Peer-Like Qualities, enumerated

Where this is coming from:  A Peer, in the SCA, is someone who:

  • Excels at either service, or A&S, or heavy combat (or other bar, such as having served as Queen)

AND

  • Possesses and demonstrates Peer Like Qualities (PLQs)

I am of the opinion that everyone in the Society is expected to act with PLQs. Then, those who also meet the first requirement are thusly elevated.  It should be exceedingly rare to have someone who would be deserving based on requirement 1, but doesn’t rise due to the second point.  Should be.  Should be.

I digress….

I have been working on this post, summarizing what “Peer-Like Qualities” are for about 2 months.  I set out one basic rule for myself: be positive.  As in, “Don’t gossip”, being a rule set in the negative (“don’t…”) eventually found its way to “peddle in truth”.  I was surprised by how difficult the task I laid out for myself was.  I talked to a lot of people and came up with a lot of wishy washy opinions.  The best I got (because it was one I came back to over and over again) was “It’s like pornography: I know it when I see it.”

I honestly thought I’d get a list that was about 10 items long.  But, here is what I have come up with.  Comments, suggestions for more, etc, are most welcome.  Feel free to disagree with me and provide discourse to that end.

  1. Speak in the light and always truthfully.  (This is what became of “peddle in the truth”).  Think of it this way: No matter what you say, just assume that someone you didn’t think would hear it, will hear it.  And, well, it’s much easier to remember what you’ve said and to stand behind your words if you always speak the truth.
  2. Treat everyone with respect.  Not “the respect that you feel they are due” or “respect that you think they have earned” but RESPECT. Period.  If you are unable to be respectful towards someone, then acknowledge this as the negative that it is, and remove yourself from the situation.
  3. Speak up for what is right.  Immediate addendum to this: not for yourself.  There is a lot wrapped up into this, including an assumed humility.  But the most important corollary to this PLQ is this:

There will be times, because we are all human, where we will lose our cool.  The best way to ensure that you have lost your cool in a justified way is when you have gotten that angry in standing up for someone else, or for a greater good.  If you are getting that angry in a harm done to you alone, then before you lose your cool publicly, find a trusted level headed person and discuss the situation with them.  You may be wrong, or even if you’re right, there might be a better way to handle the situation.  Not that these may not be true if you stand up for someone else (or a greater good) but it is human nature that this is less likely to be the case in these situations.  I’m not saying to never speak up for yourself, of course. But if we all focus on standing up for others, then that will become a moot point, so I am simply not including it as a PLQ.

 

And…. That’s it.  That’s all I have.  Just three.  I surprised myself.

 

Addendum:

Recently I saw someone tell a Lady of the Rose to “shut up”.  There was, as there should be (see PLQ #3), a lot of ruckus raised over this.  But invariably the protestors said things like “don’t be mean to a woman” or “don’t tell a Lady of the Rose to shut up.”  This doesn’t sit right with me.  I fail to see why it’s worse to tell a woman to shut up just because of her gender. Or a Lady of the Rose due to her status.  If anything, LOWER status should be treated more carefully….. you gotta figure that a Lady of the Rose has developed a skin thicker than the average new person and because of PLQ #4, she isn’t going to listen to that rude advice anyways.

The lost six months (Or: let’s NOT let this happen)

The events of November 1, 2014 in the SCA Kingdom of the East served as a rock dropped in the middle of a lake, whose surface appeared smooth until the rock pierced it.  If you are blissfully unaware of what I refer to, you can read my account here.  In the immediate aftermath, there was a stunned silence, followed by days of private whispers, and finally some discourse.  The public discourse died down although discussions among groups of people (such as the East’s knights) continued and grew, to a crescendo that most of us aren’t fully aware.  Then, most recently, an interesting phenomenon: sporadic carefully worded posts by individuals stating their personal stance.  And what I am seeing and hearing is largely along this ilk:

 There is something I don’t like, but I’m not going to walk away from this game completely. I am going to limit myself to my safe circle of friends and activities I am comfortable with.

This last part has me speechless.  Or it did, for a few days.  I finally put together the following words on someone’s FB post:

The group is called a Society, and rightly so. We are all part of this. If there is a problem, we are all linked to the problem as well as being keys to the solution. My biggest fear at the moment is that those who will step back from their regular level of activity will help create a lost 6 months, an important period of time when we can instead all be working towards changing the underlying fabric that caused the events of that day. I firmly believe that we are setting ourselves up for a repeat if we do not all actively engage in creating the change we want to see.

I have written in a previous post (here) about what I think are some move-forward actions.  I fully believe that we need to do these things and to do so now.  In that post I focused on the martial side of the activities, but there is more about the underlying fabric of the Society that needs to change.  Key to this is: we need to learn when we should forgo politeness for speaking up for what is right. I will elaborate further in another post.

Now, you might completely disagree with me and insist that what happened on Nov 1 was an isolated incident the likes of which has never happened before and cannot possibly happen again.  I don’t quite know what to say to you if this is your belief.  In general I am a pretty naïve and trusting person, and I’m not used to finding people who are more naïve and trusting than I am.  (For the record, I will concede that it was a “perfect storm” of the specific personalities involved, but even that alone wouldn’t have been enough without the culture we had all participated in growing, which enabled the events to unfold as they did).

Now, let me be blunt: you don’t like the person in charge in this game? You don’t respect them?  Tough patooties.  This isn’t a Democracy.  But the person in charge can only affect so much.  (And let’s not forget the dual nature of this game, with the senechale in a parallel role as the K&Q, so there really are other leaders who you might feel differently about).  The vast majority of what we do does not directly involve, or is affected by, the K&Q.

We *can* do our part to improve ourselves and our game, today, tomorrow, for the 6 months starting in April, and after that as well.  But we aren’t going to do this by sitting idly by and letting the time march on.  If we do, then we are giving those who espouse actions we do not like a head start to further entrench the fabric we have learned that we dislike.

Plan for improved fairness in martial activities

I wrote the core of this in an earlier post, but this summarizes it with a different slant:

Scope

Too many high stakes tournaments, in both chivalric and rapier combat, have of late left participants and even audience feel that unfairness transpired.  While we may never fully alleviate this issue, there are steps I believe we can all take in order to help break and even end this pattern.  My observations have led me to conclude that a large part of the problem is a culture of silence.  While this may pervade the larger society activities, the following suggestions concern martial activities, and even more specifically, conduct in tournament lists.  A lot more thought, discussion, and listening, will have to take place before I can wrap my mind around suggestions for that broader problem (although I’m working on it, so I’m more than happy to listen to comments and suggestions about that!)

Not everyone agrees there is a problem that needs to be fixed

The truth of the matter is that not everyone receives the short end of the stick, and not everyone sees this problem.  This is largely due to inherent personality differences.  For example, you’ll read below that one of the suggestions is training combatants on how to speak up for themselves.  Those for whom this comes naturally are, by this token, likely to experience less of the problems.  The point I am trying to make is, that we can largely take “personality” out of it and put everyone on a more even foundation.

and now to the meat of the matter:

The duties associated with tournament bouts

  1. It is the duty of combatants to call shots as they land, and to take the shot if it could have been good. 
  2. It is the duty of combatants to inform their opponent if the shot that they called as “good” was actually not good (for example, flat).
  3. If a combattant feels that they landed a good blow, but their opponent did not acknowledge it, It is the duty of combatants to inquire about the blow in the list, or elect to let the matter go.  
  4. It is the duty of the marshallate not to act on any complaint that was not brought up originally in the list.
  5. It is the duty of the marshal to watch a bout for its mechanics.  The marshal should only participate in a discussion if one of the opponents opened the discourse (by, for example, questioning a blow) and the opponents are not able to quickly resolve the matter.  Although it is not possible for a single person to watch and understand every aspect of a martial bout, a well trained marshal should be able to provide an informed opinion on most exchanges.
  6. If, then, a combatant feels a shot landed well, and the marshal agrees that the shot likely landed well, and with this explained to the opponent, the opponent does not acknowledge the blow, this should be noted.  In the case where the marshal was not able to observe the blow, the bout should be refought.  
  7. A mechanism for formally reporting problems in a list should be put in place.  In this case, problems include both:  A) A pattern of a combattant questioning blows that the martial does not feel were good, and B) A pattern of a combatant not acknowledging blows that the opponent and the marshal felt were likely to be good.  The marshallate should note these and watch for any repeated patterns.  Any repeated patterns should then be discussed with that person by the marshallate.  There are mechanisms in place for this already, but in my experience they are implemented unevenly, and this mechanism should be formalized for the sake of fairness.  Feel free to make suggestions as to what constitutes a repeated pattern.
  8. Finally, there should always be a provision for the marshal ending a bout and tabling declaring an outcome until more eyes can be assembled.

There must necessarily be exceptions to the above duties of the marshallate.  Especially in the near term, until all combatants are trained to speak up, I will add that the marshal is strongly encouraged to step in and encourage opponents to speak up if they see one or both opponents hesitant to speak up for any reason, and use that as a teaching moment to further remind the combatants to speak up for themselves without marshal prodding in the future.

How do we get there

Some people already do the above.  Not all do, and not in every situation.  A lot of this is, once again, about personality.  Some people are timid.  Most are timid when they aren’t sure of themselves.  Nearly everyone, with training, can overcome the tendency towards silence.  Everyone involved, be it combatants and marshals, needs to learn how to observe a fight:  The fighters from the first person perspective, and the marshals from the third person perspective.  This will arm them with the knowledge of what transpired, and with that the confidence at least to ask the questions that are likely to lead quickly to resolution.

A new, less silent, culture for martial tournaments

All of the above will translate to more actual *talking* during tournaments.  Some have expressed their opinion to me that they feel this will degrade the tournaments.  I respectfully disagree, and also point out that even if this is true (and clearly it might be true for them, and some others who similarly feel it will diminish the tournament experience) that the benefits will outweigh this decrement.  The biggest benefit may be to eliminate the negative of situations like what spurred this dialogue, but there is likely to be a positive to be gained, and that is that untrained observers (i.e. observers, onlookers, the audience) are likely to better understand a bout.  That the audience sees a shot, for example, land on a squire’s head, and the squire exclaims “I felt that, but I caught most of it on my sword so it only grazed my helmet” would be really helpful and might increase audience attention and attendance.

Action Plan

As I mentioned above, training needs to happen.  Some people are naturally able to break down a bout better than others.  A few of the people who are able to break down a fight are also able to articulate what they saw.  This subset should train the rest so that the skills that may come naturally to some can become more prevalent.  Personally, I know I’m not perfect at being able to dissassemble a fight, but I seem to be able to do it better than some, and I’ve started coming up with a list of explaining how to watch and what to watch for (which I will start posting about, even in its draft form, for others to help add to).  I ran a discussion in how to analyze a bout at the Northern Region Academy of Defense on Nov 8, and learned a lot myself about how to teach this topic.  Many others added to the discussion with their observations, for which I am very grateful.  I will continue to run these discussions, and others are encouraged to do the same.  As people learn, they too can teach others, and pretty soon we’ll have covered the whole kingdom, and maybe areas beyond.

Who can benefit

These discussions, training if you may, should be open to all.  For strictly the above duties, combatants should learn how to mentally register the mechanics of a bout that they are involved with, and marshals the mechanics of a bout they are observing.  But combatants will benefit from learning the third-party perspective, because by watching and understanding others they can improve their game.  Most marshals are also combatants at times, so they too should learn the first-party perspective.  But even observers can probably benefit from a deeper understanding of a fight, if they are so inclined.

How to find me

Comment here if you’d like, or email me personally: rozi at baeli dot com or on FB (Rozi Galea).  Find me at events.  I’ll do my best to wear my signature tall boots in either red or white at all events so that I may be easier to locate.

Hooray we’ve all been talking, but let’s make sure we’re talking about the right thing….

On Saturday Nov 1 2014 the Crown Tournament happened.  The one with the eerie silence at its conclusion.

By Wednesday Nov 5 it seemed like nearly everyone remotely involved was talking about it, except only in hushed whispers.  Having checked the usual hangouts, and finding no discussion remotely public about the topic, that’s when I then posted about the events on that day.

Hoo boy did discussions happen.  Musically, I’d say it was a rapid crescendo. I’ve heard from many near and far.  By and large, the consensus was that talking about it publicly, with others of potentially disparate opinions and thoughts, has been a Good Thing.  Cathartic on some level.

But now, I do not believe it is our place to, nor is it helpful or constructive, to keep hashing out the specifics of last Saturday or to further demand any action specifically about the events and activities of that day.  Not because there isn’t going to be any action made or taken, but because those in the positions to actually do anything about it are considering what can be done.

The event was fairly extreme, because so many feel it is so important, but at the end of the day it is only one.  One day, one event, which is clear to many involved in these discussions is in reality part of a string of similar (though perhaps not as jarring) incidents.

And it is those, which together make up a negative pattern, which we as a populace not only should discuss, but are actually empowered to improve.

If all we do is continue to gnash our teeth about one incident, and not actively try to learn from the whole pattern that it is a part of, and not try to change things so that such incidents become rare if not completely eradicated, then we don’t deserve better.  Let’s please maintain our momentum but alter the discussion to what we can do to change the culture that led up to the events of November 1, so that one day we may look back and thing to ourselves “that old culture culminated in the events of that day. Good thing we changed things for the better.”

 

My humble start to this process was outlined in a previous post.  I will summarize in a nice clean post so that comments on the plan can be made specifically to that.  Here, feel free to argue or agree with me about whether we as a populace should stop hashing out the specifics of Nov 1 and move on to more constructive discussions of how to make things better.

On track for the “now what”

Note: As is my habit, I will put headers on the sections of this post, so for example if you only want to hear about the “now what” part, just read the Preamble and the Breaking Down the Bout sections.

Preamble

Yesterday was the Northern Region Academy of the Rapier.  It was a small, but well-attended, event.  Very well run (I was particularly amused and impressed by, and appreciated, the lady who ran gate running after those of us who arrived but ran to an activity before checking in.)  I would estimate that we had 30-40 fencers, some who drove 4 or more hours to get there (and me, who flew in from AZ, but that’s a different matter).  Fencing experience ranged from brand newbie to 20+ years.  Personally I participated in two authorizations: one for a new-to-SCA fencer, and one for a reauth from many years prior.

The discussions I hosted

I ran four discussions.  I hate to call them classes, because although I arrive with certain points I want to hit, I hope I am accessible and able to alter the direction of the discussion per the attendees’ wishes and questions.  One was An Overview of Period Fencing Manuals, one was on “Practical Fabris”, which delved in more depth into that Master’s book, and discussed how to incorporate his style into SCA fencing, since it is not necessarily 100% applicable (and why). The third was “SCA Fencing For Every Body Type”, which is a new take on “Tailoring Your Teaching”, a class I used to run, but a similar ilk: how do you find the best style for different natural abilities and body shapes? I feel that the classes had really great discussions.  Some people stayed for the whole thing, some drifted in and out.  My favorite question that I was asked was “which period master would you suggest for someone of my body type?”  In retrospect, it was a very logical question, given the discussions that I had been running, but honestly I hadn’t thought of it that way before.  Or at least, not consciously.  Certainly with certain students I have made suggestions and pulled lessons from different masters depending on their body and abilities, but I hadn’t thought about generalizing those lessons.  At least, not yet.  Stay tuned for a new discussion on exactly that topic!

Breaking Down the Bout

The fourth discussion was on “Breaking down the bout: How to make sense of flying metal and moving bodies”.  Originally (see previous post) I thought this would be useful for marshals, to understand the bout.  I also realized that it could be helpful for fencers, too….. you can learn a lot by watching others, if you understand what you’re seeing.  Someone also pointed out that it could be useful, or at least of interest, to non-fencing bystanders, and I realize that with only a modicum of basic knowledge (e.g. the types of hits that are kills) that indeed this could be useful to the audience as well.  As the discussion progressed, we started to draw in the fencers themselves, because being able to break down a bout even when you’re in it isn’t always easy.  It really does go by fast and adrenaline messes with your long-term memory.

I am grateful to the attendees who stuck with the discussion, especially Alys (just got that spelling) who was there the entire time, as they endured my modifying the style of the discussion on the fly as we found what worked best, and the fencers who drew the straw that placed them in my list, and am incredibly grateful for their playing along and explaining the bout from their point of view (especially Camille, who is not only a pleasant and eternally cheerful person, but also very good at understanding bout mechanics, and freely shared her observations)

Overall, I think this went very well, and that those who took part walked away with a little stronger ability in breaking down a bout, including myself.  I will type up my notes and prepare a (hopefully evoloving) list of things to watch for, as a starting point for those who want to learn/improve this skill and have a written list of reminders.

In the near term, I will try to take this type of discussion to as many events as I can.  Next target: 100 Minutes’ War.

 

So, now what?

Well, it’s been all of a day since I posted my recollections about the recent Crown Tournament.  My post has been reshared and commented on, and I have received a small deluge of personal messages and emails.  Also, the King posted this to the populace:

Unto my cherished Kingdom of the East,

I owe you an explanation and an apology.

While I am so proud of the way the day progressed through the adversity of the weather, my determination and preparations to ensure a clean and decisive crown finals proved insufficient for the challenges of the day.

The conduct of my Crown Tournament is my responsibility.  In this, I failed you, and ask your forgiveness.

The fact remains, that I am your king and have sworn myself to you, and must ask and require your assistance in making the kingdom whole on behalf of my Queen and every good gentle in the East.

-Edward Rex

(from http://eastkingdomgazette.org/2014/11/06/a-message-from-the-king/)

Maybe I’m putting too much of my personal slant on this, but I read it as “let’s figure out how to learn from this”, which is the best that we can all do.

So, let’s do that… what can we learn?

I have re-read my own words many times.  Every time, I get something different from it.  “I was too apologetic”, “I wasn’t apologetic enough”, “I didn’t provide enough commentary on the shots I thought landed”…. and so on…. I stand by what I wrote, and will not let editorial second thoughts win.

But one thing kept coming back to me, over and over, and that is:  Silence is what is strangling us here.  And the Silence came in three forms:  During the bout, Immediately after the tournament, and during the Fallout

If anything, the Silence immediately after the tournament was cathartic.  Many of us apparently felt non-positive feelings.  For some, it was confusion; for others, it was shock; for others still, it was anger.  And in our communal Silence, we at least let each other know that we were not OK with what had just happened, but that we weren’t quite ready to deal with it just yet.

Fair enough.

Then there was the Silence during the Fallout.  A Silence that was impure, because people *were* talking. They were talking a lot, but as I discussed in my previous blog and on FB, there were countless whispered conversations being held in dark corners, and in these conversations opinions were being solidified and plans were being made for “action”.  My fear was that if these coalesce based on incomplete information, then we will be far far worse off.  Hence, my own post to at least call for an open discussion.  I’m humbled by how many people have written to me to thank me for writing.  So in a small way, this Silence is being solved.

That leaves me with the Silence During.

And that, I have come to realize with ever-increasing clarity, is the crux of the issue, and our key to a solution.

By the Silence During, I mean this: The Silence of the marshals, who questioned some shots but not others.  And if they questioned the shots that combattants brought up, then I will also add to this the silence of the combattants who didn’t speak up about a shot that they questioned in their mind but not from their lips.

 

And now I will diverge away from the specifics of this past Crown Tourney, and speak about what I see as the general problem and associated solution.  In other words, I do not mean to imply that any problems noted below specifically happened last Saturday by the specific persons involved.

 

It is our duty as combattants to call shots as they land, and to take the shot if it could have been good.  It is our duty as combattants to then inform our opponent if the shot was actually not good (for example, flat).

What do you do when you feel that someone’s armor is beating you?  Point it out to them.  Should we add that to the combattants’ list of duties?  Depends.  My personal feeling is that you should speak up and ask about a shot that you felt was good, that wasn’t taken, and you must do so immediately.  If you do not, then you give up your right to complain about it later.  Kick yourself for not speaking up when you should have, not your opponent for “not taking your shot”, because you could have been wrong, and time long past is not the time to question a specific shot.

This does not absolve the marshalate. Far from it.  The marshals have the hardest job of all.  They must watch carefully, both the mechanics of the fight and also the interaction of the combattants.  I’m not saying that if the fighter doesn’t speak up about a questionable shot, that the marshals should do so for them, but the marshals should be ready to step in and help a combattant understand which shots were likely good, and they must be ready to force the issue when it matters.  And this must be done IN the list, not later. It’s too late later.  Being able to watch a fight and understand what just happened is tough to do.  Some people can do it better than others, but it is a skill that most people can learn, if trained in it.

I come to this list of duties, for the combattants and the marshals, not just because of Crown Tournament, but many other tournaments when something important was on the line.  This includes fencing, which I am far more knowledgeable in.  What I am suggesting is generally called Active Marshaling.  It must be TAUGHT.  It should not have to be used. Ideally, it would never be used.  But when it is needed it must be available.

I reiterate: this includes the combattants themselves, who should be trained to speak up in the list, and the marshals, who should be trained in how to observe a fight, and how to stand up for what they feel is right, even in the face of big personalities.

 

To get matters rolling, I will be at this coming weekend’s Northern Region Rapier Academy.  I am far from perfect in being able to dissassemble a fight, but I seem to be able to do it better than most, and so I will happily, though with many humble caveats, share what I know and will spend the afternoon discussing how to watch and understand a fencing bout with anyone who would like to listen.

 

 

Eerie Silence

 

I’m still in a bit of shock about what I saw transpire last weekend at the SCA’s East Kingdom’s Crown Tournament, a competition of chivalric combat in which the next prince (who in about 5 months would get to be king for another 6 months) is chosen.  I am sitting on a plane, 4 days after the day, and I want to get my thoughts down in print to help myself sort out what I saw, heard, and felt.  And I might even publish this because for reasons that I don’t understand, I don’t see anyone else doing this.  Lots of whispered conversations, yes, but nothing with open discourse.

 

Of course, that could be on purpose, for reasons unknown and not understood by me. So, under those conditions, maybe it’s a “mistake” to publish this…. We’ll see.

 

I will likely write long. I do that when I’m confused.  So, at least, I’ll try to keep things to specific topics.

 

First, some background

When I first joined the SCA I thought it was a little odd that the king is chosen as the person who wins this one tournament, but then again, figuring it was a figurehead (after all, there are senechales apparently in charge of the actual legal side of things) I accepted that although there may be other ways to choose the king, that this was not necessarily any worse than any other way.

 

The prince-who-would-be-king chooses their princess, and about 5 months later they become King and Queen.  The genders aren’t strictly as implied by the nouns used here, but that’s the basic gist.

 

Eventually I came to understand that the king and queen actually wield real power, at least in terms of setting the rules and the tone by which the SCA medieval reenactment game is played.  And let’s keep this in mind: this is a game.  But it’s a game that a lot of people take seriously.  There are awards and accolades that you can get in this game.  Even though it’s “only a game” these awards still mean something to the people who play this game.

The king and queen get to do these things, among many others:

  • set rules
  • decide who gets the awards (at least, the ones at the kingdom level)
  • decide what awards to create, even
  • set the tone for the biggest event, Pennsic
  • install officers, including the senechale, if that position’s tenure is up during their reign

 

So, the king and queen aren’t just figureheads.  They get to affect rules and the tone during the time of their reign, and they get to affect real change that can last a long time.

 

Therefore, winning Crown is a Big Deal.

 

Now, a little about me

Because all of this is from my point of view.  And what I saw, heard, and understood are informed by who I am and what I know.

 

–          I’ve been playing in the SCA since 1998.  Among many people, especially the key participants in Crown, this is a very short time.

–          I have done a sliver of chivalric combat in the SCA.  Not even enough to know the rules inside and out, but enough to understand the basics.

–          I fence. A lot.  This helps me see some of the mechanics of fighting better than the average non-fighter.

–          I tend keep my ears open, as much as I can.

–          I sometimes can’t keep my mouth shut.

–          A group of people saw fit to recognize me as a Peer of the Realm. That’s a Big Deal award, that I am completely floored and humbled by.  I’m never sure I deserve it, but I think it means something about my character that these people think I’m a good person, and a decent representative of the SCA ideals.  At least, that’s what I think it means.

–          I don’t always have the best hearing (I have a condition where my hearing will go from AMAZING to not so great depending on the time of the month).  Last Saturday, it was in the AMAZING stage.

–          I’ve attended a lot of Crown Tourneys. I enjoy watching them.  Maybe it’s because a Fall Crown tourney was my very first event ever, back in 1998.

–          Broadly, I play in the SCA at the local level in all aspects, at the Society level in fencing, and at the Kingdom level with my metalwork.  There are reasons why I don’t play much at the Kingdom level with my fencing, and those reasons are because the SCA is made of people, and people bring politics into it, and those politics have been used to hurt me at the Kingdom level in the fencing community. Not with all Eastern fencers. Heck I daresay that it’s not even a large minority.  But still, since I’d rather avoid conflict if there is another place to play, I let those politics play by themselves and prefer to stay away from them.  But, since I care deeply about historical fencing, I have found a niche at the Society level because at that level, what I have found is that since people are so spread out, they don’t get to know each other personally, and so they don’t tend to play the politics game as much.  There is too much pressure, for example, for the Society Rapier Marshal to pick deputies that are spread out, and who travel a lot, for him/her to choose their close friends.  If I could help affect change at the Kingdom level, especially by setting up a system where personal politics can make less of an impact on people’s experience, then I’ll be all over that.  For now, I’ll wait and watch.

 

That all said, the discussion below is merely my observations as a lowly and humble observer.

 

 

A bit about the combatants who are the main players in this scenario:

I’ve known both of them for a number of years.

Omega, I know only in passing, but I’ve known him longer of the two.  He’s outgoing and gregarious.  At least, that’s the way he comes across to me.  He’s always been nice to me.  When I started to come out of my shell after having my second child, I remember he paid me one of the nicest compliments, and he did so by stopping a conversation when he saw me.  It stuck with me.  I figure it’s not “me” per se, and that most likely he’s that way with everyone – i.e. he can make you feel like the most important person in the room.  That’s a nice quality, especially in a leader.  He has his close circle. He trains his squires.  His household has become, from my outsider’s perspective, more cohesive in the last few years.  While that last one can be a double-edged sword, in general these things are all positive.  Gregarious is a good word to describe him.

Kenric, I’ve known for less time, getting to know him during the first time he was prince. But I’ve gotten to know him (and his wife) better, having gone to far away events with them, and through his interest in fencing and our mutual interest in metalwork.  (Side note: I love fencing with people who are primarily trained in the “heavy” (i.e. chivalric) combat, although I won’t digress about why, and I like challenging myself by fencing against lefties. Kenric is both, so I love fencing him and do so every chance I get, which as he trained up for Crown, was unfortunately less and less).  He’s never not been nice to me.  Honestly, despite him having been king at least once, I think I intimidated him for a bit, when it came to metalwork and fencing.  He strikes me as someone who is shy, normally reserved.  Reserved. That’s a good word for him.

 

Both Omega and Kenric have won Crown before, more than once. They are both very good fighters.  I don’t know enough to know what is their favorite weapon form, and what weapons they’re particularly good with.

 

Now, let’s talk about this past Crown Tournament.

In the semi-finals, Kenric fought against Ionis (my apologies if I am spelling that incorrectly), who is of Omega’s household.  This is pertinent to what happened in the finals, I feel, because I saw that it set a tone that carried into the finals.

 

I had a great front-row position for this and for the finals.

 

The semi-finals were ‘best of 5’, where Kenric needed to win two, and Ionis three, since he came from the “injured” part of the tournament tree.

 

There wasn’t anything I particularly noted in the first bout, but Kenric won that one.

The second bout was fought with polearm.  They lined up, and I noted that Ionis was twitchy in the forward direction (i.e. he was moving his polearm like a pool cue, a few inches forward).  So I was expecting him to thrust.  I figure that since I could see this, so could Kenric, so he should expect Ionis to have a thrust game.  In one exchange, indeed, Ionis threw a thrust at Kenric’s head.  They had moved so that I had a full view of Kenric’s face.  I saw a look of surprise sweep over Kenric’s face, as he brought his polearm up to try to deflect the shot.  He also moved his head to the right.  I don’t know how his neck bent that way. It was impressive.  But between the two actions, the thrust ended up lined up with his left eye.  The crowd exclaimed.  A long-time highly experienced fighter near me said “He Egyptianed that”.  I hadn’t heard that expression before.  If it applies to side-to-side head movements where your head doesn’t tilt much, then it was appropriate in this scenario.  Please note that although my vantage point allowed me a perfect view of the FRONT of Kenric, I couldn’t see him from the side, so I don’t know if the blow landed well enough to move his head back.  But given his body motion (to his right and back) and that they were interrupted, I figured that at best, what landed was barely a touch.  It would have been a good shot, had Kenric not taken evasive action.

 

The fight continued, and Kenric landed a winning blow on Ionis.

But the fight wasn’t called for Kenric.  Instead, the marshals descended on Kenric and there was much pointing at the region of his left eye.

It became clear that they were asking him about that shot.   Ionis stayed on the field, waiting, armored up.

Honestly, I was expecting that they’d make them refight it.  And had that happened, I would have chalked it up to not because it had been a good shot, but because Kenric seems to me to be the type who can be swayed, in whom doubt can be planted, and because he’s a nice guy who might agree to refight it just so that it’s a clean bout.

But, to my surprise, it wasn’t refought, and Kenric was declared victor.

 

So now, Kenric had to face Omega in the final.

 

Once again, it was “best of 5”, and in this case both combatants needed to win 3.

 

The first fight was sword and shield.  They fought, and there were some hits that were questioned.  I thought the fight was over at one point, but it wasn’t.  They centered up again, and Kenric took a hit to the leg.  They took their positions, then Omega ran forward.  He practically knocked Kenric over.  But regardless, by this point, with Kenric on the ground, the fight was Omega’s.

 

The second fight was polearm.  They ran all over the field.  Kenric pushed Omega so far to my side that we opened the circle by about 20 feet to give them more space.  Kenric was lined up to deliver a devastating blow, but Omega backed up into the crowd and his weapon fell from his hand.  Someone called hold, and Kenric halted his strike.  In another exchange, Kenric landed a blow on Omega’s helmet, but Omega brought his own weapon up and caught at least some of the blow there.  The sound of weapon on helmet was loud, but I guess there was enough that Omega deflected that he didn’t consider that as a good blow.  There was one exchange where Omega’s weapon was lined up with the crook in Kenric’s right leg.  The tip was barely two inches away (it was closer to Kenric’s body than the width of the tip itself).  Omega moved the tip forward just as Kenric launched himself.  The tip on Kenric’s body was enough to slow his momentum.  Kenric called it a push, which are not considered killing blows.  From my vantage point, with the weapon having started so close to Kenric’s body, this was a fair call.  It’s entirely possible that Omega was starting to throw what would have been a good shot, had Kenric not moved forward to make body contact with the weapon.

 

I mentioned to a fellow spectator that, from my professional opinion, each of those last two blows would, in real life, have done serious damage to the combatants. But rules are rules, and the rules allowed each of them not to accept the blow as a killing blow, and thus fight on.

 

Another exchange happened in which Kenric landed a blow to Omega’s helmet followed immediately by a blow to his leg.  Omega called them as “now that was good. Good head and on the knee. Ouch on the knee”.  Now, it’s been four days. The above quotation marks are not meant to denote an exact quote, because I didn’t write it down immediately.  But the sentiment is accurate to what I heard, and the words are as accurate as I can remember.  One of the marshals asked “did he just say good to the head?” loud enough for me to hear even though he was facing away from me, and I called out “yes that’s what I heard”.  So that part was fairly well seared in my memory.   Someone next to me echoed this, but likely not loud enough for the marshal to hear him.  I also remember very clearly Omega’s holding his knee up a little, taking a step on his toe, as though his knee was hurt.  I know that hits to the knee or below aren’t allowed hits.  But he had called it good to the head.  At least, that’s what I heard.  And indeed, his initial few words seemed to me to have been said with a bit of a laugh, and I took it to mean “well, the earlier shot wasn’t good, but that one was; see you can land a good shot sometimes”.  Yes, this is all supposition, but it was my immediate reaction, and so that stayed with me.

 

But the fight wasn’t called for Kenric. I was, and still am, very confused. He had left the fighting area.  Omega was ready to continue before Kenric was.  I heard Omega tell the marshal something along the lines of “I’d better get him with my first blow because he isn’t going to take anything else”.  I thought that was in poor taste, but then again, Omega strikes me as one who doesn’t hold back his feelings from his words. I can empathize with that. Maybe he was saying that out of nerves, or psyching himself up.  I hope that the marshal didn’t put weight on his words because he (the marshal) shouldn’t be biased, and from my vantage point that statement was uncalled for.

 

They centered up again, and Kenric brought out a longer polearm.  One of my fellow spectators said “I wonder if Omega will realize that Kenric has a longer weapon”.  Sure enough, Omega asked Kenric if that was a new weapon.  Kenric paused, looked at the weapon, and went back and exchanged it for his old one.

 

They kept fighting.

 

Eventually Omega landed a thrust to Kenric. Omega’s back was to me, and they were close enough to each other that most of Kenric was hidden from my view by Omega.  Omega’s weapon dropped. No hold was called.  Kenric acknowledged a killing blow.  If a blow lands as the weapon is dropped, it’s not considered a good hit.  I didn’t see the blow, but given what transpired the blow must have landed and *then* the weapon dropped (or the force of the blow caused it to fall. I don’t know. It didn’t look excessively hard, judging by how Kenric moved. In either case, Omega was declared the victor in this bout, and was now up 2 to zero.

 

The third fight was two-sword. Or two-weapon, I guess, because although Kenric brought out two swords, Omega brought out a sword for his right hand and a madu for his left hand.  That’s a straight weapon with thrusting tips on each end and a small shield in the middle (in the case of his weapon, it was off-center, so the part above his thumb was shorter than the part held below).  Madus had been banned fairly recently, so frankly, I was surprised to see him bring it out to the field.  I found out later (yay reading the rules!) that after some revisions, madus are indeed allowed in the East Kingdom so long as they are more than 48” long.  Shorter than that, and they aren’t allowed a thrusting tip on both ends.  The marshals didn’t measure Omega’s weapon, but maybe they had done so before, or maybe they felt it was longer than 48” inches.  I also found out later that madus don’t have a striking surface (i.e. no “edge”). I didn’t know this at the time of the fight.

 

The centered up, fought, and from my vantage point (which is: in profile, with my vision being on Kenric’s right and Omega’s left).  I saw a hit on Kenric’s right leg, as Kenric’s sword made contact with Omega’s helmet.  Kenric called what I heard as “good to the thigh”, then Kenric threw down his gauntlets and walked away.  I thought that he had lost, and chalked it up to the rule that mass weapons landing a blow on the hip are considered a killing blow, and so Kenric was walking away in frustration because he had lost this bout and his frustration was because of the bout before.  But neither a thrust-only weapon or a sword are a mass weapon, so Kenric wasn’t dead.  I heard later that he said (so now this is NOT what I heard personally, but what I got from a trusted source) that if Omega wasn’t going to “take” the shot that he (K) landed on his (O’s) helmet, that there was no shot that Omega was going to take, and so Kenric conceded the fight.

 

Stunned silence.

 

Someone ran after Kenric.

 

Kenric returned, said something to Omega, gave a partial bow, and walked back off.  I didn’t hear what he said then either, but I recognized myself in his body language.  The body language of “I should go and say something, point out that I concede, but I don’t want to”.  Sorry dear reader, these aren’t facts, just my placing my personal suppositions onto the situation.

 

The marshals talked.

The fight was declared for Omega, and the herald announced that Omega had won the tournament.

 

Silence.

 

Complete silence.

 

Eerie complete silence.

 

Not even Omega’s household spoke or cheered.

 

No, this wasn’t normal.  Normally there is at worst polite applause. Usually there is cheering.  At best, of the ones I’ve seen, was the first time Kenric won Crown.  His last blow had barely landed when the whole crown burst into cheers and applause.  I kinda felt bad about his opponent, but when he took his helmet off I saw he was smiling too.

 

In conclusion

What I have tried to do in the above is to write what I saw, and what I felt, and my suppositions.  I hope I have clearly indicated what parts of it I know as fact, and what parts of it are my feelings.

 

During the finals, it seemed to me that Omega, by being no more than his usual self, which is boisterous, got under Kenric’s skin.  Was he doing that on purpose?  I don’t know.  No big deal to me if he was. It’s not disallowed.  Head space is a huge part of winning tournaments.  I don’t think he should have been talking to the marhals the way he did, but the marshals hopefully didn’t let that influence their actions.  Was he blowing off shots?  A lot of people think so, but are only talking about it in hushed whispers.  Other than the one where he called it as a good shot to the head, I cannot tell you whether the shots I saw land were “good” or if he deflected them enough.  It’s not hard to do with thrusts, but it’s not easy with cuts.  And since he didn’t actually take that one shot I heard him call, I am left confused as to what actually happened.  Surely I was mistaken?  But I wasn’t the only one who thought I heard him call it as good to the head.  So what really happened?

 

There were questionable shots on both sides, but it seemed to me that the marshals questioned Kenric more than they questioned his opponents, and that, I feel, wasn’t fair.

 

I don’t know why the marshals didn’t question Omega like they questioned Kenric.  I do know that what transpired, what was perceived, has left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but eerily no one is talking about it!

 

I have heard that there were videos posted of the finals, but that they have been taken down.

 

There were at least three people taking pictures of the finals.  One was standing next to me and two others were opposite me, so I’ve been looking for their pictures because I should be in the background and I like seeing pictures of me.  But they haven’t been posted.

 

What gives?  Is there a code of silence I’m not aware of?

 

Someone posted that maybe people are afraid to speak up because saying something bad about people in power can cause one to be blackballed and not get any awards.  Yeah, it’s a human world, and humans can be mean like that.

 

But this is just speaking the truth, and looking for answers among confusion.

 

Both Omega and Kenric are good fighters.

Omega could have won that tournament fair and square, cleanly and without question.  But somehow that didn’t happen.  I don’t understand why, and I hate that such an important tournament ended so awfully.  That there is a question about whether he won fair and square.  I hate that.  We deserve better.  Not “better” as in “a different person”, because frankly he’s been a good king and I fully expect that he’ll be a good king again.  But “better” as in, let’s clear the air and move on!

 

So if no-one else is writing about this, why am I?  I guess my scales have been tipped out of a sense of frustration.  Also, see one of the points I made above: I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, especially when something doesn’t make sense to me.

 

It’s entirely possible that what will come out of this is getting “You know nothing about heavy list fighting”, which is perfectly acceptable.  But rest assured that I’m not the only one with these questions rattling around, so feel free to say exactly that but also make sure to add “here’s what really happened” because I am unlikely to be the only one who wants to know, so that we can lay questions to rest.

 

What do I have to lose?  Well, depending on who you ask, quite a bit, actually.  Speaking out negatively about those who have power and influence can generally create a negative reputation, but more specifically, it can mean I’ll lose out on awards or positions.  But, see above…. That has happened to me in the past through no real action on my part, and I have learned to live and thrive regardless.  More importantly, I don’t think I’m speaking ill of anyone.  I have laid out the truth as I know it and am making a plea to get more facts.  My words are only the truth as I know them, and if that’s bad for me, then so be it. Getting the air cleared is more important.

 

[ed’s note: even though I read it dozens of times, I didn’t realize till now that I switched between “Darius” and “Omega”.  I have corrected that and not made any other changes].

 

 

Edit:

The above was posted on Nov 5, 2014. On Dec 30, 2014, the Earl Marshal of the East Kingdom posted this to the EK FB page:

unto the populous of the East
The East had a bad crown. We have heard a lot of people complain and some point fingers. Some want to blame the Chivalry as a whole. Others want to blame the Marshalette. Some have gone so far as to point at our King. None of this is accurate. I did not hear one fighter call a shot good. As a result I let that bout continue. I waited till I was absolutely before calling some one down for not taking a blow. Once I had clarity It was too late one fighter could not take anymore and withdrew. There is only one person responsible for not stopping the fight. That is me. There are no mitigating circumstances for not taking firm action in a timely manner.
Moving forward we need to communicate with one another try and cut each other some slack. In order for the fighters to get better at being consistent. we need to see that we agree with what is good. Disabling an opponent through chain, and or boiled arm and leg defences is the standard. that is stout. We need to ensure that fighters taking the field trust one another. If you can not trust your worthy opponent. the stage is set for anger and spiraling calibration. We can not allow this if a fighter or worse yet both fighters are not treating each other with courtesy the fight need to stop. If there are fighters who are not trust worthy they need to be corrected, censured and suspended. it is that simple. We can not continue to hope some one gets better.
I am unsure if I will continue on in my current position but in any case I will work towards the betterment of our art and the advancement of honor on our field.

Field Battle, or “I love coming up with a good plan”

This is a post about the SCA Event Gulf Wars.  Feel free to see what that’s all about here: http://www.gulfwars.org/

On Wednesday there were two war points for rapier: the field battle (three scenarios) and the ravine battle (one scenario).  Earlier in the week I had been appointed the General of the Eastern Rapier Army (all 7 of us, woot!) by Duke Edward.  The East fought on the side of Trimaris.  The Trimarian general, Don John, informed the rest of us leaders (the generals, and other interested marshals who showed up at the meeting on Tuesday… I think, since I couldn’t figure out some of them) that he was going to let other generals lead three of the four battles, and that since the ravine was his favorite, he would keep that one.  He assigned the first two field battles to generals of larger armies and was looking for a third.  Frankly, I really really wanted it, but since I commanded such a small group, I didn’t want to speak up. Someone else did, but he was Trimarian himself, so to my relief, I could then speak up and say that I’d take the command post, but that I’d be happy to consult with the Trimarian.  He introduced himself as the Don of Funny Ideas (or something like that – it wasn’t quite “bad ideas” but something more amusing) and I agreed that since our side was likely to win the first two scenarios, that I’d be happy to take his suggestions under advisement.

 

It’s useful to note that the people in charge knew him, but to them I was a completely unknown quantity.

 

Wednesday morning came around, and we started the field battle.  We won the first scenario, though not by as wide a margin as I would have expected.  I led my small band and those within earshot. I was super-proud of all of our Eastern fighters.  They listened but also used their excellent instincts to fill in where they were needed.

 

The second scenario was supposed to play out much like the first. However, the high command call for a “push” came too early.  I was told to push my part of the line. I admit, I obeyed and called on my section to push.  It went against my instinct and the mistake was obvious very quickly.  But it was too late.  We pushed before we had decimated the other side sufficiently, and as a result our line got separated and we lost.

 

The commanders reconvened to discuss the third fight.  I started to lay out my thoughts when the Don of Funny Ideas (I apologize again for forgetting his name, and the much snappier descriptor he provided of himself) showed up. As I had promised, I turned to him for his input, but his eyes grew wide and he said “no, we lost the last one, my ideas aren’t what you want”. So I turned back to the rest of the commanders and laid out my thoughts.  Don John thought we had moved too slowly initially (hence the call to “push”, which in the second scenario came after the lines had engaged) and he thought our line should engage the opposing force about 2/3 down the field.  He had a good point, as there were a couple clumps of bushes way out there that we could use to our advantage to break their line at.  I told him “to get the line to move quickly, pick out your most nimble fencers and tell them to get out in front”.  He was concerned that it would just end up sending a few people to get killed.  I was confident that the entire mass would move faster, and additionally it would slow the opposing force.  I had one runner in my little band, and quickly the other commanders came up with nearly a dozen names of others who fit the bill.  So we dispersed, passed out the plan across the line, and set up.  When Lay On was called, our dozen or so runners took off at a jog (yes, the 100 mph blur is Duke Edward in a jog – I suspect if he ran he’d alter the earth’s rotation).  As I expected, it caused others to try to keep up.  It must have looked amazing from a bird’s eye view – a dozen points leaving the line, pulling the crowd with them into a crown-shaped attack force.  A photographer captured that moment, for a small band of fencers from our side:

http://www.bogpages.com/SCA-photographs/2014/Gulf-Wars-XXIII-Sunday-through/i-S9fMD8s/A

I must admit, I didn’t expect them to be quite that fast, and I hoofed my way down the field to stay with them.  Our runners stopped just short of the designated spot and so it only took a few exhortations of “forward, 5 more feet!” to get them into the ideal position.  The other line hadn’t fully engaged us, so this last short push was easy to accomplish.  We had them right where we wanted them. We were able to break their line across the trees, and wrap in a few strategic spots.  It ended quickly, and our side won.

 

 

Soccer goals

Boychild has been in soccer almost year-round since he was in first grade.  It is much more his pace than baseball, which has long stretches of standing in the outfield or on a bench.  Excercise, teamwork, and the chance to watch and learn from other kids and from grownups other than his teachers or parents are all good reasons to keep him in soccer.  Plus, he’s actually good at it.

He greatly favors defense, including the goalie position.  He’s an amazing goalie, and his abilities to zip in out of nowhere and kick the ball away from the opposing side make him a valuable defensive player.  However, he seems to largely lack the ball- and self-control to be an effective offensive player. Since he prefers the defensive positions, and doesn’t seem to mind that he therefore rarely gets to score a goal, this works out alright.  “Doesn’t mind” doesn’t mean he doesn’t like scoring goals, of course, and he is proud that he has scored at least one goal each season.

We are now in the winter session.  They play indoors in a really nice field which even takes cleats.  The winter team tends to be the very dedicated kids, so the ratio of very good kids to mediocre is pretty high.  Yesterday they faced their toughest competition, and the coach put him on offense.  For the first part of the game, he didn’t really know what he was doing and was not very effective.  But it didn’t take him long to remember to play his position.  Once he remembered “the rules”, as it where, and what he was supposed to do, he stuck to it like a champ.  The other kid on offense is one of the best offensive players. He’s fast and agile.  He would therefore bring the ball up the field with apparent ease, only to be confronted by half of the other team, who saw him rightly as a threat.  His only option then would be to look for an opening to his teammate, and sure enough, that is where he would find boychild, reliably waiting at an angle to the goal, just like he should be.  This way he managed to get several shots on goal, and TWO WENT IN!  Two goals in one game!

His team sadly lost 6 – 3, and of course one could ask whether he as defender could have kept the other team down from scoring 6 goals.  But we can’t go down that line of thinking since it would never end. Instead, we can, and do, congratulate the boy on playing effective offense and scoring two of his team’s three goals.

 

The Packing Gene

So, girlchild and I are going away this weekend.  On Friday I’ll pick her up straight from school and we’ll be off to New Hampshire for what is becoming our “traditional” girls’ weekend.  Of course, this year we are calling it “fencers’ weekend” so that her foster sister doesn’t feel more left out than already inherent in such an endeavour.  There is, after all, a fencing tournament on Saturday.

Girlchild is incredibly excited about this trip.  On Tuesday she asked me why I wasn’t packed yet. She asked me if she could pack, so I told her where to get luggage.  She dragged a luggage from the basement up to her room on the second floor, and proceeded to pack it.  An hour later she came clattering down the stairs with her luggage and added it to the pile I had started of “things to go with us”.

This morning I finally got a chance to open the luggage to see what was in it.  I was expecting, at best, half of the clothes she needs, and random toys.

What I found was a neatly packed luggage with one toy, one pillow, neatly folded (well as neatly as she could manage) clothes, pajamas, toothbrush and other toiletries, and two books.  Everything perfectly and logically arranged.

Wow.

Tonight, she can pack my luggage.