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Page history last edited by Tara 8 years, 3 months ago


Brief introductory remarks about yourself, your goals in the class, your persona, etc...


About me:

     Hi, I’m Tara. I’m a 25-year-old graduate student in Fort Lauderdale pursuing my M.A. in Writing. As an undergraduate, I majored in English. My primary literary interests are Shakespeare, Chaucer, the Romantics, and creative writing. Currently, I’m finishing my master’s thesis: a fiction piece excerpted from a future novel retelling Classical myth in the Age of Piracy. My scholarship interests are diverse; this past year, I wrote my first published professional journal article on colorblind racism and World of Warcraft. Besides writing, other hobbies include visual (studio) art, fencing, and archery. I’ve worked in various theater production roles, as a substitute teacher, and as a librarian. Physical strength has remained one of my favorite personal traits; I’ve identified with fighters for as long as I can remember, and now, I can add SCA heavy fighting to my ways of expressing it.


My goals:

     I have several goals in the class. I want to learn all I can about what it is to be a heavy fighter and how to have fun and be safe on the field. I want to develop a clear understanding of fighting technique to the point where it can be practiced instinctively and reflexively as “muscle memory.” I want to work on perfecting each technique separately and in relation to the other techniques. I want to use enough trial-and-error and repetition to figure out my own “best biomechanics”: maximum effect achieved through harnessing the class-taught techniques to the fine details of my personal build, speed, height, strengths, weaknesses, etc. for maximum effect. I want to become a “thinking fighter” who is both physically and tactically deadly. I want to push myself to find out how far I can stretch my potential for growth and improvement. I want to get stronger, to be the best I can for myself, and to help others be the best they can be for themselves too. I am excited about the class curriculum and look forward to my time as a student of this simple and deadly scholastic methodology.

     For long-term fighting goals, I want to broaden my experiences by trying and becoming proficient in as many different weapons and fighting scenarios as I can—from single combat to melees to wars and sieges. I want to grow as a supportive and honorable example of a fighter that others can count on. I want to face as many challenging opponents as I can in order to learn from them. I want to maintain dedication and boldness of heart, always seeking to be better than the day before. Victory is not important to me; what matters most is conducting myself honorably and well on and off-field regardless of my current skill level. I look forward to having the honor to fight in a Crown lyst. Someday, I hope to have the skill and good fortune to win and become a queen by my own hand.


My persona:

     My persona, Violante Valera, is a late-period Spanish privateer, poet, and playwright born in the mid-1500s. At some point, she changes sides to fight instead for England when the Spanish capture and, by mistreatment, kill the English privateer with whom she fell in love. She inherited her taste for the sea from her father, who brought back stories of the New World after sailing with the conquistadores, and she is encouraged by tales of similar women like conquistadora Maria d’Estrada and the pirate chieftain Grace (Granuaille) O’Malley of Ireland. However, I envision the details of this persona to be more suited for light weapons than heavy.

     The name Violante dates from at least the 1400s and is also an Italian name. This gives me a little bit of freedom to journey back and forth in time—not to mention a good alibi (“I’m Italian”) if the wrong side of the English-Spanish war finds me. For heavy combat, I prefer a persona a little earlier in period. I am inspired by the knights of Arthurian legend and especially the female knights of other literature such as Britomart from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and Bradmante from Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. Currently, my armor reads as fairly early period. I wear a Spagnhelm and transition armor (leather with some metal plates), and they suit me. With my own armor kit, I value overall aesthetic (does it look good, make me feel good, and function well as a whole) over meticulously making sure every last buckle fits within a specific time window—especially as a brand new fighter. I am unconcerned with “matching” my armor to a late-period persona because I prefer late-period clothing and early-to-middle period armor. Therefore, in time, I may develop separate personas for heavy and light weapons.


My journey to become a heavy fighter:

     Being an SCA heavy lyst fighter is a long-time dream of mine. I discovered the SCA about 8 years ago at a Renaissance faire event at Mercer County Park in the East Kingdom. The SCA was one of the coolest discoveries I ever made. I remember that there was a small lyst field set up there. One of the heavy fighters was wearing really pretty shiny stuff and, in between fights, was answering questions and letting people try on his big sweaty gauntlets. From that moment on, I knew heavy fighting was for me. However, my quest was not an easy one. I may have been just 17 at the time, and when I was 18, I was shipping off for college in Carolingia. There, I made friends with the small local SCA group and the few (3-10) students on the Wellesley campus who were in the SCA. I met and talked with one of the local heavy fighters about starting up, but logistics at the time made it nearly impossible. Because of the very long varsity fencing season (September through March) and the related insurance along with other challenges, I never got to start heavy fighting in college. I took a few rapier classes once the fencing season ended. In my sophomore year, I studied away for the fall in Lakeland, Florida and made friends with the heavy fighters from the Shire of the Ruins—including their current Majesties. Out of college, I kept moving around. I wasn't close enough to a local group to start up right away, but I began slowly building my armor while waiting for the right time to join up. At long last, I got to begin this semester when my graduate school work in Fort Lauderdale began calming down. It's great to finally be here!



Novicius Concepts: The Seven Deadly Virtues, Integrated Fighting Framework

Personal notes about Novicius Concepts progress


     I like the organizatoin of the class concepts ("Seven Deadly Virtues"). On the fist night, after practicing some basics like the biomechanics of "turn, rotation, lock, extension, wrist," I could notice a real difference in effectiveness once I started to do better.



Class One: Breathing, Stance, Movement

Personal notes about class one....


     After the first class, I noticed that one of my knees (I think it was the right one) and maybe one of my legs (I think it was the left near the knee) were sore. My right wrist was also sore from, I think, accidentlaly having overextended it or started out wit it already turned too far for the wrist snaps. However, this was also my first time practicing wrist snaps with a rattan sword, so just the weight of it could have done that. Regarding the knee, I probably wasn't doing something right, but I'm not sure what it was. I may have been twisting or rotating too far, or my shoes could have been not pivoting right. More by mistake than intention, I wore a different pair of sneakers to my second class and I didn't have the same problems. I'm still not sure exactly what caused it. It could also have been compass-stepping, since class 2 didn't have much of it. In the first class, I found that at first, I wasn't turning far enough and had to rotate farther. I got a lot of laughs out of "passing the soup"—it's a useful way to imagine the wrist snap.

     The most challenging thing for me to get right in the first class was the "lock" step. Also, I find that I'm still running the steps together instead of separating them to practice the momentum build-up as consecutive steps. For me, it takes real effort to go step by step, expecially in keeping lock-extension-wrist as distinctive consecutive movements. They keep wanting to happen simultaneously.


To some extent, your years of fencing are something of a disadvantage in this regard, as you have created a deep well of muscle memory and "hardwired" reactions based on proper fencing technique rather than the power-generation techniques necessary for heavy fighting.  In fact, in modern and SCA fencing, lock can be quite detrimental, as in "touch" systems, transferring full momentum through the sword is frowned upon -- so it's no surprise that you're having trouble actually trying to do that which you were trying not to do for so long.


"Turn" can be done literally with the whole foot, or if you have shoes that "lock" your foot to the ground then you can do less "turn" within the bed of your shoe.  The more "locked" your foot is to the ground and in your shoe, the more "turn" you will put on your knee (risking long-term damage to your ACL.  You'll work-out the best mix between shoe sole traction, turning the shoe itself, and turning your foot with your shoe.


SH -Tara many questions, I will try and answer some.

Knee and foot - you should try and get shoes which allow you to rotate on the ball of your foot.  The heel should be only lightly on the ground.  When you rotate, this should preclude some of the knee problems -- the joint should move naturally - up and down, no side to side. Turn/rotate are separate although they are tightly linked to allow you to focus on two separate things -- doing the "mashed potatoes". which is with the balls of the foot, and the rotate which is done with the torso, as a unit.


Lock- the idea is, viewing the torso as a rotating cylinder having the sword and arm form a diameter that directly delivers rotational momentum to target. Lock is a means to remove loss. 


Lock consists of two motions, the first is bringing your arm tightly into your torso, closing the gaps between the two.  The second consists of a slight rotation of either the wrist or the elbow, or both.  It is clockwise as you view it for a forearm blow.  This brings the skeleton more into alignment.


You can any or all in tandem or sequentially -- at the end.  Right now-- we are showing you the simple way to get to the end.


My recommendation is to imagine yourself as a quintain. Someone hits you, you simply rotate and hit them. Period. Then later you can think of yourself as a quintain with something like a mace at the end.... etc...



Class Two: Zero Stem, Rotation Blocks

Personal notes about class two....


     The breathing exercises really helped me to feel centered and stable—moreso than I thought they would. I love how the onside attack and block are the same movement—just like the offside attack and block are the same action. Thank you to those who put all the research and development into this system!


Most dramatically underestimate the importance of calm and a relaxed demeanor prior to fighting.  I suggest you look over the 200 class notes and see if any of those sports psychology techniques we teach at that level might have any value for you in your fencing as well as in your fighting.


     I noticed that the stances and the basic biomechanics were still feeling pretty unnatural and awkward at times, but I started to feel more comfortable toward the end of the class with more practice.


As stated, everything about it is completely unnatural -- especially for someone used to some of the very similar basics but without the power generation (i.e., a fencer).


     The biggest concern I have so far is about "lean" (virtue 7.5). It is something that, as a modern strip fencer, I have been expressly trained not to do (specifically, not to angle your knee less than 90 degrees when it is bent and then lean over it because it can put a lot of strain on it and cause injury). I've resolved, therefore, to use lean carefully and figure out how it can work for me without risking injury. Does anyone not lean for this reason? I have strong knees, but, is there a way for people with weak or previously-injured knees to lean safely—especially forward? Backward isn't really as much of an issue. I'm happy that I also chose knee cops that are great for lateral support because of the way they are built and articulated—it is pretty much impossible to accidentally turn my knee sideways while wearing them.


The amount and nature of lean you need to do is completely dependent on your stance and choices.  If you have a lower stance with knees more bent, then you the angles change.  If you have a weight-forward or a weight-backward stance, then they also change.  Lean can help with power generation, can help bring your offside into range without extending the arm forward, and can help manage range by bringing your blows closer in or your body farther from your opponent.  None of these are necessary, and if you are uncomfortable with lean, then there are always alternatives.


     Sometimes my arm wanted to float out of zero stem so that my elbow wasn't right up against my body. I have a heavy shield, and at times it was hard to keep it up. I think that wearing my vambrace with it might help to distribute its weight and keep it balanced. I felt certain that my left shoulder would hurt a lot the next day from shield fatigue but it didn't, and that gives me hope! I have been working on my arm an shoulder strength at the gym, and it seems to have helped already.

     As I mentioned in the notes for week 1, I didn't feel the same sore spots after the second class, which is a good sign. The only noticebale soreness I had was a little in my upper abs (from keeping the shield up, I bet).


You do have a really heavy shield.  Remember that the shield is also held in short-stem lock (Tyrannosaurus Regina).  If you keep it there, comfortably in lock, only moving it out of stance and lock to block... then you will become MUCH less sore and less fatigued.


     I also noticed that, when doing the practice on-side, off-side attacks, my off-side attack, though it is fairly strong, is only hitting about half as hard as my on-side attacks. How much of this is basic biomechanics vs. amount of practice? In other words, with enough practice, will they become equally hard-hitting, or will on-side always have harder-hitting potentiual because of basic body/biomechanical structure and physics? I think it will also take more practice before I can fluidize the off-side attack movement to glide smoothly without its momentum being broken or diverted consciously away from my head. I'm sure this largely a practice and muscle-memory issue.


Almost everybody starts out with a weaker off-side.  It's less natural linking the hip rotation in that direction with the sword movement (elbow "chicken-dance" extension).  Furthermore, the off-side lock is much more difficult (locking the top of the shoulder when extended in the "chicken-dance" position).  Remember the elbow flip is explosive and timed right after the hip begins to rotate.  Hip-rotate-to-Elbow flip (locking the elbow) and dropping the soup.


Class Three: Short-Stem

Personal notes about class three...


     Offside attacks are still the most challenging for me. Including the previous classes, it took some time to get used to the action so that I would clear my head every time. I'm sure this is largely a muscle-memory issue). I also feel that I've not yet got down the optimal angle for attack so that it has the right "snap" to it. I know that once I get my helm padded and begin wearing it, the extra few inches will be a new thing to calibrate for with my offside attacks—(though, granted, once my head is in steel, it wont matter as much if I glance off it when attacking).

     The week's practice drill (kata) involved compass-stepping forward and backward with onside and offside attacks at all three stem ranges (zero, short, and long). The onside attack while stepping backward (probably because of the biomechanics of attacking forward while moving backward) felt the least natural (this also happend to be at long-stem). I found myself pausing at that step in the drill trying to remember the right flow of the action. I'm sure that enough practice will solidify my attacks regardless of what direction I'm moving (though, of course, certain directions will be able to generate extra power by momentum).

     This week, we also got an introduction to melee tactics (local numerical superiority, moving correctly as a line, and some basic commands and maneuvering like "wheel right"). While the other stuff immeditaely made sense, the concept of wheeling was very confusing at first because of how the opposite end moves from the one named (such as with "wheel left," the leftmost fighter does not move, but only pivots with the line—the rightmost fighter is the one who needs to move by quickly wheeling to the left). Simplifying it with remembering that "the side called doesn't move" didn't help as much as I had hoped; it still created a gap in time while I had to first think of what side wasn't supposed to be moving so that I could find out what side was. However, I was able to quickly determine what side was moving once I came up with the mental image of a dotted turning lane and following the that line with a car. When I imagined an aerial view of an entire line of fighters, the commands also made a lot more sense because I could see why the right-end fighter had to move for a wheel left.

     One question: how much variation in compass-step length (regarding degrees of rotation) is there when fighting? In practice, is compass-step size as standard as it is practiced in drills?



Class Four: Long-Stem

Personal notes about class four...


     After working with offside attacks at the other stem lengths, I think that offside attacks are by far the most difficult (at least for me) at long-stem range. I noticed that it also really takes some getting used to for calibrating distance for onside attacks vs. offside attacks; the distance you need to stand from the opponent/pell seems to be the most different between onside and offside for long-stem because of the necessary difference in elbow bend. At zero-stem and short-stem, there is elbow bend for both onside and offside anyway. However, at long stem, the elbow bend for onside is minimal (just enough so that the elbow isn't locked) while the elbow bend for offside is still considerable (because it is necessary for the action). As I was practicing repeated long-stem attacks alternating onside and offside, I found myself falling short or needing to adjust extra for offside. As I get used to calibrating distance, will this offside/onside discrepancy at long-stem range become handled automatically with lean? Do fighters ever need to take an extra half-step in for offside attacks to land at long-stem range?



Class Five: Striking Blows

Personal notes about class five...


     I worked almost exclusively with the pell during this class session. Still, the offside long stem is where my power is most wanting. I have no trouble at all with delivering killing blows consistently with onside attacks, but, at this point, it is very difficult (almost impossible) for me to deliver killing blows at offside long-stem range. (However, I'm pretty sure that I can kill fairly consistently with offside attacks at zero-stem and short-stem range). I need to keep working with getting my biomechanics right. Is it possible that I am losing power by extending my arm too much? I need to find out what I can fix.

     When working with the pell, one of the things that became immediately apparent was a tendency to rise up in my stance while swinging to hit my target. I was pushing up onto the balls of my feet, so the level of m,y head was changing throughout my attack and recovery. I fixed this by lowering the plane of my attack to be more level (we were targetting high on the pell). Another fighter helped me out by saying that, once the biomechanics are down, all I'll really be doing is changing the plane of my hand and delivering the same attack. The power of the attack should be concentrated forward/backward so that your elevation when rotating does not change. When I was aiming high, I was throwing some of the force upward by pushing somewhat with my calves instead of fully from the hips. I think this is an issue that will be fixed with more practice and will also be helped when I get my targeting distance to where it is instinctive and set in muscle memory for all the stem lengths. Another fighter pointed out that it will also help to grind my sword handle so that it is not perfectly round. I'll be able to shape it this weekend, and I'm sure that having a set "grip" will help tremendously with aligning my shots.

     During practice, we started talking about how left-handed fighters tend to have a built-in advantage because the majority of fighters are used to fighting only other right-handed fighters. I learned that, therefore, there tends to be a higher concentration of left-handed fighters at the upper levels of skill. We also talked about how fights between two left-handed fighters tends to be messy because it happens so seldomly and because many left-handed fighters have specialized in only a couple different kinds of shots, which helps them against right-handed fighters but not so much against fellow left-handers. The conversation shifted to how we are with throwing shots with our left hands (everyone at the class is right-handed).

     When I tried throwing shots with my left hand, I noticed that, while my offside left-handed attacks needed a lot of work (very light), my onside left-handed attacks were good. Switching the biomechanics of turn, rotate, lock, extension, twist to my left felt (surprisingly) natural—much more so than I expected. For me, this feeling of naturalness probably comes from a couple of things: 1) I am still much more used to standing the opposite way (left side denied) because of many years of sport (and a couple years of SCA) fencing experience; 2) Because I am still *just learning* heavy fighting biomechanics and they are not yet set in my muscle memory, working from the left side feels less "wrong" than it otherwise might. Compared with fencing, for example, it still feels extremely awkward to work with my other hand and "mirror flip" the rest of my biomechanics accordingly. In fencing, I also don't have even close to the same skill level with my left hand as opposed to my right: my parries and movements with my left side aren't ingrained in the lightning-reflex muscle memory that my right side has (this is especially noticeable with modern-style fencing because it is the fastest martial art).

     Although I want to keep training (at least to some degree) with both hands while learning heavy fighting so that my muscle strength develops symmetrically, I also want to be competent enough with my other hand to switch if I need to (something I neglected when learning fencing because of how dramatically cumbersome it felt). However, my experiment in throwing with my left hand made me think that perhaps I should fight left-handed regularly (though of course, I would also still fight right-handed—I'd have to make a second, special shield for left unless I just get a second, round one that I will be able to use ambidextrously). From my time in my modern fencing salle, I remember hearing a story about one fencer who was equally skilled with both hands. He would take both right-handed and left-handed weapons to tournaments, and no one would know whether he would be fighting right-handed or left-handed for any given bout until he got to the strip. Does anyone do this in SCA heavy combat—switch hands during tournaments, etc? Are there any rules against this?



Class Six: Baselines, Evade, Legs

Personal notes about class six...


Class Seven: Leg Combo, Inside Angle Change, Unit Maneuvers

Personal notes about class seven...


Class Eight: Onside Wraparound, Offside Jam, Uppercut Thrust

Personal notes about class eight...


Class Nine: Offside Jam, Zero-Stem Swordblock, Thumb-Turn Wraparound

Personal notes about class nine...


Class Ten: Melee Concepts, Melee Drills, and Unit Scenarios

Personal notes about class ten...


Class Eleven: Shield Blocks -- Flat Blocks and Corner Blocks

Personal notes about class eleven...


Class Twelve: Hanging-Guard Drop-Shot, Hanging-Guard Moulinet

Personal notes about class twelve...


Novicius 101,102,103: Beginner Basics (101), Continuing Refresh (102), Advanced Practicum (103)

Personal notes about continuing progress in class thirteen+...



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