Ymir 2014   20 comments

Because nobody else has made this post yet.

February 22 was the official day of the Rag’narok. So, of course, the weather was a balmy 70 degrees, with nary a Giant in sight. About thirty fencers showed, which was lower-than-usual attendance. Not sure why. I guess they don’t like fighting.

The Tourney

Traditionally, Ymir is a double-elim tournament. Tradition buckled this year, and we had a round-robin instead. As the chips fell, my pod included Matteo, Armand, Torse, Arghyle, and a bunch of people I knew I’d have no trouble defeating. The fighting went exactly as expected, though not for lack of trying.

Torse: he is my kryptonite – lefty, quick, likes to fight with absence of the blade. Things went as they always do when I’m focused: I got him to give me a tempo, moved to a new line and lunged, but his feet were too quick. Made contact with his belt buckle, but not him. The counterthrust went through the space where my dagger should have been.
Armand: at long measure, I snuck a little closer and lunged. He pulled a void out of nowhere and all I hit was cloth. The counterthrust went through the space where my dagger should have been.
Arghyle: the only one of the four I thought I had a realistic chance against. Nope. After playing around a bit he charged, and his dagger beat mine.
Matteo: the only one who acceded to my single-sword request. Turns out his single sword is still better than mine. He took both arms after a long fight.

So, to recap: three fights where the dagger should have saved me. Dante made some critical observations about my dagger’s position from a couple stills during the melee. Wistric suggests bringing it out for 15 minutes at practice. Using it with lunge drills wouldn’t go amiss. I suppose I had the option of taking single sword – and I probably should have – but I doubt it would have changed much.

Otherwise I felt I fought pretty well. I am still moving too much to parry. That habit is going to take awhile to kill off. My swordwork is a bit slow. But I’m able to move in guard well, and the weight transfer, balance, and in-guard position no longer feel quite so awkward or difficult.

Other notes: the sun was a factor. Not low enough to be blinding, but bright enough that, from the wrong angle, a fencer could lose sight of his opponent’s blade in his silhouette. I figured this out by the second fight and spent the rest of the day with the sun to my back.

Adelric, the RMiC, was publicly praised for having his shit together, with a copy of the rules, printouts detailing the tourney formats, a marshal’s staff, etc. I’m not sure how low we’ve fallen when a MiC gets accolades for doing exactly what he’s supposed to.

Gawin and Linhart won their pools (both of which were easier) with Gawin going undefeated. Gawin and Armand in the finals, with Armand winning off a leg shot.

The tourney ran long, but it was a round-robin, so that was inevitable.

The Melee

The Free Scholars of Windmasters banded together for the three-man melee. In honor of the Olympics, we took the field under the name You Don’t Win White; You Lose Gold. I liked the format. Round robin of indefinite length; each round, the winners get one point, plus one additional point for every member left standing. Thus, clean victories are worth twice as much as attritting down to the last man. First team to 20 takes the tourney.

As usual, there were the ad-hoc teams and two other contenders: the Dragoonies (Matteo, Armand, and Linhart) and the Basement Rats (Cailin, Torse, and a newish Hawkwood guy whose name escapes me). Nobody else put up much of a fight, and our victories against the ad-hoc teams were flawless.

(Which kinda sucks for them, actually. Skilled fighters team up with other skilled fighters and leave the blue scarves behind. I might want to run this format again, but require fighters to form new teams after three rounds; fencers would add up the points from all of their teams, and highest score wins.)

There are only two offensive patterns in melee: 1v1 or 2v1. Either you’re trying to create an unfavorable singles matchup or you’re trying to get two swords on one opponent. Limited space to maneuver pretty much ruled out easy permutations of the second (the field was only about 6-7 meters wide).

So our strategy against Hawkwood was the former. We had Letia break left to take on Cailin while Gawin and I went to work on the other two, and I figured we had a pretty good matchup; Gawin would hold off my kryptonite, and Letia or I would manage a kill. We’d barely engaged when I heard her call dead. Well, that went south in a hurry. We fell back, I took a charge from Cailin and doubled out, and then Gawin got swarmed. A three-point win for them.

Against the Dragoons, we were targeting Linhart, specifically with Gawin. I pulled Armand off to the side and determined I’d survive a good long time. Matteo was the less aggressive fighter, so I figured we’d have the edge. I didn’t see what happened, but several seconds in Gawin called dead. Okay, 3v2 mode. Soon enough I found the opening, rushed, and fed Armand my dagger as Linhart hit the side of my mask. Letia couldn’t take ’em both. Another loss.

We ended up second in the tourney, with the Dragoons winning (the Rats’ wins were messier than ours), but it got me thinking.

The Tempo of Acknowledgement

Unless a fencer is directly involved in the kill, he’s going to give that tempo of acknowledgement. He’s going to have to update his mental map, his understanding of the battle, and react accordingly, and this will divide his attention. My reaction needs to be faster than his – if I’ve trained a response, or if I’ve at least got a plan primed, I can get inside his OODA loop and act more quickly.

We train for this phenomenon from a position of advantage – that is, we train to extend the advantage. We kill a guy in melee, and before he calls dead we’re lining up a shot on his buddy. We train that automatic response, taking that tempo of the mind, honing that thirst for running-the-line.

We don’t train this from a position of disadvantage – which is to say, we don’t spend much time training or thinking about how to even the odds immediately after something bad has happened. And so when something goes wrong, the mental shift is not automatic and immediate, and the best opportunity to save the day passes us by.

We need to fix that. I have some ideas.

We also need a way to communicate threat vectors clearly and efficiently – so that when somebody dies, the whole team knows where the 2v1 is coming from. “Behind you!” is pretty self-explanatory, but “Ruairc, right!” can mean too many things – are we running right? Looking right? Sliding right?

Back in my lacrosse days I was a goalie. Among other things, it was my responsibility to communicate the position of the ball to the defense – because a defenseman is usually too busy watching and sticking with his man to pay attention to the ball. Might could adapt that …

Other Fencing

I had to leave as the 3-man was winding down. Cailin won the Iron Spike tourney. Gawin gave a class. Speaking of classes, I might have to do a post on my University experiences.

Posted March 4, 2014 by Ruairc in Events

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