Monthly Archives: September 2013

Post-Crown Thoughts: Sunday

Here are my thoughts on the second tourney from this past weekend. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively.

As is usually the case with Crown, there are also tournaments on Sunday. These tournaments determine the new Warlord (heavy fighting) as well as the Princess Protector (fencing). Unfortunately, the sunny respite of the day before was long gone, and most of the day alternated between a light drizzle and a persistent rain. As such, only sixteen fencers and ten fighters came out (at least three knights, the rest unbelted). I briefly considered fighting in both tournaments, but I decided to focus on heavy fighting for the weekend and fought in the Warlord tournament. I ended up being glad I did.

The tournament ended up being a modified Swiss Five format, with each round being a single fight with a different weapon style. One of the benefits of this style is everyone gets plenty of fighting in, as you get to fight in all the rounds regardless of whether you win or lose. If I recall, the order went like this:

  1. Sword and shield
  2. Two weapons
  3. Glaive
  4. Greatsword
  5. 6-foot spear
  6. Single sword
  7. Two swords
  8. Greataxe

After that, the top four contestants with the most wins would fight in a short single-elimination, two-out-of-three tournament to determine the winner. This format was designed to make sure that the winner was proficient with all weapon styles, as is befitting a warlord.

Now, having the rounds be single fight changes things. Someone can get a lucky shot in and the fight will be over. As such, I found myself being much more cautious, timing my shots carefully to avoid unduly exposing myself to harm. The fight became more of a chess match than an arm wrestle.

Luckily the mindset from my second round the day before came back relatively easily. My first round was against a young left-handed knight, and I surprised myself by winning (even if it cost me my legs). My second round went less well; I hardly ever fight with two swords, and I was unable to get into a rhythm. The third round I managed to win, even after both of us lost an arm; it’s hard to use a polearm as tall as you with one hand, let me tell you. In the fourth round, I was finally able to get the bastard sword fight I wanted the day before, even though it wasn’t with the same duke. Being as it’s one of my favorite styles, I won. My single sword fight was another one I was worried about, as I was facing another knight, and since your offense and defense are concentrated in the same weapon, crazy stuff can happen. I managed to take his primary arm, and then his body. My second round with two swords proved that I should probably spend more time with the style; while I was able to get into a groove, my opponent was just more experienced than I was. The greataxe round went well for me as well; while I hardly ever use two-handed axes (or axes of any kind), it was similar enough to a glaive or greatsword that I did alright. Not wanting to be hit by a big guy with a big axe was also a wonderful motivator.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll notice that put me with six wins. I wasn’t keeping track that day, so I was fairly surprised to end up in the final four. That doesn’t happen to me very often, although I may not be able to accurately gauge my own skill. Usually I’m happy to go a couple, forgettable rounds, but today ended up different. I had made it to the semifinals, which meant the king would be watching my final fights. There was also the real possibility that I could win the tournament. No pressure.

The first fight of the round went poorly: I died quick and fast, and felt like a chump. Just my luck, I thought, I make it this far just to have my visible performance be forgettable. Luckily the second round went better: we both lost an arm (his left, my right), but I was able to duck past his buttspike thrust to punch him in the face with my blade. That one got some cheers. The third fight was a good one, but he ended up cleaving my face in half from the side.

So while I didn’t win, I’m happy with how I performed. I even had a knight (who had been watching the whole time, in the rain) tell me my fighting looked good. That made me happy: after all, even if I didn’t win, I had hoped to make an impression.

Stay tuned for my final thoughts!

Post-Crown Thoughts: Round 2

These are my continued thoughts on my recent experience fighting in Crown Tournament. Read the first part here.

For the second round, the tournament moved back to a more standard random draw. But as is too often the case with a random draw, you can end up driving hundreds of miles to fight the same people you fight every week at practice. While luckily there wasn’t much of a drive, this proved to be the case with me.

For the second round, I had to fight my knight.

While we don’t fight every week at practice, we fight quite a bit. He’s also the one that has been training me, helping to find the mindset needed to be truly dangerous. In other words: he knew my tricks, I knew some of his, and I didn’t want to let him down by giving him a mediocre fight, even if I lost.

Luckily, I was able to find whatever I had been missing that first round. I felt much more focused. Everything outside the fight faded into the background, while my opponent stood before me in sharp relief. I can still remember the feeling, although it’s hard to put into words. If you’ve ever done competition, you probably know what I’m talking about. There is a calm, but it is focused and energized, not lethargic. Your mind is curiously blank, but you are reacting faster than you would be able to think. You are, as corny as it sounds, In The Zone.

I felt much better during these fights. In fact, I was even able to kill my knight with a quick thrust to the eye. He didn’t let me do it twice (as well he shouldn’t), but I feel like I made him work for his two other victories. In the second and third fight he ended up legging me, forcing me to fight from my knees. And while I did end up losing, he got me with a different shot each time (which tends to make me feel good, and means that I’m probably not doing something egregiously stupid).

I can still remember the laser focus I felt during those fights. If nothing else, fighting in Crown provided me a chance to really experience that mindset. I was fighting near the top level of what I could achieve, not dialing down or playing around as is too often the case at practice. I will hold on to that place in my mind, and now that I know where it is, hopefully it will be that much easier to find in the future. I’m already looking forward to practice this week to see if I can find it again.

So that was my Crown adventure. While I was out in two rounds, I won at least one of my bouts. I was hoping to be able to go three rounds (meaning at least two wins), but alas. Oddly, this was pretty much my performance the first time I fought in Crown four years ago: head not right for the first round, but took the second round to three fights. Like I said, though, it was a great learning opportunity, and rather than discourage me it’s made me look forward to the next chance. I’m even considering entering the Spring Crown, which would be held about seven hours to the southwest in March. Not as convenient as 45 minutes east, obviously, but better than waiting an entire year to try again.

I think I may have caught the bug.

Post-Crown Thoughts: Round 1

So my long, arduous trek that has been grinding me down since early August has finally drawn to a close. I even had a short day at work today, and spent most of the afternoon watching Doctor Who. The evening is likely to consist of more of the same, or possibly some Minecraft. And yes, me and mine are all safe and dry.

But I wanted to talk about Crown Tournament, in an attempt to debrief and to sort out my thoughts on the matter. I’m going to break this recap up into a few posts, covering my first round, the second, as well as the Warlord tourney on Sunday (in the rain!).

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I’m Okay…

…or at least I will be.

If you’ve been following my blog recently (which is likely, if you’re reading this), you may have noticed a somewhat darker trend to my writings. The thing is, I haven’t had much down time lately. It’s basically been one thing after another since early August straight through this weekend. Requesting weekends off has a nasty habit of creating long work “weeks” (this past one being eight days long, one before that being eleven). I haven’t been getting much sleep, or as much spoon-regeneration time as I’d like (or need). I’ve been working a lot, then coming home to work on projects fro my hobbies. This does not tend to have the best effect on one’s psyche.

But the end is in sight. After this weekend, I will have more free time, and there isn’t really anything pressing on the horizon that isn’t at least a few months off. I hope to catch up on sleep, slack off a bit without feeling guilty, and start clawing my way back to my usual cheery(?) self.

I’m sorry if my posts recently have worried you, but they are indeed a reflection of the places my mind can go. I don’t talk about them much, and even then only to a select few. I tend to keep my problems to myself, and this can result in things appearing better than they often are. That may not be the most comforting, I know, but this state of mind is not a first for me. I’ve gone into and come out of many Funks so far, and will likely continue to do so.

So I hope in the near future to be able to provide you with more lighthearted insights and, dare I say, entertainment. Thanks for sticking around as the Drama Llama stampeded through my life.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!1!!11!!!ONE!!

This here is my Drama Llama. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Impostor Syndrome

I mentioned this earlier, but in case you couldn’t tell, I have a few issues. Neuroses, if you will. Psychological hangups that are a quiet but ever-present part of quotidian life inside my head. For example: I have trouble seeing my accomplishments for what they are, tooting my own horn (literally and figuratively), and claiming the confidence which should be my right through long work and experience.

I’m talking about feeling like an impostor.

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Pre-Crown Thoughts

Fatigue has gotten me into a rut. When you’re stressed, it doesn’t take much energy to write about how stressed you are. But I worry that I start to sound like a broken record. So today I’m going to make a conscious effort to try and write about something else.

This weekend, I’m going to be fighting in Crown Tournament, the most prestigious tournament in my local SCA kingdom. Every six months, we determine who, by right of arms, is to be our next king and queen. As such, the tournament attracts all sorts of fighters, from the big names and big sticks to young (and sometimes not-so-young) up-and-comers looking to get seen and make a name for themselves.

I am one of the latter group. I have been fighting in the SCA for about ten years now, and have done relatively well at the local level; I was Warlord of the local Barony, and do relatively well at practices. One of my proudest moments was coming in third in an unbelted (non-knight) tourney a few years ago at Battlemoor (a big end-of-summer camping event). My only losses were to the fighters who got first and second place; can’t be upset with that.  Or this past Battlemoor, when I was the last non-knight in a six-foot spear tourney.

However, due to my relatively shy and retiring nature, I don’t get out much. I’m not exactly the type of person to go strike up a conversation with someone I don’t know. Due to time and money constraints, I don’t travel to other parts of the kingdom as much as I might. As such, I find it likely that the knights and other fighters might not know who I am. I’ve come out of my shell a lot since joining the SCA, but the shell is still there.

This is part of what the Axesperiment is about, finding ways to get over those last few hurdles, those last few plateaus on the path to success. I like to think that years of martial arts experience (both in the SCA and through Taekwondo) have left me with a good physical base. For me, these last few hurdles seem to be largely mental. Besides, I’ve fought in crown before; even though it many ways it’s a big deal, in others it’s just another tournament.

Crown can be a great place to gain that visibility. Since it results in the (eventual) crowning of our next king and queen, a lot of people will be there, both fighting and watching. It’s a great chance to make a good impression on a lot of important people. Although it is always a possibility, it is not likely that I will win. There will be bigger, faster, more experienced fighters out on the field. But that’s always likely to be the case. So when I fight this Saturday, I will be there to be seen. I will strive to make my lady and my knight proud. I will do my best, as that is all we can ever do.

The Funk

One of the biggest problems with self-loathing and The Funk is how invisible it can be, at least for me. The suffering is pretty much all internal, a result of my own brain playing over things that would likely be best forgotten (not because they are bad, but because, in the long run, they are of no consequence). Compounding the issue is the fact that I, like many others, reflexively put on a cheery face, a mask if you will, that makes everything appear okay.

I don’t even think about it most of the time. Whether that’s because of my innate desire to not rock the boat (likely) or part of a larger social stigma against mental issues (also likely), I’m not sure. One of the problems with spending too much time in your own brain is the tendency to think of everything in terms of your actions, to forget outside influences. After all, what if there is something wrong with you? Are you over-reacting, or do you on some level deserve to reap what you have sown?

The Funk is dangerous because it is so sneaky. It is usually the case that I don’t realize I’ve fallen into one until I’m on my way out. As such, it can be hard to avoid The Funk until it’s too late. The fact that there are many triggers doesn’t help either. These can include stress, lack of sleep, bad news, et cetera. I like to think I’m getting better reading the signs, but that hasn’t yet helped me stop the process. I still have to ride it out, which is more difficult when you have things you need to do. Welcome to being an adult, I guess.

It reminds me of when I spent my year in Paris in college. I moved in during the height of summer, around July or August. At that point, the city is relatively quiet, as a lot of Parisians beat the heat by going out to the country. But of course, the weather didn’t last. Autumn was beautiful, with the trees in the parks turning colors. But Parisian winters are not like Colorado winters. They are damp, dreary, and gray. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t have adequate natural light I tend to get sad. But because the shift was so subtle, I didn’t even notice it until March, when the sun finally came back out. I walked out onto my balcony in the early morning, and my first thoughts were literally “Oh my god, I feel human again!” The Funk had slinked in, but was banished by the coming of the dawn.

So it’s not all doom and gloom, I guess. Even if I can’t yet avoid The Funk, knowing that it is temporary can be helpful in and of itself. When you’re depressed, it certainly seems like it will last forever. But a part of me is becoming more resilient, the part of me that remembers:

This too shall pass.”

Friends Will Be Friends

So apparently Tuesday’s post touched a nerve with some of my friends. The post got some great comments, and got me thinking. About the importance of getting it out. About the importance of not suffering alone. About the importance of friends.

Too often we keep our problems to ourselves, leaving us to suffer in quiet. We don’t talk about our problems, maybe because we don’t want to appear needy, maybe because we don’t want to hijack whatever social interaction we may be a part of. But all this does is leave us to suffer alone. For me, this leads to brooding, which leads to more suffering, which can snowball into a Funk (more on those later).

Tuesday’s comments reminded me that I do not suffer alone. It reminded me that I am not the only one who dances on the edge of The Pit; that others may be hiding it just as well as I am, if not better. It reminded me that if I’m weird or broken (words from The Pit), then I’m in good company.

It also reminded me how much I have in common with my friends. They say like attracts like, but it’s hard to tell if no one talks about these things! But here we are: talking, sharing, and growing closer as we do so. While our differences are what keeps things interesting, it is our similarities that bring us together.

So thank you to all of my friends, commenters, readers, and lurkers (I’m secretly one of you, too) alike. Thanks for listening to my venting. Thanks for sharing some of your own experiences. If you ever need to vent, I’ll be there. If nothing else, it is comforting to know that we are all in this handbasket together, wherever it may lead.

P.S.: Queen reference!

Self-Loathing

My brain has a skill. When I am tired, stressed, or otherwise in a bad mood, it decides that I need to review a “Greatest Hits” style overview of all the embarrassing things I’ve ever done or said. One of the advantages of being an introvert prone do depression, I guess.

I call it “being in a funk,” and it’s not nearly as funky or fresh as the name would imply. In addition to killing my motivation, my brain tends to go deep into the Pit of Shame, dredging up the slimiest, most abhorrent things it can. Now I’m a relatively nice guy, so admittedly the horrors it summons are more along the lines of Hello Cthulhu than a gibbering shoggoth from beyond the stars. But remember: this is depression we’re talking about here. The last thing it is is logical.

I’ll think about all the times I said something to one of my friends that offended them, usually things they have long forgotten about. I’ll think about the mistakes I made as a kid, like (not so) subtly adding time to my video game timer, or filling a water bottle up so full you couldn’t hear anything sloshing, then saying it was empty. I’ll think about YouTube videos I’ve shone people, and worry if I offended them. I’ll think about all that I could be doing, all the potential that I’m wasting on computer games and internet surfing. I’ll think about all the effort I could have put in to school projects, how I could have done better, how I could be using my degree(s), how I could be looking for a better job…

You probably get the idea.

The funk is when all the darkest voices come out, seeking to paralyze you with self-loathing. Luckily, it’s happened often enough that, while I may not be able to stop the shame, I am able to better identify some of the triggers. One of the biggest, unsurprisingly, is lack of sleep.

Sleep seems to strengthen the mind’s defenses against funk, but at the same time the funk can swell in strength as I relax to fall asleep. Couple that with a tendency to over-think and brood on things, as well as an inability to turn off my brain, and you can see how the spiral can begin to get out of control.

I’m not writing this as a plea for pity, or even help. I guess I’m writing it in an attempt to get it out of my brain, and into a safer place where it can bother me less. I’m writing to remind myself that It Gets Better. And maybe I’m writing to try and let my friends and family know some of what goes on behind what is often a calm (or at least unfazed) exterior. I will apologize, however unnecessary it may be, if I have ever said or done anything that was less than perfect offensive or bothersome. Know that it bothers me much more that it likely bothers you. You may not even remember. But I do.

And so does the Pit.

Writer’s Block

Have I written about writer’s block yet? I don’t think I have. I could procrastinate for another hour or so checking my archives to make sure, but I feel that would only exacerbate the problem. That is to say, it would be another way for me to avoid writing. I could spend as much time as I wanted preparing, getting distracted, feeling guilty about being unproductive, and being unproductive, but that wouldn’t get me much further than where I am now. And I’ve got stuff I need to do.

Intellectually, I know that the best way to combat writer’s block is by writing something (anything!), even if it’s crap. Well, that’s all well and good, but try getting your subconscious to listen to reason; it’s problematic at the best of times, and only seems to be all logical when it serves its own ends.

So here I am, writing about writer’s block. Don’t let the irony overwhelm you. Here’s a protip: writer’s block sucks. Try to avoid it.

I think that the proverbial honeymoon is over when it comes to this blog. It’s starting to feel like an obligation, posting every day. But I worry that if I stop posting, I won’t recover. My inadvertently missed day last week already shook my confidence, and it doesn’t help matters that I have a lot to do and not many spoons to do it.

This isn’t a cry for pity. Nor is it an attempt to get people to help me and tell me how awesome I am (I was there, and it was pretty sweet, but that’s not the point). It’s more of an attempt to get the juices flowing, and getting to a point where writing is just a habit and it feels weirder to skip it than it does to sit down and do it. So here I am, throwing words onto a page to see what sticks.

And don’t get me wrong, it is working. As I write, I it getting easier and my motivation growing. If I didn’t have other stuff to do, I might try and get several posts written. I think part of the problem is also tied to fatigue, as when I get tired I tend to lose interest in things. But I’m trying my best to soldier through, because I know that things do get better when I get off my butt and actually do something.

Metaphorically of course. Right now I’m writing this slouched on the couch in the basement. It doesn’t help the staying awake thing, but I seem to have just taken an impromptu micro-nap, and that seems to be helping.

So yeah. Writer’s block plus fatigue divided by the number of spoons left equals filler post. Whee.