Oct. 16th, 2016 12:27 pm
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Amergin's Revolt is an SCA ecvent in the Barony of Adiantum.

I drove up for it yesterday, wanting to try out some swordplay stuff that had been percolating through my "Elderly Swordsman" presona's brain.

The tournament was for the Baronial Heavy (rattan) Championship. I have no desire for jobs or titles at the moment, but they let me play in the tourney as a non-competitor.

I had a good long time to hang out and think about what it was I wanted to try: a more deeply relaxed offense and a softer, more yielding and movement oriented defense (a la Peter Ralston.)

Pursuant to that, I spent a big part of the time (when not socializing) meditating on the subject of relaxation. As sifu R says: "Let your mind return to its natural state of calm and
let your body return to its natural state of relaxation."

Socializing included a long talk with the Baron, and another with the Baroness (that was mostly me talking, since she asked about my writing...) and an interesting talk with my Squire Viscountess Vesta. I also heard Tales of Great Western War from those who'd gone, and had (as always) interesting conversations with the current Prince (Sverre Bjornhartta)

I noticed that every time I went outdoors, I tensed up. "Why?" I asked myself. The pelting rain?

But I am usually at home in the rain, I work outdoors after all. I finally realized that the tension I was feeling was so slight that others probably couldn't even see it: I was not hunched over or 'hiding' from the rainfall as so many people do... I only noticed the tension because of my otherwise relaxed state. I took such steps as occurred to me to reduce my tension even further, and I liked the results.

At long last we all armed ourselves and began. Simple round-robin, I had five quick fights, went 2-3, saw places I could improve.

Then I fought a bunch of pick-up fights, and really began to feel the thing I was looking for. My attacks were quicker than I'd felt them in several years. The time between blows was down as well, which makes it harder for my opponents to respond with attacks of their own. To the extent possible in such a small field I was moving instead of blocking. I did wind up with some tension between my shoulder blades, but otherwise felt good.

I'm sitting reading over this and realizing that I can't even describe in common terms what it was I felt. Hmm. Gotta work on that; when I start to write about Mr. Rothakis meeting his mentor Arrenji in training bouts, this has to be accessible.

Not sure how to do that.

Anyway, here's a short video of Sifu Ralston "boxing" with an opponent. Shows a little of why he's so revered by those who discover him.


Dec. 16th, 2014 08:34 pm
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I've jumped ahead in "Working.doc", the untitled sequel to SALTARAE. I'm working on a chapter where Mr. Rothakis and company attend an event that is very much like the Egil Skallagrimson Memorial Tournament.
This is fun. Some of the characters they meet are based, vaguely, on real people. Some are entirely made-up.
Anyway, the chapter is 3,355 words so far, with 1985 today; and Viscount Ambros' man-at-arms has a successful first tourney.
I think this chapter happens about halfway through the book, as a kind of 'vacation' from rising tension for the characters.
It may well be that the reader will welcome that vacation by then. We'll see.
Gotta go. See ya.


Sep. 26th, 2014 11:27 am
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Here is a report on the Elderly Swordsman’s most recent practice session:

I headed for Adiantum practice on Wednesday evening last with a bit of an agenda (for myself, that is). I decided to work on a particular tactical ‘thing’. As in: “Watch the sword hand; step (diagonally) towards the sword hand; attack an opening as soon as it appears; if no opening appears, cut anyway, to force a response.”

I am happy to say that I was not completely unsuccessful in the execution of the plan. I fought one, two, three, four, opponents until each called a halt. I took a very short break, then went out and practiced with Thane Durin.

That was my bad for the night. First, his style is not amenable to attack by that tactic. Second, I could barely move. I felt so old, slow, and tired. And yes, my foot was hurting. After a bit I gave it up.

Next I found myself facing Sir Ruland. Well, he cut me up good for a bit. Then I got a bit of a second wind, and fought him even for a short stretch. He called for a break, and then I faced Squire Sverre. “Five fights.” I told him. I won one of those, by trickery: attack at the sword hand, move to the left and attack off-side (he is a lefty).

By the time that was over, I had completely forgotten the first four guys; all I could think about was how tired and out-of-shape I was, and that, “This is unacceptable!”

Two days later, I remember that I did fight pretty well at the beginning of practice; I executed my plan with some élan and skill; I learned from my mistakes. So I’ll cut myself a little slack, and say: B- for the first part of practice, C- for the second.

AND I am still unacceptably out-of-shape, so a D- for that. I need to find a low-to-no-impact aerobic exercise that will keep me fit when I am between fights. I do have an idea about that, too…

Gotta go. See ya.
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This past week, from Tuesday to Friday, was the annual A3 Campout. A3 is The Springfield Academy for Arts and Academics. The campout this year had 400 students, all of their teachers, and enough parent-chaperones to (sorta) keep the kids under control. Herding cats and all, y’know.

What’s this have to do with zzambrose, you ask…

Well. Last year Marian became the Chief Cook for this event, and I became a guest teacher. The class I taught was: “The Art and Philosophy of Swordplay: How to stand, walk, turn, block, and cut like a real knight.” Additionally, I told each class a few stories about life in the Middle Ages: William Marshal played a central role in all of those stories (what a surprise).

I taught the class twice, each time to a group of ca. 20 students. I thought it went pretty well, while it was on. Afterwards, though…

I could barely show my face in the commons without one or more of the students buttonholing me to ask questions about the stuff we covered, or to inquire about things I only hinted at, or to ask about actually learning the Art. This continued for the whole of Thursday evening, and well into the next day. If I was sitting with or talking to another adult, the kids kept their distance. But if I was alone, they wanted to talk.

Jonna (who arranged for M and me to get these gigs) told me that the previous year’s version of the class had been the talk of the school, especially one of the handouts I distributed: “Knightly Virtues for the Digital Age” (You can read that essay here on LJ, tag Knightly Virtues). One of the teachers also told me that: “That Knightly Virtues essay was a hot topic for the first two weeks of school last year.”

So-o-o. Given that each class had at least a few kids who didn’t really give a bleep and were utterly not paying attention to their stances or footwork. Also given that some kids in each class were striving to do as I instructed, but needed a lot more than 1.5 hours to learn the basics. Still, I saw a lot of progress in all those things as each class went on, and there were at least 10 kids in the 40 who showed real talent, considering the restrictions I placed on them: “Don’t strike each other, we are none of us sufficiently insured for that. Practice slowly, learn quickly. Don’t smack your partner’s bamboo baton too hard, these are drills, you can’t ‘win’ a drill.” (A fair number of the ‘swords’ got splintered to death anyway. If I do this again, I’ll bring more bamboo sticks.) And so on, you get the idea.

Considering all of the above, I have re-calculated my self-evaluation and I have to say that the work of the last few days went very well indeed.
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Here's a great photo of me by Geneva. It really speaks to the painful part of the Art of Swordplay, as practiced in the SCA.
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Fans and writers had a blast pretending to be Romans. We didn't actually hit them, just scared 'em a little...


One Photo

May. 9th, 2014 09:19 pm
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Photo of me at Norwescon at a lecture/demo on shieldwall tactics for fans and writers.

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Here’s the skinny from Norwescon, as I saw it. First, I sold only one book, and that to a close friend, who gives them to his friends to read. That’s great, but it doesn’t feed the cats. I did also negotiate a swap with GRSmith: He’s reading VIASMAE, I’m reading his Shakespearean play (To Each Their Own). We’ll swap reviews.

OTOH, the panels I was on were all great, and I think I contributed significantly. As it turned out, I got ‘traded’ from the one History panel I was on in order to fill in for a cancelled moderator. The panel I was traded to was called ‘Get Your Fight On’; Leith and I advised various writers who were looking for help with writing fight scenes. It went well, don’t get me wrong: 1,2, 3, 4, I think five people approached me at random times to compliment me on my knowledge and presentation, so that’s good.

BUT it meant that all six panels I was on were combat-related. Note: Slow-work is more tiring than the real thing, let me tell you.

I need to spend more time in the Green Room, and have more conversations with my fellow panelists. Those that I achieved at this latest con were often enlightening. And OTOH, the Green Room is not a good place to sell: too many of the other panelists have stuff they are pushing, and the GR seems to be neutral ground.

Which means I also need more time out of the GR, where I can interact with possible buyers…There were a small # of tables in the hall outside the Dealer’s Room, where people were selling their self-published novels and comics. If I could jury in to that, I would solve several problems at once.

[An aside: Marian and I are pretty much set to rent a table at next year’s Orycon, so that will help at that con. We’ll sell my books and crocheting, her art pieces and so on. We can spell each other while I’m on panels or reading or whatever, and she is hunter-gatherer-ing, or attending panels. Plus, we have a bookshop owner friend we are gonna try to set up next to, for emergency overlook.]

Back to Norwescon 2014: I heard Steven Barnes read. He told a horrifying but funny martial arts story, as well as reading from his latest work-in-progress. I heard Sonia Orin Lyris read from a recently sold novel. I enjoyed both of those readings; I may try to hit more of those at future cons. I tried to get in to hear Phil Foglio, but that was a hopeless quest.

My own reading went OK. I mean, it was set for 11:30 PM, I was the final reader of the night; and two people stayed and listened. I was mentally prepared for no one: Late at night, unknown author, blah, blah. However: I do believe I moved them. At any rate they didn’t flee in disgust or terror.

AND: I heard Michael Moorcock tell stories of the beginnings of his career, (he is quite funny, actually) and Marian actually handed him copies of my books. Who knows what might come of that…most likely nothing, but, well, you never know. I also got to hear Mr. Moorcock talk about the cover art from a bunch of Elric novels and calendars and such. Illuminating, that was, and very amusing.

SO: I had a good time. My Status in the con community is slowly rising. They seem to welcome my odd pile of hard-won knowledge, and that gives me a chance to disseminate some of it. That feels good, indeed it does.

Gotta go. See ya.
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On Sunday I went to Pacmac day 2 at Best Martial Arts and spent a half hour doing iai draws, from kneeling block to standing cut. Then I did judo with Michael Ehli. So my quads were screaming bloody murder at me to start the week. Then...
I spent Monday AM pulling ivy at the M's house in south hills. And I realized (somewhat belatedly) that I have to treat this week like the "week before the week before Egil's" and do all the trimming and edging and extra short areas so those are done for next week because I'm going to Norwescon and I have to leave on Thursday AM at nine...Oy, vey, am I sore. And here's to another day of that tomorrow. (clinks glass).
So, that's why I am not at practice tonight.
Gotta go. (just not very quickly)
See ya.
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HERE is the very latest version. Have at it!

Four by four:

an essay in the art of swordplay
by Viscount Ambrose, KSCA
Read More )
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A brief update: writing has been going by fits and starts lately. I'm having some tech difficulties, writing on an Acer Chromebook. I miss the ease of transfer that my mac devices afforded me.
Soon a 'new' powerbook will be operational and some catching up can occur. I am seeing the details that will allow me to finish SALTARAE. Soon, soon.
No real news on the swordfighting front: laziness, illness and weird weather have sidelined me far too often of late. OTOH, I attended pacmac day 1 and learned a little knife play. Saw Jeff, Sean, Mike(Fingal) and was introduced to Alan Best. There are photos of that on my FB Timeline.
That's all for now. See ya.
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My last two practices: on Monday the 21st I went to Adiantum fencing Practice, which may be morphing back into a combined fencing-heavy practice. The main thing I wanted to do there was talk to my friend David about my interpretation of Fiore dei Liberi’s book. So we got out the aluminum longswords and I went over the form: postae, attitude, rationale, etc. that went well, since Finn was into the lecture.

Then Sir Morgan, I, and my squire Bannor (say B’NOR) Oldenmoor did a short heavy practice. I was in medium form, swinging well, but a little off on footwork.

The real news from that night is this: Bannor and I crossed swords that night for the first time this century. I am always gratified when someone who left the Art of Swordplay returns.

Last night’s practice was long and tough. I was again in medium good form, though I committed too many unforced errors for my taste. I was first on the list field and last off; I took no breaks, and stayed on the field for the whole practice. It was a well-fought practice and a good workout. I feel like I’m finally approaching real fighting condition. Woo-Hoo!

Anyway, I’m hoping to get some writing time in today, since it’s kinda cold for lawn work or pruning.

See ya.

—Viscount Ambrose, KSCA
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I’ve been a little slack about reporting on my sword practices. For that matter, I’ve been a little slack about attending them. I wonder how many re-starts it’ll take to get me back on track? Oh well, we’ll see.

Monday at fencing I had a little teaching session with Geneva. I don’t want to show her ‘how to fence’, because my fencing style is kinda out there. But I can be a practice dummy for her. I discovered that the way to get her to stab me (with a lot more élan at that) was to fake thrusts and cuts at her, causing her to parry and riposte. That was fun, since I then had to counter-parry, or whatever you’d call that.

Then I spent most of the rest of the practice in very brisk exchanges with Don Viktor de Guerse. I felt like I was doing very well, even approaching 50% victories, and was quite full of myself. Then he explained that he was running a new sword, it was heavier than he was accustomed to, the grip was all wrong, etc. He wasn’t trying to excuse his play that night, he was just showing off his new sword; but it did occur to me that the “new, heavier sword” was a reasonable explanation for my better-then-usual results.

Heavy practice tonight was good, bad, and beautiful.

The Good: I was the first onto the field and the last to retire.

The bad: Kinda off-balance, footwork not up to snuff. Slow to cut once I was in range, and not bringing the heat once that first cut was complete. Combinations, old man, and no rest for the opponent, that’s when I’m at my best.

The beautiful: I was fighting Squire Sverre at the end of practice, and finally felt that I was getting loose and moving better. I legged him, and we fought a while. I found my wrist crossing his, and for four or five of his blows I simply tai-chi’d his arm, turning my hips and defeating his blows with almost no arm motion beyond a wrist turn. (Four or five of Sverre’s blows means something under five seconds of fight time: it takes way longer to write it or read it than it takes to do it. Even when Sverre the Left-handed is fighting right-handed.)

When, part way through this sequence, I realized what I was doing, I said to myself (out loud as it turned out): “I’m being a bad boy.” This distracted my opponent and my next blow struck true. I wouldn’t have let him take it in a tourney, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

Anyway, I have to bust my butt and get ready for OryCon, I’m a panelist and have a solo panel on “Chivalry for Writers”. If you’re in Portland, stop by and see me.

Viscount Ambrose, KSCA
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On Saturday I ran into an old SCA friend at the supermarket. We talked about how much less time we spend practicing these days, and he asked about Monday practice in Adiantum, since Wednesdays are bad for him. We made a pact to both attend Mon. fencing practice and we did indeed both show up last night. A humbling and illuminating experience, as it always is when I return to a form after time off.

For those who don’t know me, I don’t fence in the usual SCA style (late period Italian). I built my fencing form out of RA I33, Fiore, and Silver. These are broadsword and longsword forms. It places me at a distinct disadvantage when fencing, but that’s the sort of swordplay that interests me, so…

Thanks especially to Don Victor for showing me (repeatedly) the limitations of my skill, and to Finn skeggison for the fights.

—Viscount Ambrose, KSCA
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On Wednesday last I went to Adiantum heavy practice. I haven’t been practicing as much as I’d like to, various stressful and time-consuming occurrences having got in the way. But I did fairly well anyway: I could feel all the aspects of my fighting style working in harmony. To wit: I was alert and watching, my opponents’ sword hand especially; I kept my feet moving, providing (mostly) no static target; I was balanced, and usually in sword and shield neutral; and I cut whenever I was in range. I was particularly pleased at the last bit, since I was able to drive a number of blows home despite them being the third or fourth blow of the sequence.

I also struck (and stabbed!) Viscount Sir Gabriel several times.

OTOH, Squire Bastian had my number. Not sure I hit him at all.

All told, not bad for a tired old man.
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Last night I went to Adiantum heavy fight practice. It was my first time in armor since AW war, and I felt it. Out of practice, out of shape… but I got up, got in kit and swung for a while.
Corvaria fighters came down from their aeries in the mountains to join us, and a bunch of folks armored up: at one point I counted seventeen people in armor, and there may have been one or two more. It was awesome.
There were three or four folks among those watching who also have kits, but who were not fighting for whatever reason, so with slightly better luck we might have had twenty or more in armor.
One person not in armor was a long-lost squire of mine, Bannor Oldenmoor. (say: B’NOR). Maybe he’s coming back to fight again. He said he got the armor out of storage, so there is hope.
As far as my performance: eh. I didn’t expect much, and I didn’t get much. I fought, I ‘won’ more than I lost. The real lesson is: A Month Out Of Armor Is Bad For Your Body And Soul. Or for mine, anyway. I feel much better this morning, thank you.
See ya.
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Here’s a report on my last two sword practices, a little late in coming. I’ve been busy.
Monday evening I fought at Adiantum Fencing Practice. I did not do too badly, considering how long it had been (again) since I practiced steel. I did okay at gauging distance, even when my partners wouldn’t let me control it. And I actually blocked/parried with my dagger, which has been a long-time deficit in my fencing skills. Since I haven’t been practicing lately, this shows the effectiveness of visualization in programming responses.
HAH Luciano repeatedly demonstrated the best way to defeat me on the field of Fence: get a straight thrust in quick, as I try to close. On the night in question, I usually got a parry on the attack, but seldom actually diverted it enough to avoid a ‘wound’. Again, as I’ve said here many times, (and to myself unnumbered times), I need more twist to my upper body kind of tai chi style, to make those parries effective. More Visualization!
Anni was at practice, and we got a few bouts in: that was fun. Victor and Andrew, thanks for the bouts.
Fencing grade: C-.

On Wednesday, Heavy practice in Adiantum. I seem to have gotten into the old rut of not doing well until I get really warm. First half of practice was rather bad, actually, although my form was good, mostly. Give me a B for that. Later, I kept the mostly good form and switched to the light, fast sword. I began throwing blows in longer sequences, moving my feet better, striking with sufficient force, and so on. Second half of practice: B+.
I will note that at heavy practice the last two weeks, I have definitely felt the use of the above-mentioned ‘upper-body twist’ occurring most of the time. My concentration on that movement during my daily stretching is beginning to pay off. Yay!

-Viscount Ambros, KSCA
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Adiantum Fight Practice:

We had a small turnout tonight, 4 in armor. Viscount Sir Gabriel, Viscount Aaron, yours truly, and, eventually, Brandon. I am most concerned with my own performance when I’m writing these posts; They are meant as self-criticism. Take it as given that my opponents are honorable, chivalrous, and skilled, at different levels, but each skilled in his own style (or her own way, when one of the ladies comes to play).

I was pleased with one aspect of my performance tonight: my form was fairly good throughout. Moving my feet, getting rotational energy from my hips and abdomen, hugged my ribs and pushed my elbow through on most blows. I struck with sufficient force most of the time, and got convincing blows to land even after my fatigue and soreness (from work) drove me to the lighter sword. I (mostly) watched the sword hand. When I didn’t I got hit, and knew why immediately.

All that said, the bouts came in two halves, and I must grade them separately: First half: Thinkin’ too much. Grade C-. Second half: NOT thinkin’ too much. Grade A-.
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Wednesday’s practice was excellent. I fought for 1.5 hrs, so no increase in total armor time, but I took no breaks, my helm stayed on my head until I was ready to disarm. It was a smaller practice, with only 5 in armor, which makes the bear-pit section of the practice more of a workout. I got to the end of that string of fights very tired, on the verge of exhaustion, but my shoulders were not feeling weak, and I was staying in good form right up till the end.
All of the above is just to say, I think I’m nearly back in shape, in time for tourney season.
I also did better technically: I could feel the flow of my body from feet to hips to abs to hands. I made fewer stupid mistakes, and I was able to move laterally in ways that were confounding to my opponents.
I am aware of age-related deficiencies, of course. More than once I missed chances for lack of the body’s ability to obey the mind’s reflex. I hope that some of this will still be repairable, by means of concentrated practice.
As for my training partners: Everyone looked pretty good. Sir Morgan is always a threat, Sver was way more relaxed than he’s been of late, Bastian is back in kit and hit me good a few times. His Highness was fighting fairly well, he opened me up and smacked me good a couple times. I got it all back though, by speeding past his guard a few times. Thank you gentlemen, all, for an excellent workout with skilled opponents.
Grade for practice: A
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I was sitting in my comfy chair on Wednesday just before it was time to leave for fight practice, and it occurred to me to pick up Peter Ralston’s book “Cheng Hsin: Principles of Effortless Power” . I opened it at random and read a page about ‘inhabiting your body as it is’ and not lying to yourself about how it is. (I was keeping in mind an earlier lesson from the same book about how ‘you can’t stop lying to other people until you stop lying to yourself’.) The lesson on inhabiting your body went on to talk about being honest with yourself about the limits to movement in your body as it is now, and how true freedom of movement comes only within those limits.
So I went to practice and began to play, starting with my greatsword. I fought a bunch of bouts against Viscount Sir Gabriel, who was fighting sword and shield. Of course, he beat me up pretty good. I got one clean win and a couple double kills. The rest of the fights were his. By the end of that I could already feel my shoulder tiring.
I switched to buckler and heavy broadsword, and while I was awaiting a partner, Sverr (sp?) came over. He wasn’t fighting; I’d wondered why. He’d hurt himself, it turned out. Injured an oblique.
So...I related the lesson I’d just been studying, complete with my own contemplations on the topic. Serendipity?
The rest of the practice was routine, with the weakness in my shoulders becoming an increasing issue until I abandoned the field. I did manage to fight for about 1.5 hrs, nearly continuously, mostly with the heavy sword, so that was an improvement. A pretty big improvement, actually. I think I could begin to feel like myself again soon.
Grade for practice: B+
-Viscount Ambrose, KSCA


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