Pennsic Recap: The Highlights

It’s been a while since I last posted here (miss me? If so, I’m sure your aim is getting better). This past week, Ellynor (mka Rachael) and I attended our very first Pennsic. We drove out and arrived on the Friday of Peace Week and got trolled in and met up with Berenika (mka Lucy aka big wolf sister) who helped us get to our camp by driving us up to our camp with Rachael sitting in my lap in her tiny Honda Fit (seriously, what did I do to yall to be punished like that? Ow) and helped us unload the car in VDK camp where we were staying (seriously, thank yall, especially Brennan and Caoilfhionn, for making our first Pennsic as amazing as it was). Rather than making this post a novel, I’ll stick with the highlights of the week with a brief summary (which can be elaborated on upon request).

1) Marshaling the battle of La Rochelle- I decided to marshal the battle of La Rochelle (unscarves vs OGRs/White Scarves/etc and MoDs). Since I’m still a marshal in training, I stuck by a marshal to help out. It was my first time marshaling a melee let alone one with RBGs (Rubber Band Guns) which was really interesting to watch. I originally stuck with Melchior and then a marshal from the Mid whose name I believe was Fergus. He kept me out of trouble and taught me a few of the finer points to marshaling like using your marshal staff to defend yourself if necessary.

2) Rapier Singles Champions- I had the honor of making the Pennsic Rapier Heroic Champions (singles bouts) teams as one of 3 alternates. Although I did not get the chance to fight, just standing with and processing with the team meant a lot and felt really good. I hope that in the future I may make the team and get to fight to represent myself, my don, and my kingdom.

3) Bouting with Master Anton of the Mid- Before the rapier champs match-ups were announced, I was warming up in the practice list and trying to control my nerves. I met a Master of Defense from the Midrealm named Anton. He was an amazing fight who helped me work on fighting from the balls of my feet and setting up my opponent to do what I want them to so that I can set up a second or third intention attack. What stuck with me the most though, was the advice he gave me. I confided in him that I have struggled with depression for years and as a part of that, I struggle to accept that I beat opponents by my own skill versus their own misstep. He suggested that I put myself in a mindset where all of my training and practice, all of the blood, sweat, and tears, is what allows me to beat my opponents. They may slip up but I still have to see the opening and take advantage of it to beat them. His words were very powerful and I hope that I may pass them on to another to help them as he helped me.

4) Bardic Night at VDK- On a completely different subject, Dutchess Caoilfhionn held a bardic night back at camp which was filled with a bunch of extremely talented artists including Master Grim the Skald, Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, Dutchess Caoilfhionn solo and in a duet with her daughter, Mistress Elizabeth Lovell (and her rendition of A Grazing Mace) and many others.

5) Causing Chaos with the Irregulars- On the Monday of War Week, the first battle commenced as a ruins battle of 5 flags in 5 different locations (a field, a forest, a castle, etc). For this battle, I fought along side Eldritch and Firebow under the command of Master Lawrence Thornguard with two objectives: if we saw trouble for our side, stop it, otherwise, cause trouble for the others. A number of times, we got into the enemy’s backfield and made them focus on us rather than the rest of our army. On a few occasions, I managed to hold off (and a couple of times take out) white scarves and MoDs. At one point, I joined the line close to a Master of Defense who I know and admire from Atlantia, Pan Connor aka the Damn Gypsy (yes, that is how he is known). At one point, he turns to the fighter next to him, points at me and says “kill him.” The fighter turned to me just in time for me to catch them in the face and take them out before the could set up. Knowing Connor and his love of banter, I turn to him and say, “now what?” He warned me not to get cocky but honestly, I was just trying to distract him so that he wouldn’t be killing my team and hoping one of them would kill him. It didn’t work but I managed to at least distract him for a few seconds which was good enough for me. Can I take him in a one on one fight? Not a chance but if I can keep a mod busy for a little bit, my team may be at an advantage at least for a little bit and sometimes that’s all it takes to turn the tides of a battle. After the battle, Master Lawrence gave me one of the biggest compliments I ever could receive. He told me that my don, Master Orlando (who did not fight because he was spending the day with his daughter on her birthday) would be very proud of how I fought. I can only hope that he is right because I felt really good about how I fought and I hope he’d agree that I fought well.

6) Later that night, Caoilfhionn, Ellynor and I decided to take the kids down with us to the Ice Cream Selfie Social being hosted by Master Phillip White. We enjoyed ice cream, got to see some friends, make some new friends and got to walk around the merchants before heading over to SHARC Pit and hang out with a bunch of great people (and Master Thomas de Castellan who I have to give crap to if for no other reason than he’s my grand-don and it’s fun).

7) The next morning was the stronghold battle where each side defended 5 flags that had to be captured in order and the side to do it the fastest won. We defended first and my unit with Orlando and Firebow was set to guard the second flag. Unfortunately, the unit that came at us was the Black Tigers, a group known for their skills on the rapier field. They knew of Bow and Orlando and targeted them. They ignored me, though since I’m a nobody with no honors so while they were throwing their shots, I targeted their legs and legged 4 of them. Since this battle did not have knee walking, after I legged the 4 in front of me, I took half a step back and smiled. I was just out of their range and they were no longer a threat to me or to my sides objectives. I have to say it felt really good to have managed to pull it off even though I realized upon dying that they were a distraction that played us. The flag had been captured as had the next two leaving just one left. All in all, it was a moment of great pride followed by an even greater humbling experience.

8) That night was Dutchess Caoilfhionn’s “Ladies Roving Keg Party” (which was pretty much just as it sounds, the ladies went around with a keg and had a party). My being male prevented me from going so I stayed behind to watch the kids. Since B was asleep, I got to join poker night with Master Frasier, Master Alesone, and Duke Brennan. Long story short, 3 is a magic number and it turns out I’m really good at getting lucky.

9) Wednesday held Archery Champions where I was again honored of being on the team as an alternate. I had the pleasure of shooting with some great archers/crossbowmen and had a lot of fun learning what I need to work on to get better.

10) Last highlight for this novel was thrown weapons. Allaster (sorry if I misspelled that) helped teach me how to throw axes and we were able to take part in King Kenric’s challenge of doing all the war points for multiple activities. Allaster had caught a shot to the bottom of the gorget in Monday’s fight which took him out of the fencing for the rest of Pennsic (thankfully, he was ok and hopefully will be fighting again soon). We threw some axes and knives (which I did surprisingly well for having no real experience with) and made an entertaining attempt at throwing spears.

As a whole, Pennsic was everything I could’ve hoped for (though I could’ve done without the heat exhaustion but that’s a story for another time) and so much fun. I can’t wait to go back next year. Thank you again, Brennan and Caoilfhionn and all of VDK for letting us stay with you and thank you Lucy, Allistar and Kara for showing us around. After getting to spend time with 10,000 of our closest friends, I’m glad I got to spend it with you guys.

Quest Recap aka “Do All the Things”

This weekend was Quest for Wit and Wisdom, the Settmour Swamp camping event where the new Archery, Fencing, A&S, Heavy, and Brewing champions are decided. Saturday was archery tournament run designed by the former champion Kinryu for which I was the Marshal in Charge for because he is not a marshal. The heat was brutal and the sun bore down on us all but overall, it was a fun shoot. Unfortunately, the day started a bit rough when Rachael sat down for the first shoot and her quiver shifted under her and ended up breaking two of her eight bolts. During the shoot, she hit the targets but her bolts blew through the target and got lost in the tall grass behind the range. Just like that, she was down to three bolts and would have had to bow out after the first shoot if not for the kindness and generosity of Baron Thor (seriously, thank you from us both). The first shoot ended up being a head to head shoot with 8 targets and each person having 6 arrows. Targets only counted for the first person to hit them. I’m not sure of the name of my opponent but we both rushed and missed our first few shots. After that, I slowed down and focused and took 4 targets for 8 total points. As the shoot went on with advancing men (which were actually really cool targets), making the best of a set of 5 shots in dice (which Miles and Rupert destroyed by getting straights of 2-6 for 80 points each), laurels, and saving Caesar. It was a lot of fun and in the end, Miles had the highest score but I had the highest score among those willing to take on the job making me the new baronial archery champion of Settmour Swamp. Rachael shot really well especially for her first tournament and she should be really proud of how she shot (I promise I’ll get your new set of bolts done before the next archery tournament). After the archery, we had a couple of kids come shoot on the range (out of respect to them and their parents, I will leave them nameless unless they would like me to mention their names). They seemed to enjoy shooting the targets especially the roman soldier. The heat and sun made most people call it short so the range cleared out for the most part after the tournament and the kids shoot. I decided to go check out thrown weapons since it’s on my list of things try when I don’t have so many other things to do. It turns out I have a knack for it because I was able to hit the target with all three axes (unfortunately, one went into the pink card that was negative points) but it definitely is something fun to try out more when I can. We ended up spending the night at my mom’s (since she lives up the road and a bed and air conditioning beats sleeping in the heat on an air mattress especially when the next day involves fencing and we both got sunburned a bit)

The next day started off with us both turning in our entries for the A&S display. Rachael had been asked by Don Orlando to make a pair of beautiful black-work cuffs prize for the historical tournament he runs at Pennsic which she submitted for the competition and I made a trio of squirrels in the German style of cut paper known as Scherenschnitte (pictures will be posted later). After that, we were off to fence. The tournament was very interesting and involved coins and cards and lots of stabbing and fun. In the end, Rachael had a beautiful kill on Don Owynn and I managed to land a very nice shot on Firebow’s mask. Everyone fought really well especially Rachael, Lucy (Berenika), Stacey (Elizabeth), Jonathan, and Dutchess Caoilfhionn (the f is for fun!). I love fighting you guys and can’t wait to fight yall again soon. At the end of the day, Firebow became the new rapier champion and, for a short time, all three of Orlando’s cadets (Vivian was the A&S champion who stepped down) were all champions in the barony. That’s all I got for this post. I’m sorry it couldn’t be longer and have more details but I’ll try and edit it later and add more. Keep doing what you love and finding new things and always have fun.

You won’t find your limits if you don’t keep pushing

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.

Sunday 5/15
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 5/16
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.

Tuesday 5/17
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.

Wednesday 5/18
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).

Saturday 5/21
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).

Sunday 5/22
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.

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.

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!

Practices