Gulf Wars 2014, Part 3: Wherein Ruairc Forgets to Parry, and Then Forgets A Few Other Things


There was an Everyman tourney, open to all non-WS. I fought single sword in accordance with my training, per Fabris (which got some compliments. That’s always nice). A number of my opponents did not.

My strategy was, generally, “keep their sword covered, stay at measure, and wait until their secondary is out of position to attack.” This was remarkably effective, owing mostly to the fact that my opponents seemed reluctant to use their secondaries to find my sword or free their own. Remember, readers: Any secondary can be used offensively.

Of course, Maximillian (of Hawkwood) did not suffer from any such misconceptions. Our fight was long, but I was never comfortable committing to any attack; he eventually got my left arm. I was able to force a double (oh look, he’s attacking! Turn to prima and stab his face!) but lost the re-fight. He hit my right elbow with a stout thrust, and his apology interrupted my “immediately switch hands, go for the throat!” tactic. Bah. Next time, I will not be stopped by mere courtesy …

Torse, my kryptonite, was also in my pool (as always). He chose to match me, single-on-single. It was a nice gesture, but he should have taken the dagger – there wouldn’t have been any doubt. As it was, I think he still had the edge – he has better control of measure than I do – but for some reason, after playing around a bit, he chose to close. He ended up slapping my face a couple times before stabbing my pants, and I struck him as he went to recover.

There was another fight of note, my last in the round-robin pools. She was clearly a new fencer and clearly unhappy with the way things were progressing. I’d heard her complain earlier about stiff shots. She asked to calibrate. I landed a shot at my normal calibration, which is about as light as I can deliver with good form and a solid, heavy, C&T-capable blade. She asked for lighter. So … I gave lighter. We fought. I could have killed her immediately, but not at the calibration she wanted. With most of my repertoire gone, the fight went a lot longer than it should have and I nearly lost before I had the chance to gently tag her on the mask.

I’m … not exactly torn. I made a decision and I stuck by it: I was not going to give my kingdom a reputation for stiff shots, even if it meant losing the fight (and thus, very probably not making the top eight). That said, there’s definitely a question here: how does one handle a situation where a fighter is asking for a lighter blow than is feasible?

Torse and I went to the double-elim final-eight (of whom, like, five were Atlantian. Whoo!) where I fought a couple non-Atlantian guys with daggers. The first was clearly pulling the bind-and-close strategy. He was successful enough to enter, but I kept bringing my left hand over to stop his dagger. Unfortunately defensive left hands do not win fights, and I was never quite able to take the right tempo to make him pay. The second fight went largely the same way.

After talking to Dante about this I think it’s at least partly about controlling measure better – either retreating along an oblique or closing enough to catch his dagger and run past him, getting a draw if possible.

Oh. Armand bested Torse in the finals to win. Hurrah.

There was court later. Cailin and Torse were made Sea Dragons (’bout time). These two, plus Linhart and Vincenzo, earned Sharks Teeth for their melee performances. (Edit: Maximillian was also awarded a Shark’s Tooth. The Hawkwood unit continues to impress in melees.) Good day to be a Scholar. Giacomo was made Premier of the Order of the Brovosts. Don’t ask.


Rose Tourney. I fought for Seonaid. That was cool. This tourney was also double-elim. We had 152 fighters. It was grand.

First round fight had a dagger. It quickly became obvious that he was a little impatient, so I waited for his weight to come forward, retreated and gained the blade in the same motion, then finished him before he could recover.

Second round fight was a dona, also with a dagger. She, however, was the picture of “move small to move fast”. She was never aggressive, but always, always covered, moving her dagger in time with her sword. Slow. Methodical. Defensive. Aggravating as hell. I never had an opening I liked. She eventually won off two hand-picks.

Third and fourth fights were similar, against dagger-armed opponents. Both times it was simply a question of keeping measure, finding the sword, and waiting for the right moment. Not much else to say.

Fifth round was Don Avery of Ansteorra. He matched me with single. I’d fought him in Austin back in July, and he wasn’t much different: old, broken knees, very talkative. Likable guy. He was as deceptive as I remembered, frequently slipping out of finds and shooting for hands. My response to the hand shot is to angle my blade away, which is great for defending the hand but not so great for setting up an easy counter. A couple times I had him in obedience, but couldn’t close the measure before he realized it, and ran away. I got a little nervous about the hand-picks, thinking one might get through sooner or later; eventually we closed – at first, inconclusively, but the second time, my blade was too far offline and I dropped my weight (a bad habit I have when people bigger than me close), giving him a draw across the face and my second loss. Blech.

Lessons learned: deal with hand picks. Yes, they’re small, uncommitted attacks, but it’s still a tempo. Instead of pulling my hand away, I can drop the tip and twist into a stringer, then lunge (or close to stretta and force obedience). Just need to make that habitual.

Atlantia did not go on to win this one, but we had an excellent showing from our Scholars. Linhart made the sixth round; Cailin and Torse made it even further, to round eight or nine or something.

Following the Rose Tourney, there was the Novice Tournament. Ibrahim fought there, and did well enough, but it was clear that he needs more sparring time. Never thought I’d say that, being such an aficionado for drilling, but the lessons we’d taught him were getting crowded out by “OH SHIT THERE’S A SWORD COMING AT MY FACE!!” He’ll get there.

There was another round-robin, the Midrealm Tourney, after this. I entered, because I like fighting. My first fight was a knight, in parti-colored red and gold. Dude was strong, whipping around a 45″ like he did. At some point I fell back into an old, bad habit: I tried to find from measure while advancing. He promptly did exactly what he should have – cavazione and strike to the face.

He apologized immediately for hitting me hard. I could not figure out why. I could not remember being hit hard.

The next few fights were plagued by an increasing sense of … off-ness. I developed a headache that didn’t go away. The sun seemed brighter. My feet and my thoughts were not going where they should …

After the fourth round I withdrew from the tourney, trudged back to camp (walking past chirurgeon’s point, of course), and sat down in the common tent.



“What are the symptoms of a concussion?”

Poor guy fixes cars, not brains. After a cursory and clueless moment of staring deeply into my eyes, he recommended I drink a lot of water and take a shower. I did. Then I napped, which was dumb and could have proven fatal. Gentle reader, should you ever suspect that you might be concussed, immediately seek the advice of a medical professional and follow their directions regarding sleep.

About 10pm the headache hadn’t abated, so it was off to the chirurgeon. His opinion was that I was not concussed. The real-life registered nurse back at camp, however, had a different idea. In the end I decided to assume the worst, and did not fight the next day.


Although there was a town battle scheduled, most of Atlantia hit the road early. I don’t know how many of us participated.

There was a Cut & Thrust event scheduled, but it turned out to be a guided HMA feedback session. There were four instructors, each fighting a different style. Everyone present fought three bouts with each instructor and received feedback. The C&T was scaled back to “cuts only at the sword” for our heavy rapier fighters. It was a great approach (no focus on winning, no points) and I think the Windmasters folks impressed. Ibrahim was highly complimented – the instructors said he fought as well as some with twice his experience. I am proud. I’d really like to see something like this become regular.

We packed and drove back afterwards, staying the night at Wistric’s house before finishing on Sunday.

And then, owing to my head injury, I didn’t fight for two weeks.

11 comments to Gulf Wars 2014, Part 3: Wherein Ruairc Forgets to Parry, and Then Forgets A Few Other Things

  • Dante di Pietro


  • Dante di Pietro

    Chiurgeons without actual medical training can give you a bandaid and that’s about it. Don’t ever rely on one without real world credentials.

  • Torse

    Just wanted to add that Maximillian was also awarded a Shark’s Tooth.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Sorry to hear about the presumed concussion. So that’s why you were marshaling at NOTT and DtG, instead of fighting. (By the way, I’m looking forward to your post on DtG, as I think it was really interesting as an example of close-quarter melee.)

    I’m pleased to hear how well my fellow Scholars did. Ibrahim sounds like the next Linhart in terms of attitude and initiative. Please get him up to the Storvik Novice Tourney at the end of June; I expect he’ll really shine.

    • Ruairc

      It’s a long drive. We’ll see what we can do.

      I don’t have a lot to say about DTG. I think we did well with an unfortunate situation, but the fighting itself did not reveal anything particularly interesting – just a line fight, really, with the hay bales breaking it up a little but not enough to change the essential character of the engagement. You just can’t do very much in such an enclosed space.

      I did, however, enjoy giving people bizarre missions during Connor’s games.

      • Tibbie Croser

        I’ll understand if you don’t make it up to Storvik Novice. You have your own novice tournaments down there, don’t you, such as at WoW?

        Regarding the presumed concussion, did you notify any of the GW marshals? I can see the reasons why not if it was just a freak accident, but if it was due to excessive calibration, that might be worth documenting. I also wonder if our masks are doing a reasonable job of reducing the likelihood of concussion from hard hits, or if we should encourage fencers to add more padding to the mask in some form.

        About Defending the Gate: I found the melee interesting as a fighter because the tight space and haybales negated some people’s usual advantages in reach and speed. I was able to land more hits than I normally do in melee. The format also somewhat re-created the conditions of a woods fight on a much smaller scale.

        • Ruairc

          There will most emphatically be a Novice Tourney at WoW, although the scheduling looks tricky. Might have to run it in parallel with the Champions Tourney.

          I did not notify the GW marshals. I should have. “Freak accident” or no, Giacomo’s reasoning on this is correct: *ANY* blow that causes a fighter to leave the field for *ANY* length of time MUST be reported to provide a paper trail. If it’s not reported, it never happened.

          The 1200N fencing masks on the market today are among the very best head protection one can buy for combat sport of any stripe – HEMA folks swinging around longswords at full speed use ’em just fine, with some additional padding for the sides, top, and back of the head to protect against cuts. Concussion, especially from the front, is exceedingly rare owing to the mask’s design. And anyway, with proper use and control we should not need anything stronger. Frankly I’m not sure anything stronger is feasible.

          The most notable thing I remembered about the haybales: fighters don’t trip over haybales stacked three high. Haybales don’t fall over when they’re layered and stacked properly. A field of several dozen haybale-blocks, arranged as such, would be a lot of fun I think. But it’d require three or four times as many haybales as we usually get.

          • Gawin

            From your description of the blow, the only thing that would have helped would have been for the mask to be quite a bit heavier. The 1200N masks can withstand bullets, so it wasn’t a question of puncture or crumple.

            Haybales as they are currently used are far more dangerous than our masks ­čśŤ

  • Tibbie Croser

    The issue in terms of the mask might be whether the mask absorbs the force of the blow or transmits all the force to the wearer’s head. This is where padding comes in. The thin open-cell padding in a standard mask seems to absorb very little force. I note that the Darkwood masks, which are presumably designed for HMA/SCA use rather than mundane fencing, seem to have thicker, denser padding than the standard Triplette/ZWA masks. I definitely don’t have questions about the strength of the masks themselves; I have two ZWA masks with stainless steel mesh and they have never taken a dent so far.

  • Gawin

    Right, but in an injury like this, it’s less a question of impact and more a question of head displacement from the blow. Mass helps with head displacement, which is the reason that helms for armoured combat should be at least 10lbs.

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