While I get the mentality, it’s a little frustrating as I use that as an indication of my progress, and I don’t feel I’m progressing the past month or so. I gave up the leg wraps a lot, as well as the slot and right arm. Overall, though, I did have a great time, and it was awesome fighting with people I don’t usually encounter. We had fun passes and lots of laughs.
My introspection and analysis on the way home was rough. I think I’m hitting that first wall at this point, and I gotta figure a way past it. I’m rapidly approaching my year mark now (very end of April), and I still constantly feel like I’m way behind the eight ball. It’s like if I focus on one thing and improve it, another thing suffers and steps back, like it’s some big juggling act that I haven’t quite grasped the timing of. For now, in the short term, I’ll spend this week healing up in time for Mudthaw. After that, I really need to focus on getting past this hurdle. Time is against me, and I need to keep pushing forward instead of stagnating.