The sweetest kiss of all

In my last post I talked about some of the reasons to enter tournaments. A few have noted my omission of consorts in this. This was partly intentional as this is a topic that does deserve a separate entry.

Consorts often get the bum rap of the fighting game. They are there sometimes almost in sufferance. Certainly they are often there on the sidelines looking a bit cold and bored while everyone else has fun running around in harness.

Time for this to end.

The Consort is an integral part of how we play our game. It is those that bestow us their favour that makes us more than a mere sport, more than another branch of the martial arts.

We enter the field carry the favour of some one we respect greatly and some of us (I will count myself here) are lucky enough to carry their love as well.

It is the consort’s honour and renown that are prime in our endeavors. This is what prevents us descending into a slugging match of ego. We are able to use our consort to focus our minds and settle those nerves before the lay-on is called.

Think about how we can involve our Consorts in the game we play. How can we make them a full part of our events and tournaments?

Certainly we can declare our intention  to fight for  our consort. This can be a public or a private moment.

Use this as a way of bringing your focus to the fore. Use it to find your centre and share the moment.

Do you best to be worthy of your consort. Make sure your gear is looking good, clean and in good repair.

Work with your Consort to organise were they will be during the salutes. Looking around trying to find them looks bad and will break that focus.

Have a salute that is for them alone (I will be talking about salutes in a future post).

What is important here is that you are on the field bering the honour of your consort, victory or defeat is not important.

You display your commitment to your consort by your appearance and demeanor. Bring your best to the day and all will be good.

Once more into the breach!

For all the training and practice, it is tournaments and wars that is the focus of our efforts.

It is here we bring together all that we have learnt and practiced. He we get to see how well we stack up against all the others.

Tournaments also give us an opportunity to show off all the banners shields and gear that go together to make our events more than just a sporting meet.

What is import for all of us to understand is that success is a varied and sometimes complex animal.

For some of us it is the prise of reaching finals and then being the final victor of the day. But let us be real, this is not going to be the outcome for all of us.

So then, why compete?

Completion is possibly mare about the process then the outcome. A tournament gives you something to work towards,. Think about how well you did in Rowany Fighter Auction last year; do you want to go an extra round the next time? Giving yourself such goals can encourage you to train and practice rather than just turn up. It forms a point of focus to give your efforts a bit more purpose.

Competition can give you an insight to your strengths and weaknesses that free sparing never will. This is an essential part of learning. To quote Duke Radnor “For all our study, drills, interpretation and postulations, we are not prepared to perform in the midst of the fight without hazarding our bodies and/or egos in earnest contest. Unless your practice embraces the real threat of failure, you are not advancing. There’s no substitute for the real thing.”

Remember here that such a test is about learning. To be defeated in a tournament is a lesson in were you defence is weak or were your attack needs work. Never look on such an outcome as failure but rather as a window to future success.

Tournaments give you a unique way to deal with fear and stress in a relatively safe environment. There is the fear of failure and sometimes the fear of pain and being hurt (remember the last really hard but-wrap). Stress is also a natural part of the competitive environment. Being able to cope and then control these feelings can be very valuable both inside and outside of the tournament field. Stress also brings with it adrenaline. Adrenaline release, like any chemical reaction in your body, can be adjusted to and tempered through repetition and training. You might begin your tournament career attacking all out, unnecessarily tiring yourself out and missing all kinds of opportunities, but you should end your career fighting like a fighter pilot – calm and clear minded, unshakable emotionally, and focused on the task at hand.

Camaraderie is also a big by product of our combat endeavours, particularly wars. It is by talking to the field together that bonds of friendship are created and strengthened. There are not that many no-shit-there-we were stories from training sessions.

This is fun. Walk out onto the field, banners snapping in the breeze, armour gleaming to face your opponent as the crowed becomes hushed and the lay-on is called. It is wonderful to be part of such a spectacle. No matter what the outcome, here is your moment in the centre of it all.

The glory of victory. OK, let’s face it, winning is fun! It is a great rush to stand victorious on the field. Even if it is your only victory on the day it is still a victory and yours alone Victory in competition, especially if it is a difficult competition, is very rewarding and a big ego boost. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying that, and having that as a goal is itself very motivating in competition. In any tournament there are many victories. There is the success of the novice who just being able to compete in a full event is success. There is the person who has never won a tournament bout getting to the third round. There is the squire who finally managed to execute a new technique crisply. There is the person who has fought harder and further than they have ever done. A tournament has many victory songs; you just need to listen out for them.

I will end with something I stole from somewhere else and changed only a little-

Today, while there is breath on your lips, remember well that one day you will be forever but a memory of one who walked this earth in a blink of history’s eye. As you look around you, see today’s champions. See those Knights who have knowledge but whose fires burn weak at the twilight of their visit here. See the young who stand at the edge of a clearing, waiting to fill it with their potential. And look to the future to see that sooner than you know, you will be just a memory whose best achievements and actions will be little more than ripples at the edge of the universe.

So, while you still can, fan the flames inside you and go for a ride. See what you can do. Make some noise. Enter the field and let the world know you were here. Step boldly into the place champions are made and take your best shot. So that one day, when your tassels sit dusty in a box, and the cheers are just echoes of the past, there will be a ripple in the universe however far away that says to all it meets, “I was here. I fought. Maybe I won, maybe lost, but I was noticed. Now tell me, what have YOU done lately?”

Eye of the tiger

We are often beset with desire to improve our tournament skills. How do we go about this? Most of us do a bit of practice striking the pell, a bit of slow speed work and then the majority of time sparing.

I am not convinced that this is the most effective way to develop the skills we need to be knights.

I’ll segway over to my kendo activities. Let’s break down a two hour training session.

We all get ready and start together with warm ups, stretches and basic cutting exercises. This is the first half hour. We then move onto some universal drills and basic cutting practice. There may be some techniques demonstrated and then practiced. There is often long sequences of structured sparing drills. This all takes up the bulk of out training time. Free sparing is probably (if we do it at all) the last half hour. There is very little in terms of stopping , or talking your armour off.

Compare this to an SCA training…

I am very keen to take our training sessions into a more structured format. Maybe not as rigid as kendo, but defiantly move away from the dominance of percussive learning by osmosis.

We can divide our fighting into three areas.

Training – Learn

Practice – Hone

Sparing – Execute

In training we set out to acquire technique and understanding. You must be willing to be a student and there can only be one teacher at a time. Training is where it is safe, someone has agreed to teach and someone has agreed to learn and to be a good teacher you have to be a good student.

Practice is where we begin to apply what we have acquired in training. This is often in a agent and patient exchange of attack, movement and defence. We are still providing a safe space to ensure we focus on our own and our practice partners’ form. Errors are corrected and practice can turn into training if the student agrees.

Sparing brings all of this together. The level of intensity can vary from a Knight working with a novice to two Dukes working on preparing for Crown.

Of cause these are not rigid distinctions. A practice session may include sparing. What is important is that the purpose of what you are doing is known to all the participants.

In all of this we also must remember that ego has little place. There is no win/loss, only whether the teacher explained it well enough and whether the student listened well enough to learn it and execute the lesson is important.

The teacher speaks, answers, explains, critiques and always end on a positive. The student listens, questions and performs what they are being shown.

Remember that your teacher is giving you their time and experience, respect this and ensure that you thank them in word, action and victory on the field.

Of iron will and form

As many of you would be aware SCA fighting is a hobby largely pursued by those not involved in regular sports and fitness. To be honest, the levels of fitness amongst SCA combatants is generally poor (I include myself in this). This then governs a great deal of the way we train, spar and run our events.

Should we then pay attention to our fitness (and by extension weight)? Easy answer – YES.

Now having said that, it is not that easy to do. The lure of an extra pint, the temptation to slack off, the hassle of eating the right things all conspire against us. It also does not help that you can be very successful in SCA fighting by being an unfit couch potato.

Anyway, as some form of motivation here is one of my favorite quotes (if only I could have the willpower)…

The outcome of sports competition, actual combat and life itself is decided largely by one’s attitude. Superior firepower, whether physical or technical is a contributing factor but “heart” governs the application of resources. Spirit is the most powerful force on the field.

Acquiring the spirit necessary to win, which includes a positive acceptance of pain, is difficult in a society where comfort is more highly regarded than capacity. When genuine physical fitness is the norm for so few it is hard to avoid being dragged into the morass. You become what you do. How and what you become depends on environmental influence so you become who you hang around. Raise the standard your peers must meet and you’ll raise your expectations of yourself. If your environment is not making you better, change it.

It’s from Gym Jones’ founder Mark Twight.

http://www.gymjones.com/

Have a look at the site, read some of the stuff in ‘Knowledge’. You may feel the need to pull on some joggers and head outside for a while…8-)

Pimp My Harness Part Three – Common Problems

Here are some common issues that work against improving your field appearance and some ideas on how to solve them.

No belt -It is a good idea to wear some form of belt over everything. It gives you a waist and keeps everything together.

 Base layers – We have no excuse for waring jeans. Pay some attention to what you are waring under all your kit. Think about the colours and how it works with the rest of your harness. If you are in doubt, go for plain dark colours in natural fabrics.

Armour held together with tape –  Bottom line – if it breaks, fix it or make it look presentable. Bring a couple of shoe laces and use them to fix things instead of tape.

Every period at once – Pick a time period and place and endeavour to keep to it. Or keep it neutral. Yes sometimes this is hard when you are stating out but think about were you want to go and build towards that.

Rusty helms – Keep it clean; keep it sexy – great idea at demos is to let the little kids try on your helmet. But no one wants to even pretend to be the rusty knight. 

Gear falling apart – Our gear gets hammered. You will have to maintain your gear and replace stuff.  Re-tape your sword every few weeks to stop it looking ratty.

Shield edging – Do not use green garden hose or bike tyres. Use something that will not draw the eye to it. Irrigation pipe is a good low cost option. Leather edging is better. While we are there, paint the back of your shield as well.

Inspection Stickers – Take them off after the event. Leaving them is like still having your Kevin07 bumper sticker on.

Pimp My Harness Part Two –Surcoats

Last time I talked about the importance of looking the part on the field. Not only do you present yourself as a person who takes pride in their appearance, you also enhance the visual appeal of our tournaments. 

Some of the most straight forward ways t o pimp your harness is the addition of a good surcoat. A surcoat is cloth covering usually worn over the body armour. During the 14th century they were gradually shortened from their 13th century lines. They started during the first quarter of the century ending at the knee, and ended the century ending at the edge of the hip. During the 15th century they were shortened further, and eventually abandoned in favor of a large tunic worn over the cuirass. The addition of white armour made the use of a surcoat less important, as full harnesses were generally somewhat individual. Most surcoats were emblazoned with the cote of arms or device or the wearer in order that they identity be known in the crush of battle. 

While a surcoat may not be appropriate for every harness or time period, they are an excellent way of showing the colours and badges of you, your group and your household. 

So a few hints and ideas about surcoats:

  • Remember this will have to go over your harness and allow you a full range of movement – make sure it will not get in your way.
  • Go ahead and get some decedent fabric, velveteen and brocades are a lot more hardwearing that your think and they do add to your appearance. Plain cottons end up looking ratty very quickly.
  • Make sure your surcoat is lined; this will make it last longer and look much better.
  • There is nothing wrong with having several. One for wars and one for tournaments.
  • Like everything, your surcoat will wear out. Replace it when it does. 

It is amazing how much effort many of us go to for the cloths we wear to events but we will settle for any old ratty surcoat for tournament. Remember, train hard and care about your gear and you will look good when called in to Court.

Pimp My Harness – A guide to looking the part on the field.

The combat arts form the centre piece of many of our activities. Combatants carry the great responsibility of creating the look and the feel of our events. How we present ourselves has a great deal of bearing on all those around us. Are we to strive to look the part or turn up without care on how we affect others enjoyment of the SCA. 

This is a column devoted to talking about and assisting all of us to improve our appearance at events. Think of this as ‘LaurelEyefor the Fighter Guy (or girl)’. Feel free to ask any questions, who knows; you may be in line for an armour make over!

While I feel that it is a good thing to work towards and have an accurate harness I am very much aware of what the real cost of such an endeavour is. Added to this is that the SCA is largely made up of people who are not into historical reproduction and hard core living history. Our rules and fighting styles make the upkeep of period harness difficult, expensive and sometimes a liability to your competitive ability. However, this does not mean we should turn away completely from the goal of looking good on the field. I will suggest that we should talk more about looking good than talking about being ‘period’. We are not just a sport fighting group. We play our fighting games in the context of a larger game of make-believe.

If I could quote EarlSirBrianThornbird, OL-
“As in everything else, your appearance on the field contributes greatly to other people’s impressions of you. Renown is the reward earned by your display of your beliefs and of your skills. Renown is the perception and respect held by others for your martial and chivalric virtue. Because the honour accorded to you builds your status within the organization, it is very important to be aware of how your appearance affects this perception. Fighting form and your equipment must work together to give you fluidity, crispness and elegance. Within the Society we hold up authenticity as a virtue, one that enhances a field personality greatly by attachment to the images of historical knighthood.”

I believe that it is very important to pay attention to how you look on the field. Remember that every time we walk onto the field we are carrying the favours of our consorts. We are working towards making the event a more pleasurable one for those in the gallery that grace us with their presence. We play on the King’s List Field and we should honour that privilege.

Next tournament think about what you have done to make the event a better sight for those who have come to watch and participate. Loose the obvious plastics, replace the gumbies, take the inspection sticker from three years ago off. Paint your shield on both sides, fix up the ratty surcoat.

Respect those who come to play with you by paying attention to how you present yourself on the field. This makes knights of us all.

Honourable Combat

This is from Duke Radnor of Guildamar.

Brothers, in the course of providing Sir Richard de Camville grist for
his mill as Knight Councilor towards instruction to the Queen’s Guard,
I’ve taken the considerable liberty of posting our Charter amendment
concerning the “Three Laws”. I felt it would be a welcome subject
well timed to the issues before the West and determined posting it in
context would go far towards preempting questions which would
otherwise attenuate the value of the discussion.

The post is in its entirety below:

Sir Richard, please accept my congratulations upon being accorded such
an honor, and burden, as Knight Councilor.

With regard to the conveyance of knightly instruction, I offer for
discussion and comment a deceptively simple construct which is both
self-evident and contentious. For the sake of context the following
reflects an amendment made a few years ago to the Charter of the
Knights of The Ermine of which I am Principal:

(You will note the term `lemma’ is intentionally proximal to the term
`law’, and, indeed the initial authorship of this construct reflected
such. Whilst the appellation “The Three Laws of Honourable Combat”
was readily grasped, it was determined the term `law’ gave rise to a
variety of jurisdiction, authority, and prerogative perceptions that
muddied the waters; thus the word `lemma’ in the context of logical
theorem.)

Be it known, after much discourse do the Knights of the Ermine ratify
these oaths that they may reflect certain principles whose self-
evidence are threatened by the parlous tide of dictate and
connivance.

Be it known the Knights of the Ermine bearing witness to the
erosions, born of good intentions wrought by good men, of certain
principals of combat upon the field of honor do affirm these tenets
herein to be axiomatic, and do embrace them and declare belief their
practice upon the field to be just and good:

The First Lemma of Honorable Combat being that victory is achieved
only through declaration of the vanquished.

The Second Lemma of Honorable Combat being that the force of a blow
can only be judged by the recipient of same.

The Third Lemma of Honorable Combat being violation of either of the
first two does corrupt the probity of Honorable Combat.