Thursday, September 27, 2012


So this may be a little graphic in terms of medical stuff for some.  If you get squeamish, then I suggest you stop reading and move on to something more enjoyable.

Now that you have been warned....

The week prior to Barony Wars I went to see a doctor about removing a sebaceous cyst I had on my back/left shoulder.  It had been there for about 18 years or so.  My doctor (who happens to be my dad) told me that if it didn't bother me, there is no reason to get it removed.  Well, it was not bothering me, but had grown and now I wanted it gone for aesthetic reasons.  So on Wednesday, I go see the surgeon to discuss options about removal.  He said the same, if its not bothering you, no real hurry or reason to remove it.  So leaving the office I scheduled an appointment for early November.  This would have allowed me to get through my Disney vacation and not miss a whole lot of fencing time.  And fencing has been one of the reasons I had been putting having the cyst removed.  I didn't want to do it in the winter, and then have it still healing during Mudthaw.  I didn't want to do it in the spring and not be fencing at events.  I didn't want to do it over the summer and be healing at Pennsic.  So on and so forth I justified my position to myself for a number of years.

Drive up to Barony Wars, I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the cyst aching.  Not a full out hurt, but it was sore.  By Sunday night, when I had gotten home, it was red and had grown larger.  I called to move my surgery up to the next week, September 18th.  The pain kept getting worse and worse.  The only way to describe the pain by Thursday and Friday of that week was, it felt like bones were being broken.  Yes, it hurt that much.  Friday night, my parents played night time golf at their club.  By the time they got home, Jennie was very concerned as I was now also feverish.  My dad took one look at it and called a friend from the golf course, another surgeon who had recommended the one I had visited the prior week.  He told my dad to bring me in Saturday morning.

So Saturday morning rolls around and my dad, my mom, Jennie, and I go to see the surgeon.  He looked at it and said it needed to be opened and drained to relieve the pressure before it bursts.  Now if there is one thing I am afraid of, its needles.  Terrified of them in fact.  They got me on the exam table, used a numbing spray and then used a local anesthetic to dull the pain.  He then proceeded to relieve the pressure and drained the cyst.   Let's just say it was not something I ever want to do again.  But I got through it.

He didn't clean it out fully as I'd be going in for surgery in a few days, so they could do it under general anesthesia in an operating room, not on an exam table.  So Tuesday rolls around and back to the doctor's office I go.  I had to get changed into one of those silly gowns.  And then they brought me to the chair.  You may know the chair if you've ever had an IV put in.  Big industrial looking thing.  So I explained to the nurse about my fear of needles.  I told her I go into fight or flight.  So she asked me if its ever gotten violent.  I said "No, and I'd really like to keep it that way" to which she agreed...

Of course there was one time I almost punched my dad when he was standing between me and a doorway when someone was trying to draw blood a few years ago... but I digress.

So it took three people to get the IV in me.  The nurse to start the IV, the anesthesiologist held my arm down (gently) so I would not move accidentally, and another nice doctor who talked to me, held my hand, and distracted me while it was done.  After that I was still shaking, so they gave me a sedative.  They had to wheel me into the OR, and then asked me to climb onto the operating table.  I remember trying to get on the table as the last thing before waking up in the recovery room.

So its now been a week and a half since the surgery.  Things are healing nicely.  My dressing needs to be changed daily, but thankfully, I live with a doctor.  Because they had to drain the infection, they were not able to stitch me up and close the incision, so its healing on its own.  Hopefully I'll be fencing in a few more weeks.  By my Disney trip, I hope not to have to have it packed any more.  It actually feels pretty good.  The only bad part is after the dressing is changed, I am sore for a while.

So that is the current state of me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Barony Wars - Part 2

So part two of the epic journey into Aethelmearc.  I traveled to the event with Jennie, my girlfriend, and Ray (Sean MacPherson in the SCA).  We got on the road late on Friday and had a hotel room nearby.  So did a couple of other Scadians, William Deth and Rhiannon the Curious.  Ray saw them Friday night, and we ran into them again Saturday morning.  This will be referenced later.  The hotel was.... adequate.  It had two beds, a bathroom, and was clean enough.  The bed and pillows were hard as rocks.  I slept like the dead Friday night after the drive.

Saturday, we got onsite and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of fencers in attendance.  It was a great turn out.  The Tadcasters brought a large group up from the Philly area.  there were five from the Albany Area, a few other Eastern Fencers here and there.  There were a good number from Aethelmearc as well.  I'm not sure if that was because their crown was making a new white scarf, but there was a good number of fencers both those I know and those I am unfamiliar with.  This made for some great fencing both in the organized stuff and in pickups.  Every corner of the fencing field was being used for pickups after the tournaments and melees.  

At court, Po was admitted to the order of the white scarf.  I would not have missed that for the world.  It was filled with all the schtick one would expect from Po.  After court, discussions were had on dinner.  Will and Rhi had seen a place in the town we were staying at that was named "Angus and Ale".  Can you think of anything better after a good event?

So back to the hotel we went.  I got showered up and changed, and off to dinner in Sidney, NY.  I passed by the place following Will and didn't even see it.  We walked in and I was surprised.  The greeter/manager forgot to assign a waitress to our table so they pulled in someone who worked there, but was on her night off  and sitting at the attached pub having a few drinks to come wait on us.  She was a trip and while the food was excellent, incredible perhaps, the service was fun and friendly, and not stuffy, which looking at teh decor and place, would have been appropriate   After getting back to teh hotel I think I was out before I hit the sheets.

The drive back, I stuck to the interstates, and we were making such good time, we detoured to teh warren County 4-H Renn Faire that our local SCA group was doing a demo at.  I did a little fencing, before getting buckler punched by Sir Jan, in his first attempt at SCA Rapier.  I was not feeling great after that.  My chest and shoulder were hurting.  So I stopped fencing and we headed for home soon thereafter making fro one wonderful weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Barony Wars - Part 1

Holy cow, what a great time...  I am so glad I went for many reasons.  First off, Baron Gunner of Endless Hill in Aethelmearc has been trying to get me to come to this event for a few years now.  At this Pennsic, I was told a good friend, a brother in arms and then some, was to be elevated to the Order of the White Scarf.  Po and I had a bet running for a few years now.  I bet him that he would receive a White Scarf before I would be elevated to the Order of the Golden Rapier.  He was sure I would elevated prior to him.  So we made a bet based on the above.  He who lost the bet would owe the other a bottle of rum.  I'm so very proud of my friend, and will be glad to get that bottle of rum.

So I made a deal with Baron Gunner.  To fight for Endless Hills, he was to pay Sean and I one bottle of Honey Jack.  So we get on site and ask Gunner if he has our payment.  He didn't, but we would have fought for him anyway.  But when I saw the sides line up, Concordia had five fencers.  So I switched over to fight for Baron Pierre.  Sean came over as well.  Since we had not been paid, we were not breaking our contract.  Now we were at seven for our side.  A target rich environment.

The first tourney was a baronial champions tourney, then followed by a tourney with some strange rules.  Basically you fought one or two bouts, losers were out of the tournament.   Winner was the side with he last people standing.  We were at a disadvantage due to numbers.  Pierre sent me out against Jinx for my first bout.  She had wanted to do some passes with me, but due to weather cutting things short, I at least got one bout in with her.  Then Deftwood threw Dorinda out against me.  During the fight, I thought, win or lose, this has been one of those epic fights.  There was a beautiful conversation of blades and bodies happening.  I was smiling inside.  We outlasted three other fights in the second list.  back and forth, each trying for a little advantage.  Eventually, I seized on an advantage and won the fight.  I was beaming when I left the list.  Not because I had won, well that too, but because it was one of those fights that are the reason you pick up a rapier in the first place.

I then went on to win a few more bouts.  I hit one opponent with a buckler pretty hard in the mask.  I was holding my blade low, blocked from his view by his buckler.  He leaned over while stepping in as I was throwing the rising shot.  Caught him square in the face.  I immediately apologized and offered to refight the bout which he took me up on.  This time I was able to land a nicely calibrated blow to his body.

Eventually, it was JP, Sean, and I left for our side while the other groups had some numbers remaining.  I was the first one to lose of the three of us.  JP and Sean eliminated the remaining Delftwood fencers, and many of the Endless Hills army.  Eventually, Ian took out JP, and Mark took out Sean.  But damn, what a showing for the smallest team.

Then onto melees, where we teamed up with Delftwood against Endless Hills.  If we won, we'd then face Delftwood in capture the flag for the point.  We won the first battle.  Concordia was the reserve unit, and after the initial engagement, we stormed the center.  We were able to overwhelm the enemy and turn their backs to get a lot of DFBs.  Against Delftoow, we were 6 on 12.  We almost had them.  It was closer than it should have been given the numbers.

After the organized stuff, I did some pickups with Christian, current Queen's champion of Aethelmearc and Dorinda.  Christian kicked my ass three ways from Sunday and gave me some ideas to think about. Dorinda was more of the same from our earlier passes.

Well, I'm getting tired.  I'll post Part 2 tomorrow....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Practice Report - 9/6/12

At practice last night, I was not really up for fencing, but I am sure glad I did.  I was in somewhat of a tired funk after the commute and work.  FYI- the commute is at least 90 minutes each way.  Normally, I try to avoid going into the office at all costs, but seeing as how the last time I was in the office was just after Pennsic, and I had not seen my boss or held a client status meeting with her in almost 2 months, I figured it would be good to show my face.

So I got to practice, and just hung around for a bit at the start.  I grabbed my gear out of the trunk and suited up.  My first fight was against one of our newer fencers.  He's been coming to practice for about 3-4 months now.  He's got the basics down, now its just refining it.  I noticed with him that he was holding his sword not in a proper 3/6 or 4, but was sort of letting it wander in between the wards.  This allowed me to really take advantage of the line on either side of his sword, by gaining the blade and pushing against his foible with my forte.  After some time, I showed him what was working for me and why.

My second fight was against someone who has been fencing for two years or so at this point.  He has made a big leap over the past few months.  It doesn't hurt that there is a lot less of him than there used to be.  We went on the floor with rapiers and daggers.  I loved the aggressiveness he was showing against me.  He was not afraid to take the fight to me, but I noticed when he was setting up, his sword arm elbow was kicked out as well as his hand.  This opened up the line in 4 for me, and I was able to take advantage of it repeatedly.  I was also able to work the 4 to 3 shot with a slight step with my front foot to my left, further taking me away from his dagger.  I could see the frustration mounting inside him, so we stopped for a moment, talked, and resumed.  Afterward, I explained to him what I was seeing and why I thought it was working and what I would do to correct that.

My third fight was against Malcolm's cadet.  Jehane has been preoccupied with work and battling injuries, so she has not been fencing much recently.  She was rusty and it showed but that rustiness caused a challenge for me as her responses to my actions were sometimes unexpected.  This made me cautious and it was a good thing for me.

My last fight of the evening was Mabel, Antonio's student.  She has the background of a modern saber fencer.  I was able to get her moving her blade a lot by disengaging with no blade contact.  This was causing her point to wander and her arm to get tired, so she'd bring her elbow back in towards her body, at which point her parries had nothing on them, and I was easily getting my foible beyond even her forte.  Again, after the bout I showed her what I saw and why.

So it got me thinking about training and coaching.  Some people are adepts of the school of thought of teach via doing drills.  Others come from the school of hard knocks (let the student figure it out themselves).  Others a combination.  Me, I'm a better student when I understand not only the body mechanics (the drills), but also the reason why something works.  Typically, I'll notice something when working with a newer fencer and try to exploit what I see.  If they do the same thing and it is ineffective against me, I will typically stop fencing and go into teacher mode.  Against a more skilled opponent, I might try the same thing over and over again from different setups.  One one hand, I want to see what their reaction is; on the other I want to work on something to add to my skill set.  If they ask me what am I doing, I'll explain it.

So that leads me to the following question:  How do you learn best?