As everyone is probably aware, the COVID-19 virus has shut down in person Amtgard meetings. However that hasn’t stopped people from finding interesting ways to engage in the game. This weekend I was able to get two credits, one for Saturday and one for Sunday, thanks to online meetings.
Last Week’s Streams
On Saturday I watched Oromis doing an online sword and board class for Inland Ocean (Redmond, WA). Guin was the camera person and stand in pell when necessary.
I didn’t get to watch the whole stream but I enjoyed what I saw and asked a question or two. One thing he mentioned was actively blocking with your sword. For the longest time I’ve always been under the impression you should block with your shield while the sword was a bit more passive. This off hand comment made a light bulb in my head go off. I’m excited.
Once we are able to meet again I plan on breaking down my sword and board fighting and reinventing my personal style. One thing I know I’ve needed to do for a while was to get a smaller shield. Right now I use a large medium shield, at least large for my size. I can maneuver around it alright, but I do get tangled up in it a little bit more than I like. I think having one a few inches smaller would be a better fit.
Getting that new shield will help allow me to maneuver my sword better. I plan on translating my single sword to sword and board much more actively. It will be a big mental change that will take time, but I plan on fighting more like I’m using single sword with an area, caused by the shield, that is impenetrable. On paper that doesn’t sound like a good idea but in practice I think it will work well for me, after a lot of practice. I of course will still move the shield and use it to block, but it will be a secondary thought rather than a primary thought.
On Sunday I watched a stream put on by Dusk Hollow (Dallas, OR), It featured Critias teaching fighting in general and answering any questions people had. I missed the beginning of the stream but I watched most of the two hour stream. Ozzward, my Man at Arms, was his fighting partner and Minerva was the camera person.
Critias covered a lot of topics, the main topic was sword and board but he also covered single sword and two swords. People also asked him to demonstrate and explain several fighting aspects. In that way the teaching aspect was somewhat erratic, at least at the point I started to watch. He actually inspired me to want to develop a single sword class. I’m most certainly not the best fighter out there, not even close but I have a lot of theory which I think is valid. I believe I make a good coach.
I got the chance to coach Indra and I’m getting the chance to coach Ozzward and it’s pretty exciting. Right now I’m mostly focused on teaching Ozzward single sword, since it’s the thing I know best; plus a lot of the basics translate to fighting in general. As I said earlier I’m excited to explore a new angle for sword and board. I know the common theory of sword and board and I can teach that but if I can find a way to better translate my single sword style to sword and board I will be ecstatic, but that’s a long road to walk.
My Fighting History
My basic style of single sword isn’t too different from the basic style everyone uses. A lot of it you’ll find in any beginning class for short sword but I focus on important small details and add in some personal touches here and there and I back it up with theory. I took a lot of theory from Musashi, some physical basics from boxing and aikido with a dash of kung fu and karate as well as some of my own ideas. The evolution of my fighting has been long and convoluted.
Unlike the current generation of Amtgard fighters I didn’t have the benefit of the internet to watch videos to learn from. I had to rely on in person meetings and figuring things out myself. In my first several years of Amtgard I learned a lot by trial and error. Gustav and I spent many and I mean many hours of mindful sparing in his backyard. When I mean mindful I mean we would break down our fights, we wouldn’t just fight for an hour. We would try to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. That was a big help in my early years.
My first big jump in skill came after a year or two of playing; I hit a plateau. Around that time my dad started doing martial arts and I was his practice partner. That’s when I learned about the importance of footwork, something I had taken for granted. I had a lot of ingrained bad habits when it came to my footwork and I had to completely relearn how to fight. For the next year or so my fighting took a big dip in performance while I learned how to properly move but once it became more natural I was able to move forward in my technique.
It’s hard to remember exactly what I took from who in Amtgard but I know two early influences were Ursor and Derek Roth. I am certain I did some side work with Ursor when I was younger but it was so long again I don’t remember exactly what I took from him, other being inspired that a bigger guy could become a good fighter. As to Derek Roth I specifically remember taking a single sword class from him at Sword Knight Boot Camp back when it first came to the North West. I believe I took my belief in the importance of returning to guard from him.
Then there is Gustav. He also is someone that is big into theory but he is a better fighter than me. When we started we were on the same fighting trajectory but at one point my desire to fight waned and I didn’t go to Amtgard as much, but he continued. He is actually the person who was able to explain the rapshot to me in such a way as I was able to properly do it. Our sparing through the ages has really helped me and I believe helped him. I taught him some principles he didn’t know and he taught me stuff I didn’t know. It was a true knowledge exchange. We still continue to do this to this day, but not as frequently
It wouldn’t be right of me not mention Freddy. He taught me some fencing techniques that I’ve added to my repertoire. Specifically what became my signature move, a sword side hip shot. I can’t understate how often I’m able to get that shot. It all started because of some basic fencing shots that Freddy taught me. He also made me more mindful of how to properly do a stab. There can actually be more technique to it than simply shoving your sword into someone’s gut (although that’s the basic principle).
Outside of Amtgard I also dabbled in martial arts. I took karate and aikido courses and continued to be my dad’s practice partner. He took Tai Chi for a year or two and eventually became a black belt in Kung Fu. I spent a lot of time working with him and talking theory. I also put a heavy importance on the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. I have read it at least two dozen times, throughout my life if not more. I get something new from it everytime I read it. It’s also required reading for my belted line.
All of this has lead me to where I am now. If I had stayed motivated throughout my life and kept a healthier lifestyle, who knows where I would be, but that is just wishful thinking. I am where I am and I’m excited about where I can go from here. I’m a firm believer that teaching other people is a way to help teach yourself and I’m inspired to teach again. This inspiration has been there for months but it came to a head when watching Critias’ stream. I hope that excitement will carry me through the quarantine and beyond. I really like the idea of my philosophy living on in the fighting of other, more gifted people.
I was asked by Minerva to stream my class for Dusk Hollow next weekend but sadly there is a stay at home mandate, which started monday; it prevents me from doing this. I do not have the ability to stream at home, I do not have a phone stand or an extra person to hold the camera. That just means that I’ll have to do it after the mandate is over. Minerva did find other people to stream so Dusk Hollow will have some classes next Sunday.
Between 12 and 1 pm Darb and Frye will be live streaming a paracord belt class. Then starting at 1pm and going till 3pm there will be several 30 minute fighting streams featuring Torg, Kitfox, Indra (my squire) and Vale. You can find the streams on the Dusk Hollow Facebook Group starting on Sunday, March 29th at noon.
Inland Ocean also has some live streams coming up. On March 28th Drusk will be hosting a class about Amtgard classes. On April 4th Unum will be hosting a class on leather working, he is currently narrowing down the specific topic. Currently the poll that was started indicates it will be about tooling but that could change. You can watch the streams and stay up to date on times on the Inland Ocean’s Facebook Page.
Society for Creative Anachronisms, or the SCA is also embracing the online life with several online tutorials and streams. I don’t know any specifics but if you’re interested you can join their Virtual Classroom Facebook Group for more information. I’m sure they have and will have lots of garb videos and tutorials.
One Grind Nation, or OGN, a group dedicated to foam fighting, also plans on doing several streams. In fact I’m listening to one of their streams as I write this blog. They don’t have a schedule, although Dalos did mention that he was going to be doing a stream on March 28th where he will analyze fight videos. Join the OGN Facebook Page to keep up to date.
There are lots of ways to keep engaged with Amtgard and I hope you take advantage of them. I plan on watching a few streams next weekend but I’m not sure which ones. At the very least I want to catch the OGN video, they might be reviewing a video of Darb and Critias that I submitted.
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It’s great to see an online presence. I don’t dare get too involved, since I already have more hobbies than time. However, I’d been interested in the SCA ever since I heard about it as a teenager. Like in real life I’d probably do about a billion things half well and not have super proficiency in anything. I’ve come to accept and appreciate this in myself, though. I’m a polymath. Anyway, cool stuff.
As long as you have fun doing it, that’s all that really matters.