Tournament of Ymir   22 comments

Rather than working up to it, I’ll just start off by saying I am cranky about my Ymir.  I am disappointed in myself, really, and it has made me mopey for the past two days.  We’ll see if I can’t kick that funk on Tuesday.  Anyway, needed to get that out so I didn’t dwell on it too much for the rest of this.

The Consequences of Naming an Event “Ymir”

Snow blew through all of Atlantia in the past week, and left two inches in North Carolina.  This caused the site to be fairly well covered in the stuff, though they cleared out the sidewalks between buildings.  The day of the tournament was 40 degrees, and sunny, with the snow melting away on the grassy patches.

While there had originally been discussion of holding the tournament on the concrete courtyard outside, it was instead moved inside the main hall, onto the concrete floor.  The dust-covered concrete floor.  Surrounded by people and their stuff.

So instead of four lists on good ground, we were fighting in two lists in a hemmed-in list field on dust-covered concrete.  I’ve fought on snow, ice, mud, wet concrete, and dust-covered gym floors.  And all of those had better traction than the list field at Ymir.  Among other things, this resulted in Dominyk winning the final bout with what looked like a power-slide into Connor.

The Distribution of Various Scarves

Before everything else could occur, though, there was Academie business.

Joe the Third authorized, and chose to take the Scholar’s oath, which meant I got to tie a blue scarf on him.  Hooray, I keep my 100% success rate in students authorizing, and the Academie gets another Scholar!

Then came Benjamin’s Free Scholar prize.   Ben is, I believe, the fastest man I know.  He first moved down to Windmasters, from Aethelmarc, about four years ago, and spent a great deal of time kicking my ass across the field and then running away before I could retaliate.  He had a couple of glaring gaps in his form, though, and at first seemed reluctant to do anything about them, preferring to go with what worked.  In the past couple years, though, he’s eliminated those (one day he showed up to practice and all the old tricks for exploiting his bad habits just did not work), and gone around being a model of an excellent fencer and scholar.  Which means he was a Free Scholar, and at Ymir the provosts gave him the gold fabricky recognition of that fact, and well-earned it was.

My only regret is that more of my brother Free Scholars didn’t get out to the event and challenge him.  He made an excellent showing (I remember him beating me fighting case, but I saw a picture today where it looks like I was landing a touch, so I don’t know that I can trust my memory) and deserved more of a chance to shine (and remind Free Scholars of our duty).

The Tourney, Part 1: Case

As mentioned, we were split into two lists, 16 fighters to a list.  My list was much more thickly populated by scholars.  There were two provosts, and two Free Scholars-or-Ansteorran-Equivalent on my list; the other list had 6-7 provosts, 4-5 Free Scholars.  I would strongly urge all my MoL friends to, potentially, consider distributing provosts, free scholars, and scholars equally among lists to avoid this phenomenon.

My first pass was with Caitlin (Ansteorran, though she’s got a job here so it looks like she’ll be staying, all to Atlantia’s benefit).  We scooted back and forth, traded an inconsequential attack each, and then I lunged with a rising low-line shot (tip started off scraping the concrete) that snuck in under her  dagger and landed on her sternum as she landed a shot that I barely parried out to my left shoulder.  We were both lunging simultaneously, and with the dust on the floor I kept going when I landed my front foot, which meant the shot on her sternum was really stiff.  She didn’t seem too affected by it, but the message from that pass was “No lunging”.  And that was where things started to go poorly.

As is my way, I took case in this tourney.  And as I’ve discussed, I view case as an aggressive form requiring active footwork.  On top of that, I do make great use of my lunge in one-shotting opponents who open their guards too much.  On this floor, all of that footwork got cut out of my game.  Things I could do on ice-covered grass (I’ve safely delivered passing lunges at Kberg practices in these conditions) I could not manage on that floor.  On top of that, we had about four lateral feet of space, meaning almost no oblique attacks (and an oblique lunge would have ended up sliding into a split, rolling onto my ass, and crashing under the list fence, anyway).  But, while my brain figured out “Okay, don’t lunge”, it didn’t extend the thought process to “Maybe that means case is not right for these conditions.”  I went another couple of passes into the Round Robin and hit my first loss, against James, a tall SOB with a long 45”, but who stood very much upright and squared up.  If the floor had supported a lunge, it would have been a ten second bout.  But instead I ended up getting frustrated and attempting the Drizzt Charge (as Dante called it) which ended up with me piked.  A couple fights later I did the same thing against another opponent, when I should have been maintaining a defensive, cautious posture and exploiting their weaknesses.  So I had two losses, neither of which I have at any point been able to justify or excuse to myself.  And it’s really those two losses, right there, that have made me a grumpy little shit for the past 48 hours.

The Tourney, Part 2: Single

After that second loss, my brain finally clicked, and I switched from case to single 36”.  This was just in time to fight Connor, who brought his 42” out.  I closed to eliminate his range advantage, went low to my knees to try to thrust in to his torso, and that’s when the even shittier event of the day happened.  On the ground, with my blade vertical, I pulled my sword back towards me to get the angle I need for the attack.  His hand, on my ricasso, opposed my pull, and there was a sudden release of resistance, followed by a main hall full of people yelling “HOLD”.  The sword furniture in my hand felt strangely light and looked… odd.  Then I realized that my blade had snapped at the tang.

This was Stabby McStabberson, the blade that I started fighting with in 2005, and it has done me great service up to this point.  I now dub it Narsil, and hope that one day it shall be dubbed Anduril.  But until then I am a Sad Wistric.

I borrowed Marcellus’s 35 to finish the fight with Connor, in which he eventually legged me and took my sword arm before ending me.  But it was a great fight, and I look back on it with pleasure in my performance, especially in contrast to the first half of the tourney.

Connor graciously lent me his 42” for my next fight, which was against Marcellus.  Marcellus had been fighting sword and stick, but left the stick to fight me single.  We exchanged thrusts and had some decent action before he slid over the top of my guard and got my right upper arm.  Switching to left, he gave me his off-hand, which I don’t normally do when the position is reversed.  I said that he had earned the advantage and would have him keep it, but he declined.  We exchanged more thrusts, and I landed right between his navel and cup.  Another fight that I am very proud of.

I borrowed Connor’s sword for my last round fight as well (against Joe) and took that pass.  All of which led to…

Coveting thy Neighbor’s Sword

I love my Rifle and my Gun (40” and 30”, ‘cause one is for shooting, and one is for fun).  They’ve done me great service down the years, and won me two tough tournaments.  They protect me on the melee field, and allow me to strike fear into my enemies.  But I am starting to notice their limits.

I borrowed Freddie’s 45” DW at Coronation for the entire day, and it is a beautifully balanced and light blade (it moved about like my beloved Narsil did, which is much more than can be said for my Rifle).  Fighting with Connor’s 42” had the same feel (though slightly clumsier and more tip-heavy, but the right pommel would fix that).  Also, to maintain the hand-balance of the Rifle I’ve gone with a lighter, whippier blade that throws off point control and does not resist attacks as well as it could.  I don’t really feel comfortable using the Rifle in a single-sword fight.  A lighter, stiffer, and better balanced weapon would, I believe, lead to a noticeable improvement in my game, and to add on three effective inches (afterall, the DW swallows 2 of the 45 inches inside the guard) would be an added bonus.  Of course, the damn things cost $450, and I don’t have 45 cents right now.

On top of that, I’ve been thinking about the clumsy, brutal, and INCREDIBLY FUN feel of the Gun in sweep parries with the left hand, and how his curve to the right makes him less effective fighting short-sword with the right hand, and also looking at the DW sideswords ($300) and thinking about the relative improvement one of those would cause to my case game.

Switching the arsenal would make my case swordwork less about using gravity, momentum, and brute strength to dominate my opponents, and permit more precise, finesse-based control with both hands, on the tourney field and the melee field.

So meanwhile I start saving up the money and thinking about visiting DW’s booth at Pennsic two or three years down the road.

At the end of the round robin portion, I had three losses.  Connor, it turned out, also had three, and we were tied for 4th place in our pool behind Caitlin, Marcellus, and James.  He and I had a tie-breaker (me back to using Marcellus’s 35”, Connor using his 42”) and we had another great pass that ended with me dead.

Watching from the Sidelines

I’ve been aiming at this Ymir, and victory therein, for the last six months.  It’s been my goal in all my training and practice.  Holiday Faire was a dry-run for it.  So watching from the sidelines was not easy.  But, at the same time, it was a frickin’ awesome playoff: Dominyk, Illadore, Aedan, Vyvyan, Connor, Marcellus, and Caitlin all went at it hammer and tongs (including Dominyk fighting Caitlin, which both set to with an admirable lack of hesitancy).  I just should’ve been in there going at it, too.

I stood on the list fence taking notes, and realized that the vast majority of fencers were milling around me jabbering away (one came up and asked “What do we do now?”  Well, you watch and learn, damnit!).

There was an excellent fight between Vyvyan and Connor, which Connor took, leading to the final between Dom and Connor.  They fought one pass, with Connor dying right as he hit the sidelines, so they re-fought it.  Almost immediately at lay on, Dom executed a straight attack down Connor’s left side, with what I think was a passing lunge (or just a scoot forward real fast and then slide in to home plate).  It looked really unsafe, though with those two they’re allowed a lot of lee-way fighting each other.

The Trial of Case

Mattheu, aka Vegan Dave, has been giving me shit for about the last six months, talking all sorts of trash about my case game.  Roughly, his script is, “Oh, I’d rather fight you single than case, you’re harder to kill with single.”

So, after the tournament, I challenged him to test my case game.  We moved outside to the concrete courtyard (with its excellent traction, bright sunlight, and room to move).  He brought single.  I brought case.  We agreed to five passes.  Four passes into it, with him carrying no wins and me being somewhat cocky, I may have made a smartass remark.  He raised the challenge to ten passes.

After ten passes, and ten victories for case, which included 3 ineffectual Drizzt charges (the fucker kept moving away from the Gun’s haymaker), a number of straight lunges with the Rifle, and two thrusts from the Gun that caught him totally off guard, he allowed as how I was somewhat difficult to defeat when I brought case.  My case fight redeemed itself after the terrible showing in the tourney.

We then fought ten passes, both carrying single, and split those 5 and 5 (I won 2, he took the next 5, and I took the last 3).  At the end, he noted that I do fight better with single, though I’m harder to kill with case.  I agree.  Fighting single forces me to tighten my hand and foot work, and be much more aware of any openings or exposed targets in my stance.  I don’t view this as a reason to fight single, but as an identification of improvements to make in my case game (which I addressed somewhat above).

So I still will bring case to tourneys, unless they’re on narrow, dusty strips, and will continue to work on improving the precision of my swordwork when fighting case.

Joe’s Passes with Mattheu

Mattheu is a precise fighter, and an excellent and conscious teacher without being off-putting in his personality at all.  Because of this, I like to send my students to fight him whenever they’re at an event together.  Joe was no exception and I watched as Mattheu worked with Joe.

I’m a little worried that it may have overwhelmed Joe (did it?), but I think Mattheu communicated a couple of excellent takeaways (which I picked up on, as well): Ask why you’re doing what you’re doing; don’t fear your opponent’s sword, dominate it; and… actually, I can’t remember more than that.  Joe, what all did he tell you?

To give some additional props to Joe: Connor was very complimentary of his defense and protection of the forearm, which he’d been picking away at on other scholars all day.  Next, we work on a bit more dynamism in the sword hand!

Fighting Vyvyan

Vyv and Christian were standing around chatting, and I was listening in.  At one point, discussing scholars seeking out pickups/instruction, Christian said “It’s not hard, you just go up and say ‘Hey, you, fight me’.”  Christian did not come to fight that day, so I poked Vyv and said “Hey, you, fight me.”  He obliged.

He almost immediately identified that my hands parry at the same speed every time (both my off-hand parry six, and my sword-hand parry four).  He then proceeded to exploit that by advancing with his feet in a decelerating tempo while he disengaged my parry and lunged.  Feet went slower, sword went faster.  I could see it happening, it was beautiful, and I was powerless to stop it.

Afterwards, I asked his advice, and he pointed out the speed thing.  I’ve spent the last two days trying to figure out how to train in varying tempos to my instinctive reactions, and I’m at a loss (Mattheu suggests more MMO FPS.  Call of Duty – World at War here I come).  Anybody have thoughts?

Also, Vyv suggested that I not parry until the threat is actually imminent, as it gives away these pieces of information, so I’m going to work on training myself to react only when absolutely necessary.  I expect to die.  A lot.


Once I switched to single, and in the fighting outside, my fighting went pretty well.  But I’m still having a heck of a time getting the weight of those two losses in the tourney off of my mind.  Especially since, as is my way, I believe with every fiber of my being that I could have won, and I look for the reason that I didn’t within myself and find it difficult to wrestle mea culpas out of my impatience, form, and lunge.  Afterall, it wasn’t the floor or the list setup’s fault; everybody else was fighting on the same field I was.

I’ve lost tournaments before (Once at A Midsummer’s Twilight Tourney, two at Sapphire Joust ’07, one at Sapphire Joust ’08, one at Sacred Stone BB ‘07) but never to such an extent of self-disappointment (I finalled MTT, my first tourney, which I had no business doing, and the SJs were all losses that I could have avoided, but it still wasn’t unexpected that I’d have lost to somebody of roughly the skill level of my opponents).  And as my track record in the past year and a half has been perfect (though, it’s easy to win every tournament in a year when you only fight one tournament a year) disappointment’s not a sensation I’ve had to deal with.

Next Steps

But in the words of Her Excellency Windmasters, “Suck it up cupcake”.  Time to put on my Big Boy Braies and get killing again.  I’m looking at the schedule for this spring and have added at least one event to my plans just because I know it will be a good tourney.  I continue unwavering in my belief that I can kick ass through a dozen soul-sold-to-the-devil-Aldo-Nadis and crush the tourney field under my scuffed and shredded boots, because I’ve done it before (well, okay, without the Aldo Nadis, but still…).  It requires fighting with my utmost skill and precision, which I did not do on Saturday.  The next, oh, ten years should just about do for getting me to the point where that happens consistently.

Posted February 15, 2010 by wistric in Events

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