Armored Combat

Armored Combat (also called Heavy Weapons) as practiced in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Full contact and full speed using real armor and simulated weapons.
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The Sophomore Invasion

It's finally warm and nice out. And of course it's almost the end of the semester, so some people, like Ross, are in a crush to get their big final projects finished. That left us tonight with nothing but grey-haired guys at Thursday night UVa practice. No worries, we'll just knock around a bit, experiment with my compact camera which I bravely mounted to the front of my helmet, then call it a night after some bruise exchange.

Along the way, one ebullient young undergrad wandered by on the way back to the dorms from dinner as Philip and I were taking a break. She asked what we were doing, and after explanations was very excited to find that we were (theoretically) part of a UVa CIO. Throughout the rest of the evening, there were many calls of "What are you doing? What is this?" replied to with "It's a CIO!" 

Seems like being a CIO makes even armored guys beating each other an entirely relatable thing.

Ebullience turned into excitement when offers to let her learn how to do it came up, and an interesting effect made things snowball: Once our Patient Zero (shame on me for not recalling her name) started participating, hardly two minutes could pass without a friend running up and asking what she was doing. So before I could say "form up a shield wall" I was no longer just knocking around in armor at at a practice/sausage party; I was teaching five smart, sharp, athletic sophomore-ish co-eds how to throw flat snaps, all while they swapped around trying on my helmet.

It was a level of enthusiasm and exuberance I've rarely seen, at once unexpected, welcome, and sadly greeted with a bit of cynicism as there is more than a little chance we were dealing with tourists. There were many comments of "So is there a list serve?" (Suggesting real interest.) And "My least typical Thursday night all year." (I had to reply "Not for me.") 

To balance out the tourist observation, I definitely saw the potential for great fighting from at least one of them, and all of them could authorize without much trouble. But then this is a regular thing: Over the years I've seen more than half a dozen kids start at this practice who could be dukes (or duchesses by their own hands) with a few years of helmet time. It's UVa: they're ALL smart. But some are so very, very physically gifted. Moreso than I ever was. If only they stayed with it!

One generational change I noticed for the first time tonight. Can't say if I just didn't pick up on this change at earlier practice, perhaps it was the sudden influx of FIVE enthusiastic women all at once. Approaching a group of four men practicing, all of them at least ten years their senior, not a one of them asked "Is this something women do?" They all assumed that women did. They all assumed that they could. 

As they should. They were all good students tonight.

Tonight's videos are odd, all just the tops of helmets. I'll nevertheless post it tomorrow. Here's the only picture I took with my camera that does really poorly in low light. The new students took many, including some fetching ones combining gang signs, my helmet, and gym shorts. Perhaps they'll come back and share them. I did hand out some business cards.

Blurry pics of the sophomore attack.

I have some lovely McDavid Padded Shirt hexagonal outline bruises to go with tonight's mail shirt bruises. And if my helmet smells of perfume, I'm sure Kit will understand.

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The Third Tournament. Amazing how far we've come.

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Defending the Gate: All over now but for the groaning

I've had a hot shower and a delicious meal from Barbecue Exchange in Gordonsville on the way home. I've got a glass of wine and a quiet evening, so here's a recap of the day.

I was surprisingly successful at putting all my gear together, considering the number of times I've loaned pieces out since I last fought--which was Pennsic. I don't recommend seven months off and then fighting hard for four hours. Tomorrow won't be fun, but I'm really going to hate Monday.
After rendezvousing with Philip along the way and stocking up on Girl Scout cookies, we made it to the site in typical SCA time: 30 minutes late. But the fighting hadn't started yet. I didn't finish arming in time for the first melee, but only because my fighting pants had lost their drawstring and getting a new one in them took an embarrassing amount of time.
But before the arming up mess, I had a chance to place my Jakks Action Cam at the top of the gate, with Turgeis' kind permission. Having now looked at the footage, it isn't great, but I'll cut a few bits together later and post them to my youtube channel.
Turning on the camera. With my polearm.
As ever, the Gate itself was a centerpiece, the thing that makes the fighting at this event unique. I missed the last year or two, so seeing the gate in its current incarnation was a treat. In the past it was rarely up to the hard use it got, but this gate is, as the builders proudly proclaimed, quite over engineered. There wasn't even a wobble this year. The worst thing that happened with it was my putting my backup dagger and mace on top, only to come back for them later and discover they had fallen inside, where they could not be reached before taking the gate apart.
Luckily it wasn't much of a backup weapon day.
On one attack of the gate defenders, I had a spear & ended up tangling with a shield man, using the haft to pin his arm as I maneuvered closer. Ultimately I ended up completely inverting the spear to face thrust him. But my favorite moment was in the three-sided open melee with the gate as the victory condition. I got behind the Wolfshaven team guys and commandeered them, ordering their remaining forces forward into the warm embrace of my teammates.
In one of the open field battles I misjudged the range of a Galacian warhammer and got hit right off the bat right on the top of my flat helmet. Hardest blow I've been hit with in years. Perhaps the power of the blow was in part due to my having stolen two spears from the fellow earlier in the day.
My brother Justus was on fire today, easily earning a Shark's Tooth from His Majesty.
With the siren call of barbecue to urge us, we took off just as court started, like two dumb stickjocks. Many thanks to Turgeis and Sunniva who offered us fabulous hospitality the moment we arrived, and to everyone who made the event work.
My last thoughts? I should fight more. Unusual melees are fun. Robear's spear tip works great. Peanut Butter Patties are surprisingly good with cheap box burgundy. And I should be in bed.
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Practice tonight down in the Dell

Come on out in the daylight and enjoy the warming temperatures!

With construction going on where we normally practice, we'll be down the hill a little bit. But you can still park where you normally do for Dells practice.

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A Very Late Ruby Joust Perspective

Looking out on ruby joustSeems like it’s well past time to do a recap of Ruby Joust. Memories fade!

Bryce & Kim were kind enough (it seemed) to find a place for my arming tent in their camp. Little did I know their hidden motivations, and my new nickname, which mostly rhymes with “Citronella.”

Friday I got on site well before dark, since I had taken off work. So set up was lazy and easy, though I understand that many, many other people had significant drama with their land allocation. Very glad to have dodged that.

I overheard TJ say he was off to get pizzas so I threw some money at him and that took care of dinner. A bit scattered, it would have been nicer to have some sit down time with folks I don’t get to see often enough.

I resolved not to have any alcohol Friday night, as it does affect my performance the next day. This proved wise!

Ross and his family arrived and Sir Arradd was kind enough to let all of us share his list-side pavilion. Ross’ people all seemed to have a good time wandering the site in my borrowed garb.

Quite a surprise to find out about the schedule for the day. I understand why things were changed, but the lack of updates on the site (and notices of the updates for those who had checked earlier) meant that my Ruby Joust and that of Ross & his family, worked out only due to dumb luck. We had made our plans based on the web-published schedule, which bore no relationship to the actual plan for fighting.

Opening rounds of Ruby were done in 3 tournies: a set of four pools, a speed tourney, and a no-shields bearpit. I fought all sword and shield except for two greatsword bouts. During the first one I exploded my greatsword, as shown here, but got through that fight with a borrowed one. Ursus told me he got pics of the exploding sword, but I haven’t seen them. What a shame! Later, fighting John Bighead, I found the difference between HRH Vlad’s greatsword and mine to be odd enough that it affected the fight--but it is a poor workman who blames his tools. 

I decided to skip the speed tourney, and took pics instead. Those I posted earlier. But I armored back up for the no shields bearpit, and to my great pleasure, was undefeated but for one bout with Sir Ragnar, who fought very very well that weekend. In fact, it was so clear that the majority of the fighters I faced had NO idea how to deal with a paring of their greatsword vs. a polearm that immediately after the tourney I convened an impromptu class on it with HRM Vlad’s help.

My thanks to the ladies and other notables who saw fit to invite me to Sunday’s fighting for the Ruby Prize. Notably, at least one knight also mentioned to me that Ross would likely have been invited too, but he was just there for Saturday. Ross certainly fought well in the first two tourneys, giving a duke a long fight in the speed tourney!

Sunday I was remarkably not exhausted or so stiff that I couldn’t move. With four pools of eight, with two from each pool advancing, my pool was deep enough that I could not be assured of making it to the final eight. But I did advance, even though I lost twice.

At that point, I was very happy to have found myself, at the very least, in the final eight, fought single elimination to a final of two out of three.

Luckily, in my first semi-final I pulled out my best shot of the event vs. Sir William Shoprat, who I set back on his heels with a hard rush at lay on, then managed a very fast, smooth leg shot that put him on his knees. Once he was there, I introduced him to my newish sword manipulation techniques, where I grabbed the bottom tab of his basket hilt with my shield hand and pulled his head defense away from his head.

So, happily, I now found myself in the final four.

My next bout was with the ultimate winner, Sir William, whose strength and speed give me tremendous trouble. I tried keeping the outside to avoid that speed, but he picked off my sword arm on a blow and I yielded the fight. As I lost to the winner in the final four, I like to think that means I finished third for the day. A much, much better showing than I expected. It has re-enthused me! 

At my 26th Joust. In July of 1986, I came to Diamond Joust XII, where I line marshaled as I wasn't authorized yet. I watched Duke Michael and Prince Klaus in the finals, with Klaus the ultimate winner of the day.

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Restraint is Admirable in Some Circumstances

I just watched a bunch of youtube videos of fight practice in Owl's Nest, the reputed center of the "shadow warrior" effect in the SCA.

I withheld all comments.
In other news, I need to keep tweets that have long URLs out of my stream.
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Another Option for Hidden Knee Armor

Adilric showed me these this weekend at Sapphire, and they look really good. I think I'll get a pair, because they look more comfortable than the ones I wear currently, and are lower profile.

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Pushing Back Against the Doom Sayers

Over the past ten years or so, I've heard a lot about how the average age of the fighters in the SCA is going up, and concerns that we're going to lose a large population quickly as they get too old to keep fighting.

I'll leave aside the bit about how if you fight with proper technique you can still fight successfully after age 50, and just point out:
Last night at the UVa practice, we had eight, yes eight serious new students learning armored combat, all of them under 25, several under 21, one under 18. (Several other fighters were there too, experienced ones outside of that range.)
These eight new guys are made up of a 22 year old who has been coming out for 4 years, two 20-ish guys now in their 3rd, one 19 year old monster back for his second, and four brand new ones ranging from 18-24 or so. 
Three weeks ago our one lefty showed up for his first practice. Last week he brought our new tall guy with him. This week the two of them brought another new guy. An excellent sign. All in all, a very promising crew.
What did it take?
Five years. No wait. Seven.
When I first moved here, (actually, before I moved but after I started working here) the fighter list here was:
  1. Philip ap Griffith
Now Philip had been doing his best. I certainly don't mean to suggest he did anything but work hard at bringing new people in. What Isenfir didn't have was a regular, public practice. I can't emphasize enough the importance of those two things.
Philip and I started practicing at UVa. We moved around a bit, using trial and error to find the best spot. We did demos, especially right around the start of the semesters. We lucked out in getting a pre-made student fighter who showed up our first year, walked up in his armor. But for years, literally years, our practice was often the three of us, maybe a few dabblers, maybe some visitors.
We kept at it.
That's the lesson to take out of this. Keep at it. There are a hundred other things you need to do right too, of course: Let the students run their own group, don't scare people off by just throwing them in armor right away, et cetera et cetera.
Mostly though, you have to take the long view. If you keep holding it, they will come.
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Triangle Demo Tomorrow. Don't forget!

Come on out to the Triangle at the UVa Corner tomorrow, 11-4 or so for our annual demo.

Lots of enthusiasm this year from new students, and a good strong core of returning students too.

Static displays, crafts demos, and armored combat. (We're short a marshal, so no rapier.)

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