Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Saturday practice in Coldwood

A bit ago, several of us spoke about organizing a joint Coldwood/Outpost practice in Coldwood, on a Saturday. Kit volunteered to host it at her house, and we announced it on both lists.
Practice started at noon, and we rolled in right about then. Ended up with Rhys, Jimena and I being the only ones who were able to go from here. Coldwood turned out well, with Kit, Snorri, Aiden, Ivar, Mike, and a transplant from Atlantia whose name I forget. Ambrosius also showed up a bit later.
It was a laid back practice... we wanted to work on skills and fundamentals, and did a good amount of that. I think we all tried to get in fights with everyone there, and discussed what was working and what wasn't.

I worked with spear a bit... Mike loves spear, and I don't completely suck at it, so I worked with him for a bit. We talked different stances, different ways to throw spear shots, and how to work as a team and against a team. I tend to not really fire to full extension with a spear, generally not having my front hand lose contact, and as such end up at a bit closer range. Dunno if it's right, but it seems to work most of the time.

Fought with Snorri a bit, which I like to do. He fights too high... center of gravity above where it should be for good balance. We talked about it, and discussed possible fixes. I find that breaking things down to football technique works best, as we share that background. Optimally, I'd like to have him doing footwork (agility)drills and slow pell work with me... the agility drills would help with cardio and I think would help get his center of gravity back where it needs to be.

Fought with Ivar, which I have not really done before. Ivar has a bit of a tendency to rely on strength rather than mechanics, which will wok in the short run, but will result in him tiring faster. Also talked about the hind brain taking over... at one point, I saw him kind of leave his own eyes, and whatever animal lives in the back of his mind take over. We discussed harnessing the energy that gives you without letting it drive.

Kit and I fought a few different times, with my sword and shield, and with my axe. She is a bit intimidated by the axe, and we were discussing why. She got lit up by an unexpected shot from it one time, and it probably goes back to that. I do use the intimidation factor with the axe sometimes, but I tried to help her get by it. Kit is doing well as a fighter, her biggest issue is self image. She sees every mistake and flaw, and focuses on those, to the detriment of what she is doing right. We talked about that, but I know it's a hard thing to get past.

Not much to say about the Atlantian transplant, as I didn't fight hum much. Seemed a little reliant on upper body strength rather than technique, but I also don't know how long he's been in armour. Seems to want to get in close and brawl a bit, but he's going to have trouble with it without a bit more polish on the body mechanics of throwing close in shots.

Jimena is back in armour after a while out due to life. Was good to fight her again... her style is very different than most I'm used to, and I get to play with some fun angles. She also has the ability to pick out technique flaws and problems, even ones she can't necessarily do. She can see the problem and suggest corrections well.

Scrapped with Rhys, which I always like doing. He's a fun fight with varied technique, and I feel like he brings out a good fight in me. Rhys is an amalgam of styles, and combines raw power to immobilize or displace your defense with good targeting on combinations. I fought him two stick against his shield deliberately, as it's something I'm trying to work on. He was nice enough to let me flail about like an idiot trying to get the left side of my body to obey me.

Fought Aiden a few times... sword and shield, axe, and two stick. He has a solid defense, and a reactive offense, and is always a tough fight. We didn't fight alot, but mainly worked on things. He made a good suggestion for training my left hand sword that I'm going to use, suggested to him by Karl Von Sussen... put my right hand sword inverted, and not strike with it... just use it to block a bit and fire with my left hand. i had been trying to do left hand sword and shield, which I will still work on, but this closer duplicated the feel of trying to fight two stick while making me concentrate on the left.

Only fought Jaime a couple f times, so I have no real input there...

Had some excellent food after... thanks again Kit for hosting, and for feeding us.

So overall, I need to work on several things. I intend to work my agility drills for footwork and cardio. I'd like to get a pell to work on, and do more slow work on it. Left hand needs work... alot of it. That will be pell work... basically, my body is so wired to fire with the right hand, it's still doing that potion when I throw with the left. Practice.
Also... I need to work on fighting fighters who are legged. I suck at it, and find that I avoid firing leg shots because I don't want to fight people on their knees. I need to either get someone to just let me practice this, or start legging people more. :)
It all comes down to practice. Because it's one thing to know it... it's another thing to do it.
"Training and education are two different things. Training gives you a skill set to perform a specific task. Education provides you with academic theory for problem-solving issues."
~ Master Sgt. Juan Lopez, USMC

Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Woods Battle

My first Pennsic woods battle was a game changing experience for me. The woods battle is one of my very favorite things in the SCA. I was born in the country, and grew up running around in the woods. I am comfortable there... I understand how to move in the woods, and how to use terrain. Master Harald told me that this would be important... understanding the terrain and how to use it to your advantage can be key in a battle, and that can make the difference between winning and losing. I was about to find out how true this was.
Cannon goes off. insanity breaks out. Run teams are away to hit the flag points first. Master Harald being a big guy, and not as fast over distance, we get a bit separated from the main pack, and end up kind of on our own... a unit of maybe four of us. We made our first enemy contact with a much larger unit... about twenty wearing red tape, stepping over the remains of a unit they had just snuffed. Twenty on our for. It hardly seemed fair.
We contacted the left flank, and obliterated them. To a man.
First one called out "ENEMY RIGHT!!!"
Harald laughed and said "Thanks for telling us who you are." The fighter tried to lead a hero charge, straight at Harald, his shield up. Harald stopped the guy on his basket hilt... placed it on his shield, and kind of tossed him backwards. He ended up draped over a dead tree, and as we start to step by, he looks up at Harald and says "You know I'm not dead yet!"
Harald executed him.
We hit the unit, and just folded them up. As they opened gaps to move around trees or rocks or brush.... we hit the gaps. We folded them into the trees and made them open up... and killed as they did. We didn't rush, or really move fast. It was calm, collected, and professional. It was the start of a wonderful day.
A bit later, as we rolled through a stretch of woods, Harald got killed. It was a pretty light shot, but you could see he thought it was good. I killed him right after he threw the shot, and Harald and he started to discuss it. I knew Harald was going to take it... no sense in going off with bad blood over it... so I rolled on. What I thought was a short little stretch of fighting was actually about a twenty minute fight... I remembered almost none of it. Complete blank... I remember hitting the edge of the tree line, and then Harald getting gakked. That was it. The fighter brain just took over. That was my first experience with that...
After all this, a while later, I decided to grab a few guys and go play in the deep pines on the eastern side of the woods. I had maybe half a dozen guys join up... enough to have some fun and maybe cause some trouble, but not enough to get sucked in to guarding something boring. Most were guys I knew and was comfortable with. One was a camp mate, Andrew, whom I didn't know well, and honestly didn't have much use for. When he asked to come, I agreed, with the caveat if he didn't follow directions, I would shank him myself.
We ran for a while, jumping small units (10-12 guys) and killing reinforcements. After a while, it was just Andrew and I, and we continued to do well. We cam upon two guys, leaning against a tree. I walked up, and stood in between them... I was thinking of just killing them outright... I had engagement, and they were just staring at me. Instead, I asked politely if they would like to take their guards. They shrugged, awfully cocky, and took up guards. Then, I looked past them, and realized why they were so confident. I knew we were behind the lines... but we had ended up on a Midrealm rally point. We were looking at what, it seemed at the time, the entire army. I looked at Andrew and said "OK dude, fighting retreat! I was hoping we could make it back to our lines, where I could hear what sounded like a breakthrough coming towards us. We started backpedaling, and made it almost to our guys, when Andrew got hit. One second he was there, then gone. I had about half a second to register that, and then BAM... three spears came through the spot formerly occupied by his shield into my chest. I went down... right at the feet of our advancing troops.

Later that night, I was hearing stories about the woods battle from Andrew, and was amazed... whoever he's been fighting alongside sounded like a badass! I realized he was telling stories about me. Once again, this section was largely a blur... just snippets of fights and flashes of engagements... but to listen to him, I had done well. I disbelieved some of what he said, but others corroborated and filled in blanks. I learned that solid tactics and use of terrain can make or break a battle, and well coordinated attacks by pairs and triads can overwhelm anyone's defenses.

I also learned that people telling your story can make you seem like far more of a hero than you really were. :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

What to expect when you're expecting... to go to Pennsic.

My first Pennsic was Pennsic 29... August 2000. We had thought about going the year before, but decided that having the money to move into our new apartment was more important. :) We picked up a Coleman tent, Suzy madly sewed garb, and we prepared to go. We were travelling with Bob, along with our (at the time) protege brother Earnan. Bob had a large van, so we piled all our gear in, and left in the middle of the night heading south. It's about an 8 hour trip, and we were planning on arriving about breakfast time on I believe Friday of first week. It was hard to stay awake on the trip down... none of us had slept, and we had to keep poking each other awake. The rumble strip woke us a couple of times... but finally, we arrived.
Our first notion we were getting close was the smell of wood smoke coming in the van windows. Right after that, we saw it... the expanse of Pennsic stretching out before us. My first impression was of a refugee camp meeting Camelot... the mix of modern and canvas tents, the vehicles... it was amazing. Coming down Currie Road, and pulling up to the gate for the first time... the excitement was amazing. My heart was racing, and I had such a great feeling, that I was actually there! I still get that feeling, every year walking up to the tent to get my Pennsic medallion. 

What To Expect

Extreme Weather

The first night we ever spent at Pennsic was below 40*F. We started a list that year on the way home of all the things we wished we had brought - and more blankets and flannel pjs were at the top of the list. Now we use wool garb, but the idea of having warm, snuggly clothing to throw on for a chilly morning to stumble out of your tent in search of coffee or the nearest portajohn still holds true.

The first or second year we went, there were people with blisters the size of cookies on their shoulders and bright red, lobster skin. The UV index was off the charts during the daytime, and it was hard to make sure you had enough SPF on. Large-brimmed hats, veils, and other ways to shield your face and neck from the beating sun are popular at Pennsic for a reason. Bring high-SPF sunblock, other ways to shade yourself, and if you can’t remember the last time you applied sunblock... do it again. Also remember that you can sunburn through clothing.

We had a few years we couldn’t go to Pennsic because life intervened, so we missed two years of “Mud-sic” as some called it. We heard incredible stories of campsites flooded out and using scuba gear to find missing items. While we didn’t witness that level of flooding, hardly a year goes by that some of the residential side streets aren’t closed to traffic due to feet-deep mud-ruts. What will you do for footwear if everything turns to muck? Do you have one set of dry clean clothing stashed in the car just-in-case? How will you dry your clothing if it rains constantly? While there are years we haven’t used the rope & clothespins we pack, we’ve never regretted bringing them. Our campsite has trees to string a clothesline up, and our tent is tall enough to hang things inside - you might not have trees or a big tent. There are also laundry machines & dryers on site, but they fill up fast - there are other laundromats within driving distance, so it’s worthwhile to get directions in advance.

Rudimentary Bathroom Facilities 

Another thing that made our “wish we had” list quickly after our first Pennsic - a piss pot! You will need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, in the most miserable weather possible, without fail. It is a wonderful thing to know that there’s a terrible downpour right outside your door and you don’t have to go out into it. It works for us because we don’t share a tent with anyone else, and our tent is big enough that we’re never in danger of knocking it over when it’s full. I’m sure some men use soda bottles with great effectiveness - but who wants to bring a clear bottle to the portajohn in the morning to dump out? Yuck. Our pisspot works well because it’s the right capacity, has a nice sturdy lid, and it looks like just another piece of pottery. Best Pennsic purchase ever.

Despite having a pisspot, using the portajohn in the dark may still be necessary. It’s convenient to have a good clip-on flashlight so you have your hands free and can check to make sure the john is not covered in drunk vomit before you use it (which rarely happens in our neighborhood, but certainly can happen). It is *very* considerate to have a red filter on your flashlight so you don’t blind anyone else on your way - red light helps you retain your night vision. It is also handy to have those warm snuggly clothes that are easy to throw on, and shoes that are both easy to put on and are sturdy enough to protect your feet and ankles while you’re tripping over tent stakes and into sump holes in the dark - ask us about friends with twisted ankles....
Also expect to be fascinated by flush toilets at the end of two weeks... “Oh look... it swirls!!!”

Lots of Walking 

We’re in the best physical condition of the year right before, during, and after we come home from Pennsic. We’ve realized that we enjoy our time there more if we have the physical stamina to be able to have a fun-filled day and have a little energy left over to walk to visit friends, etc. at night. There is a *lot* of walking at Pennsic, sometimes uphill both ways. One end of Pennsic to the other is in the neighborhood of a mile and a half (as the drunk walks), and walking from our camp into “Pennsic Town” is about half a mile.

Even if you do a lot of walking at home, it’s probably on sidewalks and other even ground. Most of Pennsic is dirt roads, and when the roads dry out after a big storm they can leave big ruts to navigate around. Pennsic does have a (free!) bus that runs at intervals, but most of the time it’s faster to walk than wait for the bus. There are also disability services for those who have need of it.

Impact on Physical Health 
“Pennsic Plague” may sound funny, but it’s no joke. Who wants to spend their vacation in bed, sick? If you haven’t already thought about how to keep your body clean and your kitchen prep sanitary, now’s the time to start thinking about it. Pennsic provides similar challenges to other camping situations with no bathroom or kitchen facilities and limited running water access; the major difference is the number of people you’re coming into contact with in a condensed area (over 10,000) and how sweaty and dirty you & your campmates get while heavy fighting, etc. There are lots of resources on the web to help you plan, but here are some basic ideas to get you started:
1) handwashing station - this can be as simple as a bowl, jug of water, and bar of soap (portajohns only have hand sanitizer, the nearest sink is a long walk away)
2) if you’re cooking in camp, you must have a way to boil water to wash dishes - many people use paper products instead of regular dishes, but you still need to sanitize the cooking utensils and gear
3) drinking water storage - you should purchase drinking water and have it accessible at all times (there is limited access to running water), and think about ways to carry water with you as you walk around Pennsic
4) first aid kit - How will you keep a cut or wound clean and sanitary under camping conditions? There is access to medical services on site, but you really don’t want to trek down there every time you need a band-aid.
5) sex - You may think that you can go [fill in the blank] amount of time without a shower, but no. You’re wrong, for so many reasons. Safe sex means more than just using condoms - it also means thinking in advance about how to keep your body physically clean and hygienic with limited shower facilities available.

Possible Financial Stress

Pennsic has the best and most merchants available at any SCA event we’ve been to. The temptation (especially your first year) will be to BUY ALL THE THINGS. THEY ARE ALL SO SHINY AND I MUST HAVE THEM. No. Do yourself a favor and 1) set a budget for spending money before you go to Pennsic, and 2) make a list of things you’re looking for. Set your budget and stick to it so you have enough money to get home, and be prepared to break down/ have the unexpected happen.
When planning what you’re going to buy at Pennsic, prioritize things that are either only available there, and/or are better bought in person... need to be tried on, looked over, etc.

You will stand around waiting for battles to start. You will stand around waiting outside A&S tents for the previous class to finish. Waiting is practically a sport at Pennsic. Prepare to wait... have water and sunscreen with you, and maybe some snacks. This won’t just help you... it may make you some new friends. :)

Things To Think About 
  • How are you getting there? Driving, carpool, caravan? If you are taking the bus or plane, arrangements will have to be made to get to the site, and your gear may have to be sent separately. 

  • Will you be camping with a group, or single? Many shires, baronies, households and kingdoms have their own group encampments. If it’s your first time, these may be an option. It will give you a support structure, and folks to help guide you at your first Pennsic. However on the flip side... you do not have to camp with one of these groups. Make sure you are camping with people you can coexist with. You are NOT required to camp with your local group... you can camp with whomever will have you. Talk to different groups... ask how their camps are run, what fees and chores may be involved. 

  • What will you be planning for camp gear? Are you going to try and do 100% period camping, say screw it and go modern, or somewhere in between. I can not recommend canvas tentage enough... it will stay cooler in the sun, warmer in the cold, and just downright looks better. However... it is not required. If you have a tent already, you don’t have to buy a new one just to go to Pennsic. 

  • Will you be fighting? If so, you need to have an authorization before Pennsic. We do not do them at Pennsic, and no authorization card, no fighting. Some melee specific practice is also a good idea... being tossed into a crowd of 100+ fighters is an experience all its own. :) 

  • What are you eating? If you are with a group, they may have a meal plan you can buy in to. If they don’t, they may have communal kitchen facilities. If they don’t, you will either need to bring your own, or plan to eat at the food court for every meal. This is possible, but is also an added expense to figure in. Pennsic Produce, a source for fresh fruits, vegetables, and more has been a welcome addition in recent years to the food merchants. 

  • What are you wearing? Pennsic is between one and two weeks, depending on when you decide to go down. One set of clothing may have been fine for that weekend camping event you went to, but it ain’t gonna cut it for a week, much less two. You may not smell yourself, but everyone else will. You need to plan on having enough clothing to last... there are laundry facilities onsite, though cramped, and there are some offsite. Make more garb, and plan on doing laundry at some point. 

  • What are you doing? Seriously... there are hundreds of classes, dozens of battles and tournaments, more merchants than you’ll find at any other event, and parties every night. Figure out what you want to do, then start paring down... most people plan too many things, and don’t leave space for things that pop up spontaneously. You will find a last minute class you want to attend, meet someone who wants you to go to a party, or get invited to a dinner. With too much stuff planned, you will end up stressed and frustrated. With NO plan, you’ll be lost. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breakdown of my SCA armoured combat kit

I recently received and email from an individual who had saw my gear, and asked a series of questions about doing something similar. I decided to use his questions as the basis of a blog post.

I am new to SCA and would like a combat kit with a look similar to yours - conical and mail.
  1. What are you wearing under the mail?
  2. Right now, I wear a combination of plastic armour and sports gear. The body... kidneys, ribs, and spine... are covered by a set of plastic plates padded with foam. They are narrow plates hinged with webbing for flexibility. They are actually going to be replaced... they don't need to be as narrow as they are, and I think wider plates will actually function better.What are you wearing for your elbows?
    Arms are covered by a leather vambrace attached to elbow cops (actually lacrosse elbows, though they are also being replaced) and lacrosse pads on the biceps.
  3. Knees?
    Knees are protected with aluminum cops from Bokolo, mounted on mizuno wraparound knee pads. I don't wear much other leg armour... I have my football girdle with pads over the hips and tailbone, and thin padding in the leg pockets. I am thinking of upgrading here, but haven't decided with what.
    Mizuno VS-1 Kneepads
  4. Shoulders?
    Chest, shoulders, and upper back are covered by lacrosse shoulder pads. This gives me padding, as well as hard points on the shoulders.
  5. Neck?
    I have my aventail for neck protection, and wear nothing else.
  6. How is the attached aventail working for you?
    It is working well... I have taken hits to the aventail, but never had one hit my neck or throat. I am thinking of going back to wearing a gorget though, for the simple reason of setting an example for new people. I don't want someone following my example but not having as protective an aventail to get hurt.
Can you offer any advice on how to put together a kit like yours?

  • Take it one step at a time. 
  • Concentrate on getting each piece right, and make it fit. Either make it, or have it made for you. If it's made to fit, you can wear it under the tunic and maille, and have the end result look like that's all you're wearing. 
  • Linen. I can not stress this enough. I used to wear Underarmor... I switched to linen undertunics. I have not looked back. I wear linen tunics, and linen pants. They are worth the money. Linen is not terribly expensive to buy, and if you cannot sew or barter with someone for sewing, http://www.linengarb.com/ is an excellent source of inexpensive linen clothing.
  • Shop around... but ask around. You will occasionally find an amazing deal that is too good to be true. It often is. I have seen many people burned by shady vendors. Most are good, and bad ones will take advantage of that.
  • Wear your gear. Don't wear it just for tournaments, or when you want to look good... practice how you play, and be used to the armour. Maille will change how you move... if I leave mine off, I am off balance, and it just feels wrong.
What has worked?
  • Maille. Seriously. When I started out, I was repeatedly told that what I was wearing was just an encumbrance, and was useless for our game. Maille may not be the best solution to protect you from crushing blows on its own, but it does take a good deal of power out of a shot.
  • Medieval solutions. I have reinvented the wheel a ridiculous number of times.
  • Maintenance. Take care of your gear, and it will take care of you. Stuff will wear. Learn how to fix it.
What hasn't?
  • Sloth. Get off your ass and practice, and you won't be blaming the gear for fatiguing you.
  • Hockey gloves. Yes, they're legal. No, they're not smart. Yes, you may end up getting a finger popped like a hot dog in a microwave.
  • Half assed shortcuts. Yes, duct tape will hold that part on, but there comes a point at which you need to just bite the bullet and rivet a damn strap on the thing.
As always, feel free to comment, and to post your own questions.

Monday, April 15, 2013


In 2010, the woods battle at Pennsic changed to the new woods. This year was the first year that one of my fyrdmen Ger fought rattan at Pennsic. He had served the Eastern forces on the rapier field in past Pennsics, and began armoured combat that year. It was also the first year that I fought rapier at Pennsic... so we were both fighting heavy and rapier war points. The armoured woods was held in the morning, and the rapier woods were in the afternoon.

Part way through the armoured woods, Ger and I answered a call for aid, and found ourselves on the banner point. They asked for someone to hold the banner… there had to be a hand on it at all times, or it would be considered contested, and no points would be awarded for the count. I dropped my spear, drew my scramaseax, and told them I would hold it or die in the trying. (A flair for the dramatic is one of my weaknesses)
The fighting was very close to the banner, and it was a hotly contested point. Fighters were dropping out of the line for brief periods of rest, and I was being my usual smartass self, making jokes to entertain and keep the mood light. This was the first appearance of “The Reverand”... my caricature of a revival preacher there to “Baptise our enemies in the name of Odin and Thor and Loki”! Basically, we were trying to not get overly bored, and keep the banner detail fun.
Ger and I sang a song by The Cruxshadows called “Winterborn”… a song about a group of warriors preparing to stand and die fighting. We thought it fitting, given our duty at the time.

Right after this, a fighter comes back from the line, exhausted, and sits against the tree in front of me, at my feet. He looked up at me, and I realized it was the Prince of Atlantia. I told him to rest, that we had his back. He smiled and thanked me. At this point, one of the Atlantian warriors mentioned to him that we had sung “Winterborn”. He grinned, and said he was sorry to have missed it. His Highness asked “Have you heard 'Sophia'? It has what I consider to be the perfect knight’s oath.”

When we confessed ignorance of the song, he stood eyes bright, energized… and recited the chorus as if it were poetry, an oath to do what is right and good, no matter what, set to verse.

Do not injustice to another
Defend the weak and innocent
Let truth and honor always guide you
Let courage find a life within

Stand up when no one else is willing
Act not in hatred or in spite
Be to this world as a perfect knight
Even if it means your life

To have the heir to their Kingdom reciting this, while the battle swirled around us as we stood to our duty, was an incredibly powerful thing for me.
Ger and I in the woods photo BG.jpg
Ger and I in the rapier woods.
That afternoon in the rapier woods, I ended up standing on another banner... with another bunch of Atlantians. We held the banner at the end, and I cut it down, handing it to the Atlantian Raper commander. We marched the length of the woods, and returned it to the King of the Midrealm.

Later that night, His Highness made us welcome in his camp and shared a beer with us, introducing us to his consort, and telling her that we had stood fast by the banner and protected him during the battle. We were not asked to disarm in the Royal presence, as is custom in the East... in fact, the Prince had me show the Princess my steel scramaseax, telling her I had protected him with one just like it (a bit of an overstatement, as only one enemy got within striking range, but who am I to complain).
This is one of my most powerful Pennsic experiences.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Standards of House Wolfhaven

After my blog post about the origins of our SCA Household, I had several people ask what I meant when I stated: "We decided that members would be required to work towards a set of standards of appearance…. Clothing and gear of linen wool and silk, appropriate armour and weapons, etc.".
Dalla and I, with input from House members, wrote up a set of standards and Values for House Wolfhaven. They are the ideal that we work towards, and expect our members to strive for. Feel free to post any questions or as for clarification.
The standards are as follws:
House Wolfhaven Core Values
Excellence in All We Do; Integrity First; Service to The Dream
We view our household as a part of your journey; we do not expect that it will be the end of the journey for everyone. It is important to us to help you find the best fit for you – which may or may not include membership in our household.
House Wolfhaven Membership Standards
These are the standards for House membership that we expect people to be working towards. We understand not everybody will meet them right out of the gate… but they are goals we expect to be shared.
Standards for House members:
- Clothing of appropriate pattern and color, made from natural fibers available to your persona.
- Period shoes or unobtrusive modern footwear.
- Persona appropriate accessories, including appropriately styled belt.
- Avoid modern accessories when possible.
- Reasonable persona story.
Standards for member of the hirð:
- Basic appropriate helmet
- Modern protective gear hidden by fighting garb.
- Persona appropriate shields (rounds and kites for Viking, etc.)
- Persona appropriate weapons. No greatsword/katana for Vikings. Shaped polearms…axes or cutting spears only.
- Hockey gloves should be avoided and replaced ASAP.
I will expect progress toward an authentic looking kit appropriate to your status.

Dalla’s Additional Philosophies
- Everything you do reflects on those you associate with. The things you do in the SCA, and some of the things you do in mundane life as well, reflect on us, the rest of the household, and the SCA. When you join the household, we share in your honors and successes as well as in your shames and disappointments – and you share in ours.
- Everyone has their own life path to walk, and each path is unique. The success of others does not diminish your own successes.  Because everyone’s paths are different, it is impossible to judge how far along you are on your path in comparison to how far along others are on theirs. Trying to compare yourself and your efforts to others will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak. Because we are each unique, things which are easy for you may be difficult for another, and things which may be difficult for you may be easy for another. If you focus on competing against your own previous efforts instead of against others, you will never stop growing.
- We learn when we teach. When you teach others about a skill or subject, you will initially learn more than your students because in preparing to teach, in thinking through how to explain something, and in listening to the input from your students, you will gain more knowledge. The greatest joy a teacher can have is seeing their students outstrip the teacher’s abilities – by starting with the knowledge given by the teacher, then exceeding that knowledge through their own efforts – because then the teacher has truly inspired the student as well as inspiring learning to take place.
Wolfhaven Camp Philosophy
“Wolfhaven Camp” includes members of House Wolfhaven, but there is no obligation for members of the household to camp with us. This also works in reverse – there are people who are part of our encampment who are not members of House Wolfhaven. We choose our camp members by determining if they are compatible with our house standards/ goals/ philosophies, if they can work effectively under our leadership, and if they are compatible with the personalities of the existing camp members.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fighting left handed

Ian suggested at last Saturday's fight practice that to improve my skill at fighting two sword, I practice fighting sword and shield left handed. I decided that this was a great idea, and have started working this for part of practice.
First thing I found out is that my right side has NO idea what the hell to do with a shield. My first instinct was to punch someone right in the face with it, which, while awesome, is not the most legal or practical use. I also need to train my right arm to deal with the weight... though my right side is stronger overall, it has not been used to hold a shield, and it's a foreign sensation.
I generally fight sword and shield with my sword foot forward, but since I am doing this to benefit my left being used in two sword, I decided to fight with sword foot back, where it will generally be when it is my secondary weapon. I had difficulties getting my body to do what my brain wanted it to... I am used to the force transferring differently when firing from the opposite stance. Sir Rhys worked with me at Tuesday's practice and we figured out where the movement was short circuiting... now I just need to drill it properly and get it into muscle memory.
This all made me think initially that I was cheating on my right handed shots... not using the proper body when throwing and relying on arm strength. I don't think now that this is exactly true. I know I  do cheat on some shots, but what I was thinking was cheating is actually that I am firing power across the body...left foot across the back and out the right arm. I'm not sure this is RIGHT, exactly... but it's not all in the upper body like I was afraid it was. Still going to require some analysis and drill.
This is all a very interesting experience... it is requiring me to break alot of what I do down to the fundamentals, and i think it should only help my skill overall. If nothing else, it should clean my basic technique up so that when i tire and fall into simple muscle memory, it is at least CORRECT muscle memory. I watched Sir Douglas Henry fight at Birka, and watching him tire was awesome... because his technique was so CLEAN as he tired, he just let his body do what it knew, and what it knew to do was right.

We're heading down to Balfar's Challenge this Saturday, and hopefully I'll get to do some pickups with folks.  Will be a fun tournament, even if I don't.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

First weekend outdoor practice of the season.

Had our first outdoor weekend practice of the season yesterday. For fairly short notice we had a decent turnout... myself, Arnbjorn, Sir Rhys, and Ian from here in Outpost, with Peter and Gwyndolyn joining us from Ealdormere. There would have been a couple more, but life happens.

It was a bit chilly at first, but as we went on, it warmed up (or at least we did). I fought with Arnbjorn. He has been out a bit, with hand problems (and life taking over a bit). Went well... he made me eat a rifled thrust a few times... I'm opening up my shield just right for him to slide it in.

Fought Rhys... went about as well as ever. He has a tendency to throw strong onside shots to move my shield out of the way, and capitalize on it. I need to either do better about using more of an edge block to keep my shield from hinging, or use better footwork/body mobility to not be there. All goes back to not letting an opponent control the fight. I can get some decent shots in, but need to work on angles and timing.
I also found myself avoiding throwing leg shots a bit. I struggle against legged opponents a lot... I need to work on that.

I worked with Cennédig a bit, mainly focusing on him finishing shots and cutting through. We also discussed that he has a tendency to flinch at leg shots... odd since his leg armour is very good. I had no real explanation, but he's going to work on it. I'd like to take more time with him next practice.

Me and Gwyn at Fall Frolic last year.
I also worked with Gwyndolyn. She has been fighting with a strapped round, and is making the switch to a center grip, and wanted to work with me as I do as well. Her new shield is lightweight, which I expected to be more of a problem than it was... she doesn't allow it to be powered out of the was as easy as I would expect, and she is very active with it.
She does have a few things to work on, and I talked with her a bit about them. One is a problem that many fighters have... too many things going on in the brain at once. Thinking about throwing shots, thinking about defending  thinking about moving... and none of them come out right. I basically told her to think about what she CAN do... and do it, and let everything else flow from that. Don't try and get past her years of experience in martial arts... but use them.

As for me... I have a few things to work on. I have to get better about training... stamina and foot work especially. Coming in to War season they will be paramount, and will benefit me year round. I'm going to work in some agility drills with gear, and see how that goes. I also need to work on throwing shots left handed if I'm going to do two sword at all seriously. I have been working on grip strength and it has helped, but I am still clumsy. Ian suggested fighting lefty with a shield, and I did a bit. It's awkward, but I definitely think it will help.

Time to get off my ass and get a pell in the back yard! We are travelling to Balfar's Challenge next weekend, but hopefully we'll have a practice the Saturday after. I want to make this as regular as possible... I know we all benefited from it last summer. Anybody who wants to come out for a Saturday from out of Shire, let me know and we can probably put you up overnight.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My first Pennsic fight.

So in the film Top Gun, after their first dogfight at the school, there is a conversation between Goose and Wolfman. At one point Wolfman describes their dogfight like this: "We went like this, he went like that. I said to Hollywood, "Where`d he go?" Hollywood says, "Where`d who go?"
That... was pretty much how my first fight at Pennsic went.

My first Pennsic was Pennsic 29. I had never been to a really big event. Glenn Linn War camp that year was about the biggest for me, so I was already a bit agog at the scale of the thing. We decided that we would fight in the 10 man melee tournament to warm up and get ready for the rest of Pennsic. This is a tournament at Pennsic fought between 10 man teams. (kinda like the name implies)
At this point, none of the Zeebera unit is exceedingly experienced. Gabe and Earnan have a Pennsic under their belts, I think, and maybe Justin. Ian was fighting with us, and he'd been before as well. Most of us had only been in a few years. We also could not make up a complete 10 man unit, so we filled in on the spot with a few people who needed a team.
First team we drew was called "10 Little Indians". Looking across the field, I noticed they seemed a bit belt heavy... seemed to be a lot of knight and masters... and I noticed a decent number of strawberry leaves on helmets, denoting Dukes. Oh well... should be interesting anyway. Plan was to stay as a solid unit, and shift to refuse a flank, trying to overwhelm them at point of contact.
Ha. No plan ever survives contact with the enemy. This was no different.
Lay on was called, and the plan immediately went to shit. They did not advance as a unit as we were used to... it was more like a pack of wolves slashing through a herd of caribou. What I realized (afterwords) was that I was basically at a hinge point... we had pot people who were used to fighting together on one side of our line, and filled up the right side with the people we picked up at the tournament. The unit was immediately fractured. As I started forward, the left side went left, and the right side went right.
I looked to my right... and I see dead people. I look to my left... and pretty much the same. Ian had advanced, and was ahead engaged with a small knot, so I charged to help. He died as I arrived, so I went tearing in. I think Ian legged one guy, which was like the only shot we landed.

That's me on the ground. 
I found myself in a pile of about half a dozen fighters. One of them asked if I yielded. Being fair minded, I asked him if HE wanted to yield.

He didn't.
Somebody legged me, and I dropped. He asked again if I wanted to yield. I told him that that was a stupid question.

Before he could rearrange the dents in my helmet, somebody mercifully reached in and gutted me, ending the fight. (I have been told that was Lucan)

My wife was standing and watching, and talking to a woman at the side, who had informed me that the 10 Little Indians team was all "Dukes or better". Apparently, according to her, they had over 20 reigns among them, and one of them was the Prince of the Middle. I have no idea if all that was true, but we were definitely outgunned. It was my first taste of fishing in the deep water.

We did much better in the first war point battle... the woods. But that's another story. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tiptoeing through the minefield, or: On Hunting Rhinos

After my last blog post, I was talking with Countess Marguerite, and she brought up a very good point... that is, she pointedly asked a very good question.
She asked how a fighters wordfame was damaged by rhinohiding, and said “What meaningful in-game impact does a rhinohider experience?”
I really can't answer that. They aren't necessarily shunned, they may still advance. Sure, a reputation can damage your chances at an award, but not necessarily stop you from getting it. Some people may choose to avoid them, or not fight them... but not everybody. The person may not even know there is a problem. Our culture (at least in the region of the SCA world that I am familiar with) has always put forward the belief that only the person in the helmet can call the shots. There is no active marshaling unless the combatants request it (which I have NEVER seen done). So how do you deal with someone who seems to be a rhino?

Opinions on how to deal with a person who is blowing off shots varies. I would like to say I've never had someone blow off a shot, there are only people whom I have not hit with a good shot at the time. Is that the case in reality? I dunno. I’m not the hardest hitting guy out there, but there have been a few times where I've smacked somebody and went... "huh. Really? OK...."
There is also a school of thought that they are not blowing off your shot, rather they are giving you permission to hit them harder. This can be problematic... how hard should I need to hit someone? We’re all supposed to be taking the same calibration of shot. Armour should not matter, as every fighter out there was supposed to be taught how to take and receive a good blow, and that should include what calibration is good.

Everybody misses shots. This is a fact. I have. You have. My take on it is, if I hit you and you later go “OW!” and find a bruise, and come to me and say “I missed a good shot you threw...”  No you didn't. Because right then, in that moment, it didn't make you say "good." Shots like that are not the problem. A pattern of behavior is when it becomes a problem. If you are repeatedly getting struck cleanly and not taking the shot, then there is a problem. And if there is a problem, you need to be spoken to about it. 

When I say spoken to, I do not mean confronted on the field. I do not mean called out. Spoken to in a non-confrontational manner, and not judged, but counseled by a friend. It will not necessarily be considered by some to be a prudent or popular decision... but I feel if we do not talk to people who exhibit this behavior, we are doing them, and our whole Society, a disservice. Allowing it to continue may damage the experience not only for that fighter, but other fighters coming up. If they see shot shrugging and rhinoing happening, and nothing being done about it, it increases the likelihood that they will do it as well. I know when I played football, teaching players to cheat and get away with it was commonplace. Call it gaming the system if you want, but cheating is cheating. Nobody wants to be known as a cheat. So please... let's make this the society of honor that it is supposed to be.

"But it's not hitting hard enough! I'm not blowing off the shot, I'm just not being struck with sufficient force"
Maybe. I'm not saying you are blowing off shots. This conversation is not about wrongdoing... it is about the PERCEPTION of wrongdoing. Your behavior on the field is a reflection not just on you, but on whatever House you are a part of, whoever your Peer is. Keep that in mind. I am talking to you to help keep you from damaging your reputation.

Sometimes you cannot speak to the individual. Maybe you don't know them well enough, maybe they intimidate you. In this case, talk to their peer if they have one. Talk to a friend whose opinion they respect, or a mentor, or maybe their local marshal. It won't necessarily be an easy conversation. I have been on both sides of it (been the local marshal people came to, and been the one to approach a local marshal), and it's just as difficult being on either side of that conversation. Your discussion might focus on their armour, or on other people's perception of how shots are landing. I've seen both. But having the issue not be addressed can hurt them in the long run.

Judging combat from an outside perspective becomes even more problematic at the upper levels... it is faster, and far more nuanced. This sounds like a bullshit excuse, but it's true... I've seen fights where it looked like somebody got lit up, but just by playing the angles, or distance, or physics, shots have no power. On the flip side of that... I've seen a knight put a crease in another knight's helmet, and the fight continue. How do you deal with blatant bad behavior by someone in a position of authority, or with sufficiently elevated station to make them harder to approach? Well that one I don't have a good answer to. I can only hope that their peers take them to task for it. It's all well and good for some to say "Well, they only have as much station or power in our game as you let them have. It's just a game!!". Well, that doesn't necessarily make it easier when we are IN that game. At least not for me.  

What does all this mean? Hel if I know. Basically what it boils down to is, for fighters... hit solid. Take clean. And if somebody wants to talk to you about it... listen. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Courtesy and honor in the Viking's SCA

Deroch, and another non-SCAdian friend Justin, posted a very intersting topic when I solicited blog post suggestions today. Justin asked my "thoughts on chivalry, or whatever honor codes (written or unwritten) that you are bound to in your sport", and Deroch expanded that with "You are a Viking. You play with an organization that has its mythological roots in the Age of Chivalry. How do you reconcile the two?"
Excellent topic!
Within our game in the SCA, our combat is based upon honor. We do not have referees judging blows, each fighter judges for him or her self when a telling blow has landed. Nobody else is in my armour... it is up to me to judge, and call the shot good. This makes for a society where your honor and reputation are very precious things, to be safeguarded. A reputation as a "rhino"... somebody who ignores good shots... can precede you, and you can quickly find that your wordfame tarnished.
This fits very well with my persona of a turn of the millennium Icelander. Honor in this time was a precious thing as well... a man was defined by his actions, and a man who was known as honorable was one to have as a friend and companion. Courage in the face of the enemy was valued, but it was more than that. A drengr... man of honor... was brave and noble, and was expected to show respect, generosity, and great personal honor. To be dishonorable and cowardly was to risk being declared níðing... without honor. A níðing was an outcast, and would be hard pressed to find haven. One could be declared níðing for a variety of things... oathbreaking, cowardice, killing kinsmen or defenseless people.
Our combat would be very easy for a viking to understand as a duel of honor, and would almost seem familiar. They had a ritualized combat called holmgang, dules of honor to settle disputes, which were fought in a marked space, and by a very specific set of rules. Compare that to our system of fighting in a list, for honor, glory, and advancement... it would not be a far stretch.

This is how I reconcile my place in this Age of Chivalry... at it's base, it is honor, pure and simple. I am a heathen in real life, I follow the gods of this time and place (though my persona, interestingly enough, would probably have been baptized a Christian by Icelandic law of the time). Tyr is my patron, and he is the god of honor and justice. I do my best to act honorably in all that I do, and not disgrace my name.
Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well.

All that said, there will be some who read this and say "What propaganda! In reality, the vikings were vicious, and there are lots of stories of horribly malicious things they did!"
Yup. Absolutely. However... the same can be said of knights, the good and pure paragons of chivalry. Our game is about trying to live up to a romanticized ideal. I am simply doing the same. :)