(no subject)

It is proving a bit difficult to analyze and express what went on this last weekend at the Tournament of Chivalry. There was a lot going on for me, to be sure. It was a very rich and productive experience for me.

I had worked over through the week, so we could leave early Friday. Dayton is quite a trip, and none of us wanted to get there late. The ToC is a measuring stick. Dragging ass from lack of sleep is completely counter productive.

Brian, Rocky, and I had a long, if uneventful drive to our hotel. It just so happened that a Waffle house was right next door, so we had supper there. Mmmmmm… Pecan waffles… utterly bad for you but oh so good.

After several mis-adventures, we procured a spot along the tree line to drop our crap. It was then that we discovered without our “support staff”, we had not brought any water or food.
Shrug. Oh well, more time for fighting I guess.

Ambrose and his lovely lady Melissa arrived, and we went about the business of arming ourselves.
His Grace Felix and His sweet family arrived, and a crowd of warriors, Nobles, and great Princes gathered to witness an important oath taking, to be made before the Culture of Chivalry.

My brother Ambrose did swear an oath of Fealty with His Grace Duke Felix. I bore witness to this, and will ever hold both accountable for their words, as is the right and proper thing. He has now been elevated to the third estate, and has publically declared his quest for expressing the nobility of his spirit.

The path to being Knightly has some extremely close correlations with the “Hero’s journey” as described by the late scholar Joseph Campbell. The symbols, rituals, and meanings are thick. They have multiple layers of meaning, some private, some public.

When the Horn of Chivalry was completed by the Master carver Phillip Montgomery, there were seven shards left over from it’s completion. Each of these shards were given to seven knights who exemplified seven knightly virtues.

Sir Felix was given the shard that represented truth. I find it very fitting that my Brother in arms will serve the Knight of Truth. As with every symbol, this has public and private meaning.

(As a side note, I have always thought it would be an extremely meaningful exercise to display the Horn of Chivalry at ToCs. I think the act of displaying it, and regaling new fighters with it’s meaning and it’s symbology would be a very powerful ennobling force on the tournament. Perhaps I will try to speak to some Knights about the idea.)

After this Deed was witnessed, and many words were given to Ambrose by Noble men of Coat armor, We prepared ourselves for the test.

Essentially, A ToC is divided into three lists; One for teaching, one for sparring, and one for “crown” or tournament simulation.

Felix gave me some suggestions on how I should approach this, and they were quite sound. I have a specific problem that Dolph and I have been pounding on for some time, and Felix was helping me out with suggestions on tackling the issue.

I warmed up in the sparring list. My first opponent was Sir Silverthorne. It was a fun fight, and got me in the right mindset. Through the day I alternated between the Crown list and the sparring list. As I felt myself “lose” that competitive mindset, I would switch to sparring until I could regain it. This proved to be quite effective.

I fought a lot of Knights. I was able to express my fights, and really got a lot accomplished. The feedback I got back from my sparring partners was consistent with my performance analysis. There were several times I was able to get past that, and had a great fight. His Highness pulled me out of line to work with me. This was extremely beneficial. We discussed his impressions of our fight at Crown. He had some interesting observations, and when we sparred, we took certain tools off the table to focus on other things. It was very interesting.

Problem areas: quite a few times, I got the feedback from a number of knights that I had put myself in the correct position, with the correct measure and the correct time, and had them dead to rights, but just didn’t fire the shot. Essentially I had won the fight, but I just didn’t take victory. This happened over and over again, and the consistency of comments was a bit startling.

This basically is a symptom of my “killswitch” problem. I got some direct feedback from Sir Gunnar on this, as apparently he had very similar issues. He gave me a method to work on it, which makes excellent sense. I am looking forward to working with it. I need to talk to my trainers more in depth about it.

Good things: There were a number of times that I simply dominated the fight. It was very evident that everybody I fought was highly interested in helping me get to the other side of the ToC list field, as it were. I laid stick on the greatest majority of my opponents one way or the other through the day. The only person that smoked me completely was Sir Ragnvalder.( I was completely fixated on executing my tactical theory about how to face him. As I was contemplating this, he hit me in the head. (laugh) ) I was also VERY proud of Brian and Ambrose. I had a hand in where they are right now, and to see top tier fighters take notice of their abilities is gratifying in the extreme.

Rocky had some great moments too. We all had an excellent time.
Melissa had managed to get us some food and water, which was very kind of her. Ambrose and she had to leave early to get back for other obligations. Rocky, Brian and I kept fighting until the tournament was called about a half hour before Court.

After court, we packed up, got showered, and got some food. We went back to the site briefly, and got to listen to Sir William’s singing, which was quite cool. We then went back to the hotel and crashed.

I will be honest, I would skip three “regular” events to go to a ToC event. It is no doubt that it is an investment to drive that far for a weekend event, but to be trutheful, there is no way around it. If you wanna go hunting for knights, it is the most efficient way to do it. It would be wonderful for it to be closer to home, but it is what it is.

At one point, Sir William was talking to a group of unbelts. He mentioned that he had not been really pushed all day in the crown list. (I never actually got to fight him. heh) He observed that most of his opponents were off balance, with poor footwork and sloppy fundamentals. I think his observations were valid. To coincide with this, the hypothesis that the average Midrealm Fighter's personal development has been set aside for Pennsic preparation was posited from a number of different sources. I am honestly not sure if you could prove this as a causality, but it is interesting.

In any case, The whole weekend was fuel for the fire. I felt more energized than when I got there. I am extremely mindful that My Family sacrificed to get me there, on several fronts. I am very grateful. I felt like I didn’t waste the opportunity.

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(no subject)

To all Princes, Dukes, Counts, Barons, Knights, and Men of coat armor who be not enemies of the King our Lord, or who are not cast out of the Culture of Chivalry do I, Baron Robert Downey, send heartfelt greetings.

I have assurances that the Heralds of the Great and Dread Baron Willhelm, and the Fierce and beautiful Baronwa Alzbeta have spread word far and wide of the Great festival of armes to be held in their lands on the Feast day of St. Hildegard of Bingen, this coming Saturday.

I would have you know the nature of the test set before you, my fellow Men at Armes. For make no mistake, those who don harness at this great festival of Arms will bathe their souls deeply in the Bath of honor, and shall emerge cleansed and clothed in great renown.

It has been written by the Great Pagan philosopher, Aristotle, (may God ease his pain in hell) that Man is composed of four states: The physical, the Emotional, the Intellectual, and the Spiritual. It is testament to the Wonderment of God’s creations that even a Man who’s soul is damned to hell, can discern the truth of God’s creation.

This truth is further revealed in the works of Fiore de Liberi. This Master of the arts martial has left us the mystery of the Segno.

When last this tournament was held by Their Excellencies, The company of men of coat armor, and the Noble ladies of the gallery discovered that these truths were right and proper, and as the Great Master Fiore stated, the perfect swordsman emerges from expressing to their fullest the four aspects of man.

And so their Excellencies have determined that this Noble Enterprise will be focused on testing these aspects.

Those who care more for honor than their craven and corrupt bodies will present themselves upon their Excellencies’ list, so their bodies, their minds, their emotions and their spirits may be tested by the blows of their peers, under the watchful eyes of a gallery of fine ladies.
As the ancient saying goes, “Renown is the coin of the tourneyor”. Make no mistake on the morning of the 17th there is great opportunity for Renown or Infamy. Should you choose to not don bright harness in the sun, you will count yourself lessened for not hazarding your body to win worshipful honor.

I shall meet those who seek greatness upon the Fields of cloth and Gold.

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(no subject)

Had an excellent weekend. Vicki and I Wound up going to Springfield to hang out with Melissa and Brad. We stayed at their house so we could head to Indiana early enough in the morning to be at Duke Felix’s practice.

Saturday night was tremendous fun. They took us to an amazing Indian restaurant. We had six different dishes. Everyone agreed the Fish curry was the best. It was mightily tasty.
We had intended to play some tabletop gladiators, but wound up talking and goofing off to much, and didn’t have time.

Got up in the morning, and started for Felix and the lovely Madeleana’s (wrong spelling) house in Indiana. We left early enough that we wouldn’t have to rush…. That is until we realized we had forgotten we lost an hour…

We put the hammer down, and wound up there about 20 minutes late. It turned out just fine though. They have a beautiful home and beautiful family. We were greeted with smiles and hugs.
When all were assembled, Felix delivered some material he and Duke Sean had been working on. I smiled a great deal. The philosophy and tactics he was talking about corresponded perfectly with a lot of the Italian material, except tempo. (more on that later)

I picked up one drill I had not used before. Intend on experimenting with that. It should address one of my issues directly.

We grabbed a light lunch, and after a couple private conversations, headed down the street to the park.

We then did an exercise whereby we critiqued each other’s fighting. (Stealing that one. It should be very useful in our practice) and then began sparring under the watchful eye of a pair of digital camcorders.

This was an excellent sparing session for me. It brought into sharp focus the fundamental problem with my performance. I would perform well against one opponent, then literally two minutes later, completely fall apart performance wise. The next bout would then be good.

I executed better against the Dukes than I did my peers. Now, there is some element to the fact that fighting a practitioner with more refined skills will force you to perform better, but that is too simplistic a view. I could feel my mental footing shift depending on who was in front of me. I would focus on controlling measure and tempo to a much greater degree.

In my screwed up head, I felt more like a hunter when facing bigger predators. I honestly have a hard time defining what was going on. I felt more relaxed and focused when fighting someone at a higher performance level than myself.

Then I would fight someone who was more of a peer to my skillset, and turned into a pell.
It is exceedingly frustrating. It’s almost like I can’t throw that “killswitch” on when I’m facing a peer or lower level practitioner.

There are a lot of problems with this kind of behavior, not the least of which is it is very disrespectful to my opponents.

I talked with a couple folks about it, who saw the same behavior. I can feel the threads of something starting to form in my head on how to solve this, but it hasn’t quite coalesced.
Dolph has told me a thousand times that this is one of my major issues, and I know it, but I feel like I am beating my head against this wall to no avail. I have approach the issue in a different way than I have been. I have much to think about on this one.

We fought for four or so hours, than went back to Felix’s house for some delightful food, and video critiquing. Felix had warned us a dozen or so times that honest critiquing is not terribly pleasant, and I suppose to some it would be. I guess I am far more invested in my performance than my Ego, as I really didn’t see a problem in the least with the process.

It was excellent feedback. I was happy that the group’s observations were consistent with what I thought my issues were. I have cataloged the feedback, and know that more analysis of the video will be forthcoming.

Ambrose and I had a tremendous time. I know Vicki and Melissa enjoyed getting to know some folks better as well. All in all a most productive day. I don’t get to spend much prolonged training time with high level practitioners outside my area, so the “external” view is most enlightening. It's not every day you get three Dukes, a couple knights, and a handful of upper level unbelts all to yourself, as it were.

By the time we got back to springfield, I was exhausted, so we decided to stay the night again and get home in the morning. This was a good decision.

The rest of the day was full of family stuff. I didn’t get to bed until around midnight, which makes for an early morning to be sure… (laugh)

Tuesday practice tonight, then skillset practice with Brian on Thursday, then ToC is next weekend. I am looking forward to it! Brian is coming with us. I am very proud of him. I’m eager to see how things go for him.

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(no subject)

“Just because I am the King’s man does not make the King my brother”

I don’t know where I got that quote, but I like it. It’s got some interesting connotations.

In any case, I am back to work from being at Pennsic. I always have a hard time posting about pennsic. It is just so big. A lot of times I feel physically and emotionally wrung out and cleansed when I get home.

This year, I am inspired.

I can’t quite put my finger on why specifically. As with all pennsics there were highs and lows, but after it is all said and done, this year, I feel satisfied, and ready for the next steps.

There were a great number of high points. The CoTT, of course, was one of those. The god of war smiled upon Ambrose and I. We wound up with four ransomes, two of which was a knight and squire team. There were decidedly more spectators this time around. It was really quite neat.

The Hastings battle was a total hoot. Loved it. It was really what Melee should be. Huge smiles all around.

The Crusader battle was almost disastrous, but the people that were there pulled it out, and turned it into something very special. Special mention should go to Sir Ix. Vargas had been out for medical, and Ix, upon seeing the small Saracen army, went back to camp, donned sir Vargas’ armor, and came to play. That was really very appreciated.

I got to do a deed of arms with steel swords with Dr. Ken Mondschein after the CoTT, this was absolutely tremendous fun. To strive against a person of his caliber was really a high point. Later, he gifted me with a bottle of tremendous brandy. I generally don’t like brandy, but this was exceptional stuff. I was honored by the deed, and was pleased that those folk who witnessed it were entertained, and could see recognizable form in my performance. Later that night, Dr. Ken came to share in our feast, and I enjoyed his company immensely. He extended an invitation to his museum which I will most certainly take advantage of. (Higgins museum)

Pickups were awesome. I got to cross swords with a swath of different practitioners from a lot of different places. It was an extremely good place to test my Bolognese. There were some good results. My observations are proving to be correct. The fights that stick out in my mind are my passes with the Prince of the West, and passes with Duke Eliahu. I also got to spend some training time with Duke Felix. This was most certainly time well spent. Thoroughly enjoyed it. He and his lovely family graced us with their presence at the goat feast, where they seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

I fought La Rochelle with Fuyu. That was enjoyable. Commanded a kill pocket at the main castle gate for a while. It was fun, although I will say that last year’s musket fun was more enjoyable. That being said, it was enjoyable.

I fought all the heavy and rapier war points. It was a hassle at times getting all the right armor/clothing at the right times in the right places. The worst was Tuesday (I think) Heavy woods battle, then rapier field battle, then crusader’s battle. I would never have been able to pull it off if Fuyu, and Ambrose had not helped me bring armor, and take armor back to camp. I am extremely grateful. At one point, Fuyu had to pull a cart heaped with my crap to the battlefield, than fight herself.

There were some good moments in every battle, some not so good moments in a couple, and one scary moment in one battle.

I loved fighting with My beloved Rocky again. He fought in every single heavy war point. Once again he proved himself to be a legendary warrior. At one point in the Valley battle, bloodguard broke out, and was heading to the flank of one of our units. Rocky was there, and took the charge. In fact, he survived long enough to accidentally be killed by one of our own in the confusing aftermath.

Fighting with my Sword brother, Ambrose was most certainly one of the high points. There were many fine moments. The field battles, wielding our Martels into the enemy.. The woods, it goes on and on.

I did have one scary moment. It is actually the first time I really felt close to having a problem. A couple days before the woods battle, I was visiting with Nichole, where she mentioned that “You are built like a brick shit house, but you have a spine, like the rest of us.”

This statement became very poignant in the woods.

At one point, I wound up in a pile. A man was under my hips, and my head was resting on another man’s stomach, my back completely exposed and flat to the sky. Another man as pinning my legs. Normally, I can scramble to a safer position, but before I could react, Three others fell onto my exposed back. I could feel my spine, suspended by the two points, bow down in a bad way. I paniced a little, placed my hands on the man under me, and pressed up, holding that position until the three men could get off.

It was scary. I could feel how close I was to injury. This is yet another example of how General physical preparedness is a MUST if you want to stay healthy and continue to play. I urge my fellow practitioners to set the donut down, and PREPARE yourself. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t strengthened myself enough that I could protect myself.

My general sense of fighting was that it was fierce, but friendly and fun. It really was a good war.

All the new fighters was a lot of fun also. They performed really well, and seemed to enjoy themselves. There were some minor injuries, but that is to be expected. It takes time to learn how to protect ones’ self. Watching the elation and trepidation was really quite delightful.

The Rapier battles were fun. My role in them tends to be anchoring lines, etc. It was fun to watch Fuyu start to find her own path in the flow. It makes for a long day, doing both heavy and rapier fights, but the Rapier community makes me feel that they appreciate the effort. It is a nice feeling. I personally encountered FAR LESS whining from my opponents. That being said, two incidents really really bothered me.

At one point in the woods, the East conceded the war points to the Middle. During the hold, there was some usual bantering. One of the eastern folk commented that He was glad we were all sticking around to finish the battle. One fellow from the middle replied “of course, I have to finish taking out the trash.”

Now, I understand banter, but this was deeply repulsive behavior to me, especially considering how much fun we had been having. I immediately approached the eastern line, extoling how nobly they had performed and how thankful I was for the opportunity to win honor with them. I came very close to dressing down this fellow, but the battle started up again before I had the chance.

The worst part was that he was wearing the Pale.

The other incident was in the Field battle-turned-castle battle. A fellow from the east was personally insulting to several individuals in a ridiculous display of pomposity. I have no doubt His King would have found him unacceptable upon the list. This fellow certainly won renown in My eyes that day. I only wish I knew this man’s name, so the infamy of his misconduct could be spread, as would be the right and just thing to do.

Anyway, I did quite a bit of fighting, and took home some great memories.

We also did two feasts this year. We cooked a whole goat over a spit, and also cooked 30 pounds of prime rib over the spit. It was amazing food.

Too many non-fightey good things to catalog here, Although I regret a few things. There were some opportunities I missed that very much make me sad and frustrated, but what can you do? There is only so much time in the day or the night. I am a very blessed man, to be sure.

There is more, but that’s enough for now.

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(no subject)

Pennsic Dueling society?!?! This is an AWESOME idea!

http://hubpages.com/hub/Pennsic-dueling-society

I am definitely going to participate! Although I may have to keep a second “on tap”. Lord knows I have difficulty keeping my mouth shut. I wonder how long I will last? (laugh) This really is a very cool idea. The only problem is, I don’t have appropriate garb, but….. Maybe they will let a 14C mafia guy slip in just this once…

This is cool enough to add to my dance card. I have been trying to limit my planned activities this year, so that I have time to just goof off and be spontaneous… So far, all I have committed to is:

1. All the war point battles (of course)
2. The Rapier war point battles (of course)
3. The Storming of La Rochelle
4. The Combat of the Thirty
5. The Crusaders Vs. Saracen’s battle.
6. The Battle of Hastings.
7. A deed of arms with the Honorable Doctor Ken Mondschein, Research fellow at the Higgins Armory Museum.
8. Quality time talking with pretty girls.
9. (now) This Pennsic Dueling society thing. Hehe.

That’s it! I’ll have lots of time for sleeping, fighting pickups, drinking mint tea at YiV, playing some music, all kinds of things!!

Sigh. Who am I kidding…

(no subject)

Pennsic crunch is really in effect now.

Still.. One more thing done. Just posted a declaration of sides for the Hastings battle... hehe. If your interested...

"My sword Brother, Ambrose, and I, Robert, have sprung from the sea foam at Pevensey, and march with the great William, Rightful King of these lands. We scoff at what we have seen so far, and are eager to hew dominions and legends for ourselves in this Land of the nailed god. Our steel will drink deeply of Saxon blood, and your women and daughters will serve in our halls and our beds.

So that we will not become bored, we shall fight on foot, in the manner of our low bred foe. So they may have some glimmer of hope. We also hear your greatest warriors wield axes more fit for chopping wood than flesh. We find this quaint, and will meet our foe with similar peasant tools, so that those we conquer will know it is not our superior war craft, but rather our spirit that feeds the ravens with their flesh.

Make no mistake. There are no bridges for you to bellow and fart upon this time."

hehehe... This is the kind of crap that gets me excited, and keeps me packing the damn trailer in 100 degree weather.

So, I have completed quite a number of projects. Constance is sewing like the wind. She made a large number of clothes for people, and is currently sewing stuff for the two of us. I feel very pushed for time, but I have faith we will make it. Most of the heavy lifting is done, we have to pack the stuff that goes IN the tent now. (laugh)

I also just realized I only put one armor stand in the trailer, and forgot the second one. Sigh. I can't get by with only one armor stand, I have too many accessories. (wink)

The one project that may not get done in time is the banner for my damn turkish kit. This will be the second year in a row that I failed at that. (frown)

the project that took precidence this year was scabbards for my rapier and C&T swords. I almost wound up breaking my rapier last year. It fell off my wagon, and got caught in the wheels, bending it at an alarming rate. I guess I could have just put them in a pvc tube, but that looked like ass...

So I made some scabbards like weird Uncle Terry makes. They aren't as nice as his, but they will suffice.

Sunday was weapon making day. Ambrose gifted me with a martel he commissioned Magnus to craft for me. It is a beautiful piece of art. I will weild it at the Combat of the Thirty, I am sure, to great effect. We finished the haft for it sunday. Also burned and stained hafts for the Danish axes mark II for the afore mentioned Hastings battle. Made a rondel for Ambrose also. Got some good stuff accomplished in a short time span. It was fun.

I don't think the Pennants for the tent will be done this year again either. In all honesty, I would rather have linen undershirts than pretty pennents at this point. That's another problem with fighting so much... I go through a lot of arming clothes. (laugh)

I'm just very very happy she loves me. ( and is, in her own way, longsuffering) Otherwise there would be just no way I could maintain. I would run around in rags, like some kind of barely noble hedge knight... (laugh)

We are leaving home early friday morning, destined for zero night, loaded to the gills with crap. (laugh)

Now, the real question is, where in the hell am I gonna find room for that second armor stand....

(no subject)

Pennsic crunch is really in effect now.

Still.. One more thing done. Just posted a declaration of sides for the Hastings battle... hehe. If your interested...

"My sword Brother, Ambrose, and I, Robert, have sprung from the sea foam at Pevensey, and march with the great William, Rightful King of these lands. We scoff at what we have seen so far, and are eager to hew dominions and legends for ourselves in this Land of the nailed god. Our steel will drink deeply of Saxon blood, and your women and daughters will serve in our halls and our beds.

So that we will not become bored, we shall fight on foot, in the manner of our low bred foe. So they may have some glimmer of hope. We also hear your greatest warriors wield axes more fit for chopping wood than flesh. We find this quaint, and will meet our foe with similar peasant tools, so that those we conquer will know it is not our superior war craft, but rather our spirit that feeds the ravens with their flesh.

Make no mistake. There are no bridges for you to bellow and fart upon this time."

hehehe... This is the kind of crap that gets me excited, and keeps me packing the damn trailer in 100 degree weather.

So, I have completed quite a number of projects. Constance is sewing like the wind. She made a large number of clothes for people, and is currently sewing stuff for the two of us. I feel very pushed for time, but I have faith we will make it. Most of the heavy lifting is done, we have to pack the stuff that goes IN the tent now. (laugh)

I also just realized I only put one armor stand in the trailer, and forgot the second one. Sigh. I can't get by with only one armor stand, I have too many accessories. (wink)

The one project that may not get done in time is the banner for my damn turkish kit. This will be the second year in a row that I failed at that. (frown)

the project that took precidence this year was scabbards for my rapier and C&T swords. I almost wound up breaking my rapier last year. It fell off my wagon, and got caught in the wheels, bending it at an alarming rate. I guess I could have just put them in a pvc tube, but that looked like ass...

So I made some scabbards like weird Uncle Terry makes. They aren't as nice as his, but they will suffice.

Sunday was weapon making day. Ambrose gifted me with a martel he commissioned Magnus to craft for me. It is a beautiful piece of art. I will weild it at the Combat of the Thirty, I am sure, to great effect. We finished the haft for it sunday. Also burned and stained hafts for the Danish axes mark II for the afore mentioned Hastings battle. Made a rondel for Ambrose also. Got some good stuff accomplished in a short time span. It was fun.

I don't think the Pennants for the tent will be done this year again either. In all honesty, I would rather have linen undershirts than pretty pennents at this point. That's another problem with fighting so much... I go through a lot of arming clothes. (laugh)

I'm just very very happy she loves me. ( and is, in her own way, longsuffering) Otherwise there would be just no way I could maintain. I would run around in rags, like some kind of barely noble hedge knight... (laugh)

We are leaving home early friday morning, destined for zero night, loaded to the gills with crap. (laugh)

Now, the real question is, where in the hell am I gonna find room for that second armor stand....

(no subject)

Recently, a perennial subject has come up on my radar. It comes up every once in a while. It has come up again in a couple conversations with friends that “I HATE MELEE”.

This isn’t entirely true. Far from it, but like all good myths, there is a grain of truth to it. Lord knows I haven’t been silent on the subject in the past, so it is understandable folks would have that opinion of me.
I want to clarify this a bit, if for no other reason, than to go through the subject in my own head.

It is true that I don’t like Melee as much as I do tournament play. The challenges of tournament play that others find intimidating appeal to me personally, but I think most folk have a preference one way or another.
Here’s the thing. I do enjoy melee, but what I HATE about melee is that it fosters certain behaviors. This has nothing to do with the landscape, and everything to do with the approach.

Melee can be an amazing test. It will push you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It has great worth and merit.

But…..

We have all heard a thousand stories, and been part of a thousand more where the PERCIEVED anonymity of Melee allows certain individuals to fail the test of Knightly behavior. It happens, I know. At some point we all fail. That’s ok.

The problem is, it is FAR EASIER to THINK you are getting away with your failure when there are 600 other people on the field. So failing the next time is easier.

Whole cultures emerge where groups desperately convince themselves their failures are ok, that “That’s the way this is supposed to be”. “The East REALLY WANTS TO WIN, so of course we have to hit them in an excessive manner!” “The Middle is tired of losing, so of course they are gonna fake numbers and hide their advantage.”

It’s all Bullshit.

And that’s what I hate.. Not Melee…. That’s a blast, and a total challenge. It’s the culture of acceptable behavioral failure that surrounds it that I find repugnant!

It’s not even the failure I hate. Like I have said many times, if you are tested, you will fail at some point. That is not the issue.

This behavioral cancer is created by the fact that the activity of Melee has an identity crisis which has never been resolved. This “flux” creates space for the evil to thrive, or snares for the naive to stumble upon.
What is Melee? Are we trying to “pretend” to be at war, or are we doing “Grande Melee” among noble cousins, as our forefathers did?

This question colors everything.

Recently, Sir Gunther, in an attempt to explain our different approaches to Melee to a new fighter, stated that “Rob is a Hero, and I am a Soldier.”
This was a great compliment in my opinion. However, it is quite poignant. If we are trying to pretend we are at war, than the soldier mentality is the most effective and appropriate. The vast majority of an effective army is grunts, and it would be foolish for anyone to expect the behavior of an officer from a hundred grunts. War is hell, so it should be expected that, if we are trying to simulate war, the majority of the participants will act like peasants, or worse, an English Archer. (wink)

This is a VERY VERY different game than “assuming” we are all Noble combatants, who honor our opponents by striving nobly WITHEN THE CONFINES OF A PRE-DETERMINED LANDSCAPE OF ENGAGEMENT.

This difference of vision is problematic. We are a LONG WAY away from 600 nobles in a chivalric fraternity, sharpening each other’s honor by forging our spirits together.

Consequently, the way things are currently, we are far closer to pretending we are at war. We foster this idea with our language, with our structure, with our social pressures. With our posters, etc etc.
My own personal impact of this is that, if we are in an army, and I am trying to be a “Hero”, than the perception is that I am “not on board”, or “not part of the TRUE Midrealm culture.”

I have been told I am guilty of both of those.

Let’s add a few data points that may shed some light on how I am “not on board”.. (yes, that's a bit sarcastic)

I have not missed a SINGLE Pennsic heavy war point battle in the past nine years. In all of those battles, I have not once stopped until the cannons went off. For the past three years I haven’t missed a rapier war point battle.

I served as Midlands XO for two years, and acting CO for one Pennsic.
When there is Melee, or melee practice, I am always there.

But there is a perception that I am not on board with Melee in the Midrealm. That just isn’t the case.

I am, however NOT on board with certain aspects of the Melee culture. I DO NOT see myself as some kind of enlisted soldier circa 1942. I see myself as a person striving to test himself where the forge is hottest.

I DO NOT see myself donning “Hats and Bats”, I strive to don harness that would not be unrecognizable to my ancestors, and test myself in it, it’s weight and heat creating a greater challenge, thus ennobling my spirit, and the enterprise.

I love to fight. I love the feel of it, the sight of it. I love the charge, the press, the sweat. I love it. I revel in the privilege of soaking in the bath of honor.

But I won’t cheat, and I won’t hide behind generic livery, and I WILL drink the bitterness of my failures publically when I fail, and I will ALWAYS ALWAYS seek out honor before objective.

I am not a soldier of the Midrealm, I am one who strives to be Knightly FOR the Midrealm.

And if that is counter to the “True melee culture”, then so be it.
But it does not mean I hate melee.

The Combat of the Thirty, and the Unbelted Champion’s battle happen to be on the same day this year at Pennsic. I cannot think of a better microcosm of the two approaches.

Both are elitist enterprises, which require a very high degree of effort to participate in.

Both have “augmented” landscapes of engagement. (Published: the CoTT with armor as worn, and three telling blows, or if you feel you have been bested. Unpublished: Unbelt Champions battle reportedly being ‘standard” calibration, but if you believe that, your delusional. In effect it is to submission.)

Both claim to be representative of the SCA cultures from whence they came. (Cott is in effect the current gold standard for effort in appearance and effort on an inter-kingdom level. Unbelt Champion’s battle being a group of champions claiming to demonstrate the honor of their entire respective kingdoms.)

There really are a lot of parallels. Here is my challenge. Go watch both. Pay attention to the faces of the combatants, feel the energy and intent that surrounds these two events. Understand they are fought by people who strive with all their heart in both of them. Understand the participants are doing something that is very dear to their hearts, and what they perceive themselves to be. Understand and respect the level of effort required by the participants. DO NOT be afraid to judge them by their actions.

When you have watched both of them, realizing they are both expressions of two very different approaches, ask yourself which approach best represents the honor of the fighting community.

When a Knight takes his vows, he promises to be “Foremost in battle”. Does this mean he is the most efficient and ruthless killer of men on a melee field? Or does this mean he has a responsibility to demonstrate knightly virtues while being thick in the press?

Ultimately, both perspectives may have merit. Both CAN be noble paths, But don’t for a second think that all Knights must be soldiers, or conversely, soldiers cannot be Knighty. At best though, these two approaches are uneasy bedfellows, and create an environment where the weak of spirit have the leeway to color the entire enterprise with repugnant behavior. Safe in the comforts afforded plausible deniability.

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Last night I went over to Brian's for some more practice. We worked on Giocco Stretta stuff, and came to some simple conclusions. The problem we are perceiving is that in Giocco Larga I am starting to make it work. All this time in armor lately doing the things over and over have started to pay some real dividends. But when I get into close play, I revert back to playing the typical SCA game. (well, as typical as I ever do. laugh)

The inherent strategic problem is that there are too many variables to the "sca game" version of giocco stretta, and it is not strategically sound. It's too even a playing field. The principle of a system is that all things should lead to a definite advantage. Just like Long play, it should be an very short decision tree, and a very tight O.O.D.A loop.

I think we came up with some good observations based on the bolognese stuff. We will do some more work on them to see how they will pan out, but I am excited about them.

we also worked on something that is seriously lacking in my game, which is immediacy. He had a couple drills in mind that we worked through, and I think they will be beneficial. It is hard to quantify in words, but a cut should be "pure", committed, and explosive. I think if these things are lacking a significant piece is missing.

I feel a little bit as if I am learning to fight all over again. Everything is getting torn back down, and rebuilt, and it is quite exciting. There is a great deal of work to do, but I am "passing through complexity to arrive at simplicity".

I feel that My mind, body, and spirit are on the cusp of the next level of performance and understanding. Sounds a bit over dramatic, but that's how I feel. I have been and am still being taught by the best, and I have every intention of surpassing them, for that is the mark of a good teacher... when their students surpass them. I hope I get to watch somebody else do that to me.

That being said, I SUCKED ASS at the Cut and thrust tournament at Border Skirmish. I can blame fatigue, etc etc, but I did not show up to the party on that one.

In other news, After seven years, I have found someone to take over the Knight's Marshal job at Illiton. In all honesty, It really hasn't been a tremendous burden to me, other than the constant equipment issues, because I was always there, and always would be fighting and teaching. How can your passion become a burden? (hmm.. that may be a rhetorical question. hehe.) I can't really say I am "burned out".... Alzbeta and I have talked about that fuzzy word before. I think it is FAR FAR overused, and merely an excuse sometimes to not face one's own weakness. (Not always, of course)

But the real problem is that The Knight's Marshal thing deserves somebody fresh, with new ideas and new energy to drive it foreword. The other problem I am experiencing is that my teaching is becoming more.... for lack of a better word, esoteric.

It would be foolish for me to think that everybody who comes to practice wants to look at this as a lifestyle, or a tool to forge themselves into better people. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and it is just great fun to get dressed up in weird crap and beat the hell out of each other. It is, in some ways, unwise of me to "expect" that every person who begins fighter practice will be doing footwork drills every night before they go to bed. On the other hand, all the people in our practice tend to look at this as a martial culture, and I am proud of what we have accomplished. I think that some teachings need to be earned. On the other hand, there should always be free samples available. I think I am starting to run out of free samples. (Hmm.. That doesn't really make sense, but it is as good as my feeble brain can disgorge right now.)

In any case, The good Anshelm (Kenneth's new name) will be taking over for me at the baronial newcomers' meeting, so he will get the mountain of rotted loaner gear that I have accumulated/inherited. I AM happy to say that NONE of the helmets that I inherited are in service any more, and have not been for some time. (laugh)

I will ever and always support the fighting community, but I have to admit, it will be very pleasant, albeit strange to have such an empty truck bed... Only MY armor in it!?!? I won't know what to do!

I was pretty annoyed today when work got in the way of the first Reliquiae Demo. I couldn't get off work, and Brian and Jamie had to go do the demo at the library. I haven't heard how it went yet, but I am quite sure they did well. I really don't want to do many demos like this, as they really don't fit into what I am trying to do with the school. It is most certainly NOT a children's thing.

I am very proud of what we have accomplished so far, and what is in store. I do have to admit though, that many of my friends seem to think that it is "taking away" or I am "pulling away" from the SCA. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The belief, I think, stems from the idea that a WMA school, and the SCA cannot be mutually supporting. This parallels the thoughts in some that the SCA Cut and thrust activities are a direct threat in some way to the two competitive martial venues we already have.

This is, quite frankly, untrue.

Just as Kenjitsu fuels the sport of Kendo, and Kendo supports and vilifies Kenjitsu, so too does WMA and SCA exist.

But I have written about that before. suffice it to say that I have no intention whatsoever in "Disappearing". I'm not "burned out" or "changing direction", I just need to maximize my efforts. That being said, I will most likely not be as interested in doing things without purpose. Of course, just hanging out with friends is extremely valuable, and has a significant purpose, but I also need to be very mindful of my time and energy. I suppose that I could take it as a compliment that a small lapse on my part in certain areas has been perceived as leaving some small gap. It is pleasant to think that folks like having me around. I guess if you wanna know where to find me, just look out back at the pell. (laugh)

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