Monthly Archives: October 2013

Feeling a Bit Better

I think venting yesterday helped me feel a bit better. While it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem (and whether or not it’s a problem is another debate), the ability to stop brooding is a good one. For instance: after work, I came home and watched an episode of Doctor Who. I then puttered about on the Internet for about an hour (more than I meant to, I’ll admit). Once I’m done writing, I’ll watch some more of the Oplomachia DVD in an attempt to prep for fighter practice. That should leave me enough time to eat and make it to practice at a reasonable hour.

Part of my problem is that I tend to have trouble breaking projects down into manageable bits. I see the enormous pile (literal as well as physical) of things to do and just have no idea where to start. This has been the case in school as well as day-to-day life. Part of me always feels I should be able to DO ALL THE THINGS, paying no heed to causality or the limiting nature of time. After all, I want to do a bunch of stuff: why shouldn’t I be able to?

This is not the most rational train of thought, I will admit, but it’s what goes through my subconscious most of the time. As such, I’m usually thinking about what else I could be doing while I do something else. Add the fact that I hate making decisions (when a choice is made, all other options are closed off), and you’ve got quite the complex. Well, I have quite the complex, but you know what I mean.

But if I make myself do things I have to do at the expense of too many things I want to do, it just breeds resentment and encourages unproductivity in the long run. That’s why today was interesting: I made a point to do something I wanted (Doctor Who, webblagging the intartubez) before moving on to things I needed to do (writing, prepping for practice). I’ve been cautious about using this approach in the past, since I seem to lack the self-discipline to make decisions and timelines stick, but this time it seemed to work. Sure, I spent a bit more time surfing than I needed to, but I’m not going to split hairs: progress is progress.

So maybe if I can do a little bit of what I want each day I can feel like I’m making progress. It’s not like I have any deadlines (aside from the Big One) for most of it. And besides, isn’t the point of life to enjoy it? Who says everything I do needs to be productive? I do, apparently, but that part of me is dumb and wrong.

The Creeping Morning

I’m pretty annoyed with my job right now. I know, I know: welcome to the club. And really, what should one expect from a soul-sucking retail hellhole that blights the very land it stands on, making Mordor look like Tahiti (it’s a magical place) by comparison?

Alright, that last statement was largely hyperbole. My job isn’t that bad, especially given how bad working retail has the potential to be. But there a certain things that are really starting to grate on me, from the ever-changing schedule to the seemingly-constant “panic mode” and the early mornings.

Oh, how I’m growing to hate those early mornings.

Continue reading

Fall Thoughts

I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing. I ended up burning through my buffer over the past few days; not something I meant to do. So to get back in the swing of things, I’m going to try writing some easy posts about random things. Things may be a bit disjointed.

Ah, autumn! Continue reading

Comments

Hi-diddly-oh, readereenos! I’d like to take some time to talk about the comments some of you have been leaving on this blog. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those “We need to talk” discussions; those still fill me with dread, and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on someone else. Mostly, I want to talk about my experience with the comments so far.

First things first: I do read them. This blog is so far low-traffic enough that I can take the time to read each comment individually. And since most of my readers are people I know in person (I assume), I haven’t run into the GIFT. Comments have been encouraging and constructive, and I really appreciate that.

That being said, I don’t reply to comments near as much as I’d like. Mostly this is a result of wanting to take my time to form a good reply. Taking that time, however can easily stretch to awkward lengths if enough time passes. Case in point: the whole year I was in France, I couldn’t work up the courage to email my friends because I had waited days, then weeks, then months to reply to a simple “Hey, how’s it going?” letter.

So I guess I just wanted to say that yes, I do read the comments, even if I don’t reply to them. If I do have something to say, I may turn it into a post in its own right (like the one recently one one of my SCA fighting posts). I do appreciate the feedback, as it lets me know that people are reading in a way that viewing stats do not. If you feel the urge to speak up, that’s fine; I’m a perpetual lurker, myself. But if you have something to say, then by all means do so! And feel free to ask for more clarification if something strikes your fancy, whether via comments, Facebook, or email.

Side note: I’m starting to get some spam comments now. Does that mean I’m becoming a R33l Bl0gg3r on t3h Int4rw3bz? Some of them are even in Russian!

Far Side note: I’ve gone back and replied to several comments, and I hope to reply to more in the future.

Frequently Annoying Questions

“How goes the job search?”

“Have you heard back from your interview?

“Do you have any leads?”

“Have you looked into other fields?”

“Hey, at least you have a job.”

“I’m sure you’ll find something. You’re meant for great things!”

These are a few questions that, while innocent enough, are really starting to get on my nerves. I hear them a lot, from well-meaning individuals that have nothing but my best interests at heart. But I find myself answering them often enough that it’s really getting annoying. So I would like to take the opportunity today to answer some of them, as well as talk about why they grate on me.

Yes, this is going to be a rant. I’ll trust you’re competent enough to find your own grain of salt.

Continue reading

SCA Fighting: Some Progress (Fencing)

At fencing practice (which I arrived at later than I would have liked), things were in a different place. It was very much a sparring night, with a more experienced fencer working with a few newbies in the corner. I ended up only fighting one person, but it was fun.

We got to talking afterward, about our feelings re: lack of training. One of my other friends wandered over during our conversation, one I was hoping to pick the brain of in regards to drills and training. He had led drills back when we were still doing them, and I thought he would have a better insight into what kind of drills were effective for fencing. I wasn’t wrong.

As we brainstormed, the main problem we ran into was that our fighting style had shifted since we had last been rigorous about drills and training. We used to practice a more French style (using lighter, faster blades with French grips), where speed and agility were the name of the game. Parries were fast, and so were the strikes. For the past year or so, however, we’ve shifted to a more Italian style (longer, heavier swords with a cross-hilted grip). This has been more based on power and angles, wedging the opponent’s sword out of the way rather than beating it. It is also a more committed style: rather than picking from range, it relies more on one strong attack to do the job.

This shift in style has not been easy for a lot of people. As such, my friend and I started trying to distill the basic tenets of the new Italian style into a series of drills, ones that could be repeated easily and make sense to a wide variety of people, especially those without previous martial arts experience.

I had fun brainstorming: it scratched my itch to analyze and codify, and I think we may have managed to streamline things quite well. One thing we noticed is that terminology could be confusing, especially if it shared words with techniques from the old style. I think we’re starting to get the rough outlines of a framework we can use. We outlined a few basic drills, as well as ways of describing the fundamental techniques. It’s not ready for prime time yet, of course, but we’ll be working on it some more Friday night (tonight, as of this writing; five days ago as of your reading. Wibbley-wobbly!). I’m bringing a notebook this time, so we can write things down.

I’m getting really excited about this. Anecdotal evidence points to other interested parties as well, so hopefully this can take off and be something really neat. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

SCA Fighting: Some Progress (Heavy)

Well, I’ve had the chance to attend both a fencing and heavy practice since I wrote my “State of SCA fighting” posts (working with a buffer can do some weird, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey things; those posts were written last Wednesday, before heavy practice. This one is being written the following Friday), and I am hopeful. I’d like to talk about both heavy and fencing, but since my efforts in each are starting from different places, I’m going to break my thoughts up into two posts.

At heavy practice, I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one feeling the itch to drill. Although it was a small practice (four fighters, including me), we started the night off with some of the Oplomachia drills from the previous weekend. My knight had had a chance to go through the corresponding DVD, and while I intend to as well, ran out of time before practice. In fact, it would be safe to say that what we did was based on Oplomachia, or at least what we could cobble together into something resembling coherence.

We started off the night with a basic sequence, going through the Warm-Up Motion (the arm motion used as the base of all shots) and three basic stances (Bladed, Box, and Square). We did this with both right and left hands (another tenant of Oplomachia). From there, we moved to pell work, then some basic targeting and combination practice with partners. Most of the rest of the night was spent fighting, generally around ¾ speed, and attempting to implement some of the new techniques. Again, we all fought both right- and left-handed.

I think it was a great start, and was extremely pleased that I wasn’t the only one wanting more training. There was some light structure to the night, which will likely be a good way to ease people into the concept. It was still largely self-led, but this is likely due to the fact that all of us were struggling to understand the new concepts. After all, one can’t teach effectively if one doesn’t understand the material.

One point I would like to improve on (aside from getting more comfortable with the material) is that we ran out of time for free sparring. While I love to learn, sometimes I just want to hit something, or have a good bout with someone more (or less) experienced than me. So that part of the night left me a little unfulfilled. I think that if the training was more focused, that could free up time for the sparring we all expect at practice. Maybe an hour or so of training (including basics, drills, and slow work), leaving at least an hour for sparring. For instance: the gym opens at 6h30. If training started by 7h, and wrapped up by 8h, that would leave at least an hour for fighting (minus breaks, of course) before I would have to leave.

So all in all, a great first go at things. And I’m glad that there might not be as much resistance as I feared.

SCA Fighting: Some Solutions

I like teaching. I even like to think I’m pretty good at it. While I was in grad school, I was a teaching assistant, helping art majors understand math. When I still did Taekwondo, I woked at my dad’s studio, teaching classes of all ages and experience levels. I am able to break a concept down into easily-digestible chunks, and am willing to take the time to find an explanation that makes sense to each student. I would like to bring some of that skill to bear in the SCA realm, and Syr Gemini’s class has me especially motivated.

One of the things that I think would be really neat to do in the SCA (and one I’ve mentioned to hardly anyone), is to establish a training structure, or a local school. It would bring some of the discipline I feel is lacking in SCA training, and would definitely force me to become a better fighter. Plus, it would allow me to use my skills to give back to a hobby that, without overstating things, changed my life for the better.

I am already planning to restart the fencing training program. I hope to confer with my friends, some of who led drills during the old program, so I can find out where to start; once I have a curriculum, I feel I can move forward quite comfortably. I just need to know what to teach. I know this already has support in my household, and I hope it could grow to encompass anyone who shows up at practice.

On the armored combat side, things are a little less clear. As far as I know, there has not been a strong drive towards this type of structure (at least, not while I have been practicing locally). As such, things will likely have to start from scratch (or closer to it). There is no existing curriculum, and there are a variety of local styles (the result of “let’s see what works for you” training, probably). And where would the curriculum come from? Existing local styles? Period manuscripts? Obviously, there is research to be done.

Some have also told me that there has been resistance to similar efforts in the past. Without a culture of training to build on, this may be an uphill battle. But I know that a lot of the less-experienced fighters are feeling discouraged with the existing structure. Plus, practice attendance has been dwindling. Maybe having a structure in place, both as a training and bonding mechanism, can motivate people to come back?

I will admit there are some self-confidence issues for me to face. I am by no means the most experienced fighter on either field; I am neither a knight nor a don. In other words, what do I know? But I feel the role of a knight or a don is to teach. I may not be the best fighter there is (although I am pretty good), but I feel I can teach. And I am not saying that the existing knights and dons don’t teach. They do! I would just like to try having a bit more formality and rigor.

I will emphasize that these ideas are still in a very rough stage of planning. After all, what do you teach? How do you get people to want to train? How do you make sure people still get the sparring in they’ve become used to? What kind of drills are even applicable to these martial arts?

If this sounds interesting to you, let me know: I am open to suggestions. My goal for fencing is to start drills back up some time by the end of October. The same may be possible for heavy, but there is more work to be done. Is there anything in particular you’d like to see? If you see me starting to slack off, or let this fall by the wayside, feel free to give me a kick in the butt. I’d like this to be something people can look forward to. I may even use this blog to share some of the development!