Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wiktenaur Donation Drive

It's time for me to do this quick driveby fundraising mention here for Period Combat Nerds! 

The good folks over at the Wiktenaur site are holding an Indiegogo fundraising campaign, to pay for ongoing site costs as well as access to more manuals to scan and post for all of us to use.

This site is a fantastic resource, and being able to see them post even more manuals would be really awesome.

The drive ends on February 17. They've already met the base goal and are well into stretch goals, but every little bit, right?

Let's breeze through Plate 26 and 27, and get to Plate 28 and 29!

Woo hoo, we're back! In the time since the last post, things got wild and crazy for the rapier community, and a little wild and crazy for me, and also some real life. Also, snow. Good times, everyone!

So we're just going to briefly look at  Plates 26 and 27. It's not that they aren't interesting (they are) or contain important information (they do, but it's really an application of the fundamentals, like a lot of plates), but they're primarily interested in dealing with what SCA would consider percussive cuts. As I'm mostly interested in working through what we can really do with historic technique underneath the SCA's limitations, they're not hugely applicable, but here's a quick and dirty overview of them anyway.

Plate 26 has both fencers starting in Third, on the outside. (I want to work through this slowly sometime soon with someone else to see how this works, because I can absolutely see how it's on the outside, but saying that you "find them in Fourth" doesn't make sense to me, but I'm probably wrong and Fabris is right. Regardless, though.) You find your opponent's blade and they respond by raising their weapon to perform a mandritto (a cut from their right side). When they do, you hit them. Since the cut is coming from your opponent's right, or the inside line, you want to strike with your hand in Fourth, so that even if the cut falls, you can just raise your hand a little to catch it.

Basically, your opponent takes a big tempo in raising their sword to cut from the shoulder, and you take a much shorter tempo in killing them. Fabris does say that even if they take a shorter tempo and strike from the wrist, you still do the same thing and just catch the cut on your guard as you strike them. This is a fundamental concept, and we've seen this illustrated constantly up to this point. 

Note that Fabris does instruct us to make sure to roll our hand into Fourth and cover our heads if need be. This is consistent with his previous plates as well, in that if we're striking in mezzo tempo when our opponent is taking an offensive tempo (as in Plate 23) we want to make sure we're defended against it. If we're striking when our opponent is taking a nonoffensive tempo (as in Plate 22) we just strike cleanly in, without covering for anything.

Plate 27 is really the same thing, but on the other side. We find our opponent on the inside, they move to prepare for a cut on the outside, and we strike them in that tempo, rolling our hand into Second to cover for the cut from the outside.

...huh, okay, that was a fair amount of time spent on Plates 26 and 27, after all. That's fine, let's move to Plates 28 and 29 anyway. It's snowing outside, I'm warm inside, so I'm going to keep writing!

On the surface, Plate 28 looks very similar to Capo Ferro's Plate 8, which I've referenced to a lot of people before. It isn't really, but it does still serve to visually remind us about distance, leg shots at range, and how a2+b2=c2 and how that can make some attacks really bad ideas.

Reading the text though, we can see what Fabris is really getting at. We start on the outside, and we're way out at misura larga. We start to find our opponent's sword, and they respond by rolling into a mandritto at our head.

Again, a mandritto is coming from their right, or our inside line. We're at misura larga though, so Fabris says we should lean our head back a bit, and let the cut just "pass harmlessly." Yep. No parry, no nothing. Not even necessarily something a lot of people would call a void. As soon as the cut passes, you lunge and kill them. No muss, no fuss.  Fabris outright tells us that he thinks it's better to just "let cuts fall without parrying" rather than spending a lot of effort parrying them.

Plate 29 is predictably a similar action on the other side. We find their blade on the inside, they roll to perform a riverso, which is a cut from the outside.

The two real differences here are that this time Fabris specifies that we drop our point a bit to avoid blade contact, and when the cut passes we strike, and that he specifies we should strike in Fourth to cover the side that the cut has fallen into. This may not be necessary, but perhaps if it was a smaller cut from the wrist, it might be important to keep in mind.

As I said at the start of this entry, if we're not doing Cut and Thrust, these aren't things that we'll really see in this form while we're using rapiers in the SCA. That said, these techniques are absolutely applicable to anyone who loves large blade beats. Earlier in his manual, Fabris states that we can use a cavazione to deal with someone beating your blade, and avoid contact entirely. This is absolutely true - but I think we've all seen people who will, at a very wide measure, wind up and deliver a heavy beat to your blade - and in such a case, the techniques in these four plates would also serve very well.

Again, he's being consistent in his principles of avoiding blade contact unless absolutely necessary, and striking in mezzo tempo whenever possible. He's not trying to gunsling against his opponent, but hit them when they're doing something else.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fabris, Plate 25

Things are kinda crummy right now for the rapier community for a bunch of reasons.

So I did some point control tonight and now we're gonna look at Plate 25! (It's on the right. It's also really cool.)

Prime! That weird guard that everyone says "what good is that really?" about. This! It is good for this! (And other things too, but this!)

Anyway. "This wound of first against a third would happen this way."

Fencers begin at misura larga, in Third, on the outside. Each is forcefully pushing their blade against the other. (This is one of those positions that none of us should ever want to be in, but here we are.)

You should quickly turn their hand into First. While you are doing that and lifting your hand, you advance toward the opponent and hit them. (Straightforward, which is why I didn't really break this down into steps like I have previously.) I've found that it works well if you're rotating around with the wrist, and not a bigger arm motion. The strike can feel odd because it's not necessarily in line with the blade like a lunge, but it does work out.

Fabris points out that your opponent's sword should be underneath yours; you're basically yielding around it to keep your point free and kill them. He also points out that, again, being in the original position is bad, and you don't want to be there.

That's it! Really short, but super cool.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The BoD does a thing, kinda, and I'm gonna talk about it.

So as most everyone who's remotely connected to the SCA rapier community knows, yesterday the Board of Directors voted on whether to institute a peerage for rapier prowess, and it was voted down.

Okay, that was disappointing in the extreme, and more than a little surprising - I'd honestly thought that it had a really good chance of passing. Then things got weird.

Instead of repeating what other people who were present said, I'll just link to the two reports from folks in the audience; this was posted by Eyrny publicly to her Facebook page (there's a full description in the comments), and this was posted by Illadore to the SCA Facebook group.

Yeah, that's a thing. Additionally, individual members of the BoD have publicly posted to their personal Facebook pages, notably Ailgheanan.

After all this I'm left with a whole lot of feelings, most of them conflicted.

The people behind the Additional Peerage committee devoted countless hours, effort, brainpower, thought, and emotion into that work. They deserve our thanks for all this, because regardless of whatever else happens, what they were specifically working for failed. Besides those individuals, so many more people had a whole lot invested in that as well, and seeing the news about the downvote was a huge letdown.

That said... what happens now?

Based on the information from the discussions at the meeting itself, as well as a member of the Board, as well as a perceived tendency to allow decisions like this to be made at a Kingdom level, we can draw some pretty clear conclusions as to their intent. That said, I really wish we could get an official statement from them as to their specific intent. In some ways, I think this was the cheap and easy way out for them - they don't need to actively change anything in Corpora, but just sort of say, "Well, wait, you could really do this all along!" That feels like they're avoiding taking a strong stance for what it seems like they're saying, which is really sending a mixed message. They went out of their way to remove the language noting rapier as an "ancillary activity" in the SCA (good!) and to specify that Crown Tournaments must only be fought with rattan, but they couldn't take the last step and state in plain language what they really want to cause to occur?

Still though, this looks like it could be a possibility for a big step forward. Based on talking to folks in person, and reading a whole lot of social media, it doesn't seem like there's a huge amount of people against this? I'm not trying to imply that it's unopposed, certainly, but I haven't seen or heard any truly vehement opposition. I have though, seen and heard a pretty good amount of folks who are neutral, cautiously for it, or absolutely desirous of rapier being included in the Chivalry.

There are probably going to be lots of discussions in the next few weeks. If - if - any decisions are made to go forward on this, it's going to be hard. There'll need to be a lot of work on each side. Will the Chivalry need to change? Almost by definition. Will the rapier folks need to accept that the Chivalry has decades old traditions to which we'd need to adapt? Assuredly. What I think is most important is that when we have these discussions, to not assume you know what the stance of the person in the other group is before you hear it, and to hear it out, and actually talk about it. Maybe there are irreconcilable differences. Maybe not, I don't know, but if we just fly off into a pile of assumptions, then for sure nothing will be accomplished.

Part of the stated reason this happened was that so many people - from all groups in this debate - said, "Well, in a perfect world, rapier should be part of the Chivalry. That won't happen, so..." Well, now we have the chance to maybe, possibly, actually get a little closer to that perfect world. It'd be a shame, I think, if we didn't honestly try. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but we have a chance to see.

So, I guess, we'll see? Interesting times.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

More bacon!

I failed at taking pictures of the process, but there is (supposedly) actual bacon in my fridge now.

I didn't get the smoker going, but one source I had said that I should put them in the oven at 200* for 20 minutes. I did, and I don't think that was enough overall. Next time, I think the meat thermometer will come out and I'll go with that method. Also, I should sharpen the knives, because removing the skin was a massive pain.

I did cut off a slice, and it seemed to taste okay, so there's that. I'll try this again, change things up a bit, and fix the process.

We now return you to Fabris, already in progress. Yay!

Monday, January 5, 2015


Let's take a quick break from rapier A&S and go to tasty tasty A&S. Yay bacon!

So I was reading about curing meats online (hooray Goons With Spoons) and the description of how to make bacon seemed pretty easy. Specifically, the nice person who posted it took this recipe from Ruhlman:

5 lbs fresh pork belly!

I've never seen pork belly in the flesh (ha, ha) before. It's pretty neat.

2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt
2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef's knife
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

This smelled pretty great.

Then, the recipe says:
"Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).

After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.

Put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F. (if you want to preheat the oven, that's fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F.).

Let it cool and refrigerate it until you're ready to cook it. But I know. You won't be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It's bacon!"

So I did that! I have no idea if I used too much or not enough cure on the proto-bacon, but I covered it in the mix and put it in the bags. Maybe I needed to really pour like half of it in there? I'll try that next time, but I used most of it on the two bags, so I don't feel like it'll be too bad. Anyone know if I should do that, next time around, though?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The First Four Wounds of Fabris - What Did We Learn?

I've had a bit of a break in the flow of going through these, so I figured I'd use that opportunity and take a look at the first four wounds with the single sword that Fabris shows us, and see if there are any good universal rules that we can take away from them. (Spoiler: there totally are.) In no particular order (because let's face it, they're all going to be involved with each other), we can see the following ideas:

  • Act in contratempo. This does take an understanding of measure as well, because if the tempo you're trying to act in is too short for the measure that you're at, bad things. On the other hand, if it's too short to strike in the measure you're at, try to use it to get closer while finding their blade.
  • Measure. If you're striking without acting in contratempo while in misura larga, it's not going to work. It just won't - they can always back up, and you're out of luck. Heck, if they're really good and you're at the edge of that range, they just lean back. (If they're really good, they end up attacking you in contratempo because you're closing range when you make that attack, so if they close that line you've just killed yourself. Don't do that to yourself, do that to the other person instead.) 
  • Combining the above two points - if you're in misura larga and you're given a tempo, you're almost always better off using that tempo to find their blade while (safely!) closing to misura stretta. Now you're good to go.
  • If they're not giving you a tempo, make them give you one. Feint and force a reaction. (If they don't react, hit them anyway.) When they react, it should be something that you were set up for, and then kill them.
  • No blade contact - at least not like 95% of everyone in the SCA does it. 
  • Keep your debole free! Put your forte and hilt on their weapon! Win!
There you go. That's Fabris. Those are all things from the first four plates, and those are the key principles. The end.

In the next day or two, I'll post a summary of the next plate, which is pretty different from the first four, and is one of my very favorite wounds. Seriously, it's pretty great.