Tournament of Ymir

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.

22 comments to Tournament of Ymir

  • Matheu

    My ego is a little bruised after ymir as well.
    But, positive takeaways: our good-natured game of one upmanship can continue ;p, I learned some new limits on unstable floors, Had a discussion with Aedan about doing more of a warmup beforehand focusing less on getting my muscles firing more on amping up my mind, and a few others. Off the field saw a friend get elevated to pelican, another get their writ for the same, and yet another play his prize to attain the rank of free scholar. Bruised ego aside and excellent day among friends.

    Thanks for the compliment on my teaching 🙂 totally makes my day.

  • A few things: Matheu did comment that you’d all but eliminated your whippy, flailing case “style”, which is a very good thing– draw cuts are not a game plan. I’m pretty sure he blames me for that, somehow.

    If you really want to improve your case game, try fighting left-handed single sword until you’re equally good with either hand. Then, fight case and you’ll be able to transition smoothly. It won’t matter against top level opponents, but you’ll screw up people who still think handedness is relevant.

    FPS would probably help. I recommend old school Unreal Tournament, with the Instagib modifier on. One shot, one kill, slow refire, no zoom. Turn the bots all up to at least 80% accuracy.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that speed isn’t so much a thing as timing. If you work to minimize your movements, then all that matters is that your movement takes less time than your opponent’s. What you’re essentially doing is moving at a speed appropriate to the opponent’s action. It’s not a matter of being faster or slower so much as moving fast or slow *enough*. Economy of motion is key.

    How many tournaments do you enter if your list of losses is that small? Or have I misunderstood you? If you’re only fighting in a tournament or two a year, it’s going to be very difficult to develop some of the skills you’re working toward.

    • If you’re only fighting in a tournament or two a year, it’s going to be very difficult to develop some of the skills you’re working toward.


      • Practice is low stakes. Nothing really matters. Pickups are low stakes. They don’t count. Both of these kinds of fighting are for learning and experimentation, but neither require you to have any real focus or composure. You’re not really penalized for a mistake. I’m terribly experimental in pickups to where sometimes I’ll leave openings and not parry, just to see what happens, or I’ll set up in range to work on my handspeed, knowing full well I’ll lose most of my fights like that.

        Melees and bearpits have a similar issue: you just keep going, no matter what. But a tournament makes you face the risk of defeat and suffer the consequences of loss. Without the risk of being bested, you cannot be someone’s better. Pressure, and coping with it, are necessary.

        • Practice does not require me to have real focus or composure, yes, but I require it of myself at practice (not all the time, but there are days when my “thing for the day” is putting my mind in tournament mode). I find the mindset I’m in on the melee field most of the time is pretty much the same as the mindset I take on the tourney field.

          • Dominyk

            Normally I am a huge proponent of practicing the tourney mindset at formal practices. You need to make sure that it’s not something you try to switch on and off. Switching it ‘on’ is not hard, switching it ‘off’ is not hard but switching it BACK on is very rough.

            If you are going to practice getting your game face on, get it on for the whole practice. Being able GRR up for a fight is not what you want, you will bring baggage on to the list, and while it might give you a slight edge but it is difficult to maintain this for the whole day. And seriously if you went through the whole event acting like William Wallace….nobody would want to be around you.

            Ideally you can get to a place where you can laugh and joke with your friends and then walk on to the list with all the intensity needed to stomp them in to oblivion.

          • The problem I run into with GRR-ing up for an entire practice is that, really, my practice is not conducive to it. There are a few fencers who show up that I can switch the killing mode on with and fight them, but then there are the newer fencers who don’t need Wistric fighting his A game, but need me to be successful when they do something right.

  • Dreya

    I’m totally seconding the compliments on Mattheu’s teaching.

    Also I am gleeful at the idea of using video games to improve fencing skills. I’d be even more gleeful if I had a gaming system and could actually play. I’d love to frag you from 1,000 miles away, Wistric, although it’d be more fun in a LAN party where I could hear your screams of frustration from down the hall. Heh heh heh.

    • I used to play Unreal Tournament against “godlike” bots, with Instagib, set to 95% accuracy and maximum, vengeful aggression. I would still win; there was a point years ago when my accuracy was better than 95%. Ah, college, back when I had spare time and no wrist damage.

      It really did help me with entering the “no mind” state that you hear about at times. Actually, I think it probably did more for me with that than anything else.

  • Staffan


    Thank you for the fun read!

    I agree, the fault of the losses wasn’t that of the hall. One of the things I learned from my friends at Scola Metallorum* is, it isn’t only the marshal’s job to inspect the fighting field; it is the duty of all who intend to fight. And, when you walk the field, you get an idea of what would need to be done in a fight. Ever since then, I have learned to adjust my fighting based on the terrain (Hmmm, kind of reminds me of the Cliffs of Insanity…). Slick terrain means that I become even more of a counter-puncher.

    I agree with Dante, to fight better at case, you need to be strong with your off hand. Besides, as a left-handed fencer, I’d have to say fighting right-handers is fun!

    In the fencing program that I am currently in, they impress upon us the fact that we shouldn’t react to just anything. If our opponent does not give us an action that appears to be a serious threat, then we shouldn’t defend against their action. So, they need to make a pretty strong feint, or a real attack before we parry. And, when there are compound actions (think combos), your parries should be “fast-faster-fastest!” (yeah, its something I’m having troubles with myself).

    I hope you get many more fights this year!

    Thank you for your post!

    In Service to the West,
    Staffan Arffuidsson

    *Scola Metallorum is the SCA group located at the School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Here is their link:

    Also, they’ve put out the following manuals that help quite a bit:

  • Joe

    I could always throw a Pre-Pennsic LAN party. I’ve got quite the setup… only its in PA.

  • Dominyk

    Yeah the fight with Connor was fugly because the King made us fight left handed. The first fight was just silly, he parried my blade in to himself while running backwards.

    The second fight(because the King decided we should do it again) was different. Connor was trying to do a vertical coupe(sp?). I had my stick so when he took his blade up I close the distance with my stick on a vertical plane and he chopped in to it like he was using an ax. I didn’t actually throw a shot, I just pointed my sword at him while I tried to negate his weapon. At the same time I came forward he did one of his sliding lunges that lets him disguise his range while moving forward, he slide right in to my sword, which I wasn’t even aiming, it hit him in the gorget.

    It went “clang” but it wasn’t that bad.

  • Dominyk

    I also had to make the transition from “fast fighter” to one who was able to vary the tempo and thus control the tempo of the fight.

    It went in steps something like this.

    -Separate hand speed from foot speed. If you can move forward quickly you can move your sword less, your feet are firing and your hands are aiming. Yes your hands will extend in a shot but they go slower and are thus more precise. Also it is harder for your opponent to gauge the tempo because he will be looking for big motions from your hands.

    -Realize that I have a top speed, but I can choose when to reach that velocity. Go slower while you are initiating the fight and then choose your moment to increase your speed.

    -And, most importantly, teach your body that going fast does not meant going long distances or for long periods of time. Go from C range to B range as fast as you can, but stop in B range and be ready to throw your shot. This is the closest thing to what Vyv was doing, he was approaching and then moving quickly to a spot at the appropriate time in conjunction with blade work. You need to be able to move fast without it being a full straight ahead commitment.

    At least that’s what worked for me.

    • Thank you, Dom! What’s the next event we might both be at? I’d like to work through some of this with you, as I’m not sure I understand it, or at least the most effective way to incorporate it.

  • Dominyk

    Next Steps

    While “suck it up cupcake” is funny, I think the answer is that you need to enter more tournaments. Yes you feel the disappointment of this loss and you can use it to drive yourself to train harder. But you really need more tournaments so that you can measure you successes. You can build on what you did well in a practical manner. Don’t make perfection the enemy of success.

    • Yep, I’ve added TyD BB to my schedule to help start fighting more tourneys. I was discussing the dearth of tourneys with Dante, which I believe inspired his recent Facebook post. Because, seriously, we have lots of melee events, not so many with the tournaments.

  • Staffan


    Actually, Dominyk, I have to disagree with you on a point. The hand should be able to move faster than the foot. The hand only has a couple pounds of sword to move, while the foot has a decent percentage of body mass to move. That said, I fully agree with separation of Foot-and-Hand timing. If a fighter’s timing gets stuck matching those movements together, then it’ll slow them down and it could telegraph your actions to your opponent.

    I totally agree with your statement on initial action should be slower than your final one.

    And I totally agree with your last point; economy of motion allows you to apply said speed at the appropriate times.

    Thank you for your post!

    In Service to the West,
    Staffan Arffuidsson

    • Dominyk

      Sure your hand CAN move faster than your feet. But if you are using your feet for your forward momentum then you only have to aim the sword with your hand. This is a much smaller movement than using your hand/arm to throw the shot sans foot movement.

    • Dante di Pietro

      Don’t confuse the tempo of the hand and the tempo of the foot with what Dominyk is describing. A movement of your hand will necessarily be maximally than a movement of your feet, yes, but it is good fencing to change measure with the feet so the hand may be free to act in response to the opponent’s blade. This is why a correct period lunge begins with an extension of the sword arm, followed immediately by the step itself, with the sword being carried forward in the process where you may yield or perform cavazione as necessary.

  • Staffan


    Thank you Dante, with “your feet are firing and your hands are aiming” I did confuse the tempos. I read into it as he was describing it as the foot was the important part in the attack, not the extension of the blade. Also, “Yes your hands will extend in a shot but they go slower and are thus more precise” led me to believe he was suggesting the opposite of Silver’s “Four Governors.” Thank you for explaining, and thanks for the posts!

    In Service to the West,
    Staffan Arffuidsson

    Silver’s Paradoxes of Defense

  • […] Letia, Ruairc, and Tassin were all working their Fabris to some degree in the tourneys.  Jaume was working his Agrippa, and Gawin his Capo Ferro.  It was pretty spiff.  I don’t know how successful any of them were, but I get the impression much frustration was felt.  Which is rather familiar […]

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