16 Sep 2014 by gebhard, No Comments »

picketwiretracks_wiki_-cm195902Part of my childhood was spent near Denver, Colorado. While it’s been a very long time, and I no longer remember exactly where, I recall there is a highway along the foothills where as you drive you’ll pass a giant footprints in the side of the hill.  Growing up, I loved dinosaurs and seeing their footprints made them seem like something only recently gone as you heard so much about them, much like WWII, The beatles or Woodstock.

I would often wonder what was it like in their day (the dinosaurs, not woodstock). If I were to go back to their day, could I make it? If they were here now, what could we learn from them? Did they have zebra stripes? Were they blue and hot pink? Fun things for a young man to think about.

I find this an interesting thing about how we keep of track of time. There is what I can remember, and everything before that falls into the same lump of “before my time”.  When looking at a footprint, it’s hard to get a feeling for just how long ago was it left behind.

A short time ago, I was at an event.  Talk turned to events “before my time”.  It seems some old film of early tournaments had surfaced. “I could have won crown then, and you, and you, and anyone. They didn’t throw off side shots then and barely moved.”

This conjured up an image of silent movie era old-timey men with handlebar mustaches, standing toe to toe with fists aimed up to the sky, jabbing away at each other, barely moving.
“Yep, things have certainly changed,” the listening audience concluded. It’s only natural right? The bar increases a little bit each year as we perfect our technique and teaching, and the opponents you face get better too. We refine out what didn’t work very well (like the iron chicken) and move forward things that work.

Are we better now than ever? I once heard someone say at Pennsic that guys who are now making Red Company would have been knighted 25 years ago.

When I started in the SCA as a fighter, I was taught, like most, the A-Frame.  It’s a style I’ve moved away from. I just never got it work well.  That’s not to say it can’t work for others, it just never worked for me. That being said, a lot of people that favor the A-Frame fight: a “static” style of minimal movement, just like stereotypical bare-knuckle boxing.

Duke Comar recently stopped by a practice.  He first won crown in 1990 and is credited for teaching those knights who taught me the A-Frame style. He has suffered some injuries that prevent him from being able to fight, but it only took a few seconds at practice until he asked to borrow one of my weapons so he could give advice.

As he began a demonstrative swing of the sword, I could the many years of practice and training in the fluidness with which it moved. He had all sorts of advice, especially around movement, timing, and tricks. His theory was never one of standing in place and wailing away on each other.  I’m certain if we could teleport back to a time when Comar was active on the lists, he would be a challenge for any fighter we have currently active.

Recently at Odo’s knighting ceremony, I met David Dragonhawk. He is considered by many to be the best bastard sword fighter this Kingdom as ever produced. Of course, I had a lot of interest in getting to speak to him. It was not really all that surprising that he too also did not subscribe to fighters standing toe to toe whaling away on each other. I gained a lot of good advice here also, which I’ll likely spend many months working on, figuring out, perfecting and altering to make to my own.

Perhaps our thoughts of the past are incomplete.  That’s good news. That could mean the bar isn’t getting ever higher. There is still hope I may achieve my personal goals yet. But at the same time it means that, as I sit looking at the hillside of the footprints left behind by giants, I have to wonder. If I were to go back to their day, could I make it? But If they were here now, what could we learn from them?

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