Melee drilling and a Question

This week was all about melees (well, mostly about melees). On Sunday, we hit up the local practice in Iron Bog (especially since we recently moved into the barony). We met up with some friends from the Carillion and Bhakail practice (Caoilfhionn, Kara, Alesone, Declan, Wentlyana, Collin, Larry, Eldrich, Lorenzo, Lucy, and a few others) The practice started out with some pick-ups and then we moved on to melee drills and tactics. One of the most important parts of fighting in a line in a melee is making sure you stay as a line. It’s not always easy especially when everyone takes different sized steps but gaps in the line make easy targets and that leads to holes and the collapse of the entire line (ok, that’s worst case scenario but still). Moving as a unit in a line is important as is being able to lead said line and moving as a group when receiving the orders. We all took turns leading the 5 man lines against another with one team being the aggressors and the others reacting. We cycled through and some lead better than others especially since some have had experience leading units before. Rachael and I used our training as camp counselors to be loud and direct with confidence which really helped us successfully lead our units.

After the 5-on-5 line drills, we switched into groups of 4 with teams of 3 in a line and the fourth acting as the “rabbit” who was to be chased. We each took turns leading and being the rabbit and pointing out holes in the defense of the line. When I played the rabbit, I noticed and pointed out that I could get the line to shift apart so that I could slip through. Since we didn’t have swords at the time, it was pointless to do so especially since swords would make the hole needed a lot larger but it was definitely something to keep in mind. When it was Lucy’s turn to rabbit, she did make a break through the hole and I tried very hard not to stab her especially since it would’ve ended as a punch because we were unarmed.

Lastly (at least in terms of melee drilling), we set up house out of cones with an entrance big enough for one person, in essence creating a kill pocket. The idea was to teach us how to work a kill pocket and how to work against one. It went really well back and forth until, at one point when Rachael, Lucy, Eldrich, Lorenzo, and I tried to attack the house. Lorenzo and Eldrich led the attack but were killed. I tried to give commands (when your commander dies, the first one to give orders is the new person in charge) but the other team could easily hear my plan. I had us back up out of the house and tried to give a general plan involving me committing suicide on their blades in hopes of creating an opening (not the best plan but 3 new-ish fencers vs 5 experienced fencers was not going to end well regardless without a bit of crazy and a lot of luck). Unfortunately, I made a very very stupid mistake and turned my back to the house. Rachael kept her eye on them and noticed when they came out but by then it was too late and we were all dead. It was an incredibly stupid move on my part but it’s a mistake I’d rather make in a practice than on the field of a battle.

Afterwards, I did some pick ups with Lorenzo which was a blast (I’d never fought him with sword and dagger before and it was awesome) and then we all headed to the diner. Overall the practice was really helpful, really fun and Master Larry (former rapier commander of the southern region) said I’m scary but in a good way. I don’t think he expected someone who’d been fencing for 2.5 years to be  as competent at melee tactics and stuff but I was thrown into the deep end when I started in Atlantia and tend to have an apt for strategies. I know for a fact I’m not experienced enough to lead any size group of people at this point but I’m willing to step up in the moment when it’s needed and that’s something that’s always useful.

Yesterday at Settmour Swamp’s practice, we had more people than I think we’ve ever had on the fencing floor at the practice. Mistress Elizabeth, Mistress Alys and Dutchess Caoilfhionn came instead of going to Carillion and we had our usual group of myself, Orlando, Malcolm, Niki and Jonathan as well as our newer fencers (Rachael, Lucy, Erika, Olivia, Ilea, Kelly, and Dominico) all joined us on the dance floor. Orlando ran the drills this time and we all paired off in groups of two then groups of four. I worked with Erika, Elizabeth and Jonathan on different things each (all have a lot of potential but we all have our own things to work on) and we all had fun with it. Afterwards, I fought Owyn with rigid parry (I had my cane, he had his leather wavy shield called a targa). We went a few rounds before he let me try the targa out and I gotta say I really liked fighting with it. I fought him and Firebow (who had shown up late because he works far over 2 hours away) with the targa and I really liked how it moved and especially how I could block blades with it. Owyn is going to help me make my own which is going to be an awesome tool to add to my growing arsenal.

The last thing we did were a few melee scenarios. We did everything from 5-on-5 line battles to bridge battles to capture the flag (which ended up with Elizabeth tackling the basketball pole with the flag). It was a lot of fun and all the fencing I’ve done since Saturday really reminded me how much I love fighting in melees. Whether it’s fighting as a unit or as a skirmisher, I love fencing toward achieving a purpose rather than to just beat my opponent (which is why I like teaching). It helps that many people, especially in Atlantia (where the blue scarf I wear is seen as the symbol fencer they see as a grunt instead of the symbol of a cadet under the guidance of an OGR) tend to ignore me or see me as not a threat. It is a mistake I rather enjoy capitalizing on when I can and I can’t wait to keep learning more and fighting in new scenarios.

I leave you for now with a question Orlando posed on all of us before we started drilling this last Tuesday. Why do you fence? Why do you drive sometimes hours at a time just to work and sweat and get poked and sometimes bruised? For some, it’s for exercise or for fun or to get better. Personally, I feel blessed by the teachers I have had over the years in Atlantia, the East Kingdom, and through people I’ve met and fenced all over and I fence so that I can learn more so that I may one day pass on what has been taught to me. I know I won’t be able to fence forever but I want to be able to help guide the next generation of fencers to be more than they thought possible. I want to help inspire people to pick up a blade and have it feel like an extension of their arm that they can use with skill that they never thought possible. Knowledge that is kept to oneself will one day fade away but knowledge that is passed on may live forever.


Event Recap- Night on the Town (Atlantia)

This past weekend, Night on the Town went German and I as well as Rachael and Lucy went down to Atlantia Friday night for the event. Rachael’s uncle lives down the street from the event so we stayed at his place and drove over the next morning. The morning started out a bit gray especially with the rain making everyone a bit damp but a little rain couldn’t dampen the morale of the East Kingdom contingency especially when the rest of the group arrived. We all decided to take a stab at the Blacksword (single elimination tournament) that started off the day. Half our group got paired against fencers out of their weight class (new fencers taking on gold scarves, white scarves, and MODs) but everyone fought really well. I drew a fencer from Atlanta who fought with the same fighting style with dagger that I did which was really cool to see and even though I lost, I put up a good fight and it was a lot of fun.

After the tournaments got everything warmed up, the sun had finally come out so most of us decided to grab lunch and do some shopping. The fencing started back up with 4 prize fights (a tradition in Atlantia that I’m not really familiar with but what I gathered is it’s for those being raised from blue scarf to gold scarf or gold scarf to white scarf and they fight everyone who challenges them). I knew two of the fencers in the prize fights, Bumi and Terasu who I’d met at War of the Wings last October (Terasu is one of the reasons I got into fencing in the SCA after watching him fight at my very first event years ago). I got in line and fought Terasu with sword and dagger which was a lot of fun. I took is hand pretty quickly and then he took my leg before we double killed.

After the prize fights and the ceremony to elevate them to their new ranks, Master Connor also known as “The Damn Gypsy” (I’m not kidding, just ask him or anyone who knows him) explained how the melee scenario would work. It was a really cool idea where the group on top of the hill (made up of about 8-12 fencers and half a dozen combat archers) created a “house” while everyone else had to get into the “house” and kill them all. Each group got 5 minutes to set up their house and then it was on. Being from the East where we don’t have combat archers in rapier melees, the group of us decided to let the Atlantians with bucklers and shields lead the charge. Elizabeth managed to narrowly avoid a combat bolt though hit her skirt but missed her legs under it (to which we decided her skirt midget was dead but she could continue fighting) and I got clipped with an arrow to the head and watched the house get routed. In the second round with a new group take the house, this time creating a hallway of doom that their fencers could slow down the onslaught and the archers (who had a 15 ft minimum range) could pick off people from the back of the “house.” I got hit in the ankle right outside the “house” so I had to knee-walk down the hallway into the fight. I moved like a herd of hurtling turtles and got there just in time to watch the last one fall but it was still fun. Then it was our turn in the house and the Atlantians loved this. We built our house with a small hallway the opened up into a kill pocket. Malcolm and I started out on our knees to make ourselves small targets while taking out the first to enter the house. We’d lost an archer who decided to join the aggressors and put the rest at the back of the house where they’d have enough range to shoot those coming in. I didn’t last long but in the end, we’d taken out half of their forces which was really badass (Go East Kingdom!). In the last round, we rejoined the mob (and the absentee archer returned) I switched out my dagger for a borrowed buckler and acted as part of the shield wall. I managed to deflect some of the bolts and arrows but Rachael caught an arrow in the throat after it was deflected off her gorget in a freak shot (this, lords and ladies, is why you always wear your gorget) that put her out for the rest of the day. It should be noted that she was and is fine with no bruising from the incident and that it was just a freak accident but her gorget quite possibly saved her life.

Rachael was understandably done for the day and some of us went into the woods battle which was cool but the heat, the holly trees and the poison ivy made for a short battle (plus the combat archers just complicated things a bit especially when it became hard for them to know 15 ft when on uneven terrain. Malcolm and I decided to join the last of the organized fighting (while others did pick-ups) which was a Valhalla battle. The rules were simple, every fencer for themselves and when you die, you’re out until the person who kills you dies. The only way to win is kill everyone else (or if time runs out, be the last man standing). I looked at Malcolm and asked if he wanted to team up for the mean time (why kill each other when we can work together) and he agreed and then proceeded to sit back and let me kill 3 people in a row. It was a blast and in the end Malcolm won the whole thing (they finally caught on that he was the equivalent of a white scarf even if he didn’t wear a scarf but by then it was too late). Overall, the event was a ton of fun. I wish I could’ve seen some of my friends from Black Diamond (the barony I started in) but I got to meet and fight new people, have fun and learn a ton. Plus, Master Connor said he’ll help me expand the EK Fencing Practice Map into Atlantia as well so that it can grow which is really exciting. Yesterday (Sunday), we went to Southern Region Sundays fencing melee practice in Iron Bog which I’ll post about later in the week with tomorrow and Wednesday’s practices. Until then, keep fencing, keep learning, and keep having fun!

The week that everything clicked

This has been a huge week in terms of personal growth and improvement. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been working with the new fencers at the Settmour Swamp practice on Tuesday nights. Last week, I ran footwork drills and, in one word on how it went, awkward. I had no idea what I was doing every though I had participated in the drill so many times before but I struggled to do the opposite of the commands I was calling out plus I made the mistake of adding left and right to the mix which just made things really complicated. This week went a lot better. We had 3 brand new fencers plus about half a dozen beginner/intermediate fencers (most of which are up to slow bouting but not full speed yet with a couple recently authorized fencers).

This time, with Orlando’s supervision of myself as well as the new people (it’s hard to watch 6-8 people during footwork drills and correct any mistakes without losing the tempo of the drill). Things went according to plan and we were able to fix some mistakes people were making especially involving overshooting one’s knee when lunging and/or having their front foot slightly off (both of which will cause knee problems later on). Then I remembered that half of our new fencers have never worked with their non-dominant hand at all so I told everybody to switch hands. They looked at me like I’d lost my mind but, thankfully I had Orlando (who is known for his ability to fence well with both hands equally) spoke up saying he always starts training with his non-dominant hand and then switches when he gets tired. I also pointed out that there are going to be times (possibly a lot of times) that they lose their dominant hand and have to fight with their other hand or  concede the fight. They seemed to take all of this into mind and switched. We moved on to distance drills in pairs where one person leads and the other maintains distance. Rachael and Kelly decided to take it a step further and whenever Orlando (who was watching the clock so that I could pair off with Wulfgar) called “switch” they also switched hands so that, in the 4 times the drill was run, they each led with both hands and followed with both hands. I felt really good about how was progressing as a teacher (though I got some very large shoes to fill) and I felt really good about how everyone was progressing in their learnings. It feels really good to see people get better and know that I played a part in it (even if it was a very very small part).

So after drills, I did some fencing with Kelly (one of our new fencers who is getting close to authorizing) and she fought really well. She accidentally came in with a percussive shot to my funny bone (sadly, it’s the third time I’ve had that happen) and my arm pretty much went limp. She felt horrible about it but I assured her that I was fine and that accidents happen and just to be careful. She’s starting to notice openings I was leaving and caught me off guard a few times which is really awesome to see. Afterwards, I fought Malcolm which is always a blast. Malcolm is one of my favorite people to fight because I can’t get in my head when I fence him. If I start trying to over-think things, he’s already jumped down my shorts (no, not literally), stabbed me and spun away. I have to fence him at a fast pace and fight completely on reflex and it is a blast. Just like Owynn mentioned last week, Malcolm told me that I was making him work a lot harder to kill me. I go into every fight trying to kill my opponent and, if that isn’t going to happen, I’m going to make them work to kill me. The fact that the two of them (who know my style because they fence me every week) have to work even harder now to kill me makes me feel really good about my fencing.

Yesterday, I drove out to Bhakail (I’m loving how it’s close enough that I can go every week) while Rachael was seeing Alton Brown with her mom. My first fight was with Berrick who fights with curved swords (which is a very very different game). Long story short, it was a blast. I don’t get to fight against curved swords often especially a pair of them while I fight with a dagger and it was a ton of fun. At the EK Rapier Academy a few weeks ago, Berrick taught a class on fighting with curved sword. I took it with two intentions: learning to fight with a curved sword for when I can eventually afford one, and to learn how to fight against one (know yourself, know your opponent). I used this when I fought him and made sure not to let him get blade contact and to not let him close distance. At one point, he closed and we ended up grappling a bit (holding each other’s guards) and I somehow managed to slip lose and catch him in the head.

After catching my breath, I fought a fencer named Eric who I’d never met or fenced before. At one point, he asked me if I was trying not to kill him because I’d parried and had openings to just extend my blade and kill him but I didn’t. I didn’t realize it because I didn’t notice the hole until after we broke back apart. I assured him I wasn’t purposely not killing him and was just slow to pick up on the opportunities and we continued fighting. Next, I fought Melchior with single (his height and long arms give him a serious reach advantage) but I managed to hold my own fairly well and managed to kill him a few times. I started to notice that, somehow, I’m able to bend my arms in ways I didn’t think possible really and managed to throw shots that were beyond what a normal parry could catch. I’m definitely going to keep this in mind and make sure that I can still defend myself with my off hand while throwing shots like that. My last fight of the night was with Declan with rigid parry (in both our cases, a cane/stick). Cane is my second favorite form behind dagger (I like having a variety of range options that dagger gives me) and I tend to fight more aggressively with it than I do otherwise. Last night was no different and I surprised myself with how well I fought with it. Everything slowed down and I was able to think three moves ahead and plan things out that worked beautifully.

Everything this week just clicked into place and I can’t believe it. I fought with a level of confidence that I’ve never been able to manage thus far in my fighting career and it really paid off. I’m so excited to fence in Atlantia this weekend on Night on the Town and then at Southern Region Sunday practice in Iron Bog. This is going to be fun.

Archery season is coming

After a long winter of coldness plus several weekends on events and rain and more coldness, Rachael and I finally got to go back to archery again. In retrospect, pants were probably unnecessary. In order to not end up getting shot in the ass for not wearing pants at archery, next time I’ll go with shorts. After some general socializing and whatnot, we inspected our bows (Ray inspected Rachael’s since he’s in training to be an archery marshal), grabbed our quivers and got to shooting. I forgot how much I’d missed shooting. It is one of the few times I can actually focus all of my attention on a single train of thought (the rest of the time it’s like someone put Ozzy Osbourne in charge of Penn Station). Over the winter, I made a new set of arrows (soon to make another dozen once I finish at least a dozen of Rachael’s bolts) an inch longer than my old set so I can’t shoot both in the same round (different lengths and weights will affect flight path and [insert physics explanation that sums up to the arrows will go different places]). I was considering just putting my old set in with the loaners but it turns out Kerry’s arrows went missing/broke/are no more so I gave her my old ones and am going to teach her and her fiance, David how to make their own (they both really want to learn).

So I finally get up to the line and start shooting at the 20 yard target and I try to continue what Phillip had me working on in counting down from 2 so that I don’t take too long to aim and end up missing when my hand starts shaking. My first few rounds weren’t bad, I was shooting in the high teens which is a decent start for the season (for those who may not know, you shoot 6 arrows at 20, 30, and 40 yard targets and as many as you can get off in 30 seconds at the 20 yard target for an official royal rounds set so when I say I shot a certain score, it’s out of 30). Then I did something I’ve never done before (but have photo evidence that it did happen which I’ll post with this). I completely zoned out (or zoned in I guess) and shot 4 golds, 1 red, and 1 blue (gold=5, red=4, blue=3, black=2, white=1) for a score of 27! I was so excited with it that I took Ray’s advice and wrote it in as the start of a royal round (you can shoot them in any order you want as long as you shoot all 4 rounds consecutively) even though I hadn’t dialed in on the 30 and 40 yard targets.

Instead of changing distances (and aim points), I decided to shoot my timed end. I usually only carry 6 arrows so that I don’t have to count how many are left or how many I shot already. I’m supposed to make each shot the first shot as per Phillip’s instruction (see, Phillip? I do listen) For a timed end, I usually add an extra arrow or two in my quiver just in case I can get into a rhythm and get off more than 6 arrows. Ray counted me down (a marshal or MIT has to count you down with a stop watch) and I got my first shot off in the gold but I started to rush and fumbled an arrow or two. I still managed to get 17 points with 7 arrows (I missed with 2 which is bad for me but I’ll get back into my rhythm and do better next time). What I took away from this is I got off 7 with a bit of stumbling which makes me wonder if I can get off 8-9 in 30 seconds (and this is where Phillip yells at me for trying to shoot faster instead of better). My goal is to get better shots off but if I can get 7 in the red and gold and maybe an extra arrow in the blue or black, I’ll take it. My 30 and 40 were pretty bad (6 and 9 respectively) but that just means there’s lots of room for improvement. Overall, I shot a 59 which is by no means my best (my average of my top 3 shoots over the past 12 months is 73.33 with my best being 77) but it’s way better than I was doing at the beginning of the season last year by probably double. I won’t get the chance to shoot this coming Sunday (going to Southern Region Sunday practice in Iron Bog instead) but next week I’ll be back and shooting again. I got to get started on designing targets for Quest since I’ll be the archery Marshal in Charge (as a back up in case something happens with what the barony’s champion comes up with) because time flies like an arrow (looks straight but if you take a close look it’s really all wibbly-wobbly).


Archery shoot 4.17.16.jpg

Map of Fencing Practices in the East Kingdom is Officially Live

I am very excited to say that my personal project- an interactive map of all of the fencing practices (or as many as I could find information for) in the East Kingdom- has now born fruit or at very least flowers.

Let me start from the beginning. A few months ago, Duke Timothy of Aethelmarc created an event,  that was essentially a massive practice for fighters and fencers alike so that we could learn and grow from people all over the known world (I believe there were over 300 people from 12 different kingdoms there). It was an amazing weekend (Rachael had just started fencing, as had Lucy) and all of us got to learn a lot and fight a lot and had so much fun. On the way home, Rachael and I were talking and I came up with an idea. What if there was a way to see all the practices around a person. I also know a few people who travel (either within their own kingdom or to other kingdoms) who may have some time to kill and want to go to a local fencing practice so I figured why not make a map?

I went on to google maps and started putting pins down for the practices that I knew about. I decided that just the locations may not be a ton of use so I decided to add information like time and day of the practices, if there are any fees associated with the practice (to help keep the lights on and offset the cost of the site), location (sometimes just an address is hard to find when the name of the building would be a lot easier) and who runs the practice. Me being the stickler for details that I am, I decided to color code the pins based on what day the practices were on (red for Mondays, orange for Tuesdays (yes I did follow ROYGBIV intentionally for those who noticed)).

I then found a list of all of the baronies, shires, and cantons in the kingdom and went to each’s personal website and checked if they had information about their local fencing practices. After that, I sent out an email to each baronial fencing marshal (or seneschal if I couldn’t find a marshal) and told them what I was doing and asked if they had information and/or corrections that could be added to the map. I didn’t get as many responses as I’d hoped but I was able to find a ton of information on my own.

When I started feeling confident that I had a decent draft, I posted it to the East Kingdom facebook page and asked if anyone had any information to change/add. I got a ton of compliments and enthusiasm about this as well as a bunch of people contacting me with information for it. After talking with the Kingdom Fencing Marshal, Master Frasier, he told me how proud he was of me for doing this (which I cannot honestly expressed how much that means to me. Master Frasier, you are one of my role models for fencing and someone I aspire to be like as I grow.) and suggested I contact Brian of Stonemarche who is the kingdom webminister. After sending him an email last night with a link to the map, he responded that it is an awesome idea though I forgot a practice, his. Oops! I immediately used the info he gave me and added it in (and apologized profusely for missing it). I woke up this morning to find an email with a link with my map on the East Kingdom Rapier website and Rachael can attest to my squealing with joy over this. Months of work all coming to be made publicly available so that it could be used to help people. I am so excited that this can now be viewed by anyone who may be looking for practices around them or is new to fencing and wants to know what’s around.

My dream of this map coming out to help people from all over has now come to light. My goal with this, though, was not JUST to help those in the East Kingdom fencing community. I want to inspire others to take this idea and maybe do it for other activities (heavy fighting, archery, A&S, dancing, etc) as well as in other kingdoms. Maybe one day we can make a site with all the practices in the Known Worlde! And that is why I am posting this here. I know my following is very small as of right now but I’m hoping it will grow. I’m hoping people will see this and not only use it but also add to it, learn from it, maybe expand it into other disciplines or kingdoms. That is where you come in. Please please PLEASE (pretty please with sprinkles on top) tell your friends about this. Spread the word. I don’t care if you mention me at all. I didn’t do this to look good, I did this because I want to help others and I want this to become a thing. Spread the word, let’s get this to take off and make it happen in other kingdoms too! Let’s show those who have been fencing for a while and those who are just thinking about getting into alike what is around them. Help build the fencing community into something the likes of the SCA has never seen. Make new friends, fence new people. help those around you, teach, be taught, never stop stabbing (and parrying), never stop learning and most importantly of all, never stop having fun. Thank you all.

Yours in Service,

Ciaran ua Meic Thire, proud fencer of the East Kingdom

P.S. here’s a link to the map. If you’ve got ideas to make it better, information to change or add, or general comments, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks!


Fencing lesson of the week: Just Keep Swimming

So yesterday took a rough start. Completely unrelated to fencing (and the SCA altogether). On my way to my second day of work, I tried to stop short when the car in front of me slammed on his breaks and I ended up hydroplaning and crashed into him. Luckily, nobody was hurt and the insurance is taking care of everything. This however, left me spiraling downwards pretty fast. For those who are unaware, I suffer from depression. I tend to go through periods of normalcy interspersed with days/weeks of being a self-loathing hermit. The SCA has helped me handle it a lot better than I used to and has given me a sense of confidence that was unknown to me previously. If there’s interest, I’ll write a post about how the SCA has helped me through some very dark times but for now let’s talk swishy-poke.

So I wanted to stay home last night (Rachael was going to Carillion after work and I didn’t really want to people (yes that is a verb). The fact that I didn’t want to go see friends and/or fence tells you just how crappy I was feeling but that’s why I decided that I needed to go. So I went and was put in charge of running footwork drills with our beginner fencers. While it could have gone a lot smoother, it seemed to go over well with everyone and I’d like to think I was able to help them progress but only time will tell. After footwork drills, I worked with Lucy on her dagger work. Her dagger finally arrived so she was itching to use it (especially itching to stab me with it). Her defenses with it are getting good though she can be a bit eager to parry with the dagger instead of her sword (I know you’re reading this, don’t forget your homework). Next step is going to be getting her to use it for offense as well. We worked to fix this by putting the swords down and fighting with just the daggers. The goal was to get her to see the dagger as an offensive weapon as well as defensive. As was pointed out to me afterwards, it looked like we were using them as mini rapiers instead of daggers but that’s just something to keep in mind and work on in the future. One of benefits of our dagger fight was it did get her to start moving more. The beauty of SCA fencing vs “olympic fencing” is that we can move in more directions than forwards and backwards. Sometimes thinking laterally is the best way to kill your opponent.

On the topic of thinking sideways and killing opponents, after working with Lucy, I got the chance to fight Owyn. Unlike every other time I’ve fought him, I actually managed to hold my own to some degree and killed him on a few occasions. I was moving, parrying, and fencing better than I ever have against him and was finally able to stop thinking and just fence him. Afterwards, he told me that I made him work too hard though I’m pretty sure this was a compliment (it’s hard to tell sometimes since Owyn likes screwing with me whenever he can). Overall, it turned into a great night that really helped everything.

So, it turns out that that forgetful little fish was onto something and not just when you’re feeling blue. Standing still just makes you an easy target for your opponent to stab you. That isn’t to say standing still will automatically get your killed or that it’s bad. We fencers strive to be the epitome of efficiency in killing our opponents with the least amount of movement/work required. At the same time, not moving at all is a good way to get dead. A fencer’s first line of defense is to parry their opponent’s shot but their second is to not be where their opponent’s sword thought they’d be. Your opponent can’t kill you if they can’t hit you and they can’t hit you if you’re out of range. At the same time, getting stuck in your head will just bring you down and when life’s got you down, what should you do? Just keep swimming.

Rule 1 of dagger: Stab them with it. Practice report 4/5-4/6

This week involved practices in Settmour Swamp and Bhakail, the two practices I work to go to every week when I can. First up was the Swamp practice on Tuesday night. I started the night off fencing the newest baron of the kingdom (congrats again by the way, your excellency), Yehuda. It’s been a while since I’ve fought him and, instead of my usual tactic of retreat until the opening presents itself (and at times make him yell at me to stand still so he can stab me), I only backed up half the time and was a lot quicker to notice openings and get in to stab him. I got some good shots in on him and he had some good shots on me and overall it was a lot of fun. Afterwards, I took a break and fenced E (the littlest fencer of not even two years of age who loves to fence with my dagger) with foam swords and lightsabers. Fencing him always brings a smile to my face as well as everyone who watches (it’s hard not to smile at such an adorable toddler fencing) but then it was back work.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Lucy (Berenika) and been teaching her some tricks that have been used on me over the past couple of years so she’d learn not to fall for them too. She wanted to start learning dagger so I borrowed Malcolm’s, handed her mine and started teaching her the general basics of fighting with a dagger. She gave me a look when I told her the first rule of fighting with dagger is that you can stab your opponent with it and that the second rule was not to parry your own sword. It seems like it shouldn’t need to be said but I’ve watched so many people forget that their dagger is for offense as well as defense and I’ve seen a few people (myself included) parry their own sword when they started out. I told her to practice at home with a ruler in her off hand (her dagger hasn’t arrived yet) to get used to moving both weapons independently without binding oneself. She picked up the idea of parrying with her dagger really quickly (it turns out she’d worked with Garrick on it previously) so I moved on to teaching her about using both weapons together to “pass” the opponent’s sword out of the way and close the distance. We started sparring a bit and made sure to keep her focused on which weapon was a threat (the dagger isn’t a threat at distance and the sword is not much of a threat when you are an inch from your opponent) so I could wave my dagger all day long at her when we were at normal distance and she shouldn’t get too worried about it unless I stepped in. She took my hand a few times and had the chance to take advantage of her two blades against my one and it was really heartwarming to see her having so much fun and picking it up so quickly. Afterwards, I talked to Malcolm and told him what I’d worked with Lucy on and asked if I could help out teaching the new fencers so I could learn how to teach. I feel that part of becoming a good fencer is being a good teacher so that I can pass on what I’ve learned just like my teachers have passed on their knowledge and experience to me.

Last night, Rachael and I drove out to Bhakail (which is awesome because it’s only half an hour away so we can go every week. I was asked to dance by Morwill so we brought our daggers and got to playing. We went back and forth the whole time trading shots but neither of us connecting with a kill. Honestly, that’s the kind of fight I prefer where we get to go back and forth a bit and have to work for the kill instead of spending the whole time killing someone with one shot. He was fighting left-handed so our daggers didn’t really do much until someone closed and then we went back and forth parrying blows and having a blast. When we broke apart at one point, he mentioned that he was slightly distracted listening to the story from a fencer on the side. I laughed and breathed a sigh of relief because I was in the same boat. Does it count as a advantage/disadvantage if both fighters are equally distracted? We continue going back and forth, he took my dominant hand a few times, I took his, it was a stabby good time.

Lastly, I got to fight Melchior whom I’d only ever fought a couple of times before, the most recent being when he was a lava otter (East Kingdom’s agents of chaos) in a woods battle last November. For those who don’t know him, imagine a man six feet tall with a sword in their hand standing in the woods with their face hidden behind a mask. Now imagine that you don’t know if he’s a friend, foe, or non-combatant and anytime you ask him, he says nothing and just stares at you or starts giggling. I have to say, hearing talk at practice at first threw me off. We got to fighting and fighting we did. By the end, I was winded, poked, and had a blast. He pointed out to me that whenever he threw a shot, my immediate response was to counter-attack with my sword and hope my dagger parried his shot. Sometimes it did, sometimes I got stabbed. He suggested I work on using my sword for defense more and dagger for defense less. I’m going to take his advice and work with single more so I can focus on my sword parrying. On the one hand, I do need to use my sword more to parry and my dagger to attack and I’ll definitely work on it, but on the other, I realized that I was fighting more aggressively than I used to which is something I’ve been working on. It’s a step in the right direction and shined some light on what another step should be down the road and all with the fun of stabbing and getting stabbed.

As I told Lucy and every new fencer I work with, in a fight it’s never about winning or losing. It’s about learning and having fun. Whether you killed them or they killed you, everyone can learn something from their opponent and as long as you have fun doing it, you already won. Yeah, it sounds like something we tell kids in little league but this is a hobby and what good is having a hobby if you can’t have fun with it? More to come soon. Until then, keep stabbing, keep learning, and keep having fun.

-Ciaran Ua Meic Thire