It’s been a while since I posted everything so how about a GIANT post. In the past 8 days (Sunday 5/15 through Sunday 5/22), I have fenced 6 days. I decided I wanted to try and push myself and see what happened. It was a ton of fencing, a ton of learning, and a ton of fun so here’s a recap of my fencing adventure. Stick with me til the end because this story gets better as it goes.
Last Sunday started it all completely unintentionally. Rachael and I were originally going to go up to archery practice in Settmour Swamp but it got cancelled due to a possessed dishwasher. We decided that, instead of taking the day off, we should go stab people so we headed out the the local Iron Bog practice. Unfortunately, we made one very large mistake. We forgot to eat before going. This may seem like not a big problem but Rachael is hypoglycemic (think how low blood sugar affects diabetics but her pancreas still works) and I had planned for lunch and forget. We got to the practice and got to talking with the other fencers there and just chilling. Lorenzo told a few stories from Pennsic and marshalling and stuff and we all did some fencing. I warmed up with Rachael who has really come a long way in the few months she’s been fencing (she was a sabre fencer in high school but had to give it up in college). I tried to mess with her and throw some nonsense to distract her but she wouldn’t have any of it. She knew I was out of range so she didn’t bother stopping me and figured that if I wanted to tire myself out, I was welcome to. Afterwards, I fought Eldrich, a really fun fighter who runs the Iron Bog practice (who I also fight with at Bhakail on Wednesdays). We went back and forth for a bit until I started getting sluggish and hazy and we had to stop. Not eating for 7 hours and fencing do not mix well. It wasn’t the best start to a week of fencing but Eldrich is a great fencer to it was still a lot of fun even if I had to stop early.
Monday was my first day of my new job as a Clinical Research Assistant in Princeton and afterwards I decided to drive out to Hartshorn-Dale’s practice. It was a bit of a hike out the Pennsylvania but it was fun. I got there and got to fence some new people. After pick-ups we decided to have some fun and (with all 5 of us) did a few Roman melees (start in a circle where you can’t stab the people next to you until the circle is broken), Valhalla tourneys (once the person who kills you dies, you get to come back in) and a couple bar fights (start seated with all weapons on the table). It was a lot of fun and I’m hoping to make it out there again maybe once a month if I can manage. It’s a bit of a hike especially now that I’m working but we’ll see what I can do.
Day 3 was up in Glen Gardner to the Settmour Swamp. We had more people than I’ve ever seen at the practice (I think our final tally on fencers was 24 fencers) including Professor Pieter (a Bronze Ring from the Mid) and Po (a White Scarf from Aethelmearc though he claims he was not there and has witnesses to give him an alibi). I fought Mistress Elizabeth and luckily avoided getting another draw cut on my ass (long story for another time). Afterwards, I fought Po who and had a blast doing it. He is fast and unpredictable which makes fighting him a lot of fun. I managed to hold my own to some degree but still got my ass handed me to some degree. When I finished getting stabbed, I got in line to fight Pieter. He stood a head taller than Don Garrick (one of our regular OGRs who is about 6′ 2″) and, while he matched sword lengths the best he could, his arms were really long and he had almost a foot of reach on me. His first shot came in right to my head at a distance I thought I was safe. I managed to get one beautiful shot in that snaked through his guard but otherwise, he thoroughly kicked my ass. My usual tactics of staying out of range and snipe weren’t going to work against someone with so much reach on me. Lastly, I worked with Miles (an awesome archer who is now learning fencing too). A lot of his quick learning comes from his experience in martial arts though he’s got some kinks to work out from the overlap. I understand all too well what he’s working on (I was the same way when I started) so I’m working with him to turn some of the overlap into advantage.
Wednesdays may mean some people wear pink but for me, Wednesdays is fencing night in Bhakail. This week, Malcolm, Lucy and Jonathan made the drive down too. I started the night fighting James. We went back and forth for a while and took turns killing each other and having fun the whole time. After James, I worked with Lucy who is getting really good with her dagger. She’s getting really good at defending with it especially when she’s on the offensive. Now we just gotta get her to defend as well when she’s being attacked and get her to use her dagger for attacking too (I know you’re reading this, be prepared). I took a break for a bit to cool off and rest before going a few rounds with Jonathan with his handmade guard which is completely open except for a single ring to protect his index finger and yet that is the only place I manage to hit every time I try to snipe his hand. I should not drive a truck in a field with a single tree in it because I will hit that tree. I wrapped up the night fighting Juliana and then Master Pascual. I’ve fought Pascual before and always end up getting turned into a pin cushion. Wednesday was no different but I managed to hold my own better than I used to and I even managed to kill him a couple of times. It ended with me getting legged and trying to lean out of the way to void and failing badly to end up in a twisted heap on the floor laughing my ass off at the whole mess. I think I managed to take his arm in the process but an arm for a life is a pretty poor trade.
Thursday 5/19 + Friday 5/20
I took Thursday and Friday off partially to take a break because I was exhausted and was pushing myself harder than I have in a while and partially because there isn’t any practice nearby on either day (I checked the map).
Yesterday was “Maybe I’ll Try Something New” in Iron Bog where the barony holds it’s tournament for baronial fencing champion. I figured I’d enter since I now live in Iron Bog. The tournament set up was a round robin for 2 lists and the best two from each advancing to a final four single elimination. I’m happy with how I fought and ended up going 3-4. My favorite part was fighting against Colin and taking his hand and telling him what he told me when he took mine at Novice Day last year, “I’m keeping this” (referring to the dagger in our off-hands). I had some beautiful shots and had some beautiful shots thrown against me. In the end, Taka was announced the new baronial champion and Nero won the tournament but turned down the position due to feeling the distance would make it impossible for him to do the job (if you read this, congrats to you both. You both fought really well and I hope I get to fight yall soon).
And that brings us to today. Master Connor made the trip up from Atlantia and Don Remy, Don Malocchio, Dona Anastasia, Lupold, Sorcha, and Uraka (I apologize if I missed any titles, my brain is a bit fried at this point). Lupold was holding one of the tournaments to look at people for the Pennsic Fencing Champs team and I figured I’d enter for the hell of it. Was I expecting to make it past the first round? Hell no but you lose all the fights you don’t fence. As a wise fencer once told me, “anybody can beat anybody in any fight.” It was a double elimination tournament, bring your best form with about 20 people signed up, most of which being OGRs, Silver Rapiers and a Master of Defense. My first fight was against Declan who quickly jumped down my shorts and killed me. After that, I drew Wentlyana who I managed to slip through her guard and get a nice shot center mass. Next, I got paired with Don Thomas delbroc and I was sure I was done in the tournament. I took his hand and he took my legs so I dropped to my knees and hoped for a miracle. I guess my prayers got answered because I managed to throw a beautiful shot through his guard and took his hand. I walked back to a few shocked faced (I was later told the looks were of them impressed with the beauty of the shot supposedly). My adrenaline was pumping at this point and my hands were shaking when I stepped up to fight James next. I tried to turn my blade so we wouldn’t notice the tip shaking (turns out it didn’t hide it) and we went back and forth a bit with a lot of standing on guard at range. I’m not entirely sure what to call his drunken style of fighting (he sways and moves like he’s drunk which makes him unpredictable and makes openings look like mistakes when they are really traps. We were going for so long that everyone else had finished and was watching the two of us. In the end, I managed to take both his hands and the fight. Supposedly, the crowd saw my hand shaking too and thought I was getting close to being too tired to continue and they were just waiting for him to finish me off. After that, I drew Master Lawrence (who I’ve mentioned here before) who came out with a buckler. Part of me was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to take his hand through it but that didn’t last long when I dropped low and threw a beautiful shot into his chest. With that I had made it to the final 5. Master Antonio was still undefeated, Don Owynn and Don Orlando (2 of the OGRs I practice with on Tuesdays who have made me the fencer I am today one of which being my Don and both of which being good friends of mine) and Sorcha were the only other fencers left. I drew Owynn in the semi/quarter finals and he quickly ended my run with an absolutely beautiful shot that I never saw coming straight for my head until it was too late. The tournament ended with Antonio beating Orlando in the final round. After the tournament, we moved to melee drills and worked on 2-1 fighting, zipper-ing a line and 9-on-9 melees. For the sake of time and because you are probably sick of reading about all this, I’ll just say that it was a blast fighting in the melee and I feel like I’m working my way up to the point that I can pass on some of what I know to the newer fencers.
So after 6 days of fencing out of the past 8, there had to be a lesson in all of this right? Well there were several but I’ll focus on the big one. I honestly did not think I was going to be able to fight all out night after night like I did (with the exception of the first Sunday, i was soaked to the bone with sweat after each night of fencing). I didn’t think I’d fight as well as I did today in the tournament. I didn’t think I’d be able to help newer fencers as much as I have. I set limits and boundaries on myself and never really considered where they may be. I have a tendency of “setting the bar” but raising it before I reach it instead of raising it after I reach it. I never notice when the bar gets raised and honestly, it’s hard to tell how much you improve when you fight some of the best in the kingdom every week. This week was about pushing those limits and going above and beyond and never giving up. Do you know how to find your limits? Keep pushing yourself farther and farther and when you feel like giving up, give it one final push. Good luck and happy stabbing.