Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The importance of teaching

Working with Evan at Pennsic.
Photo by Jen Hostetter
I strongly believe that an important part of any journey of learning is teaching. Passing on what you have learned to others is not just a good service... I have found it really helps me learn better.
This became clear to me when people would say "Wow! That was cool... how do you do it?", and I would go ".....ummm..."
I had no idea. How DID that shot work? I just... threw it. That's just what the axe DOES.
Teaching people... breaking shots, or combos, or just the basic technique of something... down so you can explain it to someone else gives you a better understanding of the mechanics of it, the physics behind WHY it works.
I have not always felt comfortable teaching. I am not a top tier fighter...  I lose as many fights as I win.... so what gives me the right to say "Hey, I know how this works, let me show you."?
I got over that. I am not showing people the way to do something... I am showing them A WAY to do something. I am saying "This is what works for me.", not "This is how it works, period.".
When I break down a technique with the axe, I tell people what I am doing, and where I picked it up. Sometimes, I am reinventing the wheel. I find out that Sir Smacksalot or Duke Flyingwrapshot was doing it that way well before me... and that's fine. Because until I figured out how to explain to my own body how it worked, I just wasn't going to get it.
So my two cents.... if you want to improve, you need to understand not just what others are doing... but what you are doing. The best way I have found... is to teach. Show others, because to do so, you need to break whatever you are doing down to it's component parts... and that will help you grok what it is you actually do. It can be enlightening.
I am hoping to have a video blog out soon with a couple of specific things I do, and why.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bridge of Bards... or at least one bard.

The bridge battles this year were each 15 minutes long. At 15 minutes they were "capped"... whoever was on the bridge fought it out to the last man. At 15, they called a hold, then had each bridge fight. During one such, while we were waiting to fight, I got bored. To keep myself from my default activity when I am bored (breaking things) I began to sing. I had "Song of the Shield Wall" going through my head, and so I just let go and starting to sing.
I finished the first verse, and started the second. As I finished "Hasten oh fyrdmen, down to the river", I hear someone else kick in... "Dragon ships come on the in flowing tide".
I look around, and see it is one of my opponents, also singing. I loved it. Big grin on his face, and mine too. The hold was still on, so I walked across, and we sang the song together. A couple of others joined in, and it was just a perfect moment.
I heard in the background the marshals, calling for people to get ready. I took my place in the wall, axe upraised, and right after we sang "We'll grant him six feet - - plus as much as he's taller, Of land that the sons of the Saxons will hold!", the lay on was called, and the axe went back to work.
After the fight was over (we won), I went over to where my opponents were resting. One of them, a knight in a Trimaran tabard, saw me coming, and pointed to a man resting on the ground. I walked up to him, and he smiled, introducing himself as (IIRC) Corwin the Bard. I thanked him for helping that moment on the bridge be a great one... one of those memories that would last forever. He returned the thanks, and I told him wait... we're not done. He looked at me strangely, and I pointed out... we still had one more verse. He smiled... and we sang...
Make haste, son of Godwin, southward from Stamford,
Victory's sweet and your men have fought hard,
But William the Bastard has landed at Pevensey,
Burning the land you have promised to guard.
Draw up the spears on the hill-top at Hastings,
Fight till the sun drops and evening grows cold,
And die with the last of your Saxons around you,
Holding the land you were given to hold!

Amazing moments that make Pennsic, and our Society, so friggin great.

I want to thank Aneleda Falconbridge, our Battle Bard. Your song... you know the one... and your singing has inspired me to sing in the Society... not as a performer, but when I feel the urge, be it in battle or by a campfire.
All the poor bastards who have to listen to me may not thank you... but I do. :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Unbelted Champions Alternates, Pennsic 43

Made the unbelted champion's team for Pennsic this year. For those of you who don't know, it is a battle at Pennsic where a set number of Eastern champions (30 for this year) who are not members of the Order of Chivalry compete in a mass battle against an equal number of champions from the Midrealm. It counts for one war point.
I have made the team in the past, but this year (as last year) I was an alternate... part of the team, but not one of the "starting lineup". Last year, as I didn't get to fight the battle, I picked a fight with one of the Heroic Champions. This year, Sterling de la Rosa got us a fight with the Midrealm alternates. It went very well.... we fought it a couple of times, and did very well against them. We had a simple plan, and executed it well (and they cooperated with us executing it... :) )

I am disappointed that I didn't make the starting team... but there's next year. I have a couple of things to work on, so we'll see. There were a couple of "AhHa!" moments, so that, I think, will sort itself out. (more on those in another post)

I wouldn't have done anything really different this year... I am limited in the events I can make, travel distance being a big factor. I also do this for fun... so I am unwilling to let the chase become a stressful job. I like smacking folks with my axe. Those folks MAY be the midrealm unbelted champions... or, some other poor bastard.

Here's a link to one of the alternates fights from Youtube...
Pennsic 43 - Unbelted Champions Alternate Battle

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back from Pennsic

We are back from our two weeks at Pennsic. Went for land grab, stayed till Friday. Came home a day early... more about that later. Expect some new blog posts about Pennsic in the coming weeks. For now... real life sucks.
I miss the sound of the wind in the trees over our camp, the drumming, the voices from neighboring camps. I miss looking out and seeing my family here, ready to face the day together. Eating breakfast just Dalla and I... it seems so weird. It's amazing how quickly we get used to that way of life. The camaraderie, the closeness... makes me really appreciate what life on a steading would actually be like. You grow to rely on those people, not just for shared labor, but support... emotional, mental... knowing that they are right there.
The view from our sitting spot...
I miss getting up to muster for battle. Putting on the gear, putting on the game face, that feeling in your stomach before the cannon goes off. I always have the words from the beginning of "Starship Troopers" going through my mind... I always get the shakes before a drop.
The pure joy of the fray... working the axe, the press of bodies, the adrenaline. those moments when Olaf is actually as big as he is in my head... it is amazing. A much more simple, purpose driven portion of my life. Clear objectives, clear purpose. To paraphrase Jethro Tull... give me my Dane axe and clear understanding....

I miss it. I love all my mundane family. I love my job, I love my life. But I wanna go back.