Friday, 7 April 2017

It's that time of year again.

Where I both curse and celebrate Matt and Lucy Easton's hard work and dedication.   Fightcamp tickets went on sale at around half 9 this morning (after a good half hour of frustrated refreshing and panicked co-ordination) and sold out before lunch.

The lineup hasn't been finalised-  there's still a lot of open slots, but in a way that's not really all that important. The instructors will be good, regardless. The people will be fantastic. Competitions friendly and intense. Beer... drunk.  And it marks a passing of time.

Last year we had to get things in place very quickly due to a bastard. We had classes cancelled, which we'd found out was due to non-payment to the venue, despite everyone paying money in and the club being, theoretically, well in the black.  Bluntly, we were chronically fucked over.

It's been a year since the great embezzelment that almost cost us the club.  We had no instructor and although the club was ours in spirit- the name was dragged so far through the mud that we could no longer use it. Hence the complete change of branding.  The club image was taken along with.. some thousand pounds which should have been used to invest in the club and other little things like pay the venue. Kit that was stored at the defrauded venue is still unavailable to us.

I am still furious about the embezzlement, but fortunately, it was only material things. In the long run getting rid of the thief was really good for us. I feel I'm going from strength to strength as a teacher.  The past year there's been so much growth and engagement from the guys. The fencing has got tighter, the questions harder to answer. It would be nice to open up some time to free study but there's not enough room and we can't really start earlier due to boring stuff like work and travel. There's talk about holding different kind of event, which I'll cover in a later post- when we have more than just an idea about what we want to do. (I'm pretty excited about it, and think it fits well with my vision of the club).

It's nerve wracking bringing people to these events as an instructor, I really care about the guys doing well (not necessarily winning, but being brilliant, difficult and fun opponents) and loving the event. Their failures are more mine than their successes.  I know they will do well, even the newbies who have managed to get tickets. But... there's always the nerves if you care about something.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Simple question, complex answer,.

It's lovely when a simple question fires up the brain and starts making all sorts of connections. This was something that appeared in the charming Mr Kovalic's Twitter. It will be unsurprising that my path to HEMA included gaming and wondering about the realities behind the story.

The question that intrigued me was making called shots in melee. There are a lot of good ideas, but nothing that rang true to my experience of sword fighting. Let's ignore the fact that an offhand dagger should add quite a bonus to defence or that a buckler is also a bludgeoning weapon. Strength isn't the defining trait for a fencer. A fairly weak person has a lot of tricks than can counter brute force.

I haven't done P&P Gaming for ages so my knowledge of combat stats is THAC0 and memory as old as the name. Which means numbers are not my domain.

If dice rolling gets people engaged then willpower (holding when someone is coming at you) Charisma (taunting) or perception (spotting openings) rolls could be an option. This could allow effective fighters that are more than walls of meat. People fight in line with their personality.

The difference between called shots and non called  is not just missing the shield. A volte into the ear or thrust to the eye are called. Leaving an engagement with bits intact and a hole somewhere in your opponent is the no frills version.

The idea works around the patient agent. Creates an opening through distance and timing then explodes into it. Initiative becomes important, if you have the wherewithal to attack first, you can wait and attack into a cut. (Countercut or hand snipe). also framing guards in certain ways makes it more likely your next action succeds. Basically the initiative loss is you setting up for the strike.

Basic idea:

Give up initiative for the called shot. Each combat round inactive to add a bonus to initiative on the next round. Bonuses to hit based on mental skills, if gm pemits (so watching the opponent for tells would be a perception based bonus. Waiting for the last possible moment- will)

You may interrupt a fighter with lower initiative to make your called shot against them.
Effects vary against target, there's probably cripple tables or something to emulate this.

Some targets are easy than others hand sniping (assuming simple hilts) should give a bonus. Leg sniping is much harder.

A pommel to theface could be called, with lower damage (4 teeth worth of hit points) but would allow a free action\critical\backstab if successful enough.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Feeling my way

Today was my second class since bastardgate. I am immensely proud of how the guys have pulled together, found a venue and generally been the club in a time that could have resulted in complete destruction.

I am slowly feeling my way through being the lead instructor and responsible adult. It's difficult to bring my vision into the lessons and to create a structure that provides solid growth and access for newbies. I don't have a library of drills yet.. I will.. but right now it's memories of stuff that worked for me. The principle based approach is being received well, allowing the guys to find their style without being tied to plays and manuscripts.

Don't get me wrong, the manuscripts are  important but I am taking the traditional English Approach of stealing everything that isn't nailed down, then a crowbar for the stuff that is. Hopefully I am also allowing people to know what is martially sound even if they don't have the names.

I was not happy with last week's lesson. I have had feedback that matches my feelings about what I did wrong. Which means that how I feel about today's lesson and my aims are good.

Lesson 1: Stuff about binding, general burbling. Drills that were vague and incomplete.

Lesson 2: 'bog standard volte' to start as a warm up more for me than the guys, changing partners and watching how everyone works together.
Look at where the volte didn't work.
Use of footwork to control the hit and prevent the volte from being an option.
Stage one of asymmetric distance drills vs sword (void)
Freeplay/revisit drills.

The asymmetric distance drill is going to be a staple. There's growth in there- 2 extra stages to be switched in when circumstances allow.  It allows flow work and form from the attacker and helps with kinaesthetics for the defender.

In all, I am happy with that as a lesson on distance.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Class plans...

I am sure the reasons why the change happened are becoming well known, again not the circumstances I wanted to become lead instructor, but I feel I've been heading this way for a long time.

So cue mad panic and study for a weapon I enjoy but have no great love for. Don't get me wrong, I like longsword but it doesn't 'sing' to me like single and offhand or quarterstaff does. Maybe because I have made those my study, happily picking up everything I can, and generally hanging new ideas on that framework..

Which I guess brings me to the greatest change in class structure. I will be stepping  away from play based instruction. It's never sat right with me, the principles need to be drilled in and the plays evolve/illustrate the concepts. I don't want the guys going 'this is the fifth master, 3rd refinement' I want them to feel as if they are doing the right thing, and then have it on video to alongside the play that just happened.

It will be a complete mash up. Sword vs dagger should teach distances, sure parries and rapid closing. I shall have  to play but sword in one hand and sword in 2 should be interchangeable with the Rawlings nylons and the hiltier feders. Which will open up more options. Then be tied back to the dagger work.

As much fun as I have had with how things were... I am already seeing so many, many more  opportunities and a way to turn the rag tag misfits into an unpredictable whirlwind of blades. With strong, sure and steady mechanics behind them.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


Fight camp was a mixed event for me. There was a massive shadow cast by my esteemed and honourable maestro. Being.. less than honourable and my having to turn a desolation into a win in 3 weeks.

It was very unpleasant talking about the circumstances, we were fucked over to the cost of hosting something. Both cash and support, by the looks of it.

Which is why it is hard to describe how I feel right now. I have been offered so much and, casually, been shown so much faith that.. I am humbled. What I have seen is so beyond testosterone poisoning that 'oh fucking fuck... Me?' is my main reaction.

And in that atmosphere. I personally awarded a medal to a stuffed toy. Because that is the right thing to do.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

This isn't the blog for politics

This blog was started due to the joy I found in HEMA, the people I respect and how positivity should be looked for well above politics and infighting and so on.

The hobby has sustained me through bad times, I have met great people, become a better person both physically and mentally.  I wouldn't be in the position I am if I didn't see my volunteering as giving something back. And all of that is an aside to the fact that sword fighting is pretty damn cool.

This is an unpleasant time for me and my relationship with the hobby. Part of it is that my personal feelings about stuff, I have taken a massive step into the unknown because of things that I would rather have prevented. It's rushed because the guys come first and the defining weekend of my HEMA experience is almost upon us. I wouldn't be half as enthusiastic if it wasn't for that terrifying weekend at the gunpowder mills. Being prodded into a rapier contest just to make up the numbers.. being the first time I actually used steel. Yes, these were the days of the ubershinai and when hanwei practicals were the best we could get.

If it was 'just me' I would have faded away, given up my spot on Danelli's waiting list and probably just stuck to cutting practice and occasionally scrawling notes in the margins of book while feeling resentful.

Fortunately, it is a lot more than just me. It's those who introduced me to the wider hobby. Those I have met through this hobby. Those who have a learnt a mutual language through the sword. I have to remind myself of those people. Those who look up to me and respect my opinions or at least have a good point (metaphorically or literally).

So, what happens next? Not a fucking clue. I shall, as ever, carry on looking at and for the opinions of people I respect. I will argue, pick up swords and discuss things that way. With nothing to prove, nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 It is important to me that this fightcamp is phoenix-like rather than shoegazing and blame. Still not quite sure what direction this will take, but it will be a better one.

I am not happy with what has been thrown at me. But this is not a full stop.

It is a stop thrust.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Today was a good class.  Fewer people than usual, 2 of our Permanent Guest Instructor's class (He's off doing international stuff- Teaching/judging at some big meeting in the South of France) so they did their own thing.

And 8 of the thugs.  10 people is a low turnout for us now.  I don't do the headcounts or cash taking.. I'm just the guy who balances the numbers.  If we're odd, I drill. If we're even I coach.  If people have questions or bits of text they want to go through... That's me. We are limited by space and cost, we can go on forever as we are and I need to expand a little.

I need to because playing the Odd means that I'm hitting a plateau. I'm comfortable, happy and able to take any role in the class... providing I get some time actually paying attention to the Permanent Guest Instructor's style and aims. His guys need to be less linear, which requires more room and the thugs... well some want to get to the books and work on their own intepretations.. others just want to roll around on the floor perfecting choke holds and ear biting.

In my club, there should be room for all of these. The mental space is there, but the physical isn't. And that's what made today's particularly interesting due to stuff there was space for me to play with my ideas of class- led, as it should be, by the students.

And so I learnt some things... I don't think Vadi is a 'good' mastet to follow when trying to do HEMA. This is not because he's impenetrable or that the 2 line, couplet stuff is limiting or that the pictures are as clear as any other HEMA manual... but because he uses broken bones like Fiore uses locks. Almost every play we looked at, there was a point where we had to shake our heads and say that it was too dangerous to use against friends.

There's this really neat counter against something akin to Fiore's metzane/halfsword feint which ends with you kind of winding until your hilt is locking their wrist, forearm and elbow and your body mechanics are set to throw them on the floor while breaking their arm in several places. It's a clear moment of how fragile the human body can be when you have the mechanics right. I'm hesitant to drill it because it is so efficient that I don't want it to be a natural reaction.