Woods Battle: Pennsic 47

•March 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Hey everyone!  I wrote this right after Pennsic and then got busy packing and moving and never posted it.  Enjoy!

Back when I was pregnant, my husband promised me that our first Pennsic back, I would get to fight in the woods battle. Since my son was born I have only been in armor twice. I really didn’t have have much of a desire to fight at all. In fact, throughout peace week, I even described myself as “a former fighter”. I didn’t know where I was going with my SCA identity and goals, but I did know it wasn’t going to be related to fighting. I took classes, volunteered, made new friends, and reconnected with old ones.

At the beginning of the second week, I decided to attend the female fighters roundtable. I don’t know why I wanted to go. I had already decided to give up fighting for the time being. Nonetheless, after a lot of debate, I decided to go. It was nice to have a chance to chat with other female fighters. It lit enough of a fire in me to decide to attempt the woods battle.

The next morning I woke up early, put on all my armor, and got to inspection point not long after they opened. Thankfully, my weapons had already been inspected because my husband had considered using them himself. I passed the inspection with no issues. I walked back up to the B blocks, then down again, across the battlefield, up the road, and to the woods. I was already pouring with sweat by the time I arrived. After walking uphill to get to our resurrection point, I was huffing and puffing. Thankfully, there was plenty of time before the battle started. I looked around for some people I knew, thinking to say ‘hi’ and decided against it. I spotted a man sitting on a rock not far away. There was another rock nearby, so I sat on that. I ended up chatting with him a little bit as we waited, but only in passing. A few people came across me and said hi, but mostly I sat in silence. I was okay with that. It seemed like everyone else was spending the time blustering and boasting (I doubt that EVERYONE was doing it, it just seemed that way at the time), so I was enjoying keeping my silence.
During one of my few conversations, people asked me who I was fighting with. I said I was fighting for myself. Then I was pleased to realize that it was true. The woods battle is really the best battle for being an army of one, since it’s easy to lose your group and end up fighting with someone else anyway. Fighting for myself meant I could go where I want and do what I want. In the past, fighting alone felt scary. Now, it felt like I was free.
After being told it was going to be 10 minutes or 5 minutes before the battle begins at least 5 times, I didn’t even have my helmet on when the cannon went off. I quickly remedied that. I quickly went off the path and found a section where there was fighting. Since I had a pole arm, I really couldn’t do much when there were spears opposing us. When they all got taken out and there were just people fighting with sword and shield, I realized that I had the tactical advantage. I ran in, killed 3, and made a hole. I kept going down the line and killing off people until a spear spotted me and took me out. As I walked away, I saw that nobody knew what to do with the hole I made. Some people were yelling at everyone to stay the line since getting too far ahead meant that they could flank around us. However, we could have used the hole I made to wrap around them on both sides and nobody took advantage of it.

When I returned, I was told they needed help on the road. I usually like to stay off of the road, but since they asked for help, I went there. There were a few Tuchux there. I usually liked fighting Tuchux in the past. However, none of them acknowledged any of my shots, even though two rocked their heads, and one shot caused the person to fall. Eventually, I was killed by a spear.

I decided to return to the woods. I realized that we were on the far left flank and we were thinning out way too much. Most of the time all I really did was stand there and help be a “show of force” since the other side had a lot of spears. My pole arm didn’t have the reach on them. After a while, some of my old habits returned. I found myself repeating orders. Then I found myself shouting new things. I figured it was stupid for me to order people, but I seemed to notice things that other people didn’t. I saw where the line was thinnest. I saw when they started to flank us. I saw when one guy with a white belt drew off five people that should have stayed with our line. I just yelled to point out the things I noticed. People rarely did anything about it, but that was their choice.
I realized that a little to the left of me was one of the flags. While it was fun killing people, this was really what the battle was all about. This would allow us to win or lose. Many people enjoy the fight without seeing the bigger picture — the flag. There were very few people near the flag. I got killed several times protecting it. Each time, it became more and more difficult to hike back up the hill and return to the flag. Each time, I spent a little bit longer standing back and catching my breath before joining the line. I suppose the important thing was that I kept returning, even if it took me a while. We lost the flag at the end of the battle, but at least we tried.

Over the course of the battle I had seen several people I knew. Duke Darius (Omega?) said it was good to see me out there. Some folks I knew from Locac said something similar. Probably my favorite moment was when Duke Edward of Eldemere gave me a fist bump. Maybe it sounds silly, but being acknowledged for doing something well by such a great pole arm fighter meant a lot to me!

Uncertain Future

•January 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I decided that before I return to fighting, I would focus on weight loss. It made sense because my body wasn’t responding very well to my extra weight and I wanted to be in better condition before I started fighting again.

Since then I started an eating plan that was too expensive to stick to and an exercise plan that lasted for all of a month. I put the exercise on hold due to foot pain and the busy nature of my job during the month of December.  I later found out that I have plantar fasciitis, a foot condition that results in pain. The likely cause? Being pregnant or being overweight.

Now, in the new year, I am trying to lose weight through diet alone, which was never really my strong suit. I have decided to cut out grains, white potatoes,  and added sugars. No, that does not mean I’m going low-carb. I plan to eat squash and fruit and sweet potatoes and whatever else I can find with those parameters that still has carbs in it. I am still breastfeeding and need those carbs for milk production.  I may also eat rice and rice products since Kenshin, who is doing this plan with me, refuses to give up on rice. So far, it’s not going well. We’re still not done eating through the remaining sugar and grain products around the kitchen when we’re hungry for snacks. On the bright side, our meals are now what they should be.  I will be getting inserts for my shoes for the foot condition  and will wait and see on the exercise.

In the meantime,  I am debating returning to fighting. My body is not happy with me at the moment and is not fit for any exercize right now. While I had a burning desire to fight well for years, I had some issues pursuing that desire after some emotional problems from being a victim of emotional abuse. Since my son was born, the desire to be good at fighting is slowly fading. I’m only a couple years away from 40. And now it seems like several of the great fighters I heard stories about when I first started  are all developing seizure disorders, having strokes, and other head-related issues. Combine that with a calibration that only seems to go up in this kingdom, and you can see why I’m concerned. Intelligence and my brain are a lot of who I am. I don’t want to risk that. So for those reasons, I am unsure if I will be returning to fighting at all. The future is uncertain. We will see.

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Only One Thing to Improve My Fighting

•October 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As I may have mentioned once or twice (okay, probably every blog entry), I don’t have a lot of time now that I have an awesome baby boy.  It seems like I complain a lot about the time thing, but he is truly a loved little boy.  I couldn’t have asked for a better son!  I mention the time thing a lot on here because it does affect my ability to get back in the game.  If I am lucky, I have time to probably do ONE thing every day to improve my fighting.  So I asked my Facebook friends:

If you could recommend one thing for me to do to improve my fighting, what would it be?”  I added the following: “I am just coming back to it, am overweight, out of shape, and recovering from a c-section. With a two month old son, I may only have time for one thing, if that.”

“Pell work” – Sir Mitchell MacBain

Work on defense. A strong defense will allow you more options in a fight, just my two cents.”  – Duke Darius

“Ensure it remains a joy, rather then a chore. If you give yourself a hard deadline, I fear it will be one the latter.” – Duke Timothy of Arindale

“Cardio, time to build your stamina back up and lose the baby weight from your pregnancy.” – Kurama Kenshin

Lunges. Easier on the mid-section and knees than squats. Rebuild leg strength.
Start with no weight. Once they are fluid (knees barely kiss the ground), start doing them holding the baby in your arms.  Once the cut from the c-sec is entirely healed, go on to squats. – Sir Pellandres
100 shots a day on the pell while holding a shield. If you feel like you want to do more, go ahead; the 100 shots is a minimum, not a maximum.” Sir Alexander de Hauteville

Be willing to fail. I know that sounds weird, but we so often get stuck in a spot where we are unwilling to take risks or change things that are not working because we are worried that they may lead to failing. Making mistakes, risk taking, trying new things, and being willing to abandon things that do not work are the ways to learn. Amusingly, I just gave this advice to my critical writing class last week.” – The Widow Montoya

“Pell work. Make the shots be automatic to the nervous system so you don’t have to think about throwing the shot, the shot just is.” – Jarl Thorsson

Make sure you trust the people at practice enough to be able to take chances, and not try to “win” at practice.” – Alric of the Mists

“One thing? Observe. Watch all the fighting you can. In person, on video. Watch and learn. Physical conditioning matters, but fighting is an intellectual puzzle. Observation lets you solve the puzzle.”

Mobility. Miyagi say, best way block hit, no be there.”
Free Weight Training. Best long term gift you can give yourself. Stabilizing the joints will allow you to do more of the other things with less injury. I add this to my PEL work”. – Sir Hrafn

I always suggest working footwork. No use being a sitting target. If you keep your feet moving not only will it help your defense, but it will help you get into better offensive potions where you can plant your feet and throw a good shot.” – Osazuwa NKante

Make your goal not to win, but to have the best time you can for as long as you can and have a fun fight. You asked how to improve your fighting. I’ve told you that rather than told you how to be better at fighting. I think that if you follow my advice, getting better follows naturally. Bon chance!”
There were a few gentles whose SCA names I either did not know or know how to spell so I did not credit them here.  My thanks to all who responded!  Now I have a lot to think about!

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.