Wyntersett Practice 10/15/17

•October 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I don’t remember if I mentioned this, but I moved again.  I am back in northern NY in the Shire of Northern Outpost.  It was actually the shire I started the SCA in.  This time I am living on the border of the shire and actually the border of the East Kingdom.  I am still living in the EK, but barely.  The closest practice is actually in Aethelmarc.  We had been playing with Northern Outpost because that’s were our friends are and that’s technically our group, but today we visited the Shire of Wyntersett in Aethelmarc.

We got there late.  One thing I always forget is that whenever you’re traveling anywhere with a baby is that you need to leave early.  It may be because you forgot to pack the diaper bag or because you need to stop on the way there to change him, but something always happens.  We arrived a half hour into the practice and everyone was already in armor.  I looked at the baby and asked him if he needed to be fed.  He made no indications that he was hungry and I began putting on armor.   Before putting on the body armor, I asked the baby again if he was hungry and he again gave no indication that he wanted to be fed.  As soon as I finished strapping on my vambraces, he wanted to be fed.  So I took off all of the top half of my armor and fed him.  Needless to say, I missed another half hour of the practice!

I used the pole arm for my first fight.  I fought Justin (no SCA name yet) who fought with  a short kitana.  Per some advice, I decided to try and focus on my defense while still fighting.  It required me to let him close in on me so it really helped me work on my inner game.  When I got done, Kenshin asked me why I didn’t just bash him with my pole arm when I had Justin on his knees.  Then he answered his own question and realized I must be working on something.

My second fight I decided to pick up sword and board.   I couldn’t even decide which sword and style to use.  I asked Kenshin to pick on for me and he chose the hilt-heavy sword which is common in the East.  I felt my muscles straining just holding it.  I told myself that I was really just beginning again and not to feel bad if I did poorly.  I mostly stuck to a defensive stance, but that was because the sword felt heavy and unwieldy.  The few times I attempted to use it felt clumsy.  It didn’t last long because I just couldn’t hold it up anymore.

It seemed like a good practice with good people.  I like the fact that it’s on a weekend.  I hate having to drive the 50 minutes to Northern Outpost on Tuesday nights.  I also don’t want to fight then because I have gone all day without seeing my son and would prefer to spend time with him!  It was different last Tuesday because people cane to our place.  I felt like the 100 minutes normally spent in driving, I could spend with our son.  Anyway, I’m not really focused on hitting many practices regularly, but I am happy that I’ve at least gotten a start!

 

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Fighting Post-Pregnancy Part 2

•October 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

For anyone who has a baby, you know how difficult it is to get stuff done, even if your baby is as sweet tempered as ours.  There are just days where he wants/needs constant attention and you can’t get anything done.  Today was one of those days. But, by some miracle, he managed to fall asleep right before we started to put our armor on. Now both of us could fight at the same time!

Armed with a leather punch, I managed to get my leg armor to barely fit.  My body armor gapped open at the front, but thankfully that didn’t matter with the current armor standards.  Everything fit — sort of.  Well, it fit well enough to cover the parts of my body that needed covering, so I guess that was good enough.

My first fight was Sir Rhys, so I picked up the sword and shield.  It felt awkward just holding them and was even more awkward attempting to use.  Thankfully he just kind of stood there and let me try to hit him at first. Whenever he started trying to hit me back, the fight didn’t last long.  He hit me on my unarmored arm and my leg where I have only thin, unhardened leather between the sword and my skin.  My skin stung so I decided to take a break.

I switched to pole arm and Sir Rhys was again ready to fight.  I did a little better this time.  I kept him at a distance for a little bit and even managed to kill him once with a well-placed face thrust.  I started thinking that perhaps pole arm might be the way to go for me.  I fought Christoph next.  He had a long weapon as well, but I got so winded too quickly and had to step away after only a bout or two.

Sir Rhys started to teach me a drill for moving while swinging.  I told him that I was looking at pursuing pole arm because I was doing much better with it today.  I explained that I had been taught so many different ways of fighting with sword and shield and I still couldn’t figure out if any of them actually worked for me.  He summed up what I was saying in a great way and of course I forgot how he put it.  But basically, I almost know too much on the subject but I can do none of it.  I can compare the East’s style with the Western (often called the Bellatrix style) and talk about the merits of tip-heavy swords with hilt-heavy swords, but I can’t fight well with either.  I can spout off the merits of each kind of shield, but I still have aircraft aluminum that I bought years ago waiting to be cut into a shield because I can’t figure out which is right for me.  It’s like I know all the sides of the arguments so I can’t make a good decision.  That’s why I want to fight with a pole arm.  I have found something that works for me.  And while I am in poor aerobic shape, it can only get better from here!

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Fighting Post-Pregnancy

•October 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

My baby was born 2 months ago via c-section.  Most of my recovery from the surgery is done.  I have been given the clearance to exercise with caution.  I can do anything unless it hurts.  Well, it turns out that walking for too long hurts.  I suppose it’s because they cut through my lower abdominal muscles and that they’re probably still re-knitting themselves back together. I am working at increasing the length of time I can walk for.   I started strength training last week.

I also put on 55lbs throughout the pregnancy and have only taken off 20 of it.  They say breastfeeding helps you lose weight, but I guess it takes a while.  Because I’m breastfeeding, I’m not allowed to diet.  That means I’m still 35lbs heavier than I was when I got pregnant.  Today I am going to try and fit in my armor.  If I can squeeze myself into it, I will attempt to fight.  I’ll write a blog about how that goes!

I have also finally had a break-through as to the question I have been trying to answer for years: why do I fight?  It’s more of a social activity for me.  That explains why I like some fight practices more than others.  I may feel comfortable or have more friends at some practices more than others.  I also have some friends who I love to hang out with but hate to fight because they take it seriously to a scary level.  I used to enjoy melees because it was an activity with a group of friends.  I don’t like it now because I don’t feel like I have anybody to fight with.  Yes, I know I have had several offers to fight with groups, but I guess I just don’t feel like I belong with ANY group at the moment.

I will be more active in the SCA again in the future.  I have recently attended Closing of the Inne at Coldwood and EK Coronation.  Kenshin is on the Queen’s Guard, so I will be around at the events that he will be at.  I will probably be spending most of the time taking care of the baby, but that’s fine by me.  I don’t get to see my son much during the week because of work so I enjoy spending as much of my weekend as possible with him!  Here’s a picture of us at Coronation:

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Training While Pregnant

•June 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I asked my Facebook friends to recommend things I could do to train for SCA fighting while pregnant. Most of the advice I received was to do gentle cardio or some strength training. I was warned not to do pell work as the difference in my center of gravity would just mess up my technique after the baby is born.

I have still been keeping busy and helped marshaling at Tourney of the Daffodils and Blood and Axes. I went to War of the Roses and managed to keep busy socializing. I feel like I’m finally starting to get over shit. I seem to be repairing some friendships that I thought were broken. This makes me happy because some of them I valued highly, but didn’t want to make myself even more vulnerable by admitting that. While my friendships that disintegrated years ago didn’t exactly return to “normal” in a few hours of hanging out, I was pleased that we at least made a few first steps to being on good terms again.

I truly did want to actually do some form of training while being pregnant. I spent a whole five minutes one day with one of those thingies designed to strengthen your grip. And another day, I walked almost a half a mile with Kitsutaro (the SCA name of the father of my child). These bursts of energy, however, are quite rare. Unfortunately, I spend more time and energy getting a few things done and the rest of my time needing sleep and rest. I also did end up playing with a pole arm several times, helping Kitsu with drills. I didn’t feel like my center of gravity was particularly off, but I have always had good balance, even though doctors have told me, at times, that I shouldn’t. It felt good to play with it, but I tried very hard not to do any of the repetitive movements that would make what I was doing any kind of technical work, just in case.

I did realize that there were a number of questions that I had to answer before I start fighting again anyway. I still have at least a month or two before the baby is born and at least a good 6 weeks afterwards before my body will be able to handle heavy fighting again. I hope to have things figured out by then. Kitsu is incredibly supportive of us both pursuing our fighting goals and we plan to split fight practices and infant care so we can both improve.

Anyway, I need to figure out a few things:
1. What do I want my main weapons form to be?
Yes, I know that the traditional answer would be sword and shield. That is the usual answer given to anyone who is interested in learning to fight. However, I spent a while fighting as a righty with a tear drop. I spent a while fighting as a lefty with a heater. However, it always seemed to be an uphill battle. It didn’t seem natural to me. I had shoulder problems as a righty. I wasn’t as ambidextrous as I thought as a lefty. I had issues with learning the techniques. Then when I did learn them, I had issues with remembering to use them in the right circumstances. And if I didn’t use them, I eventually forgot them. I got annoyed because my shield kept blinding me and I never seemed to react correctly to things. If I were to continue trying to attempt learning to fight sword and shield, I also would need to figure out what style to learn (hilt-heavy or tip-heavy) and what shield shape to choose. I know the pros and cons of each so much that I feel like my intellect is almost blinding my decision.

I initially thought I had a proclivity for pole arm until I met a few great pole armers. However, I feel more comfortable with a pole arm. Even though I am more open to getting hit with shots, I like that I can actually see them coming. It is probably the only weapon form that I actually feel is somewhat natural for me. I suppose in typing all of this out, it is more obvious what course I should take. However, I’m not really fast enough on my feet to be one of the quick pole armers and I never really got into the “thug” style of just standing and hitting heavy with big, thick sticks. Maybe I should just do what I like and not worry about learning to be good. However, part of my enjoyment comes from learning to be good, so I don’t know.

2. Who am I going to fight with?
I used to love fighting in melees. When I first started fighting, I had fun fighting side by side with my good friend Olaf in the 3rd division of the Northern Army. When I thought I had found my permanent place in the SCA, I had fun fighting side by side with the people in the household I was a part of. Now, I have nobody to fight with at melee events. I tried to fight alone at Pennsic, but all of the orders were given to households and units, so I never really had much to do except to try and join in and fill in empty spaces in the line. It wasn’t much fun and I left before the time was up.

I also have no desire to join another household or squire right now, which probably doesn’t help matters. I do want to get back on my quest to improve my fighting that originally started this blog. However, I’m just not ready to enter into another squire relationship with anyone right now. Also, I thought of my old household like my family. Choosing to leave was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made. I’m just not ready to find another family. I haven’t really found another group I feel that way about right now anyway. Maybe I just need some time to actually give another group a chance. I just know I’m not ready. I am more than happy to learn anything from anyone who has anything to teach me, but I’m just not ready to choose a single mentor at the moment.

3. Can I get back on the fighting bandwagon while looking after an infant?

Well, this is one I’ll just have to wait and see what I can do.

Pregnancy and Fighting

•April 5, 2017 • 1 Comment

Back in November, I attended the Bennington fight practice.  I had my newer, lighter armor and was interested in getting back into fighting again.  I knew it would be an uphill battle for me, but was still too stubborn to give up despite the years of damage done to my emotional mindset and my SCA reputation by one individual. Yes, I understand that it was partially my own fault for keeping to myself and being overemotional and prickly by turns as I healed myself and my emotions.  I am also nowhere nearly as friendly as I used to be because I have lost the sense of trust that I used to have for most people, even those I once considered friends.  That is something I still have yet to work on.

So anyway, back to the fight practice in November: I armored up, was chatting a bit, and then I realized that all of a sudden I had to walk away and throw up.  So I did.  I suspected that I might be pregnant at that point, but I wasn’t sure.  I blamed the vomit on the flu that was supposedly going around my school, took off my gear, and watched the fighting.   I went home and took a pregnancy test.  Sure enough, I was pregnant.  There came the age-old question for any female fighter who gets pregnant — to fight, or not to fight?  The answer varies by the individual.  I know of a female fighter who actually managed to fight into her fifth month of pregnancy.  I am by no means saying what she did wasn’t right for her.  However, I decided it wasn’t right for me.    I am now 37 and technically obese, so the chance for miscarriage and birth defects goes way up with that combination.  While there is absolutely no evidence that says fighting while pregnant will damage your child, I didn’t want to take the chance.  I have always wanted kids and didn’t want to fuck anything up.

There’s also the other side of the coin that people don’t consider when fighting while pregnant.  It’s the other party.  Women that fight while pregnant tend to neglect to tell the person they’re fighting about their condition.  Why?  Because they know that almost anyone will refuse to fight a pregnant woman.  There’s also the reason that women tend not to tell people they’re pregnant until after the first trimester and the chance for a miscarriage goes way down.   I don’t believe it is fair to your opponent to omit such important information from them, especially if you think it will cause issues. But again, that’s just my opinion.

So, needless to say, once again when I have determined that I will get back into SCA fighting, life has other plans for me.  However, having always wanted kids, I really can’t complain about this particular life twist!  For the first 3-4 months of my pregnancy, constant nausea kept me from wanting to attend anything.  When I started feeling better, I attended an event or two with my husband, Kitsutaro (we got hand-fasted in December).  The fighting event was the hardest for me because I had no idea what to do with myself.  I mean, yes, I also embroider, but I always thought of it as the sort of thing that I did at home.  Why would I drive however many hours to go to an event to embroider?  Thankfully, I still did have some friends who were willing to pick the friendship up where we left off years ago.  It provided me with the double advantage of learning to get out there and start trusting people again and reminded me that sometimes the SCA really is about the people in it.  I also started to hang out with more women.  It’s not that I have anything against female friends, but I had a bad experience with the types of women who are more “frenemies” than friends in the past, I had more in common with the men in the SCA because of the fighting, and my personality can be a bit tactless and abrasive at times which often deters more females than males from conversing with me.  However, being pregnant was a conversation opener for a lot of women.  Granted, it seems to be all anyone talks to me about these days, like I’m no longer a person just an incubator, but I’m always grateful to have a go-to topic for conversation!

I am due on July 22nd, so I will obviously not be attending Pennsic this year.  It will be an advantage next year because our kid will be almost 1 and easier to deal with at a long-term camping event than a newborn would be.  I intend to be at a few events between now and then, but I will obviously not be fighting.  I have asked around on a Facebook group for female fighters about how long it took them to get into armor again after giving birth.  The average answer was 6-8 weeks.  So, optimistically, I will be back to fighting in September.  If not, later.  My husband is very supportive and we have already started talking about ways we could share the baby responsibilities and still manage to fight.

Some women talk about being able to workout during their pregnancy.  While I have considered attempting pell work, it seems there is always so much else to do with the responsibilities of work, home, and preparing for a baby.  I tried to work out a few times, but I found that I rarely have the energy.  My body is usually just very worn out from growing a tiny human.  I keep telling myself that I’ll really focus on working out, eating healthily, and doing pell work after the baby arrives.  Let’s hope that works out!

So, needless to say, I won’t be writing terribly much in this blog for a while.  I do plan to update my embroidery blog with my attempts at period maternity Viking clothing though!

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Recovery

•November 6, 2016 • 4 Comments

I have gone back and forth for a long time about whether or not to write this blog. It is sharing more about myself and my personal life than I typically like to do. Some years ago, someone in my life gaslighted me. I thought I would be the last type of person to be a victim of gaslighting, with my stubborn and independent nature. It turns out that my big heart, my inherent trust in people, and my unwillingness to see the bad in others have all worked to my disadvantage in this case. I have since learned the hard way.

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Gaslighting can be done by friends, family, and lovers. I have no intention of disclosing who the culprit was because I don’t think this person even realized they were doing it and I have no desire to speak (or write) poorly of anyone. This person doesn’t treat everybody that way, so why should I ruin your relationship with them?

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According to Google, ‘gaslight’ means to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity”. You can find an article about gaslighting here. It has different manifestations in different people. Honestly, I didn’t realize that I was being gaslighted at the time. It was maybe a year ago that I figured it out after reading through the second article that I had come across on the subject. In that article, it had some of the exact phrases that were used on me. That’s when it became apparent that all of the things I was struggling with were the after-effects of gaslighting.

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So why am I writing about this in a fighting blog? Because it affected my fighting and SCA life the most. After the break-up, this person told me that all of my SCAdian friends took my ex’s side and no one liked me anymore. I isolated myself from people as I still tried to participate in the SCA anyway. When I broke ties with this person, they instinctively knew which of my friends to badmouth me to (everything from name-calling to discussion of my sexual exploits were topics that were brought up). They also seemed to know who to speak well of me to and played up their concern for my ‘mental illness’. The few friends who still talked to me started to treat me like I was crazy and they were afraid to upset me. I didn’t know any of this at the time. I just noticed that people were treating me so strangely so I isolated myself even more. Honestly, I probably was acting crazy. I had random emotional outbursts and acted impulsively, making several stupid decisions in the process. I vacillated from not knowing who to trust to choosing one person, telling practically my entire life story, then stopped talking to them because I was ashamed for telling them things I shouldn’t have. After being craftily manipulated for a long time to not trust myself or my own judgement, I had cut myself loose. But now there was nobody to tell me what to do and what was or wasn’t a stupid decision. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t take care of myself or trust in my own judgement.

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When I first started this blog, I was an ‘up-and-coming’ who was full of drive, enjoyed fighting, and tried to attend several fight practices a week. Some of you might remember that version of me. Then I slowly started to “realize” how much I sucked at fighting. I got frustrated by it. I mentioned it in almost every blog post. I began to have emotional breakdowns at practices. Most of the time I was able to hide it well. Other times I tried to fight through the tears. I was ordered to stop writing about crying at practices so I did, but the crying still happened. It just wasn’t mentioned in my blogs and I merely called it “frustration”. I was embarrassed at my emotionality and my appearance at fight practices became sporadic at that point. I took a feminist stance blaming my failures on how people treated female fighters.  At this point, it became obvious in my writing that I didn’t even trust the truth of what I was saying. I ended blogs with something like, “What I have written may or may not be true.  I simply write how I see things from my point of view.”  In fact, this was about the time when things got so bad that I felt compelled to run all of my blogs by this person before I posted them for fear of accidentally pissing people off like I had in the past. People complimented me on how much better my writing was, so I figured it was for the best. I became ashamed of my former writing and changed all of my older posts to “private”. Maybe one day when I get the time, I’ll change them all back. I think only the blog posts from the last few years are currently visible.

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Since I broke ties with this person, I have been trying to un-gaslight myself. Of course, it was slow-going until I had figured out what was going on. It took me a year before I could make a big decision without second-guessing myself or getting a second opinion. I struggled with depression. I considered quitting the SCA. I felt very alone. I moved. I rebuilt some of my life. I got a good job. I cemented my friendships with a few non-SCAdian friends. I still mistrusted SCAdians whether they were old friends or people I had never met. I somehow still believed the things I was told by this person. And many of them still clearly believed the things they were told about me. I became anti-social, prickly, and withdrawn at events. I still am at times. I took a year off. I cut some further ties that had nothing to do with my gaslighting, just for my own well-being. I slowly, very slowly, started feeling out some of my former SCA friendships.

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In the past year, once I have realized what has actually been going on in my head, I have been improving by leaps and bounds. I am doing a lot better, but still suffer from some of the after-effects of gaslighting. I am trying to get back into fighting, though weight loss is more of a priority right now than fighting is. What people don’t understand is that every fight practice I attend requires an internal battle between my true self and my gaslighted self. When I show up, my true self wins. Then I have to go through a similar battle again just to put on my armor and fight. Every blog post you have seen about me attending a practice and fighting is a victory for me, as sad as that sounds (since they’ve been few and far between). I can not always be relied upon to do what I say I’m going to do with regards to fighting. But I do try.  With everything else, my word is my bond (unless I’m promising you embroidery when I’m drunk, because I won’t remember it then).  I believe very strongly in doing what I say I’m going to do.  I am now the KM of my current Canton. I am working to build a fight practice out of nothing, which is an uphill battle, but I need a new challenge to help me pull my head out of my ass. Being in a new place with new people who have not been told those things about me is helping, but I still struggle sometimes. Someday I will attempt to pursue my fighting goals again. Maybe I will squire again. I have no desire to become a squire now. I do not have the drive to succeed that I once had and I feel that I need to re-find it in order to start taking fighting seriously again.

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Because of the personal nature of this subject, the embarrassment that I was fooled by and succumbed to it, and the fact that I was afraid to share something so personal with the world were all reasons that I put off writing this. Because I withdrew from the SCAdian world, put on an unpredictable appearance, and really kept to myself, I know people believed some of the things they have been told about me. And that’s understandable. Nobody heard my side of the story. Honestly, I didn’t even realize the whole side of my own story until much later. When one friend confronted me about my ‘mental illness’ a few years ago, I even agreed. After all, what else were the random emotional outbursts and lack of trust in myself and others? So here this is, my side of the story. You don’t have to believe it, but at least it’s here. And it is also here with my apology to everyone I have withdrawn from and been prickly with. When I say I didn’t trust you, please don’t take it personally. For a long time, I didn’t even trust myself!

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I have learned many things out of this:

  • I am not playing the victim, I was a victim.

  • Being gaslighted doesn’t mean I was weak, it means that I chose to put my trust in the wrong person.

  • Being put in that situation and still managing to find the strength to sever ties proves that I am strong, even though at the time I didn’t understand why.

  • Being able to turn myself and my life around and learn to trust again has made me even stronger.

  • I am still going to be dealing with this, but it will fade with time.

  • I will still be emotional sometimes and it’s okay.  It’s just part of the healing process.

  • I am now stubborn about things for too long or stubborn about the wrong things, merely because I’m still learning how and when to assert myself again.

  • I am not pathetic, I chose to believe in someone enough to make me feel pathetic.

  • By the time I am done with my recovery, I will be so strong and secure in myself, that I will be unshakable.

  • It’s become a lot more apparent who my friends are.

  • The SCA is important enough to me to still go through all this shit just to continue participating!

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Barleycorn 2016 (a.k.a. Adventures in Marshaling)

•November 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

As knight marshal of the Canton of Northpass, I was again asked to marshal the heavy fighting activities. This was an investiture and as such the scheduling was extremely difficult. There were four courts on Saturday and fighting could really not happen during those courts. There was a tourchlight tournament scheduled for Friday night. I showed up, but nobody else did. Honestly, I didn’t expect anyone. Most people worked all day and then drove at least a few hours to get there. Those fighters that were in attendance were probably busy settling in.

The next day, the only event that I was responsible for marshaling was the melees, which were scheduled for 9am. The schedule was extremely tight due to the four courts that were apparently required for the investiture that was being held at Barleycorn this year. Unsurprisingly, no heavy fighters showed up. One fencer showed up and mistook me for the fencing marshal (what do people keep doing that?). I was getting ready to leave when one heavy fighter showed up and asked where he could put his armor. I found a place and he asked about the fighting. I explained the problem. The outgoing court of the Viceroy and Viscrene was about to start. We could certainly not have any fighting activities there. We walked and found a small field where it was far enough away that it shouldn’t disrupt their court, but not far enough away that people couldn’t find the fighting if they were so inclined.

They stayed there until noon when Sir Edward’s Tournament was about to start. He had brought his own marshal. I started chatting with one of the other fighters who was also a marshal. That fighter told me that apparently according to curia law if I was marshal in charge at an event, I had say on all marshal activities that happened at that event. I was to be given a list of marshals ahead of time and if I wasn’t happy with the way things were being handled, I could chose to stop all heavy fighting activities or refuse to have them there. I have since checked the marshal’s handbook and skimmed through EK curia law. I saw nothing of the kind.

There was something important that occurred throughout the day that I was not listened to about and I was not happy. I also had someone try and pull rank on me on an issue too. Seriously, it’s enough to make me not have any desire to help out and marshal again. It’s hard enough to find people to marshal because most of the people who marshal prefer to fight. Then add some of the extra bullshit that I had to deal with on top of that and it’s no wonder why many people would prefer not to do it. I discussed the happenings with the event autocrat and I was assured that it wouldn’t be a problem in the future, so I’ll guess I’ll give Barleycorn a try for one more year.